I have visited Costa Rica twice now, once in November 2012 and again in May 2015 as a possible place for me to retire. I am nearing the end of my career as a neurosurgeon and thinking about retirement, which is rather difficult since neurosurgery has basically been my life since I was 20 years old, when I first decided that I wanted to become a neurosurgeon. In June of this year I will complete 43 years as a neurosurgeon not including two years as a junior neurosurgeon in the US Air Force from 1967-1969. Contemplating life without neurosurgery as my base will be in some ways difficult and in other ways easy. At age 77 I have reduced my scope of practice to only procedures with the “Gamma Knife” an instrument, that in spite of it’s name, is not a knife at all in the usual sense but a radiation tool to perform the equivalent of surgery using highly focused and very strong beams of gamma rays generated by radioactive cobalt. The Gamma Knife has replaced what in past years would have been major, open neurosurgical operations with all of the attendant risks with a procedure that is performed on an outpatient basis with very minimal risk and with results that in many ways are superior to the older methods. It is a relief to me to be able to offer this form of treatment to many people who would in past years have had to undergo major, brain operations and so to consider leaving this field, even at my advanced age, is difficult.
With that long preamble, we come back to Costa Rica and you might ask me: “why Costa Rica?” I have explored a number of retirement options both within and outside of the USA and Costa Rica has come up at or near the top of my list every time. It is one of the very few nations of the world that does not have a military! Yes, no Army, no Navy, no Marines, no Air Force-no national military and so, no risk of a military take over of the democratically elected government. You see, I am pretty much of a democratic socialist at my political heart and Costa Rica has used it’s savings, by not having a military to support and has instead used the money to promote education and healthcare. The healthcare system of Cosa Rica, called the “CAJA” covers every citizen and long term resident of the country at a very low cost and with excellent healtcare outcomes, superior in many measures to that of the USA. On top of that, Costa Rica is known for “Pura Vida” loosely translated as the good life, at the hear of which is the Costa Rican family, the most important element of Costa Rican life. Unlike in the USA, money does not rule the Costa Rican mind set, rather the shared identity of the family and the country predominate and this emphasis engages me deeply. Costa Rica is also a land of beaches, both Pacific and Caribbean, mountains, jungles, waterfalls and lush natural beauty which abounds with wildlife. The country welcomes expatriots and has residents from the USA, Canada, Europe and other Central and South American countries but the majority of residents are so-called “Ticos” or native Costa Ricans. So I am writing all of this and at the same time thinking, if this is such a great country, why are you so hesitant about moving there to retire. I guess the main reason is that it will mean being farther away from my own children and grand children all of whom are very important to me and very supportive of me as well and very loving. It is not an easy decision. The accompanying photos will give you a small glimpse of what Costa Rica is like.