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My First Year in Costa Rica: Best Decision Ever FTH: 092
Episode 923rd May 2022 • FtheHUSTLE • Kim Doyal
00:00:00 01:23:26

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It’s officially May today (when I’m writing this episode) and at the end of the month, I’m renewing my lease in Costa Rica – for two more years.

My plan is to purchase a property down here before the end of those two years and I’m excited to see where this journey takes me.

This episode is going to be a look back on the last year, the lessons, and what this all means for my business. I’m about to embark on a new chapter in my business and I honestly feel like I’m about to burst I’m so excited.

I’m still a little in awe of the fact that I’ve been living in Costa Rica for a year already. I knew the year would go quickly which is why I didn’t hesitate to sign a year lease (sight unseen – both my place and the country). What was the worse that could happen? I break the lease and head back to the states.

I’ve found a lifestyle and way of life that feeds my soul… but it hasn’t been a slam-dunk from day one. I’ve had my moments of doubt, changed my mind, and then came full circle to loving it again.

Some of this might be a little redundant (if you’ve been listening or reading over the last year), but hopefully, I can bring a fresh perspective now that I’m hitting the one-year mark.

A little backstory

Here’s the TL;DR version of my move to Costa Rica (which you can read more about here).

After my youngest graduated high school, I moved out of the Bay Area. I had been planning this move for a couple of years and was looking at Boise, ID. In July of 2019, my world was turned upside down when my Mom passed away at 71.

Instead of going straight to Boise, I stayed with my Dad for a while with a couple of trips to Boise in between to check things out.

March 2020, right before the world shut down, I moved to Boise, ID.

My year in Boise was quiet, which is exactly what I needed. But I knew it wasn’t for me (too cold). When my lease in Boise was coming due I had originally thought I’d stay a few more months and then break it but realized there was no point. Why not just move to Costa Rica? (I had been considering Portugal, but that was pretty far for a first jaunt out of the U.S.).

Within a week I found my place in Costa Rica, signed the lease, gave notice, and started packing. I spent two months in California at my Dad’s to get things situated and on May 31st of 2021, I moved to Costa Rica (with the help of my amazing daughter).

Adjusting to Life in Costa Rica

Since I had never been here I truly had no idea what to expect (which meant I was pretty open to everything). I’ve shared bits and pieces of my life here in other episodes (more in-depth), but my day-to-day is really pretty similar to my life anywhere else, in terms of what I do.

That being said, EVERYTHING is different.

I recently had friends here for a week (and have more visitors in the coming months) and it was such a gift to see their appreciation for Costa Rica and the life I’ve created here.

Before I get into the things that are different and what my life is like here, I want to share some of the less-than-highlight-reel moments.

At about 3 months I started feeling a little homesick and kind of wondering if this was the right place for me. I had a trip home at that time (a memorial service for a dear family friend and a border run) so I think that carried me into the fall.

I also sold my car in California and purchased a car in Costa Rica when I got back (that’s a whole other conversation). Having a car has made a huge difference down here (I was fortunate to have good friends who took me places or lent me their cars for the first few months, but I’m too independent to not have my own car here).

I had friends who wanted to come down but I thought with the rainy season maybe it wasn’t a good time… so I told people to wait (in hindsight it probably would have been good to have someone visit during those months).

I missed the changing of the seasons and the cozy ‘hunkering’ down that comes with fall (even though we had plenty of rain and I would just turn my AC on so I could sit under a blanket and pretend it was fall. What hit me the hardest was being here for Thanksgiving – which also happened to be my Mom’s birthday. It was the first time ever that I’d not been with family on a holiday.

This is when I started looking at where I would want to live if I moved back to the states.

As much as California will always be home to me, I don’t see myself buying a home there again (but never say never, right?). I started looking seriously at North Carolina.

Before heading back at Christmas I truly thought I’d be leaving Costa Rica for the states when my lease came due.

One trip into L.A. was enough to make me start thinking otherwise.

