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Adventures, Life Lessons

365 Things I Learned After 365 Days Living Abroad

1 Apr , 2016  

One year has flown by like the time it takes to brew a pot of coffee in the morning; you think you can get dressed, prepare some food and fire up the computer in that amount of time, but it’s ready before you’ve even selected a shirt to wear.

One year and one day ago, I had only experienced full time, salaried employment in the course of furthering my career. Office jobs. I lived in Chicago with my husband. I had never lived in a place without winter. We owned a lot of stuff. Pretty much followed the status quo on every level.

One year ago today we shattered that status quo and never looked back; after selling off all of our belongings, quitting our jobs and deciding to make a change – we moved to Costa Rica with six suitcases and our dog Harvey. During a year where literally everything about our daily lives changed, almost flipped to the complete opposite, there’s been a lot of learning. A lot of self discovery. A lot of epiphany moments. And a lot of growth. In 365 days living abroad, here are 365 things I’ve learned and observed about life, myself, work, relationships and how the World as we know it turns:

  1. I was meant for the tropics. There’s something inherently happy about consistent (warm, sunny, beautiful) weather Every. Single. Day.
  2. Risks always seem much greater before the leap. After, you find yourself saying “silly me…”
  3. Moving abroad might be one of the greatest tests for you and your life partner; guaranteed to strengthen any relationship.
  4. Or I guess, provide clarity to walk away in some cases.
  5. Let it happen, whatever “it” may be.
  6. “What if” is your enemy.
  7. While it can be frustrating logistically, most of the airlines out there are actually looking out for your pets; relief for traveling pet owners everywhere.
  8. I once had a house full of stuff, and now I know everything my husband and I really need and use fits in six suitcases. Perspective.

Ready or not, here weeee gooooo! @donnyminchillo

A photo posted by Jackie Minchillo (@mrsminchillo) on

9. After a year, I find the only “stuff” I really miss is household artwork and picture frames.

10. Technology is wonderful; your job may be more portable than you think.

11. And my friendships and family relationships have greatly benefitted from the use of WhatsApp, FaceTime and Skype.

12. Furthermore, Skype’s international calling services are superior and surprisingly affordable – thanks for keeping both of our businesses viable.

13. At the same time, technology has taken over some facets of our lives it probably shouldn’t. Start leaving your phone at home when going to social gatherings, or when just going out for a walk. You’ll see what I mean.

14. If you plan on taking directions from a local in Costa Rica (and many of its Central and South American neighbors), you should be able to identify specific types of trees and practice not losing track of how many little dirt paths (which are actually roads) you have passed.

15. The United States is the only place where it’s acceptable for people to say they are from “America.” Anywhere else in the world, people are taught that all of the countries in North, Central and South America, comprise America. You are from the United States. Just as people from Canada are from Canada. People from Costa Rica are from Costa Rica. Catch my drift? A friendly tip that will automatically increase your geographic and cultural intelligence when traveling abroad 😉

16. It is extremely difficult to learn a second language. This should be a focus for young children everywhere. I’m proud of where I’ve come, but realize I have much further to go.

17. Being in a situation where it’s a necessity for me to learn, I have an immense respect for my husband’s brain matter; matter that has learned and retained the knowledge to speak three languages fluently.

18. When you live near the beach and on a dirt road, your house is ALWAYS just a little bit dirty.

19. The emotional roller coaster of building a social network from scratch in a place where you know no-one is a humbling experience.

GirlsDay- Day Well Lived

Friends - Day Well Lived

20. Equally, some of the new relationships you form will be some of the most valuable you’ve developed in your entire life. A bond that can only be shared with other people who have done what you’ve done. 21. Surfing is harder than it looks. When you see someone who is really talented, bow down – they ate a lot of s*it and probably damn near drowned a few times to get where they are. #respect

 

Yeah! #surf #surfsup #puravida #Tamarindo #costarica #bucketlist #learning A photo posted by Jackie Minchillo (@mrsminchillo) on

22. Immersing yourself in a different culture than your own is something everyone should do at least once in their life for some substantial amount of time. You don’t have to move; but take a sabbatical, study abroad, volunteer; do SOMETHING that allows you to spend as much time as possible somewhere else.

