Moving to Costa Rica: Relocation Pains & Pleasures

Image by Nina Garman from Pixabay

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.