Chasing the “American Dream” in Costa Rica
I am often asked why I decided to uproot my kids and move to Costa Rica. Moving to Costa Rica was a big decision for us.
There are a few things that inspired me to take this leap. One thing was my son was going off to college in Florida…we’re from Maine. With him leaving, we really didn’t have a reason to stay in the Northeast. Lucky for me, my daughters, 14 and 11 at the time, were willing to up and leave their schools and friends to go on a grand adventure.
The second thing that inspired me in moving to Costa Rica was that I wanted more for my girls. I had been a struggling single mom for seven years and all they had ever seen was me working two or three jobs to support us. I could never afford family vacations, let alone take the time off to go on one, so they had never really been out of New England. I myself have had the opportunity to travel a bit around the US throughout my life, but at the age of 39, I had never really been out of the country either. Before they got caught up in the real “American Dream,” I wanted them to at least be able to say that they had been out of the country.
I also knew that if we wanted it bad enough, we could make our dream a reality as long as we were willing to do ‘Whatever it Takes.’
Third, I wanted them to be able to experience another culture, language and way of life. What better way to learn a second language than to be submerged in it…they just may become bilingual! I wanted them to experience a culture that had so much less than other countries, yet appeared to be so content and happy with just what they had. I wanted to give them the opportunity to see, feed and touch birds, iguanas and monkeys. We picked Costa Rica because it seemed to offer all of the things we were looking for. Plus, it was one of the most affordable countries to live in.
The next question most people always ask is, How did you do it? Well I certainly didn’t have savings, and I knew that waiting for the day when I would have the money would never come; it hadn’t yet! I also knew that if we wanted it bad enough, we could make our dream a reality as long as we were willing to do ‘Whatever it Takes.’
So as a team, which we are, we decided that we would sell everything we had to make this dream a reality. I opened a Facebook group and made it The Wandering Walters Costa Rica Relocation Auction page. On this page, we took pictures of absolutely everything we owned and let people bid on them. We knew that we needed to come up with at least $6000; $1000 to get us to CR, enough to live on for at least six months and a safety net of $1000 to get us back in case of an emergency!
Well I certainly didn’t have savings, and I knew that waiting for the day when I would have the money would never come; it hadn’t yet!
That is what we did: we sold everything we owned besides the clothes we were taking. We were each taking one suitcase, one carry-on and one backpack, and whatever didn’t fit needed to be sold! The only things we didn’t sell were pictures and childhood memorabilia, which we stored at a family member’s house. Through our auction, we made pretty much exactly what we needed, so I booked our tickets, and we were off!
October 1st will be our one year anniversary in Costa Rica….we can’t believe it’s been a year. Right after we arrived, we found a place to live on the beach, and I also found a job within two days. We stayed at the beach for about six months and then moved to where we are now, inland on Lake Arenal. We’re much happier in Arenal than on the beach. It is much cooler and has more jungle to offer.
It has not been all rainbows and unicorns! Two weeks after we arrived, we experienced our very first earthquake….6.8! This scared the living daylights out of us! Earthquakes are not something we are accustomed to like the Costa Ricans are! We also moved here in October, during the rainy season, and it rained every day–hot, humid rain. We didn’t have a washer or dryer, so when we washed our clothes tico-style, they never fully dried. We hated that. Grocery shopping was tough; we had one grocery store in town and it really didn’t have a lot to offer–especially for anyone who didn’t really know how to cook the cultural food. With all of these things, plus me working at a job full-time that I could be working at in the States, it was beginning to feel less like paradise. Oh and let’s not forget the language barrier!
Two weeks after we arrived, we experienced our very first earthquake….6.8! This scared the living daylights out of us!
Once the rain and everyday shocks passed, things started to look up. And then it happened–the girls and I came over to Arenal for a job interview and immediately fell in love! I was offered the job, and we decided to pack up and relocate again. This was the best decision ever. I love my job, the girls love the town and we all love the temperature over here. We have now been here for six months.
Aside from the initial culture shock, we can’t really complain. We have only ever had the nicest of people cross our path, always willing to do anything to help, even though we are gringos who they didn’t know. We have only rented from ticos in tico houses, surrounded by ticos. We did not opt for gringo homes or gringo landlords or gated communities. We wanted to experience the culture as much as possible! We have never once felt threatened or been ripped off. We have always felt very safe.
I am so grateful for all we have done this last year. I am grateful that it all worked out as I thought it would. I am grateful that I was able to give this experience to my daughters. And, more than anything, I am grateful that I was brave enough to do it!