HOW WE ENDED UP IN COSTA RICA
For four years my husband and I had planned our move down to Old Mexico from New Mexico. We love Mexico; we love the tropics, the surf, and the lifestyle. We thrive on adventure and strive for change. We didn’t want starting a family to change that; rather, we wanted to share our passions with our children. Previous to having children we had been world travelers, from backpacking on a shoestring budget to living on luxury sailing yachts. Right before we “settled down” we were living on a sail boat in the South Pacific. We had spent 11 months sailing a beautiful yacht from the Caribbean down to New Zealand and then another 7 months backpacking around New Zealand. This was pre-smart phones and social media and the world was a smaller, more mysterious and wondrous place. We lived in the moment and to the fullest, stringing together one adventure after another.
The time came, however, when nature started to speak to me. We needed roots; we wanted community and we longed for children. The adventures were seeming meaningless, our wanderings aimless and self centered. So, we bought a little house in Albuquerque, NM. There we started our reign in the Domestic Kingdom, complete with a mortgage, a vacuum, cell phones, two cars and two beautiful sons.
Four years later, we found ourselves living a complete bourgeois lifestyle. We had “made it” as we had entered the real estate realm during the boom. We were happy in our domestic bliss, partially because we saw that it was temporary. We had a plan: make some money, have some kids, buy some real estate and then sell it all and move to Mexico. We were cruising along right on schedule. The next step was to transition. People thought we were nuts or delusional. After all, how do you raise an American kid in a developing country? And really, why would you want to? And what about all the stuff?
I hated the stuff, or so I said. For years I had felt suffocated by all the toys and the shoes and sleds hanging in the garage, by the boxes that said “Fall Décor” and “Ski Clothes”. However, when our plan started to come to fruition, I found myself feeling oddly attached as we started to sell the things that we had accumulated. First, it was the the big, beautiful house that we had built on the mountainside completely off the grid, and then it was everything inside that house: the toys, the clothes, my audi. Everything was slowly going away. It was as if the weight of these things was keeping me grounded and secure and I was slowly losing my ties. I would wake up at night, my kids tucked into their beds safe and sound, my husband and I sleeping in our bed, the city twinkling below us and I would think, “what am I doing? Everyone is safe and secure here, why am I moving us into insecurities and danger?” So, as our dream started to manifest, I began to question the dream.
Mexico after all was no longer the country we remembered and we were no longer the two dirtbags that we used to be. The days of sleeping on surfboard bags at random beaches were long gone. We were now grown-ups and parents of two precious boys. Our beloved Mexico had also changed. The country had been plagued by violence stemming from the drug cartel’s business of providing America with her party favors. The more research I was doing online, the more uncertain I felt and the more anxiety I began to have. After all, we did not have to do this. We already had a great life, we had family and amazing friends, we had financial security, but we wanted more. I was thinking of my boys and how my sole purpose in life was to raise them right and keep them safe.
Our house was already under contract. We needed to move out and move on within weeks. I was, however, not ready. Daily I would talk to my husband about other options. I would bring up Hawaii or California or Costa Rica. I even applied for a job in Costa Rica. I had come across a video on YouTube of golden children surrounded by palm trees, singing about the virtues of peace. It moved me so much that I had sent my resume to the school that had produced it, aptly named “La Paz Community School”. I didn’t hear back from them and had forgotten all about it. It didn’t matter, because Mexico made sense for us. We knew Mexico, we had friends there, it was affordable and relatively close. Then I would wake up the next morning, read the newspaper about another decapitation in Mexico and change my mind again (the year was 2009).
My indecisiveness was weighing on my husband. While he is a patient and loving man, one day he sternly reminded me, “We are not talking about where to eat dinner, this is our life. We already sold the house and we need to commit to a plan. Let’s make a decision and stick to it.” I told him, about the research I had done and that Costa Rica had seemed ideal. It had a lower crime rate than the U.S., access to health care and was voted the “Happiest Place on the Planet”. There was surf, it was warm and the schools were decent. He agreed to consider it if I agreed to make a decision. Intellectually Costa Rica seemed right, but I needed something more. I needed a sign from God.
That day I got on my knees and I prayed for guidance. Later that morning as I chased my two boys around the park, I met a woman who had just returned from Mexico. She had a horrible story to tell, about one of her friends getting shot by a stray bullet during a gunfight in the middle of day. I was horrified and decided that was the sign I needed. However, during my drive home from the park, I started to doubt if it was a sign or not and ultimately, shrugged it off to coincidence. That afternoon I put the boys down for the nap and was slowly fading into my own delicious nap, when the phone rang. Usually, I would let it go to voicemail, but I saw it was a foreign number. The voice I heard said, “My name is Abel McClennen, the principal of La Paz Community School in Costa Rica. I don’t normally make cold calls, but, we have a part-time teaching position open and I think you would make a good match”. I had literally been hit over the head with the sign.
We announced that our going away party, which was two days away, had been changed from “Viva Mexico” to “Pura Vida, Costa Rica Here We Come”!
Three weeks later my aunt dropped all of us off at the airport. We had our exact allotment of luggage, two boxes each, 2 carry-ons each and we were willing to pay a fee for the surfboards. In her truck fit all of our worldly possessions and I was more than okay with that. I felt liberated and excited and ready to start our new life. Because in the end we had sold our things and we had bought the opportunity to have more time together, warm weather, good surf and adventure in Costa Rica, “The Happiest Place on the Planet”.
WHAT WE DO NOW
While the original idea was to have a couple of years living abroad, we are now in our 12th year in Costa Rica. Those little boys that came in carseats are now young men, taller than me and one is starting to drive. People often ask us how long we will stay. That’s hard to say. We have made great friends and love the community, the weather, the culture, the lifestyle down here in Pura Vida Land. We spend lots of time surfing or at the beach with friends. So, for the moment we are going to continue to put our time and energy into the family business, Serendipity Charters, and see where life takes us from here.
– Geneva Jasmine Garcia Ellen