We drove Bruno to San Jose! Costa Rica has a population of 4.5 million people, and the metro area around San Jose represents 2.1 million alone. Guidebooks set our expectations low and prepared us for a drab city, but compared to the other Central American cities we’ve driven through, San Jose is pretty modern!
One final overland border cross on our southbound journey. We’re about to enter Costa Rica and the suspense is unbearable. We are finally here! A few… more… line-ups… and dealings with people who seem to hate their jobs. Just let us in! Here’s our experience at the Peñas Blancas border crossing between Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
An adventure over water, as Bruno floats across Lago Nicaragua and travels with us to Isla de Ometepe! The island is comprised of two volcanoes connected by a skinny landmass. There is little space around the edges for people to live, let alone all the tourism this island is known for. And the monos! We found Ometepe pleasantly packed full of monos.
Bruno on the mainland with Ometepe in the background.
Two crossings in one day that certainly lived up to expectations! Beggar kids following you around, men riding along on Bruno’s footrests and hanging onto the roof rack, just to help you through the crossing and make a buck. We gave one kid a $1 US coin from El Salvador. His eyes lit up huge and he danced around, rubbing it in all the other kid’s faces. What a sweetheart.
Back to the familiar US dollar – El Salvador’s official currency since 2001! They also use $1 coins, which is unique since in the US everybody still uses the one dollar bill (for reasons not completely understood). As a side note, it seems odd that El Salvador would adopt the US currency, considering that the US heavily supported the “bad guys” during the Salvadoran Civil War in the 1980’s…
We weren’t sure what to expect from you, El Salvador, but you’ve warmed our hearts. The smallest and most densely populated country in Central America had some stunning vistas, with no one around for miles. We are impressed by the significant amount of geothermal energy powering the country (close to 30%), the lush greenery and friendly faces all around. Your people and your stray dogs welcomed us with open arms.
Well, it’s now been almost a month and a half since we quit our jobs in San Francisco and started this road trip. We’ve had a wonderful time traveling through Mexico, and now that we’ve crossed the border into Guatemala we wanted to crunch the numbers and tally all of our Mexico expenses.
As noted earlier, we’re aiming to live on 4% of our equity portfolio, which is $40,000/yr. In truth, we would actually be very happy having our annual living expenses be closer to $30,000, but that’s an aggressive target. Let’s see how we’re doing so far.
Climbing out of the Oaxaca valley, we head into the Sierra Madre mountains where the “highway” is six hours of constantly winding turns. We were warned that motion sickness is common, so as we took turns driving, the passenger would keep focused on the road ahead to avoid sickness. We survived!
So far, Bruno is doing good. We’re really proud of him. We’ve bounced him over more topes (surprise Mexican speedbumps) than I can count, sometimes going faster than we probably should. Whenever this happens, our entire sleeping platform in the back of Bruno briefly flies into the air with simulated zero-gravity and then crashes back down with a giant thud. Bruno loves it (I think?)
Amanda and I have accomplished something that always seemed so big and so very far away. A dream summarized as “Let’s save up enough money that we don’t need to work anymore!” We want more free time in our lives, and have achieved financial independence in order to get it.
We bought a 2000 Toyota 4Runner with 4WD for the wild roads of Central America, and then named him Bruno. Bruno needs to be in top-shape for the trip because if we run into a bandido road block in Northern Mexico, Bruno needs to be able to pop into 4WD, run over the bandidos and smash through their road barrier without breaking a sweat.