1. Your jaw will hurt from smiling and laughing so much.
2. Traveling or living abroad, you’ll meet so many strange people who talk, dress, eat, play, and worship different than you’re used to. (Then again, they’ll think the same about you.) That means you'll have to be out of your comfort zone!
3. You’ll probably have to disconnect from technology more - letting your calls go to voicemail, putting down your smart phone, and logging off social media.
4. This will make it necessary to interact with actual real live human beings with alarming frequency. These interactions won’t just be a quick “hello” in line at a store or a word in passing at the office. No, you’ll have to sit down next to complete strangers and carry a whole genuine conversation for hours.
5. Everything is new, different, and uncomfortable when you travel or first move abroad. A lot of what you see and experience might force you to recalibrate your whole belief system.
6. You’ll have to face your fears at some point…like every single day.
7. You’ll find out that life is bigger than your To Do list, and all the structure, planning, and control you’ve been embracing isn’t nearly as important as you thought.
8. You’ll have to think long and hard about what you want out of your short time on this planet. Once you do that, you might not want to settle for your same mundane and unfulfilled life, which could lead to all sorts of unsettling changes.
9. You’ll have far less to complain about after traveling or living abroad. In fact, most of your problems won’t seem like real problems any more.
10. You’ll realize that most of the material stuff you’ve accumulated isn’t needed at all, and, in fact, is holding you back.
11. There will be way too many new friends from all over the globe who want to keep in touch. It takes a lot of time to maintain all those friendships. They might even want to visit you, and invite you to visit their home countries!
12. You might fall in love or even meet your soul mate – and they may live on the other side of the world - r in Costa Rica! How inconvenient!
13. You won’t always feel safe. It’s frightening to discover that safety is mostly a myth that we create and pereceive in our own minds.
14. Traveling will teach you that time is both an undefeatable opponent and your biggest ally.
15. Your ego will be shattered when you realize that you’re not special. In fact, you’re pretty damn insignificant. Traveling or living abroad will provide clarity that the only things that matter in life are how you treat people and if you leave the world better than you found it.
The Official Expat,
- Norm :-)
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Are you heading south to Costa Rica by yourself?
Good for you, as I firmly believe that’s the best way to travel. But, there will be challenges, loneliness, and unfamiliarity along the way, so here are some tips to help you acclimate to traveling alone, whether to Costa Rica or anywhere else in the world.
1. Understand that it’s a process
Traveling by yourself can be challenging; you’ll feel lonely and lost at times, but that’s just part of the process. Don’t expect it all to be perfect or fight the various feelings, just enjoy the opportunity to slow down and decompress. You’ll also find strength, resolve, and insight that you’ve never had. Consider the whole country or place you’re visiting as your playmate and your best friend! And I’m betting you do end up meeting some nice people along the way who become lifelong friends.
2. Reach out to family and friends
Once you know where you’re traveling and you start planning your trip, reach out to friends and coworkers to see if anyone knows someone in that country. You’d be surprised how many people have a friend, acquaintance, or family member who lives there or traveled there. They can either give you great tips and recommendations, or you’ll have the chance to meet locals. One thing I’ve learned is that hospitality is amazing in other countries. When you’re someone’s guest, they’ll invite you into their home, take you to meals and attractions, and spend so much time with you that you’ll wish you had some alone time!
A super way to meet nice people and build friendships is to volunteer. Do a little research ahead of time to find out what organizations, schools, and orphanages exist in that area, and reach out to them with an email. They might have meetings, social events, or of course opportunities to volunteer. You’ll meet plenty of amazing local people and other big-hearted travelers and volunteers.
4. Find the expat hangout
Every international city or town has a few bars, cafes, or restaurants that are favorites for expats. It’s easy to find them just by asking around, and you’ll have plenty of U.S. and English speaking people to talk to. In fact, they’ll probably talk your ear off with their life stories and woes, and you’ll be ready to get out of there and be solo again!
