Liz in front of a Swiss inspired hotel in Costa Rica

Weekend Chats: Living the Expat Life

Many people meet their friends at work and that is where I met Liz. Interestingly, we didn’t really start getting to know each other until the last few months we worked together. It has been nearly five years since then, but we are still friends and in contact regularly. A fact a little surprising for me since she lives in another country now.

She moved a few years ago to Costa Rica, a country I knew about in name only because when I was young, I knew people who visited often. It seemed like a far off, exotic place to a 10-year-old, and in some ways, it still is to me now, even though I have visited Liz there twice. I find it amazing that she gets to live there, in paradise, all the time. So, of course I had to ask why she decided to live in Costa Rica:

“Long answer to a short question: Living abroad in my early 20s really opened my eyes, as trite as that sounds. It did, and I always felt like that was the best thing I ever did for myself and I just felt so pulled to do that again – it just was what I truly wanted to do because nothing else made me so happy. But then life gets in the way, right? So, I had a lot of years working in fantastic jobs, and I had such a lovely social life, and then I bought a darling house, and that really sort of ties you to a place.  And then life changes again and I found myself at a crossroads in terms of a lot of things and I thought, well, why not do what you have always wanted to do now? Ultimately, I picked Costa Rica because it is accessible, affordable, health care is good, buying property wasn’t a challenge, it’s absolutely gorgeous…it all just sort of made sense and away I went.”

As she said, this is not the first time she’s lived abroad. She lived in France while she was in college and Switzerland after that and she’s visited around 23 countries! When I asked her what advice she would give someone who wants to live the expat life (like me!), she said:

“Embrace differences. Open your heart and your mind. Be kind. Your way of doing things may be different but not necessarily better. There is so much to learn and we are all the same – human beings. I always feel a massive amount of joy when I connect with people despite language or cultural barriers. It’s like a fundamental joy, a deep sense of love for humankind. So, I would say go for that. It makes you better. Oh, and laugh! You have to keep your sense of humor.”

Though I would love to live abroad, I know there are challenges to overcome. I asked Liz what her biggest challenge is:

“Probably language. Like a complete idiot I moved to a Spanish-speaking country knowing none of the language. Now I do. But I was and continue to be humbled by the grace of people who put up with my attempts. I just don’t think it is nice to yell at people when they can’t speak your language and I cherish the fact that Costa Ricans tend to welcome all, regardless of their nationality or language.”

But, of course, there is a lot to love about living somewhere else. When I asked her what her favorite thing about living abroad is, she said:

“It challenges my brain. This world is filled with so many wonderful people and things and why wouldn’t you want to be exposed to as much of it as you possibly can? Life is experienced so differently depending on where it is you are living it and I think that seeing it from multiple perspectives helps to shape your personal perspective, makes you more understanding of possibilities.”

“Live all you can; it’s a mistake not to. It doesn’t so much matter what you do in particular, as long as you have your life. If you haven’t had that, what have you had?”

Henry James

Liz says when it comes time for her to leave this Earth, she wants to feel like she got as much out of this life as she possible could. She also wants to make her parents proud.

This article is the second of the series, “Weekend Chats,” and I already see a couple of themes. Two factors motivate the amazing people I am interviewing, living life to the fullest, and family. I am so happy and humbled to be friends with these amazing women. They inspire me every day, and I hope they inspire you, too.

I want to hear from you!