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I would describe myself as a serial expat. I’ve been living outside of the U.S., off and on, since I graduated from college in 2011. First, I moved to England, largely for the adventure. Next, I moved to Kenya for a job. When I moved to Rwanda it was mostly for love.
I always assumed I would move back to the U.S. once I was adventure-d out, but my last move to Costa Rica was different. Instead of being pulled away from my home country by a job or a love, I felt pushed out. My last move was a long-term decision to settle in a place other than what I’ve always considered my home, because that home has changed.
In 2020 and 2021, I got stuck in the U.S. because of COVID. During what should have been a two-week trip home to attend weddings, the world shut down. Unable to get back to our house, our cat, and all of our things in Rwanda, my partner and I stayed in the U.S. with one suitcase each for a full year.
It was a tough year for many reasons. It was especially tough because the U.S. felt different from the last time I was living there. It is divided. It sometimes feels unsafe. It can be heartbreaking and infuriating. And somehow, the collective pain and hostility that you feel in the air just grows, and grows.
After that year, it would have been easy to stay in the U.S., but it was clearer to me than ever before that I should leave. And I would say it’s paid off – what I have found outside of the U.S. definitely isn’t perfect, but it has given me a sense of peace, community, and contentment that I don’t think I could have found otherwise.
I’ve settled in a small town in Costa Rica, where you can hear the church bells every hour on the hour. We keep the windows open all day to hear the birds and because we don’t need AC. My partner and I recently adopted a street dog. On a typical morning we’re playing on the huge lake we live on, swimming or kayaking or getting our dog to fetch sticks in the water. Most Fridays we walk two minutes down the street to a local bar with first-rate live music.
We have a wonderful community here – a mix of Ticos and expats that we see at organized breakfasts, local concerts, dinners, and movie nights. The pace of life is slower, but we work from home on fast internet! And we can afford things we never could in the U.S. – we now have a home with space for a guestroom and two offices. We plan on trying to have a child soon, and we know we couldn’t afford help if we stayed in the U.S. Here we could hire someone full time.
If you’re considering a move abroad, do it. Try it out at least, for a few weeks or a few months. Moving and adapting to a new place isn’t easy, but I’d argue it’s worth it. When you get settled, you might realize just how much day to day stress has been on your shoulders once you feel it fall away.
Anna Sosdian is the co-founder of StartAbroad, a concierge international relocation service. She spent nine years working in East Africa as an HR lead and operations specialist for multinational social enterprises before moving to Costa Rica. You can reach her at [email protected]