Going from Costa Rica to L.A. is culture shock. Simply because of the number of people in one place and the pace of life. Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area I was used to a lot of people, but when you work for yourself and you don’t have to be in the day-to-day commute I had kind of forgotten how impacted California is (at least in these two major areas, and just for reference, there are 7.7 million people in the Bay Area. The entire country of Costa Rica is a little over 5 million. The entire state of Idaho, when I was there, was 1.7 million).

I had a wonderful visit at Christmas, even if I cut it short by a few days because of Covid. I got to see all of my family, went to Disneyland with a dear friend (I can skip that for a while… talk about crowded), and hauled back more stuff for my place here.

Fast forward to March and I went to L.A. again just to see my daughter for a week. We only spent a couple of days together at Christmas (the rest of the time was in the Bay Area) and it was exactly what we both needed.

And again, I schlepped a bunch of stuff back to Costa Rica with me (including an inflatable bathtub! haha).

When I got back in March I knew this was where I was supposed to be.

At least for a while.

EVERYTHING is Different in Costa Rica

Coming back to my earlier comment about everything being different in Costa Rica…

The best way to describe what’s different is to share that it’s a feeling. A vibe if you will.

But I know that’s not super helpful, so I’ll be more specific.

There is such an ease and simplicity to life down here.

I recently had friends here for a week and my friend kept saying that she felt like I was living in a treehouse because of all the windows in my place (and I’m less than a 10-minute walk to the beach. When I sit on my patio I can see and hear the ocean).

I used to thrive on how much I could accomplish and how productive I could be (I’m still pretty ambitious, but that comes from a place of trust and desire. I have nothing to prove) – not anymore.

When I was thinking of leaving last fall I was really missing the conveniences in the states, which is pretty common, but then I was judging myself for missing those things and felt shallow and materialistic (partly due to a person I was hanging out with at the time and has since moved and we’re not in touch anymore).

There are no quick runs to Target or Costco (although there is a Walmart and Pricesmart… about 45 min away). And forget next day Amazon orders (you can order from Amazon, but it will cost you almost double with shipping and customs. Example: I purchased a keyboard tray for a desk I bought down here. The keyboard tray was $59, it cost me $120 (but my wrists are worth it).

I was missing being able to drive 5 minutes and walk into a nail salon for a pedicure (there are salons here, but not one on every corner like in the states).

The conveniences I was missing were kind of a mask for what I was really feeling (oddly enough, those things don’t bother me now).

I have great friends down here and people who have become like family, but I was feeling alone.

My go-to with heavier feelings is to try to look for why and make sense of things, instead of just feeling the feelings.

I allowed myself that space over Thanksgiving and it was life-changing.

The GOOD kind of different in Costa Rica

  • No preservatives in the food (I feel healthier than I’ve felt in a long, long time)- one of my favorite new dishes is the basic Costa Rican Arroz con Pollo (chicken & rice)
  • No fast food (there are a few places in Liberia and I’m sure there are in San Jose, but nothing local)and delicious and cheap produce everywhere
  • The slower pace of life – no one is rushed here, it’s all “tranquila”
  • Simplicity – it’s amazing how many things we don’t need when we can’t get them or have access to them (although writing this I can’t think of any beyond the conveniences I mentioned above)
  • Casual – no one cares what you wear down here, it’s all about comfort and fabric (I brought things that I’ll never wear down here and will soon be donating).
  • Ease – this feels redundant, but if you learn to roll with things EVERYTHING feels easier
  • The beach – enough said
  • Nature – it’s all around you
  • The people – the majority of the people I’ve met here have been lovely

How Costa Rica has been good for my business

Anytime you “feel good”, your business is going to do better.

My life costs less in Costa Rica (coming from California that’s not hard) which allows me a lot more mental space to dig deeper and do better work.

Anytime you feel money pressure or stress (I call this the “money monkey” that sits on your back) it’s hard to feel creative and inspired (unless you make a conscious effort to manage your thoughts – which is the work I’ve been doing this past year with my therapist).

