The usual pitch black of the jungle night was broken by a soft white glow coming off the giant point counter hovering above my bed. With every sleeping breath and each twist and turn under the sheets, I was gaining points.

10.90439842309 points for rolling on to my left side.
3.4022 points for breathing in.
18930.6903932344481 points for a slight shift of my head on the pillow.

I was sleeping and gaining points, points with a heck of a lot of numbers after the decimal point.

There were no rules as to how points were assigned, and no assigned point structure for specific movements receiving points. The only rule in this game was that a whole number had to be achieved by accumulating points, while sleeping, in order to leave Costa Rica.

A whole number, from all those numbers with so many places after the decimal point. How long would that take? The only thing missing was a chair line.

And that folks, was the first anxiety dream I’ve had while living in Costa Rica. A perfect Costa Rican bureaucratic nightmare brought on by the stress of leaving Costa Rica.

That’s right. I’m leaving.

Costa Rica jungle overgrows the driveway

Me and the doggies in our beautifully overgrown driveway.

After 5 years of living in this beautiful paradise, I’ve decided to pack up my dogs and whatever I can fit in a few suitcases, and move back to the United States. Back to my home town.

I’ve been wavering back and forth between happiness and depression. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with my friends in SC, being close to my grandmother and other family, orange sweet potatoes, and paying bills online. I also feel depressed about leaving the adventure and my friends who are staying behind. I second guess this decision at least once a day. It’s really hard to leave a place that is so laid back yet full of new and exciting experiences, and that takes my breath away on a daily basis with its beauty and abundant biodiversity.

So what are my reasons for leaving Costa Rica?

  1. Doing business in Costa Rica is not easy. It’s expensive, businesses aren’t sold on the idea of the internet yet, the bureaucracy is a nightmare (ha), and people (especially women) are often judged on visual appearance instead of talent, skills, or work performance. This isn’t a revelation. It’s just that I’ve had enough of it. A lot has changed in Costa Rica in 5 years, but the work environment has not.
    Furthermore, most of my business is online, but most of my clients are in the US. The internet here is slow. I have to import electronics. I fly back and forth from the US a lot. …I’m ready to achieve more with less obstacles.
  2. Isolation. If you read my last post, What I’m Not Saying, then you know this already. Since I wrote that, I think I’ve been to like 10 despedidas (goodbye parties). I can count on one hand the number of good expat friends I have here who do NOT have plans to leave. I can count on the other hand the number of Ticos I can even call good friends. It’s not really about quantity, though. It’s mostly about how frequently I get to see these friends, which is not very frequently. This column written by a Tica with observations on how Ticos vs. Gringos make and keep friends is interesting and should shed some light on how I’m not a total loser. 😉 It’s just the culture.

My plan is to re-assimilate in to US culture as best I can or as much as I want to in my home town in SC. Things are super laid back there compared to the rest of the US, so I feel like this is the best place to go for now. Plus, the weather is nice…and I have a house, family, and really good friends there! I’m going to run my business from there for a while and then figure out where to go and what to do.

Costa Rica keel-billed toucan

Can I take the Costa Rica birds with me?

Now I just (rolls eyes) need to sell all my stuff, including my car, and coordinate the move out. If anyone is reading this and wants to buy nice kitchen supplies, clothes, or a really good car, let me know. I shipped the car to Costa Rica from the US – Toyota Corolla 2005 with only 56,000 miles. Manual transmission. I’ve been told it can take the bank a month or longer to finance someone to buy a car, so who knows when I’m actually leaving.

In the meantime, I’m appreciating every day I have left in this wonderful country and am so thankful for my time here. Moving to Costa Rica was hard, leaving Costa Rica is harder, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything and I haven’t ruled out moving back here if I discover that’s what I really truly want after living somewhere else for a while.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not closing the blog. In fact, I’m in a writing mood again and I have years of crazy stories to tell… and I’m sure there will be a lot to say as I move on to the next adventure: reverse culture shock weeeeeeeeee.

UPDATE: So apparently there is an expat exodus from Costa Rica based on all the private messages I’ve received after publishing this post. Maybe it would benefit others to know: If you are leaving, why? If you are staying, why? Tell us in the comments if you don’t mind making your business all public…  🙂