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Becoming an Expat: Costa Rica

Expat Focus talks to Shannon Enete about her latest book, “Becoming an Expat: Costa Rica”, a guide to your new life in Costa Rica. It explains what living in Costa Rica is like without sugarcoating, covering the good, the bad, and the things that you wouldn't even consider.

Shannon, please tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m a US citizen from Southern California that grew up as a surfer, soccer, and volleyball kinda’ gal. I completed my undergraduate from Cal State University of Long Beach in World Religions, then continued on to Palomar College where I earned my Paramedic license. I worked as a paramedic for 10 years before a back-injury steered me elsewhere. I’ve always preferred the outdoors and when it came time to move nature played a huge part in my decision making process.I currently live in Costa Rica on the Central Pacific Coast in a small pueblo (town) named Playa Bejuco. The only amenities in town is a pulpería (small grocery stand) and a hotel, but the beach is gorgeous, expansive, and everything that I wanted it to be. So, I don’t complain when I make the 15 minute journey to neighboring Parrita for more food options. I do not intend to be a permanent resident in Bejuco, however, because my wife and I enjoy exploring new regions living a more nomadic life.

How did you come to CR originally?

After I hurt my back and was no longer tied to a geographical location I decided that I didn’t want to live in the states anymore. I had always wanted an international living experience and the opportunity had finally presented itself. I had visited 27 countries before the age of 30 and decided that my top 3 countries to live in were: Costa Rica, New Zealand, and Argentina. Costa Rica won because I felt at home, safe, surrounded by nature, it had the climate I wanted, and the cost of living that I was looking for. Plus, I wanted to learn more Spanish! (Coincidently, I met my wife while living in Costa Rica. She is the daughter from the property manager who rented me my condo). New Zealand’s cost of living was above what I was looking for, and Argentina was a close second that was put on hold.

You recently published “Becoming and Expat: Costa Rica” what is the book about?

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Becoming an Expat: Costa Rica is a guide to your new life in Costa Rica. It explains what living in Costa Rica is like without sugarcoating, covering the good, the bad, and the things that you wouldn’t even consider. It covers: whether or not to ship a container, and how to do so, immigration, healthcare, earning a living abroad, starting a business in Costa Rica, how to find the right region for you, international taxes, finding the right school for your kids, driving in Costa Rica, and the list goes on.

You have written nonfiction before (Teeth Not Tears: Smiles Through the Rubble), but why did you decide to write a guidebook?

Moving to Costa Rica provided a new chapter to my life. After living there for a year, I was inspired with the enormity of inside information and tips that I soaked up each day I lived in Costa Rica. So many generous expats showed me where to find things, how to perform necessary tasks, like paying my bills, purchasing a prepaid sim card, etc. I thought, I should write a book and pay forward all of the tips that were so generously given to me! So formed Becoming an Expat: Costa Rica.

I decided to make Becoming an Expat™ a series for a few reasons.

1. There are a few books aimed at assisting the reader to move abroad, but no up-to-date works that specifically addresses moving to a particular country. The reader has an endless supply of guidebooks series for travel, but no guidebook series to guide the reader through the much more important decision of where to live. With a record number of Americans becoming expats I decided that there was opportunity and a need to fill.

2. Many available publications are “fluff-filled,” written not to inform but to sell real estate or a service. I don’t think that it’s fair to the reader to create a non-existent fairy tale or tell a one-sided story. I worked hard to create a accurate portrayal of life in Costa Rica.

3. I am a traveler and explorer at heart, excited about how living in a variety of countries, researching, and interviewing expats around the world will impact my life.

Can you tell us about your research process?

Research was a culmination of expat interviews (business owners, cedula card holders, CAJA users, families with kids in schools, etc), my personal experiences, reviewing translated versions of Costa Rican law, keeping up on current events, and lots of fact checking.

The most valuable information to me was provided by other expats who had actually performed a process or could share an experience. You know as well as I do that Costa Rican bureaucracy has numerous procedures that often play-out differently in person than on paper.

When I had a correlation between interviews regarding how a process worked I knew that I was on to something. Yes, I do plan on using the same methodology for upcoming editions: Peru and Ecuador (2014). Panama, Mexico, Belize, Uruguay, and Brazil are expected in 2015-16. The guidebooks will be written in the same format and style as the Costa Rica edition. Enete Enterprises LLC is currently seeking authors living in the above countries to contribute to the Becoming an Expat™ series.

What type of audience do you feel your book would appeal to?

Writing the book, I had a large audience in mind. Most publications are written for expats in their 60s, of course, I too addressed their needs in Becoming an Expat: Costa Rica but I didn’t want to ignore the 20 and 30 somethings making the move to alternative living in Costa Rica. With the internet and telecommuting trend, now is the perfect time to teach young professionals that they really can chose where they want to live. The broad audience that BECR was written for is a sure stand out from other publications.

Are there any expat qualities that you find distasteful or annoying?

