Ten months after I moved to a small fishing village in Costa Rica, I’ve come to an interesting revelation: I most feel at home in Coco (population: 3000) because of the time I spent in New York City. I’ve moved around so much, that those five years living in Manhattan are my record, as long as I’ve lived anywhere. From there, I moved to Austin, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, all which ended up being temporary stops. Now? I’ve got NYC on the brain. Here are the surprising ways that living in the big city eventually turned me into a small town girl.
1. My first house in Costa Rica was only slightly bigger than a Yukon, but I’m used to cramped space. In NYC, my bedroom was the size of my bed. (Literally. I had to climb off the foot in order to get off it.)
2. New Yorkers have street smarts. Slightly tweak them, and you’re good to go in Costa Rica. When I was robbed my fourth night in Coco, I didn’t go running back home to the US; I knew I just had to learn a different layer of protecting myself. And I was a quick study thanks to my early years in NYC.
4. In New York, I was too busy to see my friends as often as I would’ve liked, so email was my life-line. Now, a good chunk of my friends live far away. But keeping in touch constantly via email and social media feels comfortable to me.
5. City life guarantees a certain anonymity — but since you’re out walking around, you run into familiar faces all the time. “Big city, small neighborhood” is a feeling I still have. On the one hand, I have the unsettling feeling that nothing could find me or catch up to me in Costa Rica as a whole, since it feels so foreign. But I know all the neighbors, which calms me again.
6. Shopping in Manhattan was so pricey (and I worked too much to have time for it) that I really didn’t do it much. In Coco? I’m grateful I never became a shopoholic – we have only two stores that sell clothes. And you need to wade through racks of wooden souvenirs to find the dresses.
8. My oldest friends live in New York, and when we’re together we don’t have to do anything to have fun. Exhausted from long days of work, fun was watching The Apprentice together and ordering in sushi. In Costa Rica, I also have a tight-knit group of girlfriends, and we gather at a dirty old stoop. A group of friends takes any city from fun to special.
9. Long-term, I feel most comfortable in cities I can’t get lost in. (Hello, Manhattan’s grid system.) I was so happy to leave behind the sprawling cities of Austin and LA, where I was constantly calling friends in a state of panic.
10. Living in Manhattan was about following my dreams and having adventures. I was a risk-taker in my 20s, tearing through the city causing trouble like the fearless young woman I was. Now that I’ve caught the travel bug again and become an expat, I have that youthful spirit to thank. NYC, I owe you one, old friend.