It almost seems hard to believe that we’ve been back in the U.S. for four years now. (Four years and four days, if anyone’s actually counting.) In some ways our Costa Rica time seems distant, like a dream you sort-of remember but that’s a bit fuzzy at the same time. In other ways it seems impossible that it was almost ten years ago that we moved down there and we’re now in our 5th year back, it all still feels so “recent.”
So, any deep thoughts now that we’ve been back for a while?
One, just to be clear right off the bat, we are 100% glad that we moved to Costa Rica. We had wonderful experiences and truly not many bad ones. We made many friends, we did interesting things, we got up every day and marveled at the beautiful place we lived.
So, why are we also 100% (maybe 110%) glad to be back in the States? Most of the reasons, even now — or perhaps especially now, after four years back — can be ticked off on the plus column for things here rather than the negative column for things there. That is, family and medical care count enormously.
David has now had several cutting edge heart procedures here that have vastly improved his quality of life, probably his longevity, and certainly his ability to enjoy those darling grandchildren! The care he’s gotten has truly been top notch and at a level so far above what would have been possible in Costa Rica, it sometimes takes our breath away.
Those grandchildren, of course, are the biggest reason we love being back. (I always feel a bit bad when I rave about how wonderful the grandkids are, as though Jennifer and Larry might be in the background saying, “What are we, chopped liver?!?” So let me also say what a delight it’s been to see the big-kids regularly too! And even Collin and Katy, albeit cross-country, seem closer than when we were in Costa Rica.)
I knew women who just couldn’t wait to be grandmas, but it really had simply never been on my radar screen. No “negative” attached to it, just not much thought about it at all. But this grandma sure does enjoy her time with those two darlings and what’s been almost better to see is how David (now mostly just referred to as Poppy) has blossomed into his role as grandfather. And he’s really great at it, too, other than the a-bit-too-frequent expletives that seem to fall out of his mouth. (Not at the kids, of course, but around them causing Avila to spout a little trial cussing of her own recently!)
Ironically, we’re all too aware that one of the completely un-imagined benefits of our having moved to Costa Rica is that we DO live here now. We’ve realized that had we never moved to Costa Rica, we probably would not have felt able to move here — probably would never have even considered it.
While the move to CR didn’t give me the actual “early retirement” we’d imagined (since, as we’ve noted many times before it is not as cheap to live there as we’d believed), it did give me a work freedom that I’d never had before. I’m now a published author with two books out and another to be finished soon. I work from home, giving me the geographical freedom to live here and the work-hour flexibility to be able to take care of the grandkids half of the week. If I were still just slogging along in a traditional job in Maine (had we not made the CR move) none of that would have likely been true.
Beyond those two major reasons to love being here, there continue to be “appreciations” that I just don’t think we would have had if we hadn’t had that 5+ years in Costa Rica. Even now, even as we enter our fifth year back, I still convert almost every grocery bill to colones and marvel at the variety and quality of food I got for such a good price. (Now, of course, there is also very expensive food available here, but the good news is there’s such a huge range of options that with some smart shopping, you can get great quality food for good prices.)
We continue to be amazed at the sheer “ease” of living here. The swift, efficient manner in which almost anything gets done. Less than an hour (including driving time) to register your car vs. many hours, possibly multiple days in Costa Rica. Same with getting/renewing your driver’s license, buying insurance, getting a doctor’s appointment, having some kind of repair work done at your home, doing almost anything.
Interestingly, we didn’t really mind how long all that stuff took in CR — at least for a few years. But it eventually becomes wearing which is evident by the fact that we continue to genuinely appreciate the ease here even after several years.
And that leads me to my final “reflection” — watching our own process, as well as those who returned before and the many who have returned since — I have come to believe that most folks simply are not wanting to be expatriates forever. For some years, as a great life experience, absolutely yes. Forever and ever, probably not.
Of course some will and that’s great. It’s not a contest. But we continue to see people who — like us — assumed and even staunchly defended the notion that they would be the ones to stay forever make the decision to move back to the States (or Canada or England or wherever their “home country” was). I don’t think that indicates there’s something wrong with living in Costa Rica but rather something “wrong” with the idea that most people want to live out their days in what will forever be an unfamiliar and different place.
I also don’t think it indicates something that is unique to Costa Rica. While I just don’t have the same first-hand knowledge of expats in other countries, I absolutely believe that the same situation exists with expats everywhere. Some will stay in their new country, many will return home, and hopefully most — like us — will have felt that the years abroad were worthwhile even if, perhaps, in the end — just as Dorothy proclaimed — there’s no place like home.
Remember to comment. I *heart* comments! And if you’re an ex-expat too, how do you feel about being back? If you’re an ex-pat on your way to becoming an ex-expat, are there things you’re looking forward to when you get back? (And if you just want to say “hi” that’s totally allowed too, appreciated even!!)
And, just for fun, we’ll close with some pictures of things we love about living here!