When we first announced our decision to move to Costa Rica in July 2013, we joked that we were saying goodbye to our typical two week vacations, and hello to months, or even years in Costa Rica. How the time has flown. We almost can’t believe it ourselves, but tomorrow marks our two year anniversary of living here in the land of pura vida! With this milestone, we thought we would reflect back on how our lives have changed so far and give you a sneak peek into what the future holds for us.
Pace of Life
Our biggest change over the last two years has been the pace of life. We are constantly reminded by people contacting us through our website about what life used to be like for us. These stories always have the same theme: there is too much work, stress, and chaos in the day to day and something needs to change. Being reminded that we once felt the exact same way has been very enlightening, because after two years here, we realize much of that feeling has been wiped away. Life is a lot simpler now and we have more control over our work schedule (more on this later). That is not to say that moving to Costa Rica will solve all of life’s problems, far from it. We have been tested with power and water issues, the internet being out for days, major car repairs, and much more, sometimes all at once. In fact, as we write this, the mechanic has had our car for over five weeks, it’s an hour walk down a steep mountain to the bus stop, and the internet is out for the third day this week.
Our attitudes have also adjusted over the last two years. The shift actually started before we moved. We try to take obstacles and frustrations in stride (like the car and internet) and enjoy things that are often passed by. Nature surrounds us every day and we make sure to take time to enjoy it. We’ve become avid birders and also really like to hike, walk, and go to the beach. When the power or internet goes down and we can’t work online, we try to make the best of it. We either sit outside watching the birds or go for a short hike until it comes back on. Maybe a sunny day during the week turns into a beach day and we work on a cloudy Saturday instead. Of course, when things are piling up and we still can’t get online, we do get stressed. There is no escaping work unless you don’t have to work at all.
Careers and Money
That leads us to another big change, our careers. We both had successful, steady jobs with good pay back in Boston. Do we miss them? No, not really. But switching to a life of writing and running a website, something much less stable, was a huge leap of faith for us. Adding to that stress is the fact that the cost of living in Costa Rica is fairly high, and things like groceries, rent, and gas are very similar to the States. Many people who move to Costa Rica have retirement money coming in, but since we are in our mid-thirties, we have to continue working. Since you cannot work in Costa Rica unless you are a permanent resident (something that takes years to obtain), we have had to rely solely on our writing and website for income. What’s great, though, is that we really enjoy what we do. We love hearing from people who have enjoyed our books and articles, or from clients returning from a great trip that we planned for them. There is something very rewarding about running your own business and seeing it grow over time.
Our daily lives are also a lot less stressful. As much as possible, we try to keep a normal schedule, working five days a week and stopping around five o’clock so that we have some time to relax. We also try to observe weekends as much as possible. Of course, we don’t earn anywhere near what we used to as a lawyer and construction manager, but we have figured out how to make enough money so as not to dip into our savings. This took us a while (almost the full two years), so if you are thinking of taking a similar path, make sure you have something to fall back on financially. Something that has really helped us has been eliminating the need to pay rent through house sitting and caretaking.
As you can imagine, living in a foreign country, language has been a big change. When we first stepped off the plane two years ago, eight suitcases in hand, we couldn’t even speak enough Spanish to negotiate a fair price with a taxi driver at the airport. Needless to say, we paid way too much. But things have improved. After a lot of studying and hard work, now we can understand generally what someone is saying to us and are able to string together simple sentences.
But talking to someone and really talking to someone are two different things. We often find ourselves struggling the further into conversations we get. Day-to-day situations like at the bank, post office, electric company, etc. are fine, but when we’re talking with people we know well, it can be difficult to speak our minds. As an example, recently we couldn’t go to one of our friend’s kid’s birthday party because our car was broken. The next time we saw them, all we wanted to do was be able to tell them that we really wished we could have been there and that if our car hadn’t been in the shop, we wouldn’t have missed it for anything. Our limited Spanish can be very frustrating and makes it difficult to have deep, meaningful relationships where our true character shines through. But we continue to learn and practice and we know that with a little time, it’ll get better.
Feelings of Isolation
The language barrier definitely can be frustrating, but couple that with the fact that our closest friends and family are thousands of miles away, and feelings of isolation start to pile up. Of course, we have kept in touch with a lot of people, but as time passes the length between check-ins tends to get longer. We did make a trip back to the US last year, but the 18 days felt like it went by way too quickly. After that trip, we were left feeling that we did too much and didn’t get to spend enough quality time with each person we visited.
Making friends in Costa Rica also has been a challenge. We mentioned the language barrier but even making connections with other expats hasn’t been easy. This is mostly because we were traveling around the country for the first year and a half and didn’t stay long enough in one place to make lasting relationships. But it’s also because many people who have moved here are at a different stage in their life. Many are retiring, others are on some type of spiritual quest. There’s even people who are running from a major problem back home. We’re not the type to befriend everyone we meet and maybe that’s a good thing. Making more friends has been slow, but the ones we have are great. It will also be easier now that we are settled into one area for a longer period of time.
Our Future in Costa Rica
The biggest change is on the way!
All these changes over the last two years have definitely been a test for us. But we knew it wouldn’t be easy and we can honestly say that even with all the challenges, we still love living here. So what does the future hold?
Well, over the next year, we plan to continue to grow our website and business—and biggest of all—our family. Yes, that’s right. Jenn is five-and-a-half months pregnant and we’re expecting a baby boy this November! This will be our biggest adventure yet and we are beyond excited. We’re not sure exactly how long we will stay in Costa Rica, but one of the reasons we moved here was to start a family and have the ability to be present during those first years so we aren’t planning to go anywhere anytime soon. We can’t imagine a more fun place to grow up than in Costa Rica and are excited to watch our baby take in this beautiful country.
So there’s an honest roundup of our first two years living in Costa Rica. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, and we’re having a baby. Stay tuned for more updates as we continue our adventure and a big thank you to all our readers for following along!
Want to follow our story from the beginning? Check out these posts:
- We’re Moving to Costa Rica!
- First Impressions on Living in Costa Rica
- Living in Costa Rica: One Month Update
- Buying a Car in Costa Rica
- Fun Facts from Our First Six Months in Costa Rica
- Our First Year in Costa Rica
- House Sitting: How to Live in Costa Rica for $2,000 a Year
- Having a Baby in Costa Rica
- Applying for Residency in Costa Rica Without a Lawyer
- Three-Year Update