Monday, August 1, 2016

Skepticism About Moving Abroad

We call ourselves immigrants, but many people call us expats. We are not working for a corporation overseas for a contract. We are not retirees moving to an island to sip drinks by the ocean. Instead, we were a young family who were ready to try our hand at a new business in a new land to provide a different life for our family. This is why we call ourselves immigrants of Costa Rica. You could also call us entrepreneurs but since we did it in a foreign country, we consider it immigration; therefore, we are immigrants. We left Texas in a time when most of our family had moved on or moved. We left during a time when many of our friends were discussing divorce, unemployment and/or discontent with their lives. We were doing ok financially, but we felt like we did not spend much quality time together. We felt empty. We also felt stressed from the politics and rule in the USA. We ordered a magazine called International Living and it changed everything for us, the future, our dreams and our discontent. We started reading stories about people of all ages and backgrounds who lived their dreams in different countries all over the world. We began sharing stories that we enjoyed with each other. My husband Matt would say, "Did you read about the writer in Boquette?" or I would shove a wrinkled magazine at him on the way into the bathroom and say, "Check out this story about this family in Costa Rica!" 

At the time we had our 2 year old son and our daughter was a newborn. Both were in diapers so we felt advantageous, knowing we were not stealing them away from their lives. But the more adventures we read about, the more we began to plan our exit strategy. We scoured the internet for more information. Where do we go? How do we make money? What about school for our kids? Can we legally stay? Can we work where ever we go? I found tons of blogs and information for retirees, not so much for family purposes. I got on amazon and ordered Frommer's Ecuador, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Great readings, I became a historian on all three countries, but one thing stood out to me about them. Ecuador might be perfect for retirees, but the private school system was extremely expensive and it was so far to travel from Texas, knowing my mother would want to visit. Nicaragua was very inexpensive, but there was instability and too much poverty. Costa Rica, while small had a booming economy and a good market. Costa Ricans also love children and are family oriented. The public school system is above average and the private options are forever increasing and affordable, offering many IBW accreditated schools so my kids would have no problems going to any university or college in the world after attending. These were our concerns. But we found ourselves laying in bed at night awake and giddy, not from the stresses of the day, but from the dreams of our future. We were infinitely cured of our discontent and secretly we were plotting a great escape. We would go to dinner parties and meet in the corner and giggle because while everyone else was complaining about life, we were looking forward to the future. Eventually we grew guilty and decided to come out and discuss our ideas of leaving home with what little family and friends we had. Many of them thought we were crazy. Some said we would be back. Why would we want to leave the great USA and live in a 3rd world country? "The grass is not greener over there!" No matter how excited we were, little by little, our dreams grew less exciting and more disturbing. We became apprehensive and scared. We carefully and methodically simplified our lives from a big house to a smaller house. We even flipped a couple of houses to make some extra money, all while listening to the naysayers. We tried to stay positive, but the closer we got to the finale, the more stressed we became. The truth was, we were not sure what we were going to do once we landed, we just knew we wanted out. So a few months before we sold our last house and purchased our plane tickets we took a quick trip to Costa Rica to check it out. After all we can't lay our entire future in the lands of a country that we had never seen. We booked a tour and from the moment we walked out of the airport onto the airplane in Houston, we felt pounds of stress off our backs. It was only a 4 day vacation, but we were relying on it to change the course of our future. When we landed in the Juan Santa Maria Airport in San Jose we weren't expecting roads paved in gold either. We knew Costa Rica was not going to be perfect. We knew it was not even going to be paradise. We wanted to know what can we do legally to be happy here. And now, I am happy to say, 3 1/2 years later, we have found it. We came to Costa Rica as investors of a business and now we have a 3rd child. She is a citizen and we are becoming permanent residents. We opened a beef jerky company that is slowly taking over the shelves of every store in Costa Rica. We noticed when we came on our scouting trip that there was no beef jerky in Costa Rica and being from Texas, well we just could not allow that to happen. We quickly built our business in our new home country and we even turned some of the skeptics into believers. My husband has also started a shipping company that he loves. He gets to be happy at work and we love teaching Costa Ricans about beef jerky. Our kids love their school and their friends. We all speak Spanish and the kids are fluent. Our baby has Costa Rican God Parents called Padrinos. We work from home and we have met life-long friends here, some Costa Ricans and some expats. The reason this is important is because now my husband and I speak at International Living conferences in Costa Rica. We offer business advice and our experience starting a business in Costa Rica. We have thrived here and we would not go back if you offered us 1 million dollars. We are truly happy here and we hope that anyone who ever thinks they are trapped in an unrewarding job will get a spark of life and never listen to the skeptics. You can change your life if you work hard at changing it. Once you are fulfilled, you can help change other peoples' lives. One day you could be looking back 3 or 5 years thinking, wow remember how afraid we were to actually do it and make the leap? Now we are involved in a charity chili-cook-off event that raises money for a local orphanage. We also teach English to some of the families in the neighborhood. Max is in karate that is offered by Strong Missions and we donate as much as we can to keep the karate camp available for all kids, even those who can't afford the fees. Sara is in ballet and our little Sofia is struggling with too much love. After all, we work from home so now our complaints are more that we need to get a night away from the kids because we see them all the time! Who knew? Matt worked for the same company for 20 years and they did not even get him a cake or give him a farewell party. Nothing, he just turned in his keys and left. They must have been naysayers, because he does not miss them at all. You might not need to move abroad to find fulfillment, but if you know you are in a rut and not happy in your life, please know that there are options. There are other places and hey, sometimes the grass is greener. In Costa Rica, it is 100% greener 1/2 the year during the rainy season, then during the dry season it is still greener :) I do not care where you go, just do what makes you happy. What is the point of life without happiness? Pura Vida!

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