5. Practice the language
A big part of the feeling of the isolation when traveling solo comes from the language barrier. So learn a few important phrases like “hello, what’s your name, where are you from, etc.” and practice it with locals. Carry a phrasebook and practice with locals at your hotel, on the bus, and at restaurants. They’ll love it, and probably offer their friendship since you’re making an effort.
Almost everywhere in the world has a yoga studio or at least yoga classes. Even if you’re a beginner, you can jump in a class and get a good stretch. You’ll find that cool women and men from all over the world are doing yoga, and happy to get a bite to eat together or hangout after class.
7. Take a class
Likewise, take a language class, a cooking class, or a martial arts class to meet other travelers. Most tours of popular attractions jam a mini-bus full of tourists, which is good if you want to meet people.
8. Solo tours
There are plenty of cruises, resorts, and tour packages that cater to solo travelers. To keep the cost down, they’ll even match you with a roommate. Just ask about any solo travel supplements because they often charge individual travelers extra.
9. Explore the solo traveling websites. Here are just a few:
Singles Travel International is a roommate matching service for travelers.
AllSinglesTravel.com offers tours and cruises for singles and will find you a roommate.
Solo Travel Network features tales and tips from solo travelers as well as opportunities to network.
CouchSurfers.com also helps connect backpackers, travelers, and hosts.
AirBnb has special trips, deals, and events for travelers to connect.
10. Contact me! I'd be happy to say hi or connect you with friends and amigos in Costa Rica!
For more great tips on moving to Costa Rica, check out the Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook.
Safe travels - even if you're going solo!
Some people will move down to Costa Rica with plenty of savings and investments to maintain them the rest of their lives; others have businesses in the U.S. they can keep running, or other passive income sources.
However, most people will face the reality that, although the cost of living may be lower in Costa Rica, you still need to work and make money.
In the Special Report: Working, Earning Income, and Making a Living in Costa Rica, you'll get an incredible amount of information, advice, and even specific companies that are hiring in Costa Rica!
But, for now, let's cover some basics. The vast majority of expats that live in Costa Rica and work in-country find jobs in these fields:
• Teaching English
• Booking for tourism
• Blogging, books, websites, and other online content
• Selling real estate
• Other jobs you can do
• Working for a U.S. or international company in Costa Rica
I’ll break down some information for a few of these here (but I cover them all thoroughly in the Special Report on working in Costa Rica.)
Teaching in Costa Rica
This position entails working as an in-classroom teacher at a school in Costa Rica. However, instead of working in the public school system (and taking a job away from a Tico,), you’ll want to apply to the private international schools, which often focus on a good portion of English in the classroom.
The pay won’t be anywhere near what you expect to make as a teacher in the U.S. or Canada, but I’ve found it’s enough to get by. Since you sign a contract, (usually for the whole school year) you’ll have stability, an on-time paycheck that doesn’t bounce, and probably get asked back if you do a good job.
There are plenty of international schools and they always need good teachers. So, these jobs aren’t too hard to find even without a lot of teaching experience beforehand.
You may have some opportunities to work in Costa Rica teaching English, as well, which may or may not be in the setting of a school classroom. Some expats choose to set up their own cottage private tutoring business, teaching English to Ticos, their children or business people. However, don’t expect to make high wages working with Costa Rican locals unless you can set up group classes that are sponsored by companies.
If you settle in a place with consistent Wi-Fi, you can even try to set up English lessons for a much broader clientele through Skype.
The vast majority of jobs you’ll find for foreigners in Costa Rica probably entail helping other tourists, foreigners, and vacationers visit and enjoy the beautiful country. This could mean working for a tour company that puts packages and activities together, office work and marketing, or actually going out on the tours with the clients, like 4x4 or motorcycle trips, fishing boat charters, and the like.
Many people start these cottage businesses themselves, but if you don’t have the capital, the business acumen, or you just don’t want the headache, simply approach another foreign-owned business and offer to help. Foreigners that own businesses in Costa Rica find huge value in using local Ticos, who speak the language and know the ways, but there is also a great need for someone who speaks English and interacts seamlessly with their clientele, which is other foreigners coming on vacation.
