To be free

Speeding across the Southwest in my beloved Honda Civic that I hadn’t driven in a year, I thumbed through my old CDs. I’d just returned to the U.S. after a year in Central America and wanted to hear country music. My time capsule of a car delivered: After listening to old-school Taylor Swift, from when she still had a twang, I popped in Tim McGraw.  Without warning, I was transported back to the last time I’d been racing through the reds and browns of New Mexico, in the opposite direction, listening to that very CD. I remembered exactly what headspace I was in, before a year in Costa Rica changed my life.

Before the words sunk in, I was carefree, driving west. I was by myself, taking in the sweeping landscape that I love so much, alone after a whirlwind few weeks. I had just moved back to the U.S., to Las Vegas, that week. After a few days at my new office (I was employed!), looking at rentals in my spare time, I’d flown to my parents’ house in Albuquerque to pick up my car. I was L.A.-bound, racing towards my storage unit to finish the last leg of my move.

Then I popped in that CD.

Continue Reading »»

Expat life by the numbers

Some of the things that felt most natural to me at the time (my neighbors constantly yelling at me through my window when I didn’t have a phone) are the things that will soon feel the most foreign to me when I return to the US. I teared up writing this list and boiling down my time into a series of numbers; I’m not sure why. A lot of it has to do with the fact that it clearly shows how much I’ve changed. A mere six months before I moved to Costa Rica, when all I knew were cities such as NYC, Las Vegas and LA, I would not have believed that I could accomplish such “feats.” (Even BlackBerry-addicted me can survive prolonged periods without a phone, TV, car or computer. Who knew?) In fact, I grew so rapidly during my year as an expat that not only could I not have imagined such a life beforehand, I doubt I could have achieved it. But slowly, my life morphed into something even fantasy-driven I could never have dreamed up for myself. During my year in Coco, I experienced/survived/enjoyed: Continue Reading »»

Why I’m leaving paradise

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard people say, “I wish I could give everything up and move to a hut on the beach.” Well, you can. I did! And it was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. The year I spent in Playas del Coco, Costa Rica, most of the time in a tiny one-room house surrounded by ear-splitting roosters and howler monkeys, was the happiest of my life.

Despite those loud animals, I conquered my life-long insomnia. Plugged in to an adventurous community of expats and travelers like me, I made friends from all over the world. And in my pueblo, I made friends with whom I could truly be myself. In fact, I can honestly say that I was more myself this year than at any other time in my life. Continue Reading »»

The dark side of being a single expat

I had a rough week. And because I can’t bear for one more person to go, “But you live in paradise; go to the beach!” I am going to honestly talk about it, for the first time. Loneliness, sadness and bone-chilling fright are common ailments of living the dream, believe you me.

I became attached to a dog I rescued this week. He was skin and bones when I took him home, and he barely moved, lethargically moping around my small patio. As he gained strength and started to feel better, due to the two sets of pills I was tricking him into eating for his painful kidney infection and small amounts of cooked chicken and dog food four times a day, he started to run around the yard, smiling, tail wagging. He barked for the first time one evening when I came home, jumping up on me with a strength I didn’t know he had.

Meanwhile, a wave of crime has frightened my little town, especially single women like me. It’s rainy season, so all the tourists are home. (Translation: Time for the town’s criminals to target the locals.) Continue Reading »»

Expat Diaries: Linking to Your Past

My blog has always been about my new life in small town Costa Rica, as it should be. That was the point, how I got talked into this whole mess. But after a three-week whirlwind through LA, Las Vegas and NYC, I’m feeling more of a need to re-connect with my city roots. And I’m feeling weirdly guilty about it. Why? Simply because I spent most of my trip feeling pretty uncomfortable in those three cities I used to call home.

I now feel so much happier living on a dirt road in a house with plenty of space, than any cooped-up apartment I’ve previously inhabited. (No one is more surprised than me.) But I still lived in a big city for most of my adult life, and I love that about myself.

Ten months in a sleepy pueblo can’t really erase 14 stressful years of history in bustling big cities, can it?

Can it?

Continue Reading »»

Working in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is packed with expats working remotely to the States, Canada and elsewhere. Want to learn more about how it’s done? One of my favorite bloggers just posted an interview (yes, he interviewed me). It was so sweet of him to think of me — check it out! I’d be the first one to encourage anyone to work abroad. It’s a dream come true!

Follow him on Twitter! @shawnosaurus