Lessons Learned After 8 months in Costa Rica
Hola Amigos! Thanks for continuing to come back and check out our journey. It has been a ride for sure. A bumpy, scary, kind of expensive, fun and insane ride lol. When we first made the decision to make an international move, we were so excited and could not get here fast enough. It would be fair to say that we moved with exceptional speed and shocked many of our friends and family. Our friends and family's shock was completely justified, as this was a move that was unlike our normal behavior and happened very abruptly. We joke that Rebecca and I had joint midlife crises. We joke, but there is def some truth to it. We are past, at or near our midlife points and we just couldn't see ourselves on the same trajectory for the next 20-30 years. Mix that with the stresses of working demanding corporate careers, raising 3 children and living in an increasingly divided country - we were constantly on edge and felt like we were missing parts of our children's and each other's lives.
We started searching for the best places to live in the world, where do the happiest people live, where is life expectancy the longest, where will our children be safe from the potential of school shootings...All the searches kept steering us towards Costa Rica. When Rebecca found and suggested Costa Rica, I loved the idea in my heart. My brain took a few extra days to crunch numbers, bounce this crazy idea off a few confidants, and to put a plan together for the next 6 months. Once we decided that we were going to do this, we could not have moved faster lol. To our family and friends, SORRY, our bad, lo siento, it's not you, its us...we needed a change and we needed it fast.
Lesson 1: We would maybe slow down and take a breath and PERHAPS visit the country first before you book your one way ticket lol. My style is kind of shoot from the hip and figure things out later while Rebecca's style is traditionally more calculated and logical...Not this time though, and I loved it!
Lesson 2: Spanish is harder to learn here than I thought it would be. I have no doubt my children will be fluent within a year, but our old brains are pretty saturated with all of the important info like all the prayers from when we were in Catholic Elementary School, long division, patriotic songs, lyrics to the 3rd grade musical I was in, lyrics to every John Mayer song, the Hamilton soundtrack, every Disney movie script and songs and of course 40 years of English slang. We live in and work in a tourist-driven area of CR and most people we interact with speak English. Rebecca and I really have to go out of our way to speak it. We do, but not as much as we thought we would and truth be told, I am a little discouraged with my Spanish. I thought I would be farther ahead with it.
Rebecca and I are pretty decent, but we are not at conversational Spanish yet. We can understand when one speaks slowly and we can read it, but struggle with having full on conversations (outside of pleasantries and greetings). I still use a lot of hand gestures and a decent amount of Spanglish. We are lucky that Costa Rica is such a friendly country for native English speakers. Many Costa Ricans speak English and even if they do not, they are just so friendly and understanding. They recognize your efforts and appreciate them. On the bright side, my texting in Spanish is pretty money. I rarely have to use Google Translate. Our advice to any expats or tourists traveling to Costa Rica is to be respectful of the language. This is a Spanish speaking country and if you are here, you should be using Spanish as much as you can. No one expects you to be fluent, but it is expected you try. Don't be a stereotype.
Lesson 3: The dry season legit means it just stops raining for 4 months. Here in Costa Rica, people refer to 2 seasons: the Dry Season and the Rainy Season. The Dry Season in Guanacaste starts in November/December and lasts typically until April. During the dry season, it is hot, but a dry heat. Not much humidity. It was very nice actually. Worst part is how dusty it is and how you have to clean your car weekly unless you want someone to write "WASH ME" on it. There are controlled and uncontrolled fires all over the mountains during this time as well so the faint smell of campfire fills the air at times. Unlike in the states, the wild fires do not seem to ever pose a threat to homes or raise any concern for locals. In fact, you will drive right by fires alongside the road fairly often. There are no mass evacuations or millions in damages to burned structures - the fires burn fast and fizzle out and rarely spread very far. Another learn, was that the month of February was INSANELY windy. Some days worse than others. I tried to take the kayak out on one of the most windy days, and I was lucky to get back. It was a pretty dumb decision.
It rained here the other day for the first time since December and has rained almost every day since. The kids ran outside as if it was snowing when it started raining LOL. It was pretty cute. The "Rainy Season" is not even that bad. The name makes it seem like its just a constant monsoon, but in reality it's more like Florida summertime during the rainy months...beautiful weather all day and at some point in the day the sky will open up and crazy rain for a little bit before the sun comes back out again. Even when it's raining though you really don't mind - it's almost refreshing! Rebecca and I have decided to refer to it by the much more marketable name of the "Green Season" LOL.
Since the rain started, you can already see green popping up everywhere. All over the mountains there are patches of grass springing up. Soon the mountains will be green and plush. It is hard to describe how beautiful it is during the Green Season. Best I can do is to compare it to the Shire from Lord of the Rings. I am looking for investors to bore out Hobbit Holes throughout Guanacaste...Just kidding (kind of).
Lesson 4: Costa Rica is spectacularly beautiful! In any direction you look, you will be either looking at the ocean, mountains, jungle or volcanos. Some locations, you can see all four. It's stunning...the sunset in Costa Rica and presumably any coastal town in Central America facing out over the Pacific is breathtaking. It is different every night. After and during the sunsets, the sky changes colors and the clouds dance. Many times during the last month, you could see Venus, Mars and Jupiter so clearly it was amazing. On Friday nights, our friends gather on the beach to enjoy the sunset over a drink or two and let the kids play. We do this every Friday and it has become a nice tradition with our growing group of friends.
With 20/20 hindsight vision, there are many things we would have done differently. With that said, we would still be here and would make the decision again. It is a blessing to be able to live in such a beautiful place, to see monkeys every day, to watch the sky explode with color every night, and to be exposed to wildlife that you have only ever heard about or have seen in a zoo. It's still scary, and things are a little tighter than they were in the US for us...But we are happy and doing our own thing our own way. Pura Vida means Pure Life and that is what we are living now. Honestly this world we live in could use a little more Pura Vida.