23. To that point, this is the single most effective way to truly open your mind to possibilities other than the ones you’ve always known – and I promise you, there are possibilities far beyond what you can probably fathom without seeing them with your own eyes.

24. Plantains are just amazing.

25. Ceviche (in Costa Rica specifically), too.

26. Water is a valuable resource that people around the world need to stop taking for granted. It’s hard to really understand this until you live in place where water is in short supply. I will remain grateful for the first-hand lesson as it’s forever changed the way I will approach decreasing my own footprint on this Earth.

27. People in modern nations are too dependent on cars. Living without one for a year, I look back and realize I probably could have lived much longer in other places as well with no vehicle.

28. Plus, I’m in better shape!

29. I never knew what my favorite fruit was. Now I do. Mmmmm maracuya (passion fruit).

30. Yoga is powerful. For your mental, physical and spiritual health. If you never have, try it. I mean really give it a shot. It’ll change your life.

31. Most things in life are much simpler than we make them out to be.

32. For example, I forgot my driver’s license when trying to rent a car one time in Tamarindo. The guy at the rental car company did all the paperwork, then drove me to my house in the rental car, took a pic of the license and I was on my way.

33. If big business and bureaucracy can step aside a little and let humans be humans, things can be really, just, easy sometimes.

34. A house with no bathroom door will bring you and your spouse instantly closer together.

35. So will trying to capture a scorpion in a cup and release it outside.

36. I was attempting to do so at the time because I was told they were impossible to kill.

37. I now know that it is indeed possible, but may require a sledge hammer.

38. To have a dog is to have a furry child. I know this because there could be no stronger despair than that which I felt when our dog was missing for eight hours in a foreign country, which felt like eight years. You can debate it all you want. It’s a fact. #powertothedogparents

39. This same experience gave me a renewed faith in humanity; we had a search party in a town where we still hardly knew anyone, all helping look for our baby for no other reason than to help.

40. No matter how tan you are, you can still get a sunburn. Protect your body’s largest organ.

41. Working from home requires an insane amount of discipline. I get better at this every day.

42. My husband is a freaking rockstar at this; I admire him and try to learn from him.

43. Setting intentions is a real thing and it works. One year ago, I had no freelance writing experience. This year I secured several regular writing gigs, was published on a website that garners nearly 5.4 million unique visitors every month and became the lead contributor for Costa Rica, for International Living Magazine – literally a dream and an opportunity for which I’ll be forever grateful. 

imaginebetter

44. When you choose to break free from the status quo, you’ll have critics. People will say you’re “spoiled” or that there’s a reason people work all their lives towards a lucrative retirement and that everyone has to “pay their “dues.”

45. Look, as T. Swift would say, “people throw rocks at things that shine.” I know I’ve already paid more “dues” than most of these critics ever will, at a fairly young age. Do I owe them an explanation of this? No. And neither do you. You only live life once. Please live it how you want, with absolutely NO regard for others’ opinions of your choices.

46. Societal pressure can be tough, I know. But once you break free, the weight of thinking those pressures have any validity will be lifted from your shoulders.

47. Being able to control your own schedule, work and otherwise, is a hallmark of freedom; and something I think too many people in the present day have given up too easily.

48. Talking to even relatively new friends about elements of your personal story that can sometimes be tough to talk about is a cleansing and liberating experience, and it’ll help you form closer relationships with people.

49. You never know who might be able to relate. Be more open and vulnerable with people.

50. Pura Vida, is sort of like a mythical unicorn. It can mean so many different things here in Costa Rica and be used in so many different contexts.

