On March 6th, we said good-bye to our home in Easton, PA, loaded up our rented Chrysler Pacifica, and began our journey south to Miami, from where we will fly out of the U.S. and into Costa Rica to start a new life. It was surreal. Nothing could have prepared us for the emotional moments of walking out our front door for the last time and saying “adiós” to family and friends and the city we loved.
The small part of me, that voice up in my head, keeps saying to me, “This is crazy. Who do you think you are moving to another country? How dare you!” We all have this small part that detests the unknown. Tabatha and I have boldly stepped into the unknown. We are on the road, making our way toward a new home in a new country – both of which we’ve only seen in pictures. Oh Lord, please don’t let it be run-down and cockroach-infested like our last hotel room.
The most challenging part about it all is trusting the people we hired. The small self has serious trust issues. Yet here we are trusting people we’ve never met face-to-face. This is challenging every trust molecule in my body. But we can’t make this move without their help, so we have no choice but to trust them to do their job.
I often consider myself an anxious person with trust issues, and I feel guilty for not trusting God enough. Maybe I have much less of an issue with trust than I give myself credit for because here I am going through this monumental move, despite what my small self has to say about it – despite how it feels. Maybe I really do trust God.
I was surprised that I didn’t feel sad or scared at all leaving it all behind. Instead, I felt deeply grateful. I found myself saying silently to it all, “Thanks for the wonderful memories.” I’m ending a wonderful old chapter of my life and starting another wonderful new chapter, perhaps even more wonderful than the last.
There is a bigger part of me that is thoroughly enjoying this adventure – loving every minute of letting go and anticipating what’s in store. This bigger part – who we really are – loves the unknown and the surprises that occur as life unfolds. When we identify with this part, we can relax and enjoy life instead of trying to control it, which is mission impossible – the perfect recipe for misery.
Everyone should do something boldly outside their comfort zone at least once in their life. I may feel a bit exhausted, but at the same time, I’ve honestly never felt so free and so alive.
Stay tuned: We are flying to Costa Rica next week to begin our new life.
Moving to Costa Rica … what a glorious dream! Warm weather, lush green scenery, toucans and monkeys, friendly people, and a slower pace of life. Before we made the decision to move to Costa Rica, life was mundanely simple: eat, sleep, work, play. After we made the decision to move to Costa Rica … mayhem!
It felt like we suddenly became the ring masters of a three-ring circus with the extreme stress of keeping all the wild animals at bay. In Ring #1 was the Logistics Lion, an unpredictable critter that clawed us on a couple of occasions. In Ring #2 was the Shipping Beast, staring us down hungrily. But they were tame compared to what was in Ring #3: the Residency Raptor, waiting patiently for an opportunity to pounce on us and eat us alive.
Alright, maybe I’m exaggerating (a little), but seriously … I’ve found the process of relocating to another country to be very stressful. I’m already an anxious kind of person, and this has triggered every anxious molecule in my body and tested just how much I really trust God. It’s difficult to relocate on one’s own, especially when you’ve never done anything remotely like it in your entire life. We hired help, but there were still many things we had to manage ourselves.
First was figuring out how to get rid of stuff. We had to decide what stuff we couldn’t live without, set it aside for packing, and get rid of the rest. I didn’t realize how much unused stuff we had until I had to figure out how to get rid of it. And you know what happens when you start sorting through things.
“Memories … light the corners of my mind … misty water-colored memories … of the way we were.”
Sorry … Barbara Streisand suddenly starting singing in my head.
It was an emotional rollercoaster ride. Some memories were happy ones, and some were sad, but I discovered something wonderful when sorting through it all: the fact that no one is going to know me in Costa Rica. I can go there and be whoever I want to be, and no one will say, “Hey, you’ve changed, and I don’t like it.” The only one who knows me is my wife, and at our wedding, we vowed to “love each new version of one another.” So, she’s stuck with me.
That was a very pleasant discovery along with many other pleasures that came with the pain of getting rid of stuff. We stopped living in clutter. We realized that we could happily survive with far less stuff. But best of all, we made our neighbors very happy by selling stuff cheap on Facebook Marketplace. We sold our portable dishwasher for $100, and the woman who came to our door to pick it up was absolutely ecstatic. She almost forgot to pay us in her zeal to get that thing out our door and into her kitchen ASAP. We also posted lots of free stuff on Facebook’s “Buy Nothing,” and we got a card from a neighbor thanking us for our generosity. It’s true: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
Then there was selling the house. The day the house hit the market, we were bombarded with requests for showings. We could barely keep them all straight. One realtor showed up, and were still getting dressed. Another relator locked us out of our own house! The parade in and out of our house was insane. We had 30 showings in four days. We couldn’t just get in the car and go somewhere because we had our dog, Jackson. We didn’t want to leave our poor little anxious boy in his crate all alone with groups of people coming in and going out. At one point during a showing, we were standing outside with the dog in the cold rain, and we all ended up piling into the car to get warm and dry off.
On the first day of showings, we accidentally ran into a lovely couple checking out our back yard. Actually, Jackson ran up to them, and we ran after Jackson. They said, “You have a lovely home.” We really liked them (so did Jackson apparently), and we said a little prayer that they would put in an offer.
We had nine offers. It turned out that theirs was the first and the best. We were overjoyed. We didn’t want to sell to any investors, who would make our home an exorbitant $2000 per month rental, contributing to the problem of unaffordable housing in this community (and everywhere). We wanted it to be a home for someone. We were proud to sell our home to this local interracial couple who wants to start a family here. God had answered our prayer.
