My Journey to Expat Life: Involuntary Baby Steps
So far, I had four expat experiences. The first two were when I was a little kid, following my parents. They count as experience, but not as choices for my journey to expat life.
From a very young age, I traveled frequently, either for vacation, work, or a change of country. This taught me to see the world from a different point of view. I learned to appreciate the cultural aspects of other countries, especially on the subjects that I am most passionate about: music, art, and architecture.
I also got to know the peculiarities of the people in these foreign lands. And with all this, I became someone who knew what he wanted and why he wanted it.
Journey to Expat Life: Quality of Life
But what prompted my decision for my most recent move to Costa Rica? Simply to improve my quality of life.
My daughter and I were living in Argentina, and the political and economic situation back then was not what we were looking for.
We decided to start yet another journey to expat life rather spontaneously.
You know the analogy of the boiling frog; sometimes we get used to negative things without even realizing it.
However, in our case, a spark of light had us realize we should look for new opportunities outside of Argentina.
Journey to Expat Life: How We Overcame Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt
Were there any fear or uncertainty about moving to another country? No, we were never afraid to face the changes, and we approached it with logic, not emotions.
Our previous experience taught us not to feel too attached to a place so that any changes we made wouldn’t have a great sentimental impact on us. Of course, I knew we were going to have to leave behind people, places and memories. But I considered these things part of the change, of personal development, and that each one of us to their own degree, would go through that experience several times in life.
My Journey to Expat Life: Where to – How We Decided
We considered two expat destinations: the United States, and Costa Rica. The first was the one we were most excited about because we had family and friends living there. Every time we traveled to the US, we talked about plans to move there, eventually. However, the drawback was getting the documentation to immigrate legally. So, we checked out Costa Rica where I also have a sister, and the process of legally moving to Costa Rica was much shorter and easier.
Our Decision Criteria
At first, we found out everything we could about Costa Rica. We focused on four basic issues:
- economic and political stability,
- personal security,
- health care, and
- cost of living.
The first two met our expectations, and we kept an open mind regarding other, less important criteria. But items 3 and 4 were must-haves for us. We didn’t give as much weight to other considerations: the climate, natural beauty, the food, or any other nice-to-have aspects. As long as Costa Rica met our four basic criteria, we could deal with everything else.
My Journey to Expat Life: Research Gets Personal
While we did most of our research online, we also asked friends. Here, we needed to be careful.
There are two things to be aware of in my experience:
- the projection of fear the people you ask have, based on their experiences or perceptions.
- potential envy because there may be friends, even family members who may dislike seeing others move on and be happy without them.
My best advice: discernment!
But also ask yourself, are you really prepared to leave family, friends, and familiar customs behind?
I know several people who have returned home, cutting short their expat journey, because leaving family and friends behind affected them deeply.
Most expats I know see the journey to expat life as an adventure, as an experience that changes their lives for the better, as one more opportunity to live a life that few choose to take.
My goal, and that of my daughter, is to call a place a home where the size of our house, its price or location does not dictate our happiness. Our home is in the place where we feel good, in harmony with our environment, and where we can achieve the goals we have set for ourselves. There are over 200 countries on our planet, and surely one will fulfill your expat dreams? However, to achieve this, take the first step without fear.
by: Román Vergara