51. I think it’s more about what it means to YOU. And for me, it’s been the embodiment of a different lifestyle, and one I much prefer, despite some of the things that could be considered downsides.

52. If you’re ever put in a situation that forces you to slow down, embrace it. This is the universe giving you something you needed.

53. Big changes are scary, but fear is always temporary. Regret will stick with you and it sucks. Choose change.

54. People in Costa Rica refer to the United States as “the land of convenience.” My life was once much more convenient than it is now. But the benefits I’ve reaped in other ways far outweigh inconveniences.

55. People in general would greatly benefit from valuing things like health, true happiness and passion over convenience.

56. I’m more open to the idea of having children (not totally sold yet, for clarification) than I ever have been before, and I credit that to the privilege of really being able to observe people with much different parenting philosophies and tactics than I’ve ever been exposed to.

57. What you think is “right” or “best,” may only be your opinion because it’s all you know…

58. All that and I have an amazing husband who makes me melt every time I see him interact with a little kid.

59. Sea turtles mate for 72 hours at a time. Just wow.

60. Success is not defined by the accomplishments of others; it’s your personal satisfaction with the state of your life and well-being.

61. I actually don’t despise cooking as much as I thought now that I have more time to spend on it.

62. Experimenting more with cooking has confirmed my love for balsamic vinegar, cilantro and garlic.

63. While I’ve improved my cooking, I’m still super intimidated by grilling.

64. Access to fresh, real ingredients and whole foods at a decent price needs to be a basic human right for people all over the world. The difference in the way you feel (body and mind) in switching over from mass produced, processed and genetically modified foods is noticeable almost immediately, and it’s downright frightening.

 

65. Horses have always been my favorite animal, and I still love them. But living in a country where monkeys are as prominent at squirrels, they’re either a close second or a tie for first, I love them!

66. I met a ten year old girl this year who also loves horses, she told me she loves them because they are just so majestic. I’ve met some impressive kids with a more sophisticated vocabulary and more stamps in their passport than many adults I know. Impressive.

67. Yes the passport stamps matter. The most well-traveled people I’ve met this year have also been amongst the most intelligent and experienced.

68. Sometimes regulators take themselves too seriously. For example, dogs are allowed in most of the restaurants here in our beach town, and no one has died from this “health code violation.” In fact, most people rather enjoy the friendly atmosphere!

69. One of the bars here in town has a skateboard ramp. No one is going to sue them if they get hurt; they know they take on the risk themselves by participating – they don’t need to sign a waiver or wear predetermined required safety gear. And everything’s fine – people have a blast. It’s simple, and I like that.

70. If you travel to any foreign country and find you’re not being “welcomed” by the locals, it’s more than likely a reflection of your own behavior or attitude. Are you being a decent human? Are you open to learning and trying to communicate? Have you taken into account that things may be different here and furthermore that that’s okay?

71. Travel to new places can present uncomfortable situations. Don’t. Freak. Out. It’s part of the experience and if you’re paying attention, you might learn something valuable from it.

72. Costa Rica has excellent, high quality healthcare at extremely affordable prices. Doctors, dentists, etc. I feel lucky to live here on the rare occasions when I need to take advantage of those services.

73. It’s not always necessary to see a doctor for minor ailments, and Costa Rica gets this. Pharmacists are helpful and have the authority to prescribe medicine if the problem has already been identified. Simple.

74. Same thing with veterinary care for the furry loved ones.

75. For legal residents and citizens, Costa Rica does have a socialized healthcare system in place.

76. For my conservative friends, I’ll just share, it works. And it works very well. And people by and large are very happy with it. Not an opinion pulled from thin air, but a first-hand observation of locals and expats alike.

77. The term “third world country” at this point is pretty archaic (having arisen somewhere around 1947 at the onset of the Cold War, I’m sure you’re aware, a lot has changed since then) and if you’re going to sling it around, you should be careful, and prepared for backlash.

