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Why I Quit My Job and Moved to Costa Rica
Life in Costa Rica
100,000 Expats Can't Be Wrong
I quit my job and moved to Costa Rica and I am not alone.
There are currently 100,000 expats living in Costa Rica. Many of these people are leaving behind their entire lives in more "developed" nations such as the United States and Canada, quitting their jobs and moving to Costa Rica.
Some of the questions I am always asked by family and friends are:
- Why Costa Rica?
- Is it safe to live there?
- What do you do there for work?
- Don't you miss America?
Although I'm sure each expat has their own personal reasons for ultimately making the move, there are some common reasons that I hear time and time again with speaking with my other expat friends. Most of these things were the same deciding factors that helped me make what has turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.
Why Costa Rica?
Believe it or not, I quit my job, sold everything I owned and up and moved to Costa Rica with my two children without ever visiting the country. This may sound a bit radical or crazy to most people and I suppose it was a bit gutsy. However, before buying our one way tickets to Paradise I did do a lot of research on the country.
In addition to the idea of a tropical year round climate, beautiful deserted beaches, volcanoes, waterfalls and exotic wildlife, I realized that the country had a lot to offer my family.
- Costa Rica is a peaceful nation that has no army. As an American, I am fed up my country being at perpetual war with most of the world. I'm a lover not a fighter and I want to raise my children in a society that is more aligned with my ideals.
- Good education. Costa Rica has a literacy rate of 95% and a large percentage of Costa Ricans are bi-lingual, speaking both Spanish and English. I knew that moving to Costa Rica would mean that my daughters and I would also become bi-lingual. I also researched schools and found that there were many private US accredited schools that my children could attend.
- Costa Rica is a very family oriented culture.
- Costa Rica has affordable and very good health care. Costa Rica provides universal health care to it's citizens and permanent residents. Even as a visitor to the country you can take advantage of great medical and dental care at a fraction of the cost in the US.
- Lower cost of living. As a single mom of two children it seemed that I was always dealing with some sort of financial struggle back in the States. For a frugal minded mama, the idea that we could live better for less was very appealing to me.
- Living a simpler life. I knew that in Costa Rica people were not caught up in the rat race like they are in the States. I was tired of working all the time. I wanted less stuff and more time freedom.
- Healthier lifestyle. I read that Costa Rica was not full of fast food restaurants and pre-packaged convenience foods. In fact, most Costa Ricans live on a very healthy diet which consists of mostly legumes, fruits and vegetables. They also have a lower obesity rate then in the States and live very long lives due to their low stress lifestyles. Most expats experience an effortless 10 lb weight loss after just a couple months of living in Costa Rica.
- Costa Rica is a small country and it's bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. Traveling with my children is important to me and I knew that not only would we be able to easily travel around Costa Rica but we would also be able to broaden our horizons by traveling to both Nicargua and Panama.
These were some of the major draws for me when making the decision to move. Leaving behind your entire life, all comforts of home, family and friends can be a little scary but the chance to experience a whole new way of life was waiting for us!
Volcanoes, Waterfalls and Wildlife
Is It Safe To Live There?
This is probably the most common question that I am asked. People gasp and say, "Oh, I could never live in Central America with my children. I'd be terrified!" I had none of these fears before moving here and living in the country now for almost three years, I can say that Costa Rica is a very safe place.
With the exception of robbery, the crime rate in Costa Rica is lower then more developed countries. Petty theft is the most common crime here and unlike in the States, most times these crimes are crimes of opportunity which means that people are breaking in to unattended cars or homes. Rarely do you hear about someone breaking in to a home that is occupied or murdering someone who they are stealing from.
Costa Rica is not, however, crime free. Most of the crimes that do occur happen in the major metropolitan areas of San Jose, Cartago, Heredia and Alejuela. There is also some drug related crime in certain areas on the Carribbean side of the country. The rest of the country is very rural and very, very safe.
I have never had anything stolen from me. I did witness a "bandito" who came out of the mangroves on the beach one day to steal a bag that had been left on the beach unattended. The theif was caught by a local man who worked at the hotel and restaurant near the beach and the police were called. Almost every single resident living in that small beach town showed up to meet and talk to the police, making a very loud statement that stealing is unacceptable behavior in their community.
As a single woman with two children, I have never felt unsafe, scared or threatened while living here. I actually feel a sense of safety here that I did not feel while living in the US.
Home Movie of Our Life in Costa Rica
What do you do there for work?
