Unpacking my suitcase in yet another temporary living space, I think to myself “I feel so weird like I’m on superhuman drugs.” Despite hard, long travel days while moving to Costa Rica again, I have enough energy to unpack and organize, go on a long walk, and cook dinner for myself. Colors seem brighter, shapes more distinct, thoughts more lucid.

My social anxiety has vanished. My blood pressure and heart rate have normalized. My allergies are gone.

No, I’m not on one of those super human drugs like in Limitless. I just went through a year without a home base and suffered through a series of traumas. During this time, an illness exploded to the surface, completely debilitating me, but ultimately changing my life for the better.

Let’s go back in time

It’s early last year, in a corner soda in my perfect little Costa Rican mountain town, and I’m crying into my gallo pinto breakfast. I cannot stop the water gushing out of my eyes or the muscles in my face from contorting in misery. My body hurts.

“I think it’s best you don’t come to the airport with us,” says Isabella, my neighbor and sister. The family I became a part of is leaving Costa Rica and moving to Vegas. In less than 3 hours.

I’m scaring the toddler. I can’t control the outpour of emotion to make this life-changing event less traumatic for my buddy, who I hung out with everyday since before he could crawl. Over the past 3 years, I became a best friend, sister, and aunt to the wonderful family that lived next door in the tiny isolated mountains of Costa Rica. Now they are leaving me alone.

With one teary last hug, I say goodbye to my best friends and head back up the hill to an empty treehouse that no longer feels like home.

my buddy on the train at the children's museum in costa rica

My buddy saving me a seat on the train at the Costa Rica children’s museum

Leaving Costa Rica

The idea of leaving Costa Rica had been nagging at me in the background over the past few years. I was content with the family next door, but did not have any other friends living close by.

Enter Tinder. “Surely I can find some friends nearby through online dating.” Says no one ever. What’s that they say? You fail anyway if you don’t try. So I tried. I failed.

I went on a date with an angry drunk, a hoarder, and a handful of numb men with no skill in conversation and only one thing on their mind.

The highlight of all the dating debacles was a guy we called The Cheating Neighbor. He wasn’t special, but we did date for a few months and his ridiculousness was most entertaining.

The relationship ended at a festival in the jungle while I was waiting in line, naked, for my turn in the showers. I spotted him already in the shower, looking around nervously, while he washed mud off the back of a twenty-something year old girl with long blonde hair. This was his girlfriend who he referred to as his “psycho ex who was too young and stalking him by insisting on coming to Costa Rica for the festival.” Riiiiight.

tents at a festival in the costa rican rainforest

The ultimate in luxury jungle living.

He didn’t know it yet, but he was already busted. I found her, his real age, and the truth of their relationship on Twitter after he sent me a link to his Twitter profile to show off his interview with a famous DJ. This is after he told me he didn’t have any social media profiles.

She had tweeted photos of them at his house, where they lived together, around the corner from me. She also tweeted:

When u so high u forget and u bae gotta remind you to wipe the poo off your butt before u get n bed. #MyLife #WakeAnBake

When your sittin on the toilet for to long cus you tweeting and one leg falls asleep, and you debate cutting it off.

Is it possible to love wine and have no feelings for humans.. Oh wait. Yes. Yes it is. #ActuallySheCan #TrueLife #WhatDoYouThink #NoFeelings

It’s depressing to look back at everyone who unfollows you. Do not suggest it #WhatDidIDoToYou

Back at the festival, I’m next in the shower line.

My date and his girlfriend step out of the bamboo shower and their bathed bare bodies are just inches from my naked muddy frame. Physically exposed, the truth exposed, feeling bold, I greet the guy with a wicked smile “Hi José.” I resisted the urge to ask about her poopy butt. I could see that he knew his game was over and the incessant messages asking me why I was ignoring him would stop.

After a series of making connections with manipulative liars in Costa Rica, the thought of leaving was growing stronger in my mind.

The ultimate decision came abruptly after I was summoned to my neighbor’s house to receive some life changing news. Crying next to the Christmas tree, my friends holding my hands, Isabella says “we have some terrible news for you, Erin, and I don’t know how to say it, so I just have to. We’re leaving Costa Rica.”

“I am, too.” The instantaneous decision burst from my lips. I could not imagine living in Costa Rica without them. I could not imagine going on more lame dates.

I was done.

One last hurrah

“Hey Erin, what day are you leaving? I need to know by tomorrow.” My landlord was about to kick me out.

I was alone on the property, knew I needed to leave, but was avoiding the purchase of a plane ticket back to the US. I hadn’t sold all my stuff yet, including the car. I was in no hurry to go back to the US. I didn’t want to stay in the mountains alone. I felt like I was in limbo and unable to just make some decisions.

I get a message from my good friend Nancy.

“Do you want to come live in Uvita with me for a month?”

“Yes!” The instantaneous decision burst from my fingertips. It had been years since I lived at the beach in Costa Rica and it seemed like the perfect end to my time in Central America, and a plan. I needed a plan.

With just one Toyota Corolla full of stuff and enough room for 2 dogs: an aging Pittweiler and a tween Chihuamutt, I moved to the tiny tropical paradise called Uvita, on the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

my dog mocha stuffed into the floor of the front seat of the car

Tight squeeze.

I now had a deadline. Just one month to sell the rest of my stuff and my car, in a foreign country in which males usually handle vehicle sales.

Wrapping up the move and getting work done was becoming increasingly more difficult. I felt like there was this fog blocking me from thinking and doing. Whole days would go by and I would have accomplished nothing, but I would feel exhausted. Even feeding myself was a chore. I thought it was stress or a normal reaction to the increased responsibility in my life, but it wasn’t.

I was already sick and didn’t know it…

This is the first chapter in my Leaving Costa Rica Saga. I send out new posts once a week. Subscribe by email so you don’t miss out!