Today marks our one-year anniversary of living in Costa Rica. It’s hard to believe that a year ago today we were arriving in San Jose with nothing but eight suitcases and a sense of adventure. Looking back, it’s been one wild year full of change, and we’ve loved (just about) every minute of it. Below we share some of the biggest contrasts between our old lives and new.

Work

Then: In Boston, both Matt and I had hectic jobs. For Matt, everyone thought that because he was in the landscape industry, he got to be outside, basking in the tulips and sunshine. This was not the case. Because he was a manager, he actually spent most of his time in a truck, driving from job site to job site. He also had to deal with personnel issues, even firing people, which of course was stressful. On top of that, he typically got 40-50 calls a day and, by the time we moved, hated his smart phone so much that he didn’t even want one in Costa Rica.

 

Matt’s spiffy new cell gets about two calls a week now, mostly wrong numbers. Does your phone have an antennae?

Matt’s spiffy new cell gets about two calls a week now, mostly wrong numbers. Does your phone have an antenna??

 

For me, my job as an attorney wasn’t quite as grueling because I worked for the State but it had its moments. I worked a ton of overtime, often not getting home until 8:00 or 9:00 at night. I also had to take the subway into work every day, and even though we lived on one of the better, more reliable lines, it still had a ton of delays. One of my favorite subway memories is being trapped on the commute in, with people packed like sardines, and having some drunk guy offer me a can of beer—at 8 a.m.!

Now: In Costa Rica, we work from home, writing, blogging, and helping people plan their vacations. Sounds great, right? It is pretty awesome overall. We enjoy what we’re doing and can make our own schedules. The one flaw is that the pace hasn’t slowed as much as we thought it would. Since we’re working on building our business into something that can sustain us long term, we usually put in very long hours. Luckily, we both enjoy hard work (balanced with plenty of play) and what we’re doing is fun. After all, taking pictures of a beautiful waterfall or trying a yummy restaurant counts as “work” for us now.

 

Working in Paradise

On the job

Environment/Culture

Then: Boston gets a lot of snow in winter, and although we loved the hot summers, they were always too short. It seemed like every weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day was booked, and then in September, the chill of fall started to set in. As for the feel of the city, it was very fast paced and there was always a ton to do. We could also buy just about anything we’d ever want, ever. If it wasn’t at the local big box store, we could have it at our door in a few clicks.

Now: Since Costa Rica is only ten degrees from the equator, winter is rainy, but the temperature stays pleasant. Summer on the other hand is hot, but we love it. The people are very friendly and the pace is slow and relaxed. There’s a lot to do when you want to be active, especially outdoor activities like hiking, which we love. Of course, Costa Rica doesn’t have the endless possibilities that a city has, but we’ll take the lush jungle, mountains, waterfalls, and amazing beaches instead.

 

Rio Celeste Waterfall

Enjoying the beautiful Rio Celeste Waterfall

 

Something that we’ve had to get used to is the inconvenience of shopping. Unless you live near San Jose, it can be tough to find certain items like electronics, some household goods, car parts, and imported foods. We often find ourselves longing for things like gourmet cheese, a nice bottle of wine or hoppy craft beer, or really good pizza. We’ve gotten used to living more simply though, and when we really need something, one of our awesome visitors from the States will bring it for us.

Daily Life

Then: Back in Boston, we lived the grinding nine-to-five but had a lot of fun too, going out with friends after work and on the weekends to shake off the stress. We saw our families quite a bit since they were nearby in New Hampshire and Maine, and always for holidays and birthdays. We also lived in one place for longer periods of time, keeping the same apartment for three years and our condo for four.

Now: We still work a lot but it doesn’t feel like the grind because it’s for us and not someone else. A big change is that we go out a lot less. This is mostly because we haven’t stayed in one place long enough to make good friends. We’ve moved eight times in just twelve months, and while we’ve loved exploring Costa Rica, moving around has made it hard to meet people. Although our wallets are thanking us, we sometimes get stir-crazy and miss the close group of family and friends we had in the States. After a long year on the road, we are starting to think about settling down in one spot soon.

As for missing our friends and family, we’ve been lucky to have so many of them come to visit. We still miss the regular meet-ups, of course, but Skype and Facetime have been a great way to stay in touch. We always feel like we’re actually there talking to them, instead of having a more distant email conversation.

 

Costa Rica Jenn and Matt

One of Matt’s awesome sisters visiting us

 

Overall our first year in Costa Rica was amazing and we’re really happy we made the move. Although everything isn’t perfect, we love being here and can’t imagine leaving, not right now anyway. The country’s beauty and simplicity that we fell in love with on our first visit hasn’t lost its luster. Splashing in the warm ocean or seeing a monkey cruising in a tree never seem to get old. We still have a lot to figure out and a long way to go before we’ll feel a part of the culture, but we’re only a year in and have come a long way.

That’s the recap of our first year in Costa Rica. Be sure to check out our fun one-year video too!

So What Happened Next . . . ?

In July 2013, we boarded a plane for a new life in Costa Rica. Want to follow our story as it happened? Check out the posts below to see how our dream became a reality and what it has been like so far.

Post by: Jennifer Turnbull-Houde & Matthew Houde