There’s also finding a place to live in Costa Rica. It’s a truly unnerving feeling selling your house before you even know where you’re going to be living … in a foreign country no less! We had to trust our relocation specialist to find us a place. After the first week, she said to us, “We’re having an unusually difficult time finding available rentals in your preferred location.” Our hearts sank (and skipped a couple beats). We started checking out other locations, but I said a little prayer asking God to help her find the perfect place for us in our preferred location.
Two days later, she found a rental in our chosen location that has everything we want for the most part. But there was an added bonus: It’s a tico-style home. The people who live in Costa Rica are called ticos, so we’re going to be living in true Costa-Rican style! We didn’t want to live in Costa Rica and feel like we were still living in the U.S. If we saw a Walmart in a neighborhood, we were like, “Oh no, we don’t want to live there!” There are many Americans who move to Costa Rica and want all the comforts of their American lifestyle. Not us. We want to leave our American lifestyle behind in America, and when in Costa Rica, live like the Costa Ricans. God answered our prayers again!
And finally there’s getting residency. Oh my, what a complicated beast that is! There are a lot of documents to get together like birth certificates, marriage license, copies of passports, and FBI fingerprint checks. All documents have to be apostilled, and some documents needed to be notarized before being apostilled.
Do you know what an apostille is? I had no clue. It sounded like French to me. When I first heard the word, I imagined it to be the name of Napoleon Bonaparte’s war headquarters. The Apostille! But no, it’s how a state or country certifies the validity of its own documents for other countries. The process can take a while, and the documents can’t be older than six months when we apply for residency. So, timing is crucial.
The most unnerving part was entrusting our documents to our elected officials to get them apostilled. After all the time and energy and expense we went through to get the documents ready for apostille, I was very reluctant to hand them over. These days, I don’t have much confidence in any politician to get any job done any time soon. But I handed them over, and I prayed to God that they wouldn’t get ignored or lost or forgotten buried under a pile of papers on someone’s desk.
This week, we finally received all our apostilled documents back. God answered our prayers once again. God is still faithful – even to me of little faith. We are so grateful to have this opportunity to live in Costa Rica. Not everyone has this opportunity, but we do because of my wife’s pension. She didn’t make much money working for the government, but she enjoyed serving her community. A new life in a beautiful country is the reward for her service, and I get the pleasure of tagging along.
Stay tuned for the next post in early March … Moving to Costa Rica: On the Road.
My wife and I have decided to sell our house, sell or give away most of the things we own, pack up the rest, and move to Costa Rica – and we’ve never even been there.
You might be thinking, “What? Are you nuts?” The practical mind has relentlessly asked us this same question. To address its concerns, we have several practical reasons for making Costa Rica our new home: a warmer climate, a lower cost of living, better health care, politically stable, very friendly people, and a high happiness and sustainability index.
Still, the mind argues, “But you’ve never been there!” Just because we’ve extensively researched, spoken to many people, and heard a lot of great things about Costa Rica doesn’t mean we’re going to like it there. True. We may not. But we feel we’re not going to figure that out from a vacation or two. We need to live there. Really experience the place. Become part of its culture and people. We need to risk a serious commitment, and we’ve learned enough about this country to feel it’s worth the risk.
To live life to the fullest, we must be willing to take risks, trusting in God. We’ve been somewhat happy living here in the United States. The same is true with our home here in PA. But we want to experience and embrace a different culture – a culture more laid-back and peace-loving, a culture more concerned about having good relationships with other human beings and with the Earth.
Now more than ever, we need to be willing to open ourselves up to experiencing other cultures. That’s the only way to begin to understand people who are different from us. By understanding their traditions and struggles, we can begin to view them as human beings just like us. This challenges the “us versus them” mentality plaguing humanity, keeping us in conflict with one another.
We also can begin to challenge the assumptions we live by. There are other choices around how we can choose to live our lives, but we might not see them because we have been so conditioned by our culture.
The small self keeps telling me, “This isn’t who you are. You’re a home-body. You’ve never even left the country except to go to Niagara Falls, and that doesn’t even count.” Indeed. Oftentimes, I look at our boxes ready to be shipped and hear the increased echoing of our house as it is emptied of all our stuff, and I think, “I can’t believe we’re doing this.”
While the small self is busy questioning and protesting, the True Self within me feels so peaceful and so excited for this grand adventure on which we are about to embark. That’s the part that has given us a sign encouraging us to go after this dream without fear.
The sign is the sloth. The sloth is the national symbol of Costa Rica, like the Eagle for America. In June, my wife picked a birthday card for me with a sloth on it. We didn’t learn that the sloth was Costa Rica’s national symbol until the following month when we were researching Costa Rica. Over the weekend, we were shopping in Boscov’s for a suitcase. We picked one that was perfect for us, and it was even on sale. We didn’t notice until we were in the checkout line that the suitcase had toucans on it and … guess what else? Yes, sloths!
Sometimes when we think we’re happy, we have no idea how much more happy we can be until God moves us out of our familiar places where our lives have become stale, and we’re no longer growing. We’re never stuck – except by our own fears. We have our fears, but we have more trust that God has something grand in store for us.
I invite you, my dear readers, to join us on this grand adventure. Stay tuned for future posts!