Of course, you can try to work for one of the big resorts or hotels in Costa Rica, although you’ll have to move pretty high up in the ranks before you enjoy a wage deemed considerable in your home country. Sometimes, people offer to work at smaller hotels, bed and breakfasts, or nature lodges not for cash (plata) but in exchange for room and board. You might be able to help them with marketing, work as the host or hostess several days a week, or be the on-site fitness instructor or yoga teacher. This arrangement can work out great if you find the right fit and once you have your housing taken care of and even a basic meal or two a day, Costa Rica won’t be too expensive at all.
Booking for tourism
Another way to make a living in tourism that you might not know about is being an intermediary between tourists and other services in Costa Rica. Once you have an established relationship with local Costa Rican hotels, condos, and realtors, it’s standard practice to pay a referral fee if someone brings you a client.
I’ve seen these as high as 15-20% of the total tourist’s bill, which means a $100 hotel stay could land you $15-$20 if you bring them a client. While this may not seem like a lot of money, add that up for a weeklong stay ($105-$140), and over the course of ten different tourists and hotels. That’s not bad money!
It works particularly well with high-end and luxury condos and homes for rent. Some of these go for $2,000-$5,000 USD a week during peak times, which can add up to a nice paycheck.
You can also make referral fees for bringing someone to a tour or activity, like zip-lining, a fishing charter, or scuba diving but these referral payouts probably aren’t enough for you to make a living – just beer money.
However, if you have built some trust and even friendship with the tourist, why not take care of them from start to finish during their stay? Another great way to do this is to pick them up and the airport and drop them off, whether you have your own car or rent a van/taxi, and charge a small fee for your time of course. In fact, offering complete vacation packages for one price with transport, hotel stay, and activities all included is a great way to advertise and attract travelers.
Being a booking agent or marketer for tourists takes a lot of time and hard work. To attract a steady number of tourists, you’ll need a professional website, a consistent marketing campaign, know current prices, hotel and housing inventory, send a million emails back and forth, and so on.
But it can bear fruit over time. There aren’t any significant costs or risk (which I love) and as far as I know (verify this with your attorney and CPA) you don’t need to establish a business entity since you’re not collecting any funds from tourists, just referring them over to the hotel and help them book.
Once your job is done, you have nothing more to do during their stay. You can work as little or as much on this business as you wish and I’ll say it again (because it’s that important): you won’t need a lot of money to get started, and you’ll be incurring little or no financial risk.
Be aware that you’ll experience some serious ups and downs in business based on the seasons. The “high” or peak tourist season runs December through March approximately, when hotels are sold out, and prices can double or even triple. I can’t stress enough the roller coaster nature of tourism in Costa Rica based on the seasons.
Even in super popular towns like Tamarindo, a lot of people literally don’t have money to pay rent or buy enough food in the slow rainy months like October. During that time, many businesses close their doors and are boarded up for a month to do repairs and avoid paying employees. But come December, nearly every local that works in tourism is scrambling, putting in 70-80 hours a week until they can’t even keep their eyes open.
In fact, a lot of rental properties make 90% of their income for the year during the few busiest months – or even weeks – of the high season.
So be prepared for feast or famine if you’re going to work booking Costa Rican properties for tourists.
Want information about working visas, opening a business, or much more that will help you make the move down to Costa Rica?
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Thanks for reading and good luck on your move to Costa Rica!
The Official Expat, Norm
1. Cheaper cost of living
We all pay more and more to live in the United States but get less and less in return. However, you can still live very well on a modest budget in Costa Rica with some planning and discipline. For retirees that factor in things like healthcare costs, it can be far less expensive than living in the United States for a better standard of life.
Believe it or not, you can live comfortably for $2,000 - or less - per month in Costa Rica. Of course, there are more expensive areas and it all depends on your lifestyle, but the fact is that your money will go much further in Costa Rica, offering a better quality of life.