Some of the expenses I’ve eliminated being in Costa Rica:

  • car payment
  • car insurance (we pay something called Marchamo)
  • I can make it a month without filling my gas tank at times
  • Less electric – even though people say it’s expensive here, it’s a fraction of the cost of California and I run the air A LOT (pretty much all the time 😂). My electric & fiber optic internet runs me about $280-$300 a month (internet is $70)
  • no DoorDash (we have ‘Guana Eats’ – but I try not to use them too much since I don’t think the restaurants make much at all with that) – and yes, I do have food delivered sometimes
  • All the ‘extra’ runs (I’m talking to you Target & Costco)

Thought management is everything.

I ran the second cohort of Email Insiders last fall while I was working one-on-one with a coach. I was working with her to launch an #FtheHUSTLE community and as it got closer, I realized that really wasn’t what I wanted.

I knew I wanted to go ALL in with Email Insiders.

However, the work I did with her is what prepared me for the new version of Email Insiders (now called “Email Insiders Accelerator – a 6-month group coaching program, launching this month).

I happily pay to buy my time back here – whenever possible.

I pay to have my place cleaned every week (even though it’s just me & the dogs – although they shed. “Nuff said”). Labor is very cheap here so I try to make up for that anytime I can (it costs me a little over $30 for 5 hours of cleaning).

Because I spend so much less overall, I’m able to invest more in my business.

I shared recently that I invested in a program (the most I’ve invested in for group coaching) and it is AMAZING.

I’ll share the specifics of that program and my results after I’ve launched the Email Insiders Accelerator program (there are specific targets and KPIs to measure, then it moves into an evergreen program).

My PRIMARY focus is Email Insiders Accelerator.

I truly believe my move to Costa Rica has allowed me the clarity, space, ease, and freedom to create this.

All of the things I’ve mentioned about why it’s a ‘GOOD different’ have started compounding.

Moving to Costa Rica has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made… in my life.

Some final thoughts on My First Year in Costa Rica

I don’t think there is any “perfect place” to live (although this comes pretty dang close).

Costa Rica isn’t without its flaws, just like anywhere else.

There is a good amount of petty theft (when people earn so little and their wages rely on tourism it’s challenging – let alone all of that being shut down during Covid).

The building I live in is locked (there are only 7 units here, and I love all my neighbors) and I feel super secure. The trick with petty theft is that the police don’t do a whole lot about it, so that can be disheartening.

However, the same week I read about a robbery down here I also read about another shooting in Sacramento and the subway in New York.

So…

No matter where you go, people are people and there will be challenges.

I’ve asked my friends who have lived here for a long time (ex-pats) how they feel about all the development going on in this area (beyond prices going up, even when I moved here a year ago my therapist was surprised at the cost of rent – she’s had property here for about 15 years).

On one hand, the development is great because it creates jobs, on the other hand, you don’t want people moving in with a sense of entitlement or attitudes that change the feel of this beautiful country.

I don’t know what the answer is to that (and I think we’ll continue to see a lot more Americans moving out of the U.S.).

I focus on what I can control: which is to be respectful and kind to everyone, regardless of where I am or who I’m engaging with.

I jokingly say that I live in a bubble.

I don’t watch the news, I don’t engage with negative people (at least not very long), I love what I do and my focus is on getting better at my craft and serving my audience.

I appreciate and am grateful for all of the people in my life and the amount of nature and beauty that I choose to live in.

This feels like a magical time in my life and I’m giddy about where this adventure is going to take me.

My intention is to share more about my life in Costa Rica this coming year. I have no idea what that looks like, but it’s time.

If you’ve ever wanted to live outside of the U.S. (or your home country), my advice is to do it. There was a time in my life when I never would have thought this was possible.

It all starts with a decision.

You’d be amazed at how things line up and the Universe conspires to make it happen.