Living in Costa Rica: Three Year Update

It seems like it was only a few months ago that we were writing our two-year update on living in Costa Rica. But this past weekend, we just breezed by the three-year mark. How did that happen so quickly? It’s probably because we have been extremely busy and have had a lot of life changes. In this post, we’ll focus on the big things that happened in year three, and as usual, take a look to the future.


Living in Costa Rica - Three Year Update

And then there were 3!

Our biggest change this year, of course, has been the transition to parenthood. If you’ve been following our adventure, you know that we welcomed our son, Samuel, into our lives last December. He was born at a small private hospital nearby and has been the love of our lives ever since. Having a baby back in the States would have been a big change too, but going through the process in Costa Rica only complicated things. Sure, it was a little scary, but it also solidified our life here in a way. A lot of times living in a foreign country, you get scared and hold back out of fear of the unknown. Having a baby forced us to get out there and do things that were totally new to us and totally unique to Costa Rica. It was like taking the next step.

The greatest challenge about having a baby here was figuring out the medical system. As relatively healthy 30-somethings, we had been avoiding this up until Jenn’s pregnancy. While we don’t know everything, we did learn a lot about how certain things work in the private and public systems. We had bloodwork done at a local lab, filled prescriptions at pharmacies, and saw doctors and nurses at private and public hospitals, clinics, and offices. Jenn delivered a baby (!) alongside nurses speaking Spanish, and we navigated the public healthcare system after the birth. We sat next to other new parents, all Ticos, waiting to have their babies weighed or vaccinated, or mothers who were there for breastfeeding counseling. Finally, we felt like we could relate to the people around us and they could relate to us.


Living in Costa Rica - Three Year Update
Sam getting a checkup


These interactions not only helped us to better assimilate into the culture, but were also great for our Spanish. Even though we haven’t been studying as diligently as we did when we first moved here, we have been picking up a lot by going to places we’ve never had to before. In the process, we’ve also learned about a dozen ways to say that a baby is cute, including precioso, muneco, que lindo, cocito, and many more. 

With our little Costa Rican by our side, we’ve needed to learn about how certain local government processes work. Going to the Civil Registry for his birth certificate or the public hospital for a carnet (healthcare card) was intimidating, but felt like great accomplishments afterwards.

Even with some of the challenges of having a baby abroad, we couldn’t be happier that we started our family in Costa Rica. We feel so fortunate to be able to spend time with our son every day and to not have to put him in daycare like we would back in the States. On the other hand, we do wish that we were closer to family and friends so that they could see him more often (and maybe babysit once in a while).

Work and Life Balance

With Sam’s arrival, we also have had some big changes in our day-to-day work lives. Before, we were both working during the day, writing articles, making custom vacation itineraries for clients, or doing website maintenance or social media. We worked a nine-to-five schedule and usually took weekends off. But now, with a baby in the house, one of us is always on “daycare,” while the other works. We switch off every couple of days so that the workload is divided, but overall, we are pretty much down a whole person. This has been challenging, especially since our website has been growing rapidly. Don’t get us wrong, we are beyond excited about the growth of our business and consider this a very good problem to have.


Living in Costa Rica - Three Year Update
Getting some work done with the help of Sam


With a little experimenting, we have started to figure out how to make it work. Like many new parents, we have become much more efficient when we sit down at the computer and probably get twice as much done as before. We also fit in some things after he’s gone to bed, during a nap, or on the weekends. Because it is very affordable in Costa Rica, we’ve been getting help around the house and want to have someone take care of Sam for a day or two a week too.

Sense of Community

If you read our two-year update, you might remember that we were feeling a bit isolated last year. That’s because, prior to our current long-term caretaking position, we had been house sitting all around the country. That lifestyle was great for our website as we were able to travel extensively, but also meant that we didn’t spend much time in one place. This made it hard to “belong” anywhere and make lasting friendships. We’re happy to say that this is starting to change.

For over a year and a half now, we have lived in the same house near Dominical. And now that we have been in the area for a while, we know a lot more people. Some are only casual acquaintances, but seeing the same friendly faces at the grocery store, farmers market, or bank has helped make us feel like we are part of the community.

Having Sam also helped solidify this. Throughout Jenn’s pregnancy, everyone (Ticos and Gringos alike) took an interest in us and made us feel welcome. Everywhere we went, people would ask about the baby, and in turn, tell us about their own life and family. Now that Sam is here, those same people say hello, ask how he’s doing, and how old he is now. We’ve even run into neighbors who knew everything about him (and us), even though we had never met. Over time, we’ve also developed some meaningful friendships in the area. Some are with local Ticos and others are with expats like us.


Living in Costa Rica - Three Year Update
Enjoying a birthday pool party with our Tico friends


Applying for Residency

After having Sam, applying for residency in Costa Rica was a priority. Waiting for him was partly strategic, since as parents of a Costa Rican-born citizen, we are able to skip temporary residency (like rentista, pensionado, or investor) and go straight for permanent. This is a more favorable status as you don’t have to commit any funds and also can work as an employee if you want.

Committing to residency was a big deal for us. It meant we knew that we wanted to stay in Costa Rica longer term. The residency process isn’t cheap and is a bit daunting with all the paperwork. And if you have done any research about it, you know that the approval process can take a while, even years.

Since we still love it here, the only big factor for if we would stay and commit to residency was financial. Our website has been steadily growing since we arrived in 2013, but only recently have we felt confident that it could be what sustains us long term. In the past year, we have seen significant progress and are so happy that our hard work is finally paying off. We are reaching more and more people every day with our articles and are excited about the success of our vacation planning services. Going forward, we plan to continue on, writing articles for our site. We are also going to expand the services side of our business to help even more people with their Costa Rica travel plans.

Looking Forward

Looking to the future, we hope that our residency applications get approved soon. We applied ourselves, without the help of a local attorney, back in May. The process is supposed to take 90 days, but as we mentioned, can take years or more. Hopefully, we are one of the lucky ones who have a speedy approval so that we can share our experience navigating the public healthcare system and more.

In the next couple of years as Sam gets older, we’ll also be figuring out some of the challenges that come with expat life and children. Childcare, schools, keeping family back home in his life, and teaching him about both of his cultural backgrounds are all things that we will be thinking about and sharing with you.

For now, we’ll be enjoying our time with Sam, showing him different areas of Costa Rica and writing about it for you all to enjoy. Year three was a big one for us and we are excited about the future. We owe a lot of that to our readers, so thank you as always for following along!

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