So far during this month’s trip away from our home in Cost Rica, it turns out that leaving behind the laptop’s power cable was not the only thing Travis was to forget. Upon flying out of Panama City at the end of our 4-day visit, he left his cell phone plugged into a power outlet at the airport! While the phone is not particularly expensive (it’s four years old), we did have a bunch of beautiful panoramic pictures of Panama City that were on it. Thankfully, we still have lots of nice pictures from our compact Canon camera to share with you!
We’ve followed the Pacific Ocean south from San Francisco to our current home in Nosara, Costa Rica. Our 90-day Costa Rican visitor visas are about to expire, so it’s time to take a trip to renew them! We’ll check out the Caribbean vibe and then cross over into Panama, the southernmost country we’ll be hitting up on our Central American travels. We’re back on the road, and this time backpacking without our 4Runner Bruno!
Upon becoming financially independent, we decided to move away from the expensive San Francisco Bay Area. Although we’re currently enjoying life in Costa Rica, we will soon be driving Bruno back up to the US and need to figure out which cities are good candidates for living in.
To help us make this decision, I wanted to see which US cities have the lowest cost of living, are considered somewhat liberal, and also have mild winters.
Everyone loves taxes, and now that we’re traveling the world and no longer going to work everyday, what better time to plan for our future income taxes?
After years of working hard at our careers, we were curious to see how much of our previous income we’ve already paid to income taxes. Here is a table showing our income and taxes over the last seven years:
|Year||Income (AGI)||Federal Tax||CA State Tax||Total Tax Paid||Effective Tax Rate|
A family vacation of Central American proportions! Grandiose sunsets, colorful wildlife in lush, wet cloud forests, yummy foods, quotes from movies of our youth the likes of Ace Ventura and Speed. Couldn’t ask for anything better.
When we were working full-time jobs, dental insurance is something that we always had. It’s a standard employer-provided benefit in both Canada and the US. During those days, we didn’t pay much attention to how much the insurance company was being billed for our dental visits.
However, now that we’ve both quit our jobs to travel and live the good life – we no longer have dental insurance! Amanda needs something called an inlay (bigger than a filling, smaller than a crown), I need a new mouth guard, and we both need standard checkups, x-rays, and cleanings. Let’s go see a dentist in San Jose, Costa Rica!
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.
Here are some of the statistics we threw together for our fourth country of the trip. Are we still on budget? Could we theoretically live in Nicaragua full-time on our aggressive target of less than $30,000/year? Let’s find out!
This post could be titled: “Bruno Goes For A Boat Ride”. It’s the only way to get him over to Isla de Ometepe with its two prominent volcanoes, out in the middle of Lago Nicaragua. Detailed below is all the gory details for overlanders planning to undertake this wonderful adventure.
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.
First impressions of Nicaragua, driving to León from the border are that it is more arid than the lush El Salvador we left behind. More cattle grazing in wide open spaces. More farming, oxen plowing and trotting their owners in carts down main street. Bicycles. Lots and lots of bicycles as a means of transportation. Kids of various ages are all in school uniforms. From teenagers to cute little ones with reading glasses. It’s quite uplifting to see.
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, we didn’t get to visit Guatemala City, but it seemed like a happening place from what little we saw from the freeway. Some familiar shopping: Forever 21, Zara, and Avon ladies on parade… Here are our stats from country #2!
Another border post for those overlanding from Guatemala to El Salvador. Here’s our happily uneventful experience at the Valle Nuevo-Las Chinamas border crossing. Note that this is not the Pan-American highway crossing.
Some will say that we’ve done Guatemala all wrong. Staying less than 2 weeks, keeping to the major cities and tourist centers in the country’s south west, feasting on pizza and french crepes… You would be right.
Guatemala was the place our health was beat down, and it was also the place we healed and repaired. Our spirits were lifted, waking up to volcanoes out our bedroom window. Meeting friendly locals and people who have relocated from elsewhere on the globe, all eager to show us why they’ve chosen Guatemala as their home.
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.