78. In some cases “developing country” is more appropriate. After living here for a year, I would probably still place Costa Rica in the developing category.  

79. Hobbies and personal projects are things you need to make time for in your life. I love my blog which has thus far served as a personal project and this year I also discovered a love for photography.

80. But even with a more relaxed pace of life, letting time for those things slip through the cracks can happen easily. This next year, I want to get back to making more time for them.

81. I admire my parents for their ability to provide love and support, even when they think my decisions are crazy.

82. Great friendships can become greater even at a distance. We have friends continuously performing HUGE favors for us, because there are things that need to be taken care of on the ground in the U.S. I’ve had some of the greatest conversations I’ve ever had with my girlfriends while having wine or coffee together via Skype.

83. When you make a move like this you will disappoint people. While people will tell you it’s expensive to come visit you in your new tropical home; It’s equally expensive, if not more, for us to come home and travel around to our different “hubs” to visit everyone.

84. Furthermore, not every trip can be back to the US (or wherever ‘home’ is for you) – after all, there’s a whole world to see out there.

85. Costa Rica is not as inexpensive as we thought it would be. Rapid advancements and growing popularity have driven prices up.

86. As a freelancer tracking multiple projects and clients, my appreciation for a good ol’ fashioned day planner and a pen has prevailed!

87. Time tracking and invoicing software Harvest has been wonderful to work with.

88. Although I’ve worked my tush off to reinvent my career in such a way that allows me to dictate which projects I’d like to take on and when I’d like to work on them, there are some misconceptions about that.

89. People still assume you just don’t work much, or that you’re always on vacation.

90. Let me clear it up for you. I’m a firm believer in ‘work hard, play harder’ and I’ve figured out a way to put that into practice. If this intrigues you, feel free to ask for advice, but don’t make misguided assumptions :)

91. Pacific coast sunsets are just breathtaking, particularly during the rainy season.

 

92. And “sunset” is a true social occasion here in our beach town. It’s like instead of saying “wanna do brunch?” You ask “wanna watch sunset?”

93. The sun goes down early here, all year round, and people have asked if we miss the later hours of summer sunshine.

94. Not really. When it’s sunny and warm every single day, the sun going down is actually welcomed and gives you a chance to enjoy some of the evening refreshed and relieved from the heat of the day; you know there will be plenty of sunshine tomorrow.

95. It does take some getting used to though; in the beginning we felt always ready for bed very, very early.

96. Supporting local craftsman is so important anywhere you are. We had a local guy in our town build us a table from a local wood; it’s gorgeous piece of furniture, a perfect workspace for us and we were able to support a hardworking guy we met first hand.

97. Two weeks vacation per year is not enough. The United States is one of the only countries in the world where this is considered acceptable.

98. In the year we’ve lived here alone, we’ve taken at least 60 days of vacation. To be honest I’ve lost count and nor do I think the number matters, at all. There’s nothing we’ve done this year I feel was excessive, or unnecessary. We visited family, explored my husband’s heritage, got to know the new country we call home and had a lot of fun…and believe it or not, we still accomplished leaps and bounds with our work this year!

99. Humans need time to explore and they need balance, period.

100. House Hunters International glorifies international house hunting. I’ll say, it’s a bit more challenging than the show portrays, be ware!

101. Paying for the full version of Spotify is totally worth it, especially if you have any sort of desk job.

102. Having a great water bottle is key to making sure you drink enough water. I have a great reco if anyone’s interested.

103. Access to affordable vehicles is something I used to take for granted.

104. In our next phase of Costa Rica living, we’ve started to explore the possibility of buying a car. Looking at vehicles that are more than 10 years old and still cost $10K is a tough pill to swallow.

105. Ah the lessons in going from once living in the Motor City to living in a country where all of the cars are imported.

106. You haven’t been off roading until you’ve been driving the backroads of Costa Rica and had to make someone get out of the car to do a depth check before proceeding!

