Over and over I get asked the same question. … Will you ever go back? Granted, we are in the business of moving here – and at a B&B where many folks stay while deciding whether Costa Rica is right for them, its no wonder we get asked so often. It seems that many are surprised when I give a simple answer – “This is just NOW. Nothing has to be permanent.”
With 3 kids, 2 businesses and 4 dogs, are they looking for something more definite from me? People are searching for a finite and definite reason for possibly making a change in their own lives. Is what we do, do-able? Is it attractive enough for them? Or maybe they just are looking for me to say- we were crazy, hell no! and give them some affirmation for their own day to day experience of life wherever they come from. Truth be told, I would have said the same thing at any point in my life, about anywhere I lived, and anything I was doing at the moment. This is just now. My email address for years was a mis-spelled version of Gypsymama, and a degree in archaeology allowed me the luxury of being able to do just about anything, anywhere. That included bartending, which led to opening my own bar; paralegal, then legal assistant in real estate sales which led me to accept the offer to take over Paradise Management Realty with my husband here in Costa Rica. Prior to that was the initial dream of living in David’s native Costa Rica, which led us to buy Vista Valverde B&B here in the beautiful town of San Ramon. Every choice and “heads up” in life leads you to the next, and I guess I just don’t try and hold on too hard. This is just now, before was then, and next is… well, up for grabs.
We are all set in this permanent mindset – what are we going to be when we grow up? We are asked over and over again as children – a form of almost the same question I am being asked now. Its as if they are trying to figure out if I changed my mind mid-life, came to Costa Rica, and they want to know if I would go back to being what I was before. Is this it? Is this what I want to be when I grow up? Well, I don’t know. And since you are asking, and you are here, or you are thinking about moving here, chances are you don’t either. And I am going to be no help with that except to say – It’s OK to not know.
Let’s look at it this way. People are looking for you to give one answer to the grow up question. Right? When I was a kid, I’d say – pilot, mechanic, physicist, pianist and archaeologist. “Oh, so you don’t know,” is what the “grownup” would respond. Really, is that what you heard? Because what I said was, I wanted to be many things. Not that I did not know. But the questioner wants one answer, because its all they have been taught. Your answer is meant to dictate the rest of your life, and tell them all about you, from where you are going to live to how many children you have. When you answer pilot, mechanic, physicist, pianist and archaeologist, they just can’t wrap their head around it. It’s like moving to Costa Rica! But that does not mean it is not possible, and it certainly does not mean the child does not know what they want to be.
This brings me to the purple elephant in the room – that part of the question “when you grow up”. Perhaps its this very part of the question that makes it impossible for so many of us who move to Costa Rica to answer these kinds of questions in the first place. Will we ever go back? Not if that means we have to grow up in some way! If growing up means one choice, one destination, then maybe that is why we are here now. And maybe that is why the generated question – will you ever go back, will I ever choose what I want to be when I grow up, live it, do it and that’s that, or return to some former choice, is not one I can even answer. We like it here. You don’t have to grow up here, in a way. You just have to grow old- that’s nature’s choice, and I’m fine with that. I will keep jumping in waterfalls as long as I can.
Even if we return to NY, or the States in general, it would never be for that 9-5, materialistic, drinks at happy hour and deals on the golf course action. So what do we do now that we are here? Why would someone want to move here? Can you support yourself? Will you be happy here like us? I think that will require another post entirely, but lets touch on it for a second.
In order to understand why someone moves here, or anywhere that does not fit the generic mold of growing up in one of the first world countries like the US, you need to get your mind off a linear existence model. First of all, even I won’t work for $3/hour. I just don’t know how to live off that. So getting a regular job and living life like the scheduled 9-5er, or here in CR 7-6er, is not the life I want. But many expat families have! Some get transferred from their own country to areas in San Jose and Heredia, mostly, and some find work here. I chose Costa Rica because I see options to other things like having my own business, and being able to do so without all of the extra weight that a small business owner carries in the states. Having a successful business here still has its risks, but the risk is not your house and your life. You spend time with your children, enjoy life, even while having your own business, or even having a 9-5 job! We all know the shit that small businesses go through in the states no matter what the government says about Main Street. And while I’m at it, what about all the businesses off main street? It’s just too hard in the states- and I have done it, successfully. I don’t want to anymore. I am not willing to give up my personal life for my business life. Raising my kids requires my money and my time. I understand that now, and I can get that here.
One of my clients wants to move down “Because its like the States was 100 years ago. You have the freedom to do what you want.” And that is part of the basic mindset a lot of folks have down here. Costa Rica has a lot more freedom, and the ability to succeed if you think outside of the box. If you have savings, you can think inside the box and live pretty cheaply for what you get in return. Not that Costa Rica is the cheapest country for expats to choose from, but once you look at the healthcare and the peaceful stabilty, it is well worth the slightly higher pricetag. Some people come for the climate, some come to stretch their retirement dollar, some come to raise their families, like us, in a slightly less competitive, more down to earth, environment. And some just come to surf! But if you think you are going to come here and get one or more of those things with all the rest being like life back home – no matter where you go in Costa Rica, from Escazu to the Panamanian border, you will be sadly disappointed. This is different, in every shape and form. And no matter how ready you are, you won’t be ready – and that’s ok too. Its part of the adventure, enjoy it! If you don’t, you can always do something else. This is just Now, nothing has to be permanent.
So to answer the question as I hear it, yes, I would go back to something completely new. I would possibly resettle in California, which we love, or maybe the Florida keys… probably not upstate NY, but definitely the NYC, where I grew up and still absolutely love. The lakehouse upstate would go back to being a summer home, maybe even a new little B&B.
My husband and I work, we work hard, we work hard for ourselves and our family, our life and our freedom here. What we have found is our work goes further than the tax man and the mortgage broker. What many retirees have found is their hard earned money goes further than their medical bills and their heating bills, and they can take mini vacations all year long to the places in Central and South America they always dreamed of. What many families have found is that their children can be home-schooled or put in private school with small classes for less than their school taxes back home, learn other languages, and have more freedoms and adventures of their own as well. We are here to live, not to die – we are here for personal adventure as well as some thrill seeking – we all know what Costa Rica has to offer when it comes to volcanos, waterfall jumping, white water rafting, surfing, you name it. But its the adventurous spirit that sees those things as a lifestyle, not just as a vacation. And that is why we are here, and why going back to us, is not the right question really. More of “Is this your last stop?” and to that question, I will answer: I doubt it….