When I share the news that my family and I will be moving to Costa Rica in just over a month, I often get the question: “How?”. For many people, self included, the idea of picking up and moving abroad seems far too out of reach. Too many logistics. Too many hoops to jump through. Too many regulations and rules that you’ll never be able to meet. Too expensive.
Au contraire, my friends.
I’m here to tell you that making plans to move abroad isn’t that difficult.
I won’t be able to address ALL the logistics and reasons why it’s not that hard to move abroad. Namely, because I haven’t done it yet. Future posts will certainly elaborate on the realities of actually settling abroad, while this one will mostly speak to the preparations phase: everything we have had to do to get us to the point where we’re able to move abroad.
I’ll preface this post with a few necessary caveats. First, I acknowledge that I do not have children, I am not a homeowner, and I do not have any large assets, business deals, or what have you that affects my ability to do this. I have the ability to pick up and move away, just because I’ve always lived my life knowing that I would never truly settle and haven’t picked up those things along life that others have that makes them a bit more grounded. However, my thesis still stands for all types of people, families and arrangements: It’s really not that hard to move to Costa Rica (or any other international destination).
Immigration. We are not giving up our Canadian citizenships. We will not be seeking permanent residency in Costa Rica. Simply, we will be doing what every other person who has spent extended periods of time in Costa Rica do – we enter the country as tourists, and leave the country every 90 days for a period of 72 hours. As such, we have a return plane ticket home set for 3 months after we arrive, to prove that we will actually be leaving the country the first time we go. What will we do every 90 days? Travel. We will take advantage of the neighbouring countries in Central America for small little trips that will not only allow us to see more of the world, but will renew our ability to stay in Costa Rica another 90 days. Not a bad deal if you ask me.
Work. I have had to change careers as a result of making the choice to move to Costa Rica. However, the career change will be a welcomed one as it is a departure from all the work I’ve known until now: I’ll be my own boss. This arrangement will allow me to decide when I work, and will give me the freedom to design work around life, allowing me to place LIFE first and foremost over work. For the past several months, I’ve been working 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, having some VERY early mornings and some VERY late nights as I work to build my own business while sustaining a full-time job here in Canada. I have entered the world as a freelancer, and have built this business, AMF Engagement & Knowledge Translation, to be my main source of income once I exit the safety of traditional employment once my current contract ends. The journey has been so incredibly rewarding as I am engaged in work that I am truly passionate about, and have met some incredible clients from all over the world to work with. I realize that I am very lucky that I have some marketable skills that help me as a freelancer, but the principle of it all remains very simple: the internet makes the world a very small place. Consider how you can sustain your career, income and lifestyle through the internet. You may be as surprised as I was to see how profitable the internet, and freelancing, can be.
Assets. I mentioned that I didn’t have many large assets to take care of in order to make myself a bit more free to travel. While I don’t own a house, I do own everything inside of it, and the car to get me to my various local destinations. Getting rid of everything has been a bit of an arduous task. Lots of Kijiji ads, garage sales, and quite a few bills getting my car up to snuff to be able to be sold. At first, it was hard to see everything that I had accumulated over my adulthood go away. I had worked hard for that stuff, but then I realized that it was just that – STUFF. Selling my things are going to help me fund our adventures overseas. If I ever need the items I sold again, I’ll just buy them again, just as I did the first time. Letting go of any attachment to possessions (and the equity you build along with them) is absolutely critical in this lifestyle we have chosen for ourselves.
Money. Everyone thinks you need to be rich in order to move abroad. I used to think that, especially when I’d watch Househunters International and think that those people who could afford to move abroad must have a trust fund, or come from a job with a multi-million-dollar salary. This couldn’t be more far from the reality. My partner and I are NOT wealthy people, by any means. We live modestly, and have the same financial struggles as anyone else, and sometimes we have a hard time making ends meet. However, we are seeing this move as an opportunity to live a little leaner and reduce our cost of living where we can. The key to our move was living lean up until now – taking every opportunity to contribute to our Tax Free Savings Account and pay off any outstanding debts we have so that we have a strong “buffer” that will allow us to sustain the adjustment of our move. We also will be continuing to work throughout our move, making our income flow uninterrupted. You need some sort of cushion to move away, but it doesn’t need to be tens of thousands of dollars. Just be smart, conscientious, and lean with your money, and stretch your dollar in some pretty creative ways.
Health Care. Health care is a big question I get. One of the biggest things that guides feeling “OK” about this is having the experience to witness exemplary health care all over the world. I have faith in internationally trained medical staff and also have my own sense of intuition that will help guide me to seek appropriate medical care when traveling. We have taken a look at some of the costs associated with medical care and learned of others’ experiences and feel that we will be able to sustain our health care costs by paying out of pocket.
Saying Goodbye. This is the part of my blog post that admits that it’s not TOTALLY easy just to pick up and move away. Moving away, likely not to return to this city (London, Ontario) to live again, means that I have to say goodbye to the people who have truly made my life what it was this past decade. My best friends, my colleagues, my mentors, community leaders, community members, and even the people who I purchase regular services from will no longer be a part of my daily life – that’s a tough pill to swallow. I am comforted by a couple facts. First, important relationships sustain themselves despite distance and geography. I know this, because I have friends from all over the world who I have met through my travels, living other places, and stages of life who are still a part of my life. Second, I know that I have new best friends, colleagues, mentors, community leaders, community members, and people to purchase my regular services from waiting for me in Costa Rica, and all the places I will live over my life. New relationships to make. I can’t hardly wait to see who becomes part of my life, while always knowing that those who have been part of my journey so far will always be a part of me.
I am not intending to downplay how big of a freaking deal moving across the world is. It’s a big decision, and you have to do a lot to prepare. There will be a lot of unexpected things that will come up for this. We will probably make mistakes, but then learn from them. We will probably prove to be naïve in a lot of areas, but will soon become informed through experience. Some of these things are a “wait and see” kind of situation… and I can’t hardly wait to see it all.
I hope that my journey will inspire others to see that taking big chances, leaving stability and familiarity isn’t that out of grasp. Everyone always waits until retirement to have their greatest adventures. I don’t’ want to do that, and want to show others they don’t need to either. The world is within all our grasps.
I look forward to sharing more of what I learn in future posts as our crazy experience unfolds!