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.
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?
- 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.
- 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.
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… 🙂
So we are both moving back to the U.S. 😀 I do hope I get to finally meet up with you soon. Life here is socially active, but very very expensive and yes it is time to go back to family for us. Hope to connect before you leave.
When are you going back?
I totally get where you’re coming from, Erin. (Quite literally.)
There’s lots of great things about CR, and it’s a great experience to live there, but ultimately, it’s just frustrating – and if the price for sunshine is frustration, they kind of cancel each other out, right? Add in some American-style convenience to getting shit done in your life, and the States look a whole lot more appealing for internet entrepreneurs.
I wrote this post on Medium to vent my own frustrations last year, when I left after three wonderful years in the tropics:
The culture shock you’ll get, it’s the best kind. You are going to be overwhelmed by the abundance and ease of being back in the States. Enjoy it.
I sure do hope I’m overwhelmed by abundance and ease. 🙂
hi dear how much do you asking for the car we been going to Costa Rica almost twice a year and I was born in Costa Rica but I been leaving my entired life in fl
12,000 USD for the 2005 Toyota Corolla. I’ve been the only owner. It has 56,000 miles on it, was purchased in the US in 2005, shipped to Costa Rica in 2011, and is in excellent condition.
I’m out after 10 years. These people are actually less competent than Norteamericanos( yeah—really). Liars. Thieves. Cowards.Main concern ? Aguinaldo. Semana Santa. Dia(s) de independencia. Everything else is trivial.
I’m headed down south.
I don’t understand what you are saying, but I’m pretty sure I disagree.
Wow. Big news indeed! I can tell you that after 11 years of living in CR I had a super hard time moving back to the US. I only came back because my mom got ill and needed help. I still hope to get back to CR in the near future.
But the transition was SO hard. I honestly think that it’s just now – almost 1 year later – that I’m starting to feel “okay” about being here.
As you are well aware, living in CR is very difficult – but very rewarding at the same time. Being back in the US has given me the opportunity to work on myself and to rest from all the hard work and energy it took to keep living in CR all those years.
My advice: be patient with yourself as you go through this transition. Best of luck to you!!
Thanks Scott! Good advice.
I can’t imagine leaving after 11 years. Sorry about your mom. I hope things work out for you!
Big news! Your blog was one of the first (and only) out there about living in Costa Rica as a foreigner and I wish you all the best in your next chapter of your life. I have actually been having a lot of the same thoughts that you expressed here about Costa Rica, after living here for a couple years I realized that it’s not where I want to be to build our online company. Internet here is insanely slow for how expensive it is, it’s frustrating buying electronics and the service industry here has so much to learn still. And I absolutely agree with you about feeling isolated – sure Ticos are friendly but to get more than a smile or a wave, it takes a lot to get “in” with them.
Good luck in your next stage and I hope to keep reading more from you!
Thanks Samantha! I’ve loved reading your blog and seeing you guys grow so fast and expand beyond Costa Rica. Thanks for sticking with me through the transition 🙂
I am sure that you know a lot about the subject of living in costa rica, the only thing is, that you have not let us into that for quite some time. now that you are leaving, it would be cool if you let us know without holding back. we all gathered from your last blog post about what you were not saying that things were bad for you in costa rica. so let us freaking know the real deal already. it is only right, that we should be told by someone who has been through it. the highs the lows. you are in a writing mood, right>
You’re the second person to call me out on not sharing enough in this post. I hear ya. Some of this stuff I’m purposefully waiting to publish until after I leave…
Things aren’t all bad. There are still a lot of good things about living here, which has made this decision hard. There were a few incidents that made the decision easier, though, including some life and death stuff. I’ll write about those.
I am 53 years old, single, and have NO family. I have been thinking about relocating to CR for the past year. I am on disability and VERY DEPRESSED living in NC and do not want to die like this. I cannot afford to go for a visit to CR to see if it will be ok – I can only go by researching information as all of your responses. Boy it looks, from your post, it is expensive and not to go. Any advise is welcomed. TY
It can be inexpensive, but that requires living with a LOT less than what the average US resident is accustomed to living with. Obtaining residency here is expensive, you have to prove a certain level of monthly income for so many years and that number can change…
In my opinion, the main draw in Costa Rica is nature. The wildlife is awesome. If you’re happy living alone surrounded by wildlife, then you might be happy here. I definitely wouldn’t come down here without an exit plan, though.
The hardest thing for my wife and I is the unknown future. We felt like moving down to CR from the US was fairly easy since we had a definite direction. But, since we’ve been here a few years it’s hard to know what the next step is. We don’t anticipate staying here for the rest of our lives, but what’s the next step? When is the next step? Living in limbo with a different lifestyle and culture/government than we’re used to makes it really difficult to plan for what’s next! Good luck with your move back!
Thanks! That’s what I’ve been saying a lot lately – moving to Costa Rica is easy, moving away from Costa Rica is difficult – and everyone who has gone through it is agreeing with me.
After all the hard decisions have been made, there are things that have to happen by certain dates … all the logistics have to fall into place perfectly and this is most definitely not a place of perfection. If I didn’t have a somewhat dependable network of Ticos here to help me I’d be completely lost.
I just came across your post now, but can definitely relate. I moved to Costa Rica in 2010 and spent 1.5 years there before going back to the U.S. The transition was so difficult that a majority of the last 3 years have also been spent in CR. I even started my own online magazine to help other travelers cope with reverse culture shock.
