Wait! Moving?! As in “one-way ticket”? As in, “you’re not coming back?”
Yep. That’s right.
Are we crazy?
You’re kidding, right? But… WHY?!!
Well, you already know how much we enjoyed our trip to Panama. True, that was more of a vacation-mindset trip than it was a “living in another country” trip, but we still experienced our share of culture, language, and grew closer together as a family.
We have been thinking all year about where we wanted to go next. We knew we wanted to stick with Spanish speaking countries, because we’re not yet satisfied with our current Spanish ability. We looked into Peru, Ecuador, Colombia…
But then we realized – Hey! We can fly almost free ($50/person each way) to Costa Rica, because my step-mom works for Jet Blue. Costa Rica is right next door to Panama, which we loved. It’s pretty well developed (yes, maybe a little touristy), but beautiful. Perfect weather. Laid back culture. Relatively low cost of living. Why not?
So, we’ve spent quite a bit of time the past few weeks researching about Costa Rica. I’ve posted messages on Costa Rica forums, and have been learning about the different aspects of the country. We probably won’t choose exactly where we’ll live until we get there – we’d rather see the place before committing to a long-term rental agreement, wouldn’t you? But we are narrowing it down to a few small cities and towns.
Finding a place to settle down permanently isn’t necessarily even our goal. We seem to be explorers by nature, and get quickly bored unless we’re challenged with new experiences and places. I’m not saying we’ll never settle down. Who knows, we may someday buy a place we love, and start collecting “stuff” again. But right now, we don’t really care about that. We want to live with less, and be mobile.
Selling Everything. Owning Nothing.
We’ve also realized how attached we can become to our possessions. And how, beyond basic comforts, they don’t really contribute to our happiness. In fact, our possessions can really weigh us down. Think of how much time and maintenance is required to own a house or a car, for example.
Recently, after reading a chapter in “The New Global Student” about families who have made the move abroad, or who sold everything they owned, bought a boat, and sailed with their family for a few years; we realized that a location-independent lifestyle – where we get the chance to explore new cultures as we want to, go where we want to go, when we want to go there, meet new people, and constantly be out of our comfort zones and growing – is a very appealing lifestyle for us. Change and growth can be fun! Especially when compared to stagnating in the sameness of day-to-day life.
So, as crazy as the idea still sounds, we feel great about selling everything we own – yes, even our new car – and getting a one-way ticket to Costa Rica. Well, we won’t be getting rid of everything. We’ll each take a carry-on suitcase with us, and we’ll put some things in storage as well. We’ll probably take a little loss on the car and the house (we just refinanced), but it will be worth it. Also, immigration laws won’t let us get a true one-way ticket, but we’re making it work.
We plan to stay until we feel like leaving, and then go somewhere else new – maybe Argentina, Brazil, India, China, Italy – who knows! But we probably won’t be coming back to the U.S. to live for a while (unless we want to). Of course, we’ll still come back to visit for holidays or other occasions. We may only want to stay in Costa Rica for 3 months, or we may stay for 3 years. Either way, it will be an adventure.
Renters by Choice
We plan on renting furnished apartments or houses wherever we go, so we don’t have any “baggage”. Our expenses could be so much lower, too (in many countries), than they would be in the U.S. so we could end up saving a lot of money – as long as we don’t treat every day like we’re on vacation, but actually try to live normal lives. Well, normal is relative, but… you know.
Of course our income won’t be affected, because I have an on-line business that continues to generate income every month, and I can run it from anywhere. This has been a great blessing to us, and we’re grateful it continues to grow.
However, you may be interested to know that there are many people doing the same thing, who aren’t Internet entrepreneurs. There are other ways to support yourself when living abroad. And in some countries, you can support your family and live like a king for under $1,000/month. (Note: Costa Rica isn’t one of them, although many locals live comfortably on less).
If you’re interested in reading about the experience of others who have moved abroad, check out some of these websites:
A Change of Culture
We’ve also thought a lot about what we really want to gain from living abroad. One of the main things we want is a change of culture. Not that we expect Costa Rica to be perfect. No place is.
But to us, the suburban American culture we live in seems focused so much on money, competition, and possessions, over people, friendships, and becoming a good person. Sure, that’s a stereotype and isn’t always the case. And life is what you make it. Also, a healthy dose of money, competition, and possessions can be beneficial. But I think an unhealthy focus on these things, at the expense of people and service, permeates our society, in the media, movies, news, and more, and it’s difficult not to be affected. We want a simpler, kinder, slower, focus-more-on-what-matters kind of life, and we find that easier to live in other places.
