This weekend marks one year of our new life in Costa Rica.
We landed in Costa Rica on the 28th of January of 2022, with a luggage full of dreams and hopes…plus a dog, a cat, and 8 kilos of Lego.
We landed with the excitement of a second-life opportunity. An open book to write.
So, as we fill one year, it feels like the perfect time to make a balance. Have we accomplished what we expected?
We were aware that this transition was going to be a challenge. Particularly the first two years. We are not only attempting to change life – from Sweden to Costa Rica – but also career – from innovation to conservation, and from a permanent and secure job in academia to freelancing and consulting. To add spice to the pot, both of us decided to do the change. Basically, all that any coaching book will advise you against.
On our side was that we know the country, we have a fierce motivation to do the jump (for us and for the planet), we have some savings to cover the economic gap in case things go south, and we have a temporary parachute (I did not quit my job but got a study leave until the end of 2023). Not to forget that we have each other.
We had low expectations in terms of work, for this first year. We expected to have some income from our ongoing projects at the university, but we did not expect to obtain any additional funding from consulting. We expected that we would spend a lot of time working probono (non-paid) while widening our network in conservation. Certainly we did a lot of probono, but we were lucky enough to get paid for some of the work as well. So, in terms of work it went all better than expected.
We expected a lot of bureaucracy to settle legally in the country, slow advancements and, why not, large delays in getting the paperwork done. So, we set our mindset into “zen” mode. We assumed that for every two steps forward, there will be one backward. But that we should persevere. Again, in this respect, our perseverance has largely paid off. We got our temporary residency, the social security number and health coverage, and the Costa Rica driving license (Cris). Although we are still waiting for Frank to get his…something that might happen in the following month (or so we hope). So the paperwork is not yet over, after one year, and lots of money in official translators and apostilles…but we are getting close.
We hoped to live in nature, in an open house from where we could watch wildlife, quiet and with a good internet connection. It has taken us one year of moving around to finally find what we hoped for. Some places were too cold, or too noisy, or had a very bad internet or all of the above. But in December we finally found “our place”, and so we moved two weeks ago to where we expect to live now for a long while.
We expected that we would have to work a lot these first two years of transitioning. But at least I had hoped to work less than in Sweden and enjoy life more…as we did during the sabbatical year in 2020. This ended up to be not realistic. We ended up working more than when we were in Sweden; trying to keep many balls in the air: our commitments with Lund University, the probono assignments, the new consultancy and, in my case, my studies at Harvard.
That had been (and still is) A LOT. So, our weekends of doing nothing can be counted with the fingers on ONE hand.
But the hard work has paid off: this past year we had many reasons to celebrate. We got our residency, the assignments with IUCN and WWF, an A at Harvard on Fundamentals of Ecology and we celebrated our first-year wedding anniversary.
We wake up every morning with the sound of monkeys, toucans and all other forms of (noisy) wildlife; we see green, green, green no matter where we look; we wear flip-flops the whole day, all year round; we have wonderful tropical fruit every day; we love interacting with the locals and making new friends; and the chance to learn new things and go back to school;
And overall, we enjoy everyday, the opportunity to live a life in which, hopefully, we can impact in making the world a better place.
So, all in all, it has been an exhausting but wonderful year.