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Two Months In Costa Rica: Settling in and Lessons Learned

It’s been 2 months (plus a bit) since we have relocated our lives to Costa Rica and boy, what a whirlwind it has been. Time needs to sloooow down!

Settling (but not in the bad way)

As it goes with moving anywhere, there is always an adjustment period where you are figuring out your new surroundings and new routine. Moving to a new country is just like that, but magnify it by 100.

We spent the first couple of weeks exploring our neighbourhood: finding where the heck to get groceries (other than Walmart); where to buy necessities; how to get an Uber to find us at our condo that isn’t accurately on Google Maps; and where the best sports bar is to watch NBA playoffs. Doing this all while not speaking the language or having any sense of familiarity with anything around us…except Walmart.

Finding a New Routine

It really didn’t take long to get settled into a new routine. After all, we are creatures of habit. However, our routine in Costa Rica looks significantly different than routine in Toronto. For starters, we go to bed at like 9pm, 10 if we are really feeling wild. We also wake up with the sun sometime between 5-6am. Contrast that to Toronto life where bedtime was sometime after midnight and it was a real struggle to roll out of bed by 8am. There are also many more home cooked meals happening here. We even tried experimenting with some Tico dishes like patacones and gallo pinto.

Working from home has brought on another new aspect of routine that, truthfully, I am still figuring out. Setting boundaries is not a strength of mine, so this adjustment is taking time to find balance between work and personal life. Any, and all, tips are welcome.

I’m finding myself balancing between feeling like we just got here and also feeling like we’ve been here for ages. It’s funny how time does that. But in our two months in Costa Rica, we’ve felt welcomed, challenged, surprised, enchanted, and mesmerized. And through all of these experiences, we have learned some valuable lessons that we carry in our Pura Vida life.

5 Lessons Learned Living in Costa Rica

Lesson 1: Spanish skills are necessary.

  • …And I do not have them. Rob on the other hand, has been practicing Spanish for the past 4 years, so he can at least get by. And I get by with a little help from friend (read: husband).
  • I have signed myself up for Spanish lessons, downloaded every Spanish language app and started watching Spanish Netflix shows. I haven’t made a ton of progress, but you gotta start somewhere!

Lesson 2: Driving in San José is not for the weak of heart.

  • Between the windy two-way roads only wide enough for a small car and trying to figure out who has the right of way at a 6-point intersection, driving is an interesting experience. It definitely requires mucho focus and preferably a navigator.
  • ‘Ceda’ signs mean yield. Took a hot minute to figure that one out.
  • Apparently, you have to pay for parking (shocker!). Learned that one the hard way!

Lesson 3: Costa Ricans have the kindest and warmest souls.

  • We are lucky that Robs office is full of people we can make be our friends, and that is just what we have done. We even accidentally kidnapped one for a day and yet, she still agrees to hang out with us. (Long story, short: we picked up said friend to go to the market. After we were done at the market, we drove her straight to our place instead of taking her home without any discussion…And then we made her teach us how to cook Costa Rican food. We did double check that she wanted to continue hanging out with us after we realized we were at our place and still was still in the car, so it was all good.)
  • If you say you don’t have any plans on a weekend, they make sure you do! People have invited us to weekend trips to the beach, Sunday market hangouts, and hiking trips in the jungle. In all of these adventures, we have always been welcomed with open-arms and cheek kisses.
  • My experience has also been that Ticos are very open and engage in deep conversations without much hesitation. I find this so refreshing. An excellent example of this is when we did a beer tour in San José with a tour guide. By the 4th bar, we were hearing about our guide’s upbringing, how strict his mother was and the way his wants to raise his own child (spoiler: he only wants one!).

Lesson 4: Costa Rica has a secret microbrewery scene that is pretty fly for a white guy (and gal)

  • Okay, maybe this isn’t a secret, but most of the beer you see here is Imperial or Pilsen. Not the most…exciting of beers. I have found that the delicious local beers are not as readily available as we are used to in the LCBO (Ontario Liquor stores). And you need to know what to look for.
  • We did a beer tour and found a bunch of great places in San José with an excellent selection of delicious beers.
  • We also stumbled upon a cool brewery, Fuego, in Dominical that has the MOST refreshing beers. This may be due to the timing of having these beers after a long hike to and from a waterfall.

Lesson 5: Being a plant lady is hard work.

  • New country, new Erica. In this country, I am replacing my cat lady tendencies with a plant lady tendencies. I wish I could report that my plants are flourishing, but that is not exactly the case.
  • I have recently learned that overwatering plants can have the same result as not watering your plants. I can’t win. I just want to love you, cilantro!

Bonus Lesson: ‘The problem is that you think you have time’

  • One of our wise Tico friends shared this quote with us. He told us how it has inspired him to say ‘yes’ to more things; to take action on the things you want to do because you never know how much time you really have. He now has it tattooed on his arm.
  • This quote resonates with me too, especially given that we are on a timeline here in Costa Rica. I want to do and see everything (like that is actually possible?!). I want to make the most of this experience that we are so lucky to have. So, we are saying yes to opportunities, yes to adventures, and yes to ‘now’ rather than ‘later’.

Overall, the first two months have been pretty incredible and ended with a trip back to Canada, just as feelings of homesickness were trickling in. More on that later.

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