It feels like an entire life ago when I worked as a paramedic. Responding to 9-1-1 calls across the beaches of action-packed San Diego filled my days. That is, until one emergency response created the first link that would soon connect me to my new life in Costa Rica. The patient was not breathing, large, naked, and pure dead weight in a tiny shower seated on a geriatric chair that was cemented to the ground. This meant there was no way to get behind the patient to lift properly. Since he wasn’t breathing there wasn’t much time to devise a plan for removal, so I heaved him out of the shower and successfully stabilized him for transport to the local ER. Nine months of physical therapy, and two failed attempts to return to work on the ambulance later, I decided it was time for Plan B.
My shift-work as a paramedic was great for vacations. Working 10 days a month on a pattern schedule with the freedom to trade shifts with colleges meant an easy 4-7 day vacation. This, however, was the first time that I wasn’t restricted to live in a geographic location. As an avid traveller, I wasn’t going to let the situation go to waste! By the age of 30 I had seen 27 countries including a paramedic volunteer trip to Haiti. I moved to Costa Rica a year and a half after I launched Enete Enterprises, LLC, a publishing and video production company specializing in travel and hospitality sectors.
I can’t tell you how happy I am that I chose to move to Costa Rica. My body came alive the second I exited the plane, and more importantly, I met my wife here! Along the journey, I heard repeatedly, “Wish I could have your life,” or “Your life is ridiculous” from my friends. I agree, my life is ridiculously amazing, but it saddens me to think that others believe they can’t live along the same path. Life is a constant flux of choices. You can reshape your priorities and obtain the life that you want.
Think about what you have achieved. Every goal required patience, planning, sacrifice, and persistence. They were worth the struggle and you achieved them. Whether it was graduating from high school, college, or completing a specialization course, you put in place a plan created time and got it done. It took years of planning and work for me to become a paramedic, and another year and a half to prepare for the move to Costa Rica. Every life and situation is different, it may take you six months or five years to move your life to Costa Rica. So, If an international life is, seemingly, a perfect fit do not allow a reaction of rejection or jealousy. Refocus that energy into research and the creation of your plan to your new life. Yes, indeed, this life isn’t mainstream, or common within your group of peers, but since when does that make it unattainable? It will be mainstream with your soon-to-be new peers! Hundreds of people move abroad every year. Create a plan to join them!
Three steps to your new life abroad:
Crunch the numbers. Save an emergency cushion that will sustain you for at least 3-6 months. Re-train your lifestyle in preparation for the move so that you maintain a low overhead.
Cancel subscriptions (Cable TV, Magazines, etc). Instead, dust of your library card and enjoy free book and video rentals. Learn everything you can about the country that you wish to move to.
Re-evaluate your cellular service. Why spend $80 or more on your bill when you can opt for plans that cost less than $45 with go-phones, T-mobile, Virgin Mobile, or other provider that provide unlimited talk and text.
Decrease fuel consumption. Carpool, and walk or bike when you can.
Pay your car off. If you own your car or don’t have much left on the payments either pay it off or sell the car for a profit and buy a smaller gas efficient car.
Re-evaluate your housing. Consider downsizing? Is a spare room absolutely mandatory for you? If possible, move to a smaller, more economic space. If you own your own home, could you rent out a room? Is it a seller’s market? Create an exit plan, whether that involves selling or renting your home and don’t wait until it’s time to leave to implement it. Try to sell or rent three to six months before your departure. This way you can stress-test being a land-lord and/or different property management companies while you are still in the States.
Tone down entertainment expenses. You can enjoy your family and friends in the comfort of your homes and save a bundle on overpriced meals and drinks out! Start a progressive dinner party.
Adjust your medical insurance. Medex offers decent travel insurance which may be the way to go for those who plan on moving every six months. Brokerfish is like Priceline for insurance providers, providing you with several quotes for health care coverage with one search.
Find an income source. I have encountered expats that manage work a variety of different ways including: telecommuting, starting a business, writing, working in tourism, managing a hotel, blogging, instructing yoga retreats, restaurant help, consulting, help exchanges (helpx.net), working as a guide for travel groups, teaching english, or a combination of things.
Sell everything and board a plane. Ok, I didn’t sell everything. I packed my dear Apple gadgets, some summer clothes, a few boards shorts, flip flops, hiking shoes, one pair of jeans, a ball cap, one jacket, and a variety of video/photo equipment for my business. I plan on exploring many countries, so I make it a priority to stay light. Others, who have decided on Costa Rica and wish to plant roots can either sell it all and start over or can ship a container. I cover the logistics of moving and a must pack list in my book, Becoming an Expat: Costa Rica. It’s an amazingly freeing experience when you have successfully made yourself and your belonging portable. Bon voyage!
For more information about how to prepare for your life in Costa Rica, what you should pack, how the healthcare works, if you qualify for immigration, how to earn a living abroad, and how to live for free read the brand new release, Becoming an Expat: Costa Rica.
Author of Becoming an Expat: Costa Rica