2. Better medical care
Costa Rica has a top-notch system of medical care with plenty of options for expats, from utilizing their state-run socialized system for residents, opting for affordable private healthcare insurance, paying out-of-pocket, or mixing in a combination of U.S. and travel insurance coverage.
You should be encouraged by the quality of Costa Rican medicine, too. It’s no coincidence that Costa Ricans are some of the healthiest people in the world, with higher life expectancy and lower infant mortality rates than those in the United States.
3. Modern infrastructure
Costa Rica is a modern, progressive, and even cosmopolitan nation for the most part, so expats will enjoy a strong infrastructure and all of the amenities and comforts they need. From banking to attorneys, buying a car to shopping, opening a business to healthcare, and even arts, culture, and food, you won’t be left missing home when you live in Costa Rica.
4. Warm, tropical weather
Costa Rica’s climate is tropical, with warm weather in the 80s most of the year. However, the climate here varies because there are two seasons: dry season and rainy (or “green”) season. Either way, you’ll learn to embrace and enjoy the warm, sunny weather and change of seasons.
There are also plenty of microclimates and cooler areas in the hills and mountains, in fact, the average daily temperature in the Central Valley is a moderate and cool 71 F (22 C), with a consistent breeze from the coasts passing through.
5. Remarkable nature
Costa Rica is one of the most unique and beautiful places on earth, a true nature lovers dream. From the tropical rainforests to the mangrove swamps, the cloud forests to the pristine beaches, Costa Rica boasts more than 10,000 species of plants, 1,300 species of orchids, 800 types of ferns and well over 100 different trees. Of course, you’ll also experience an astounding variety of birds, fish, butterflies, jungle animals and other beautiful creatures.
In fact, despite being only the size of West Virginia, Costa Rica is home to more than 500,000 different species, making up an astounding 5% of all the plant, insect and wildlife species on the entire Earth!
6. So close and easy to get to from the U.S.
Costa Rica is SO close to the U.S. and SO easy to get to and from! In fact, to reach most major U.S. cities, it only takes 2 to 5 hours and there are new routes and direct flights every month. With all of these short, nonstop flights, you can get to the airport in New York by breakfast and be on the beach in Costa Rica by lunch. And if you’re in Houston or Florida, you’ll spend more time waiting for the flight than you will in the air.
7. Expat and foreigner friendly
Costa Rica welcomes expats, and foreigners make up a small but significant portion of the country’s population. Likewise, there are about 2.7 million foreigners visiting Costa Rica every year, and tourism contributes heartily to their economy. Costa Rica is generally very friendly and accommodating to expats and foreigners, and even the visa and residency status requirements are simple to navigate once you get the hang of it.
8. Stable, safe, and secure
The reality is that you have to be careful no matter where you are in the world, but with some common sense, life in Costa Rica is super safe. Of course, every country (including and especially the U.S.!) suffers fromsome street crime in major cities, but you won’t find political upheaval or kidnappings, etc. in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica has the oldest Constitution in Latin America, is the most stable democracy there, and they don’t even have an army or any military forces because it’s such a peaceful nation!
9. Foreigners can own real estate
Foreigners can buy real estate in Costa Rica and own a piece of paradise! When it comes to buying and selling property in Costa Rica, you’ll notice that there are a lot of similarities to the real estate ownership in the U.S. and Canada.
These days, the biggest demographic for home buyers in Costa Rica is actually U.S. Baby Boomers, who are retiring and looking to downsize or simplify, live a better quality life, or just move to a warmer climate.
10. Relax and enjoy the pura vida lifestyle!
The pura vida or mañana culture means don’t worry about things today - just relax and enjoy and deal with it tomorrow. This attitude reduces stress, improves happiness and leads to a number of health benefits. Over time, you’ll find yourself relaxing more and enjoying the warm Latin culture without all of the stress and tension that comes from the rat race in the U.S.
Once you do get down to Costa Rica, please allow yourself to embrace it. Slow down. Smile. Feel the warmth. Live the life you’ve always dreamed about, because you deserve it!
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