Who are you?
Mike White, Founder of The Happy Rollers (helping people move to Costa Rica so they can experience the same incredible country as I do every day).
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
I moved to the Guanacaste region in Costa Rica with my wife, two daughters (3 & 6) and cat in July 2019.We considered Costa Rica previously, but never pulled the trigger. This time around the stakes were heightened – with two young daughters, time was just flying and we knew we only had a small window of time to do something adventurous as a family while the girls were still young. So many benefits to Costa Rica, but what pushed us over the edge is really the focus on family as our #1 value and priority.
What challenges did you face during the move?
It’s just complicated to try and figure everything out at once. What helped is focusing on the big bucket items (i.e. healthcare, legal / residency, education, insurance, etc) and leaving the details (i.e. transportation, phone plans, etc) until we crossed those bridges. What most expats in our situation have the biggest risk and challenge with is establishing some form of income to support their new Pura Vida lifestyle.
How did you find somewhere to live?
We knew the country fairly well due to several previous trips, so we knew Guanacaste was where we felt most excited about.
We had some family members move the year before us, so we were heavily influenced to move near them, however we reached out to realtors to get a more complete picture of the properties and neighborhoods in the area we had decided to move.
Ultimately, we used the ’Tuesday Night’ rule to make the decision. That is, on a typical Tuesday night after work / school, when there is a small window of time to do something, what is it that we will do if we lived in property A vs property B.
We also decided to rent at first – moving internationally and all of the other elements was enough to bite off at once, property will always be for sale so we decided to hold off on purchasing for another day.
Are there many other expats in your area?
What is your relationship like with the locals?
Good. The community we are in does a good job of supporting and integrating with local people, families and businesses. Knowing Spanish is very helpful too.
What do you like about life where you are?
The simplicity with primary focus on family and health. It’s not that everything is easy, but it is a more simplified lifestyle in which we can focus on what’s most important to our family without the constant tug of distractions.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Wow, I had to think about this one.
I’ll say that there’s a charm about most of my complaints, which makes the experience of living in Costa Rica unique. But roads can be terrible, people are often late, businesses can be unreliable.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
I visited home for three weeks in December and had some quality time with family. When driving in the midwest (US), I was given the finger three times, and amazed because I wasn’t driving like a jerk. I’m one of those, ‘it’s never my fault, I’m a great driver’-type people, but even if I was at fault I think giving someone the finger is a pretty bold thing to do. I realized, the way we treat other people is really terrible.
Maybe I got soft on the road after moving to CR, but I’ve come to appreciate the “we’re all in this together” sense I get in Costa Rica. Definitely a positive cultural difference.
What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
Personally I enjoy the food, but I recognize that Costa Rica is not known for its food, like some other countries (i.e. Italy). Fruits and veggies are fresh. Rice and beans are staples. There are some great restaurants, some not-so-great. A healthy diet is what’s most important to me (primarily a whole food plant-based diet) and I have no trouble finding healthy food.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
There’s a lot to talk about here and everybody is different. I’ve over-analyzed everything associated with moving to Costa Rica and consult on the topic, providing personalized advice. In my experience, there are three phases and I have specific advice for each phase.
Phase 1 (thinking about moving to Costa Rica) – consider the big bucket / most important things about the move without thinking about the details. Take a visit (or a few) to get a sense before moving. Whatever you do, make a decision (move or not) consciously… don’t let it linger.
Phase 2 (ready to make a decision) – If you’ve done your homework, now is the time to simplify. Try to cut through all of the complications and minutiae and make the decision based on your personal values. In five years, what decision would you regret, moving or not moving? Also, just do it… Costa Rica is awesome but you can always move back if it doesn’t work out.
Phase 3 (I’ve decided to move) – Get a buddy / mentor in Costa Rica to help guide your move.
What are your plans for the future?
Stay in Costa Rica as long as we’re happy. No plans to move – we’re happy, healthy and having an incredible family adventure.
You can keep up to date with Mike's adventures on The Happy Rollers, and on Instagram.
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