This post is long overdue. I said I would write up a breakdown of just how I managed to get the money to afford my life in Costa Rica–which is NOT cheap, by the way. So here goes….
First and foremost, I worked my ass off. I am by no means “well off”. I never have been. In fact, my story is a lot different from every other traveler or expat I’ve met so far. But I beat the odds, and here I am.
I worked an average 9-5 (more like 10-7, 11-8, 10-8, sometimes) which paid me a base salary of $45k. After taxes, I’m sure that looked more like $35k, and with my average bills accumulating to approximately half of that every year, I technically could’ve saved about $15,000. Now that I write that out, I realize how incredible that is. Because I saved nowhere near that amount.
Instead, I took up a part-time job as an adjunct instructor which added another $200 weekly, worked about twice a month at a job I actually loved, PML, whenever they needed me–which probably only afforded me dinner and margaritas for that same night–and an events gig that paid me $100 cash for every night I worked. Being paid in cash was the easiest way to save. I stashed everything into an envelope and hid it deep in a drawer so that I never touched it. The hustle was real.
I knew that no matter how much I saved, eventually the money would run out. So, I needed to figure out how I could make money while away. Having teaching experience (which I later learned meant nothing), and having actually enjoyed teaching, the easiest decision was to teach English abroad. I found a TEFL course, and made the almost $2,000 investment to take the class in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. I could’ve done all of this in China and not had spent a dime, but dammit, I wanted to be by the beach in Latin America. So that’s what I did.
Now down $2,000, I continued working, and I continued saving. When the program said I wouldn’t be able to stay with a host family if I brought my dog, I decided to look for an apartment on my own. Anyway, the price for a bed in a place that houses an entire family, and possibly another TEFL student, was ridiculous–almost $800/month. That’s even more than I was paying to live with just one roommate in Brooklyn. No, thanks.
I looked on craigslist, of course, and just so happened to find a one bedroom apartment about 5 minutes from the school, in the middle of the rain forest. We skyped months before I moved, and through sheer trust, I sent this Tico stranger a $100 deposit. I know, crazy. The rent would come to be $475/month, all utilities included (light, water, gas, internet, washing machine), and a cleaning woman once/week. For my NYC folk, I know what you’re thinking–amazing! For anyone who’s ever visited/lived anywhere else in Latin America–that’s so expensive! Of course, I find myself somewhere in the middle. But the important part is I never got ripped off, and my apartment was ready when I arrived.
I paid $200 for a one way flight, hundreds more to get Su cleared for travel, and left with $2,000 cash on January 21st, 2017. That same day, I paid my new landlord $475 for the first month. So there I was, for at least the next four weeks, with $1,500 to my name.
However, I planned it so that my move would align perfectly with Costa Rica’s Summer (dry) season, and the U.S’ tax season. From my new one bedroom, I filed my taxes and received an extra $2,000. I figured if I ran out before I found a way to make money, I would just go back home. No biggie.
Fortunately, I’m still in Costa Rica. I was determined to find a way to maintain myself here, and I have. I’m not teaching English, but I’ve been put on a path especially meant for me. While in-country, I received the opportunity to explore my writing–a road I never before considered could be a real career opportunity. But now I’m seeing that I can make it so. I’ve met some amazing people who have encouraged this passion, and provided support and guidance when needed.
Without much thinking, a bit of planning, and and a lot of listening, I did what I felt was right for me. I’m grateful for all that’s come my way, and even more so for being open to receiving it. At the end of the day, everyone wants to talk about money. But that’s never really what it’s about. It’s about being true to you, telling your fears to fuck off, and living that pura vida.
What are your dreams and what’s holding you back?