In the previous post, I mentioned that the top criteria I was looking for in our new country were a stable government, safety, Spanish-speaking locals, and the availability of a good school for our children. These are the other features I was looking for in our new home:
Once the job transfers in Thailand and Poland fell through for Chris, we thought we would have to do our year abroad without an income. This possibility shot Ecuador at the top of the list. Ecuador is CHEAP. When I was looking at rent online, I found fully furnished, 3 bedroom/2 bath apartments in the Historic District for less than $400 USD per month. By this point, Chris had saved up enough money so we could live in Ecuador without either one of us working for about 1 year. There was no way we could live in any of the other countries without an income, at least not for a full year. Fortunately, soon after the Thailand and Poland jobs fell through, Chris’s boss offered him the opportunity to telecommute for Laureate when we moved. We were so relieved! This put Panama and Costa Rica back on the table. When we crunched the numbers, Uruguay was too expensive, so we crossed that one off the list.
6) Good infrastructure
Once we realized Chris would be able to work remotely, we needed to live in a country with good infrastructure. This meant we needed to have reliable, high-speed internet so he could telecommute, constant (relatively!) electricity, and a good airport that was easily accessible for any business trips Chris had to do. This also meant Ecuador was brought down to the bottom of the list. Panama and Costa Rica have much better infrastructure than Ecuador. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially to those expats looking to simplify, but it was imperative to us for the telecommuting. Also, traveling to the US from Ecuador takes a long time and is more expensive than from Panama and Costa Rica. Since we were moving with children, I also needed to live in a country with good quality health care. Panama and Costa Rica both fall in that category. In Costa Rica, medical tourism is actually a booming industry.
7) Beautiful and Eco-friendly
Funny how both of these usually go together. Our last 3 choices, Ecuador, Panama, and Costa Rica, all met this criteria. Ecuador had beaches, the mountains, and beautiful colonial cities. Panama has beaches and modern cities. Costa Rica has rainforests, beaches, volcanoes, mountains, and hot springs. Costa Rica has the strongest reputation for being an eco-friendly, sustainable country out of any of the countries we were considering.
8) Walkable city or town
I hate driving. With a passion. The kids have a nickname for me when I drive, “Traffic Mama”. They have rules about how to deal with me when I am in Traffic Mama mode:
Don’t speak unless spoken to!
Agree with everything she says!
Don’t breathe too loudly!
Don’t laugh out loud!
Avoid eye contact through the rear-view mirror!
Clearly this is not a persona that makes me proud. I wanted to take a break from driving during our year abroad. Not only because driving turns me into Mr. Hyde, but because I also wanted to reduce our carbon footprint. We could live in Ecuador (in the city of Cuenca) and in Costa Rica without a car. If we had ended up in Panama, we definitely would have needed a car as we would have most likely ended up living in Panama City there.
After considering all the above reasons, Costa Rica seemed like the best place for us. It is a safe country with a stable government. It is easily the safest country in Latin America for many reasons. They speak beautiful Spanish. It is relatively affordable though it is at the high end of the cost of living scale for a Latin American developing country. The infrastructure is excellent so Chris could telecommute and we could use high tech methods of communicating with family back home. Also, the school we chose for the kids, Centro de Educacion Creativa, is located in a small town. I was intrigued about the possibility of living in a small town. I grew in in the Rio Grande Valley in a small city (~100,000) and progressively lived in larger cities until I ended up in San Antonio. Monteverde/Santa Elena is an area with about 6-7,000 people. But it is a sophisticated small town. The high through put of tourism through Monteverde/Santa Elena puts this area in the unique position of blending small town living with amazing resources, including two fantastic international schools, delicious restaurants, and exciting family activities.
In the spring of 2013, we finally decided to move to Costa Rica. We bought one-way tickets to Liberia, CR and flew down on June 12, 2013. I will have blog posts later about planning an international move, life in a developing country, and other informative articles.
For now, let me know where you would love to move someday? What’s stopping you? Or if you have any expat stories I would love to hear them!