Five years ago, our young family moved to Costa Rica from the Northeastern United States. Costa Rica is a small peaceful, developing nation in Central America. The plan was to give it a try and re-access how we all felt after a year. One year turned into two, then three, and now going on five years. There have been difficult times, but overall it has been such an amazing and enlightening experience for our entire family. We have learned many things, including a new language and culture, but some lessons run much deeper into who we are as humans and what we offer to the world in return.
After five years living abroad, here are 5 important lessons for our family:
1. Living more simply:
Before moving my family to Costa Rica we were living the “American dream”. We had a large home, two new cars, and every toy that we could want. Our children, likewise, had rooms loaded with toys, including go-carts and extravagant swing sets. Although we worked hard, we spent money without giving much thought to it. If we were “bored” we would go shopping for things we really didn’t even need just to pass the time. After living abroad, I feel a huge amount of embarrassment over our gluttonous lifestyle, but now I can look back and see how far we have come. Our children also seem to understand now the difference between what we need and what we want, something that seems to be completely lost in American society today. We live in a house just perfect for us, nothing fancy at all, but everything we need. The kids have very little toys (electronics are still in full force of course) and they are just as happy spending more time outdoors and making toys themselves. We spend less money, have far less “stuff”, and it is probably the thing that I am most proud of.
I admit it, I am a type-A person through and through. I don’t want to wait for anything and I do not share well (only child as well). I can be construed as rude, and definitely do not even think of slowing me down EVER! Did I mention that WAS me? I still have some issues with patience and it will always be a work in progress but after living here in Costa Rica where everything requires some amount of waiting, and no one is impatient there. I have learned to slow down and accept that I can be in the moment rather then just hurrying to the next task. Because of it I feel more at peace then I ever have. Now when I return to the US and witness the impatience and rude behavior that I am sure I used to exhibit, I am appalled at it and so grateful for my time in the “Pura Vida” society.
3. Improvement in health
In the US, we were totally reliant on prepackaged convenience food. This is obviously unhealthy not to mention a real drain on your finances. When we moved to Costa Rica I quickly realized that those foods we were so used to weren’t even available and the convenience foods that we could get were so exorbitantly priced. In short, we had to find another way. I learned to cook and realized I am actually pretty good at it. If there was an item we were craving I would search online, figure out a recipe, use healthier ingredients, and cook it up! 5 years into living here we eat healthier by choosing mostly whole foods and fresh fruits and vegetables. We also have gotten most chemicals out of the house and use all natural products for cleaning and personal care. Living here helped me to step away from the accepted norms in the US and make healthy changes for myself and my family.
4. Tolerance to different people
In my US life I now see that I really missed out on meeting new people. I had a core group of friends that were very much like myself and that was really the extent of it. When you live that way it’s hard to learn from the people around you. I have friends from all over the world and people that I never would have given a chance to in the US are some of my best friends. I see now how amazing every person is in their own way. When I began to look beneath the surface, I discovered some amazing things about my friends that I never would have known had I not opened my mind and heart to embrace their differences. Living here has shown me the way of tolerance.
Having confidence in yourself and your ability to make it through the world on your own terms is an invaluable thing. It felt like a huge leap when we moved here not knowing how it would all work out. I, in particular, spent a lot of time worrying about how we would get by. I still worry a bit as that seems to be part of my role in the family but it is so much less then ever before. I now know that we are in control of what we want on this planet and know that we are very capable of not only getting by, but of making all our wildest dreams come true.
There have been many lessons learned and many trials and tribulations personally fought through but I would not change a single thing. These lessons I have learned have forever changed me in such a positive and profound way that I will always be so grateful to this small, peaceful, and beautiful country and its people.
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