Last summer I decided to leave CR to pursue another career. I have to admit that it has been difficult and a little less than a year later I have an itch to leave again. My suggestion is to try to find a group of other travelers. This has helped me immensely. Finding others who’ve had similar experiences — no matter what country — is a great way to connect and feel understood. I think you’ll figure things out as you go. The world is big…we should never limit ourselves just because we were born in a certain country. Keep your options open and be patient with the transition back to the U.S. lifestyle. Best of luck!
Thanks Lindsay! I am keeping my options very open and I’m still here in Costa Rica, but am really enjoying myself. What is your online magazine?
That’s great! As long as you’re enjoying yourself, that’s the most important thing.
My magazine is called Native Foreigner (www.nativeforeignermag.com). I haven’t worked on it in over a year, but I think many of the articles are still helpful to those returning home. Best of luck!
First and foremost, I wish you Godspeed on your next adventure/sojourn in life.
First time I read your blog was this morning, I was shocked to find you leaving C R. I am working hard to retire and move there, after travelling in C R for 9 years. Fell in love with the country and bought property to build a house up at Lake Arenal. Am looking forward to the next adventure in my life.
So, your decision to move back is troubling to someone just beginning the journey you are ending. What does that mean? Will I like you end up cashing it in and moving back?
Of course, I am retiring and you are dependent on your internet business flourishing, so that makes a significant difference. Since I have 6 months before moving, I will be fascinated to read of your experience in moving back and readjusting.
I like your writing and openness to share. I will read some back posts to discern your C R journey and see how I can learn from it.
Very best wishes for a successful journey back and for clarity for the next adventure in your life. Bon voyage!
I just turned 54 years old. I live in SE Oklahoma. I am a Licensed Practical Nurse. I have no family. I have been contemplating moving to CR for a couple of years. Her leaving; Gred moving…what’s a girl to do? I was hoping there was a market for English speaking nurses.
Not sure about the market. There are quite a few Ticos who speak English, so they would be given the job before an extranjero because it will cost the company less. Unless you specialize in an area that is lacking in Costa Rica.
My name is Vinnie. I just found this site yesterday and i’m hooked! Exactly what I have been building up too for the past year. QUIT MY JOB AND MOVE TO COSTA! I am also a graphic designer who wants to relocate to paradise and sell designs to the states, via the web. It seems like you have ‘been there done that’ and I would LOVE LOVE LOVEEE to chat with you about a few things if you get time. Please email me!
Thank you so! much.
Exciting! You should definitely check out the following post in which I talk some about how I manage the online part of the bizz.
What types of things have you done so far to build up to the big move?
awesome article, another good read!
So the steps I have taken so far.. for one, I have begun my long struggle to learn the language. I was feeling alright about it.. until I stumbled upon your post about how words like oven and kitchen are the same lol I was just like “welp, just another one of those things I wont have a grasp on till I am there.” I have also been doing SO much research. I am one of those people that when I’m interested in a certain subject, Google is my best friend…Like, seriously.. my friends think I have been ditching them for months. Other things I have done, well actually I have to say we, because my girlfriend is a huge part of this move and has been a large supporter. So, we have down sized greatly! no cable, just internet. Less possessions and just the over all thought process of the fact that money doesn’t make us who we are. My girlfriends famous words “I just wanna be.” Are plan is to go for a 3 to 6 month vaycay and see if we cant find a place we want to start at. I just hope we can find a cool ass tree house like yours! Besides all that, my fears are getting taken advantage of threw real-state and not making enough money to become a citizen.
Thanks for the reply!!
Love your enthusiasm! The hardest adjustments I’ve seen people go through are:
• Getting used to living with less and/or different options. For example, broken windows or no AC or cup holders in the car, taking the bus instead of a car, a different kind of ketchup, no 50 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes…
• Living with nature, including bugs and creepy crawlies, termites pooping wood pellets all over the house, dust, mud, mildew, heavy rains, etc.
• Living with internet outages, and slower speeds than before
• Realizing that pura vida also means you can’t snap your fingers and get what you want immediately, that time doesn’t equal money anymore
• Actually having to work hard to understand Costa Rican Spanish and to produce the language in an accent that most people can understand
Knowing some of the adjustments could be difficult should really help you, won’t make it easy, but at least you can mentally prepare for a struggle. Everyone’s different, too, you guys might find that you actually enjoy the challenge. Like I really enjoy driving in the city, it’s fun to have to figure out how to get from point A to point B with different rules that bend according to different situations.
Also, Costa Rica has many different places. I’ve been living at the beach for the past few months and it’s a totally different lifestyle than I had in the mountains. I spent a month in Escazú and felt like I was back in the US. Save up money to give yourself time to explore so you have the best opportunity to find a spot you love in Costa Rica… and stay open to the idea that you don’t have to stay here if you don’t want to 🙂
I’m so happy that you’re not closing the blog. I’m also happy that you’re making the right choice for you. You’re probably going to go back and forth about your decision from now until long after you’ve moved back. But this is the right decision for you at this moment. 🙂 I hope you find some comfort and peace. I also look forward to hearing about what life is like back in the states after 5 years of living away. That’s got to be weird.
Plus, as I tweeted you, I’m looking at making the move there in about a year of 2 so I’ll be picking you brain (and blog) for the near future.
Oh I’ve already gone back and forth so many times! I have a new plan and will be writing about it soon enough. I wouldn’t be surprised if you change plans, too. A year or two is a long way off. 🙂