Before moving to Costa Rica, I knew that as an American I would not be allowed to legally work in the country. Before I moved, I was working as a home based travel agent and in my mind, there could be no valid reason why I couldn't just work "remotely" from Costa Rica. My company had different ideas of course ( insurance issues). I knew that I couldn't let something like a "job security" stand in my way. In the end, I made the decision to quit my job so that I could make the move to Costa Rica.
For the first year I did not worry too much about how to make money. I had some money in savings that I knew we could live on for at least the first year. That first year we mostly relaxed and spent a lot of time traveling and exploring the country. We took a three week camping trip, traveling around and camping on beautiful deserted beaches all around the Nicoya Peninsula and eventually ended up in a small town called Playa Avellanas. After spending some time there and getting to meet some of the people of the community we decided to call it home.
Once I enrolled my children in to one of the US accredited private schools my bank account started to drain rather quickly. It was time to figure out how on earth I was going to pay the bills in Costa Rica.
Making money as an expat in Costa Rica is nothing short of a creative endeavor. They say if there is a will, there is a way! These are a few of the ways that I make money as an expat in Costa Rica.
- Being creative, making things and selling them on the beach. (Jewelry, etc.)
- Childcare, house sitting or pet sitting.
- Building websites.
- Online transcription work.
- Online research and surveys.
- I started a community project The Puka Project which is an enrichment program for local women teaching them how to become online jewelry store owners.
- Writing - articles, blogs and hub pages.
- Teaching classes.
- Making and selling hula hoops.
- Selling my photography.
- Opening an online Costa Rica souvenir shop and I have a home décor website Pretty Throw Pillows.
A few months ago, I realized that I really missed my original profession working in travel. I was able to become certified by the Costa Rica Tourism Board and ICT and started my own travel agency focusing on travel to Costa Rica.
Costa Rica Trucker Hats
Don't You Miss America?
Most people I know probably won't like the answer to this question but the honest truth is no. During my time here I have had fleeting moments of home sickness but mostly for the people back home.
There are a few things that I do miss:
- Mexican restaurants.
That's about it!
I find that the longer I am away from my home country and the more time I spend in Costa Rica, the more at home here I feel. I am absolutely in love with "la pura vida" and all that Costa Rica has to offer.
My quality of life here is much better then it was before. I am healthier, almost completely stress free, my relationship with my daughters has grown in unimaginable ways as we have shared these experiences together. I have been able to travel and meet interesting people from all over the world. I have also learned a lot about myself as I faced and conquered each and every "struggle" that has come my way. My creativity and imagination have strengthened as I've had to think "outside the box" in almost every area of my life.
I have found great satisfaction in living life in a way that I have intentionally chosen.
Quitting my job and moving to Costa Rica was the perfect choice for me.
Living my dreams in Costa Rica!
Thank You Everyone and Update
I just wanted to add a little update and thank everyone so much for taking the time to read my article and connect with me! I've met so many great people who have reached out to me and shared their dreams with me. You are all so inspirational!
Update on our family: We celebrated our three year anniversary in Costa Rica in December. We are healthy and happy and we are still madly in love with Costa Rica.
I recently became involved with a small community school in the area where we live. I am doing some online fundraising and online promotion work as well as working with the amazing kids at Educativo Centro Chorotega. It feels really great to be able to help these kids and to give back to a community that has given so much to us!
If any of you might be interested in taking a volunteer vacation I am helping the school bring in some volunteers who wish to immerse themselves in Costa Rica culture while donating their time to the great kids at the school. If you or someone you know may be interested, you can read more about it here - Volunteer Vacations in Costa Rica.
All of my small businesses are starting to grow, which means I am able to finally relax about our finances!
I have decided to take all that I have learned and put my new skills to work assisting local businesses in Costa Rica to help them market their businesses online as well as helping them setup online retail stores where they can sell their souvenirs to an international audience! Many of the great businesses here in Costa Rica do not have an online presence so this is opening a lot of new doors for them. I enjoy the work I do so much and it is a great feeling to be able to help people achieve their goals and dreams!
I was also contacted through Hubpages by someone at the BBC who interviewed me about my life here. Pretty exciting! I will post that link here as soon as the article is published.
Isn't life grand?
Here is a recent video I made about our sweet little spot in paradise, I wanted to share it with everyone here - hope you enjoy it. Pura vida!
Bonfires - Playa Avellanas, Costa Rica
Learn More About Costa Rica
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- How To Plan Your Costa Rica Honeymoon
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