My biggest pet peeve is negativity whether from expat or national. Usually, it’s from an expat, one that does not fit well in Costa Rica and has taken on a bitter attitude. They saturate the air with poisonous words about the country they voluntarily moved to. I love Costa Rica for exactly what it is, good and bad. It embarrasses me as an American when other Americans are disrespectful to Ticos, treat them as subservient, or are enraged when a Tico that they are addressing does not speak English. As far as lifestyle, everyone has their own needs and comfort levels. I encourage expats to become part of the community and learn Spanish because I believe that it will greatly improve their experience and quality of life. If they choose to live in a gated community with other English speakers that does not bother me, the same thing happens around the world. It’s how we get such great Chinese in every “china town.” I try not to judge other people’s comfort levels, I just can’t tolerate disrespect and negativity.

Given that you are well-traveled, and have the capacity to live almost anywhere, do you have a favorite place on the globe?

It’s hard to narrow down my favorite places because each country offers something spectacular in one category or another:

Beach: Rarotonga, Cook Islands (south side of the island). This island is home to the most beautiful water I have ever seen, brilliant white sand, and calm waters created by a reef that circumnavigates the island. The same reef helps regulate how deep the water is. I could walk out to an atoll over 200 yards out in the ocean and not get my chest wet.

Food: Buenos Aires, Argentina (as long as you’re not a vegetarian). By far the best food and wine that I have had to date!

The steaks are out of this world! Their Parrilla (grill) is litterally a pile of coals creating a fire, with huge pigs, and portions of cow hanging on stakes driven into the ground about 2 feet way from the fire. This meat cooks all day long and is ready by dinner time. The wine is amazing and is not served per glass but per bottle! The cost is what you would pay for a glass in the States!

Culture: Cuzco, Peru. You know the culture has to be rich in a place where the Andes are the backdrop. Cuzco does not disappoint. Incan flare, peruvian hospitality, gentle spirit, agricultural heritage, and magical ruins create a vibrant personality and culture to be observed while cruising the cobblestone streets.

Activity: Kayaking with killer whales in the San Padres Islands (Putting in from Anacortes, Washington)

Best Sea Life: Galápagos, Ecuador. The sea lions actually walk the streets here! I have a picture of one lying on a hotel chase lounge by the pool (I call it the 5-star sea lion). He woke up, dove into the pool, then back into the ocean!

Nature: all over, Costa Rica. Mangroves, jungles, rain-forests, waterfalls, volcanos, peninsulas, rivers, and vibrant life are at every corner. Even in urban San José, your nature fix is just 20 minutes away. In Costa Rica, perfect harmony can be observed and experienced.

Destination: Iguazu Falls, Argentina. One of the most amazing and powerful things I have seen to date. On par with Machu Picchu!

Ok, I’ll give you a few secret spots:

Playa Bejuco, Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Expansive beach lined with coconut palms.

Uvita, Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Volcanic reef, blue water, and peach sand create this picture perfect beach.

Bay of Islands, New Zealand. Pink sand, need I say more?

Bariloche, Argentina (hardly a secret, but none-the-less a favorite of mine) Ski lodge meets swiss chocolate and cheese meets Patagonia.

Valdez, Alaska. A place so sparely populated that when you actually see another car you both stop to talk. The gorgeous Prince William Sound is filled with icebergs, glaciers, bald eagles, giant evergreens, bears, halibut, sharks, sea otters, and more! Fishing here on a long line boat was amazing! When we needed more ice to stack on our catch we simply cruised over to the field floating in the water and scooped some up with a net. Afterwards, we broke it up for the fish and for our drinks! No liquor store required!

What do you do when you are not writing?

When I’m not working I’m outside enjoying the jungles, waterfalls, mountains, and beaches with my wife. We love to set out with a mission for exploration. It looks like this, “Hey we haven’t driven up that road, let’s see where it goes!” An hour and a half later we find a new magical place, restaurant, or new friends. Sometimes it is simply a scenic drive with no new destinations to add to our map, but we will never have to wonder what’s up that road again.

Where can people buy your book?

Becoming an Expat: Costa Rica is available for purchase in paperback (color), kindle, ibook, and nook editions through Enete Enterprises.

It is also available on Amazon where you can also share your review of BECR with other soon-to-be expats!

As a paramedic turned expat, I went from saving lives to saving quality of lives through the creation of Becoming an Expat: Costa Rica! I was a paramedic for ten years in San Diego & Kansas City. I've had two passions in life: paramedicine and travel. Now that the prior has played out I have more time to focus on travel and the growth that happens within through stretching my boundaries. At the time I was injured, age 30, I had seen 27 countries which was a great start to an international life. When it came time to choose the first country that I would move to I quickly chose Costa Rica proclaiming, "My whole body comes alive when I am there." It was a good choice since I met my wife there! In addition to writing and publishing (Enete Enterprises, LLC) I create marketing videos for tourism, hospitality, and real estate sectors.

For more information about publications and video production see:

To watch the book trailer, purchase, or for more information about Becoming an Expat: Costa Rica and the other countries that the series will soon publish see: www.becominganexpat.com.

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