A Trail Blazer in Costa Rica
Usually when hearing the words “pioneer” and “frontier” the 1800’s homesteaders come to mind. However this is not always the case. There are modern day pioneers throughout untouched frontiers.
Karen Davies is a prime example and her experiences when moving from Oregon, USA to Costa Rica read like a nineteenth century novel. She was born and raised in southern New Jersey. Then, “I was a free spirit hippie and lived in a commune in Oregon from age 21-27.” This was during the 1970’s.
In 1980 Karen and six of her commune friends made the decision to move to Costa Rica.”It was peaceful, warm, beautiful, and land was dirt cheap.”
The group lived in tents but were completely unprepared when the rainy season arrived. The rest of the group returned to the US but Karen had come to love Costa Rica and made the decision to stay. The area in which they had pitched their tents belonged to a gringo friend of hers so when he left to volunteer in Nicaragua he offered his cabin to her. It was primitive, to say the least. She cooked with wood, there was no electricity, and the closest neighbour was forty-five minutes away. She stayed a year but, after having her first child, she determined it was time to return to the US in order to earn enough money to buy a place of her own in her beloved Costa Rica.
True to her resolve she returned a year later. She loved the area near Ojochal, which is along the south central Pacific coast and surrounded by magnificent mountains and centrally located to several stunning beaches. She purchased a hectare of jungle for $900, adding another five hectares for $5,000 a bit later. When her brother relocated to the area the two of them joined forces and purchased twenty more hectares for $20,000.
“Back then permits were not necessary. I hired guys to mill a huge dead tree, then hired a neighbour to build a tiny house from it. No electricity, no inspections, water piped in from a stream. Only nails and a roof were brought in by bus and then horseback.”
Karen bought cattle and worked her farm for ten years, during which time she had two more children.
Then she felt it was necessary to move closer to a school so gathered her family and moved to Perez Zeledon where her children attended school and she taught English, as well as working in tourism and property management. In 1995 she bought a small house there for $14,000, which she now rents out.
Missing her farm, she returned when her youngest, her son, was in the sixth grade. By then the coastal road had been completed and a new modern school had been built. Here Karen remains to this day. Her daughters both still reside in Costa Rica also. One works for the Minister of Health and the other does Thai massage. Her son resides in California where he does building design.
In 1997 her brother sold his six hectares to Karen’s current husband and they developed it into serviced building lots. They have sold all but thirty-five acres, her original home site. “Most of my remaining land has been reforested and is not worth building on due to steepness and lack of ocean views. It serves as a nice buffer zone between the sold lots and our personal home.”
“What I love most about Costa Rica is the biodiversity of flora and fauna and the warm climate. There has been so much progress since I came here.” Bridges and paved roads, even in her remote area. New developments of ex-pats. Her kids began in a one room school with no electricity. Now buses transport students to many modern public and private schools.
“A typical day for me begins with fresh ground coffee. I feed the calf and the dogs. Many days I volunteer for the two organizations I am part of. Family Assistance Centre of Ojochal involves visiting families in need. I also drive the locals to hospital. I have even driven two pregnant women in to have their babies.” Her days are full as nothing is close by. It is twenty minutes to the bank, market, and a gas station.
But this is Karen’s life and she loves every minute of it. When asked if she would some day consider going back home to live, her emphatic answer was: THIS IS HOME.