As one example, think of the fast-paced and hurried lives many modern families are now engulfed in, with kids enrolled in so many after-school activities, from sports and music to dance and extra classes to parties and playing with friends, not to mention homework. The hope is that we can give our kids every opportunity for growth and development and let them get a taste of everything that’s out there, and achieve their greatest potential.
I think that’s great. But I feel like in doing so, we may be giving up something more valuable. Parents can easily spend a good portion of their day simply driving their kids from one place to another, especially in larger families. And the kids are involved with so many activities, it’s difficult to really focus on any of them. Kids and parents can become over scheduled and stressed out, losing touch with each other and with life itself. Some families may be able to handle this pace, and it could work great for them. But it’s not the lifestyle that works for our family – we’ve tried it to some degree, and didn’t like it. I want to live my life more at a pace where if I pass by the proverbial rose, I won’t hesitate to take time to smell and enjoy and appreciate it.
Disconnecting and Slowing Down
I’m also finding that I, like many others, have a technology addiction that can be consuming. I think it’s great to connect with people through e-mail, and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter (and yes, even the phone if I have to). It’s great to be able to stay in touch with people who are far away, and we plan to continue using these tools. But I find that if I don’t take time to disconnect from everything electronic, for significant portions of the day (or week), I’m not as connected with myself – or with life – as I want to be.
For years, I was a constant productivity machine, always checking my e-mail, trying to make every moment count toward whatever goal I was striving for. That’s great. It’s brought me some wonderful rewards. But I feel like it’s time to slow down. And I think I have slowed down a lot in the past year or two. I’ve realized that the more I live my life in such a way that I am in touch with how I’m feeling, the more connected I feel not only to myself, but to others, and to God. Do I really want to miss out on these opportunities for greater inner peace, more enriching relationships, and real personal growth, by constantly doing more, knowing more, and having more? I think not.
Like Panama, Costa Rica will be a catalyst for these kinds of changes in our lives.
What about the kids’ education?
As mentioned in previous posts, we plan on homeschooling our children. Their minds are so inquisitive right now, and we plan on exploring their areas of interest as far as they want to take them, in addition to teaching them reading and basic math, in natural ways (see Unschooling). But to be honest, at their ages (almost 6 and 4), I’m more concerned about our kids personal development than I am about their academic education. As they get a little older, maybe we can do something more formal, possibly even enrolling them in some foreign schools. If they want to graduate from college, there are plenty of options to do so internationally (and early), that are much cheaper than attending a U.S. institution.
Of course we’ll try to make sure they have the skills they need to survive in the world, how to think and make decisions, and make a living, etc. We’ll all probably end up being at least trilingual. But we’re more concerned about the kind of people they become. And the kind of people we are. We want to make volunteering a bigger part of our life as well. We’ve already contacted a few orphanages in Costa Rica for starters, and plan to do what we can to help. We’ll see where life takes us.
I still can’t believe you’re doing this!
In some ways, neither can I. It may also surprise you that Jen, not me, has been the biggest instigator of this move. I had several doubts and hesitations about it myself. And I’m not excited about all the preparation work involved in leaving. But we know we want to do it. The rewards are too great to pass up. Our lives have been moving in this direction for years, and we’ve finally realized that this is the next step we need to take. (Although we would never have dreamed of making a jump like this two or three years ago.)
And while we may be a little crazy, we’re also happy. We’re all of a sudden willing to throw out so many of the ideas our culture has taught us about what’s important in life, what’s a necessity to have, and what we’re expected to do. We’re re-inventing our lives, learning from experience, and trying new and exciting things. It’s invigorating, and we feel alive!
We probably won’t be leaving until January, 2010, because there is a lot to do to get ready for the move. We’re going to miss our family and friends here, but in this global age of blogs, e-mail, Facebook, and Skype, I don’t think we’ll seem that far away. And we can always come back. Or you can come visit us! And we hope you will.
If any of you are interested in having our “stuff”, we’d be happy to have you take it off our hands. Everything from furniture, to cds and movies, toys, electronics, decorations, and more, has got to go. But there are some furniture pieces we’d like to keep within the family. We’ve already donated more than half our clothes to charity. The toys are next, so act fast before they’re gone. Just let us know if you’re interested, and you can come take a walk through our house and see if anything strikes your interest.