Why I Moved to a Country I’d Never Visited
It’s been almost 5 months since I moved to Costa Rica and can honestly say it’s one of the best things I’ve done for myself.
Whenever I tell people that I moved here without ever visiting the country they look at me with both a little awe and like I *might* have lost my mind.
Obviously, I didn’t move here without doing a little homework (and have a friend who has had property here for a long time and knew how much she loved it), but after having moved to Boise, Idaho for a year and having visited twice before making that move I wasn’t convinced it was necessary to visit first.
I knew I was willing to commit to living in Costa Rica for a year and worst-case scenario if I was miserable I could break my lease and come back.
I was born and raised in the Bay Area in Northern California. There was a time in my life when I couldn’t have imagined living anywhere outside of California. I’m a 5th generation San Franciscan and always felt a sense of pride for the Bay Area (still do, even though it’s drastically different from the Bay Area I grew up in).
My move out of California to Boise was the first ‘test’ to see how I would do moving out of state and away from family (all of my family and most of my close friends still live in the Bay Area).
Life, of course, has a way of putting things in our path that can shift things instantly. I had been planning on moving out of California from the time my youngest started high school. A month after he graduated I lost my Mom (unexpectedly) in July of 2019. Anyone who has lost a parent they’re deeply connected to can understand it makes a huge impact on your life. I stayed in California for a while but started planning the move to Boise.
I had taken a solo trip to Boise in the fall of 2019, both to check it out and to take some time for myself. Fall in that area is beautiful (Idaho is a very pretty state) and it felt like an easy move. I took another trip in early February 2020 to find a place. Everything seemed to be lining up.
On March 31st I packed my stuff & my dogs and made the drive to Boise.
Needless to say, we all know what happened shortly afterward.
COVID hit and I was on lockdown in an entirely new place.
The house I rented was only a few years old, was very cute inside and I was completely content to hunker down and do my thing.
I’ve been working online for myself since 2008 and have no problem staying focused, going to my office, and doing the work. I LOVE the freedom working for myself gives me and in many ways, Boise felt like a “different city, same story.”
I was in a suburban neighborhood (been there, done that), with young families I couldn’t really get to know thanks to COVID and didn’t really care. I had visitors while I was in Boise (my daughter came up twice, friends came up and my Dad came up), which was nice, but there wasn’t much that was pulling me to stay.
Before moving to Idaho I didn’t really think I’d be affected much by the fact that Idaho is a very ‘red’ state and California is very ‘blue’ (that’s as political as I’m going to get), I was wrong.
Cue the Sesame Street song “One of these things is not like the other.”
All the people I met were lovely, I just knew it wasn’t where I was supposed to be.
As I got closer to renewing my lease I wasn’t sure what the next step was and figured I’d simply renew it and break it when I was ready.
Then I had one of those “brick upside the head” moments and thought “what are you waiting for?”
Within a week of having that moment I had found a place in Costa Rica (for $800 less than the rent was going to be in Boise… real estate in the US is nuts, but I digress) and signed a year lease. I had 30 days to move out of Boise (moving is a whole lot easier when you sell as much as you can), would spend two months in California at my Dad’s, and was booked to move to Costa Rica on May 31st, 2021.
I don’t know that I would have chosen or even looked at Costa Rica if I didn’t have a friend who loved it so much.
I was also considering Portugal but the process to move there would be more involved, it wasn’t as easy for people to visit, and Costa Rica simply felt like the “path of least resistance.”
There were a lot of reasons I wanted to move out of the country.
Many are common and expected (cost of living, adventure, experience), but for me, it was also about who I would become in the process.
I’ve always known there was something I was “supposed” to do with my life. I was on a very typical trajectory (married, kids, house in suburbia, career), and even though I felt that pull, I had no idea what it looked like. I lost my husband in a car accident in 2003 and my world was turned upside down.
It wasn’t until I started my business in 2008 that the world started opening up to me.
I had clients and friends all over the world.
The world felt both smaller and bigger at the same time.
Connecting with people from different countries and cultures started creating this craving within for a “richer life” — and not in terms of financially richer, but richer in experiences.
To have richer experiences I needed freedom.
Freedom has always been a driving force for me. I knew I had found the path to freedom with my business, even though I didn’t have a definitive plan.
Back to Costa Rica…
My daughter came with me for the first week I was here (I also brought my two dogs and have no idea how I would have managed everything without her) and helped me get settled.
I can still remember the feeling when we had collected our luggage and the dogs and stepped outside the Liberia airport.
The air felt different.
It’s hard to describe until you experience it, but there’s something about the energy of this country that feels like a big exhale. My body instantly relaxed.
My decision to move here was inspired by a desire to live a different lifestyle.
I wasn’t unhappy with my current lifestyle, I simply knew it wasn’t what I wanted at this stage in my life.
Things lined up in a way I couldn’t have imagined. In many ways, the move to Costa Rica was easier than the move to Boise. Less stuff, a furnished place, meeting great friends in my building… not to mention I can see and hear the beach from my balcony (it’s less than a 10-minute walk 😉).
Not knowing Spanish isn’t a problem (not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for Google Translate, and am starting Spanish lessons soon), the people are lovely, and my life feels “easy.”
This move wasn’t about leaving the U.S. as much as it was about moving towards something new.
I recently went back to California for a week and while it was wonderful to see family and friends, I was happy to come “home” to Costa Rica. I like the life I’ve created for myself here.
It’s fascinating to realize how much we don’t need when it’s not as easily accessible (no quick runs to Target happening here). There’s not much you can’t get here: it might look different, cost more, or have a different quality (I brought back some nice sheets with me as well as many other things), but you can get everything you need here.
My Future in Costa Rica
These first months have flown by.
Trite but true — “time flies when you’re having fun.”
I’ve just started the process to get a car (as grateful as I am for friends with cars, it’s time). The car situation in Costa Rica is completely different than in the states. Cars retain their value down here because the cost to get them into the country is so high (new laws are making that easier for people getting residency). I never thought I’d be so excited to buy a 14-year-old car, but here I am.
I’ve put some money into my place to make it feel like “my space” (and will continue with that. It will take longer as there aren’t a lot of places to run out and buy things nor do I want to pay extra fees for ordering from Amazon), and it feels more and more like “home” every day.
I can easily see myself staying down here for another year at least. There’s so much I want to do and experience.
Ultimately I think I’d like to buy a place down here as well as have a home in the states. I have no idea what that looks like yet, I’m simply letting it all unfold one day at a time. I do know that I’d have to find a place in the states that supports the ease I feel down here (is that possible?).
The simplicity of my life here has given me a lot more “white space” in my life overall. It’s an incredible feeling.
For anyone considering a move out of state or out of the country…do it. I’ve encouraged both my kids to do the same (although when grandkids show up someday I may be following them around once in a while).
Technology makes it easier than ever to stay in touch with family and friends (and living in a place people want to visit helps too. I’m pretty sure I’ll have more visitors in Costa Rica than I did in Boise).
Costa Rica has also passed a “digital nomad” visa which will allow me to stay in the country without doing border runs at 90-days. My gut tells me we’re going to see these types of visas happening in other countries as well.
There may be another country in my future (to live), but for now, I’m enjoying every moment of this Pura Vida lifestyle.