An interview with Costa Rica Retirement Guru, Christopher Howard
One of the most prolific writers about living and retiring in Costa Rica is Christopher Howard, a resident of Costa Rica for 31 years. Not only has he written many books and ebooks about Costa Rica and Central America, but he is also the only ICT approved (tourist bureau of Costa Rica) relocation / retirement tour in the country. I caught up with Chris after one of his seminars with the ARCR (Association of Residents of Costa Rica), which is part of his informative retirement tours.
What brought you to Costa Rica originally?
Basically my love for the Latin American way of life and for the Spanish language. I had lived and studied in Mexico and thought that I wanted to eventually live there. However, a voice inside me told me to look at the bigger picture and explore Central and South America to see if there was a better place to live. I eventually explored all of the countries in Latin America except for Colombia and Venezuela. In 1978 I came to Costa Rica and it was love at first site.
What made Costa Rica different from the other countries?
The beauty of the country, the vibe of the people, the peaceful atmosphere and a lot of intangibles. I began to return to Costa Rica every chance I had. My first trip was for two weeks. My next visit was for a month. Each time I found a way to protract my stay. I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area but found myself spending most of my time thinking about Costa Rica. I really felt more at home here than in the United States. Consequently, I decided to follow my heart and move to Costa Rica to pursue my dream. I did not want to wait until I was 65 years old and retired to make the move.
How was Costa Rica different in the early days?
You wouldn’t recognize it. There was no cable TV, everything was a hell of a lot cheaper, few people had automobiles, there was an air of innocence, life was a lot simpler, and there were hardly any products in the supermarkets from the U.S. In fact, every time I visited the U.S. I would stock up on things that were not available here. In those days before TV and the Internet the U.S. Influence was a lot less than it is now and there were very few American and retirees.
How did you get into the relocation/retirement book business?
Around 1988 I read an article about a book on retirement in Mexico. It dawned on me that there were no books about living and retiring in Costa Rica, and my creative juices started to flow. I put together a 100-page rudimentary booklet titled The Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica about retiring here and started to advertise it in the Tico Times. Much to my surprise it started to sell like “hot cakes “and I couldn’t keep up with the demand. Over the years my product evolved into the 700-page bestselling travel guidebook it is today.
When did you start doing tours?
I had a good friend, Shirley Miller, who published Costa Rica’s first English newsletter called The Costa Rica Outlook. Shirley was the pioneer in the retirement tour business here. She ended up doing a few tours but had trouble making money, so she gave up on the idea. A couple of years later I was contacted by someone who knew her and ran an organization called The Overseas Retirement Network. They offered tours to Belize and Mexico and wanted to do they same thing in Costa Rica because of the county’s growing popularity. They contacted me and I did a couple of successful tours for them in 1997.
However, the owner of ORN had his hands full with another business and decided doing tours was just too much for him to handle, so he suggested I branch out on my own. I did and the rest is history. Over the years I have personally helped 1000s of people relocate and retire here successfully. My tours have been featured in many newspapers and magazines like Newsweek and on the NBC Today Show, CNBC World Business News and Fox News.Explore posts in the same categories: Books - Literature, Business, Costa Rica Retirement, Travel