Samara Sights - Day Well Lived

107. In some places tomorrow may not mean tomorrow, 4 p.m. may not mean 4 p.m. – and if you stress over it, you’ll be the only one doing so. Ya gotta’ loosen up if you want enjoy your time – I’d say anywhere in Latin America.

108. At this point I think this is pretty widely known; but don’t concern yourself with matters beyond your control.

109. In order to go places, you’ve got to be willing to throw your “plan” out the window.

110. Rarely do things go exactly according to plan, and if you’re too focused on the plan rather than the solution to a shift in plans, you’ll miss the boat.

111. “Time flies” is an understatement of an expression. I can’t believe we’ve lived here for a year.

112. My life looks nothing like it did one year ago. So much can change, so quickly, if you want it to.

113. No matter how much advice is given, people won’t make a significant change in their life until they hit a point where they believe the risk they’re about to take couldn’t possibly turn out worse than their current circumstance.

114. To me it’s inspiring how simply people live in rural Costa Rica. It’s a perspective shift on what’s really necessary.

115. When you live in a tourist town, you have to be careful not to get caught up in the tourist mentality. We could go out every night, but it might not be our best life choice.

116. Plus we’re getting old and like to sleep.

117. Air conditioning in a tropical climate will be your single biggest expense aside from rent/housing. Learn to adjust and use it wisely.

118. Health insurance, or really any insurance, might be the most over-hyped “need.” Don’t get all riled, you do you, if you like insurance go ahead and stick with it!

119. Just sayin’, one year without any insurance of any type, nothing has happened to make us regret that decision (knock on wood!) and we’ve saved a wholllllllllle bunch of our hard earned money. I realize that in some places this is harder than others, but I’ve been thankful for the opportunity to make this choice.

120. Fear is fear and we all experience it. Don’t let it stop you, let it fuel you.

121. Speaking of fear, media hype in the U.S. over things like the Zika Virus and terrorist attacks are not good reasons to halt travel plans or form umbrella opinions about entire cultures and religions. Research beyond inflated headlines.

122. It’s been interesting to observe some of these instances from the outside looking in, and it is quite a different view.

123. There are no physical street addresses in Costa Rica. And life still goes on as we know it. One of those #mindblown type of discoveries.

124. People rave about Colombian and Brazilian coffee, but have you had Costa Rican coffee?

CCMonteverde-42

125. There’s no open intox laws in the land of Pura Vida. It’s great!

126. The dramatic changes you notice in the tides, the shape of shoreline, the color of the water in a month, let alone a year will open your eyes to the magic and natural wonder that is the sea.

127. There are two high tides and two low tides in every 24 hour period.

128. Extracting the juice from Papaya leaves is truly an effective remedy/cure for Dengue. Smells like shit and tastes even worse, but it works.

129. I really enjoy using colorful money with pictures of animals all over it – it makes money feel a little less evil.

130. Coconuts are incredibly hydrating and beneficial to your health.

131. While I love nature, I’m officially not a camping girl – unless I will have access to real, clean bathrooms, running water and a guaranteed dry tent regardless of weather – which I realize is a tall order. Just witnessing the camping situation at Envision 2016 made me realize this, I was so happy to sleep in a house. To each their own!

132. Waterfalls are calming and beautiful. Some things in life can be one and done, once you’ve seen one you’ve seen em’ all, ya de ya dah. But waterfalls are not one of those things.

Costa Rican Colon

llanos

133. Get in check with your gut and follow it.

134. We let an Australian guy we hardly knew stay at our house and watch our dog for two weeks while we went to the States. He did a phenomenal job and he’s an awesome dude. This is something the “previous me” would never have done. Don’t be so overly concerned with what you think is “right” that you block yourself from letting in the good.

135. We refrigerate things in the U.S. that do not need to be refrigerated.

136. Furthermore, when I buy things here they spoil much faster, helping me see just how processed and manipulated some of the foods were that I used to buy.

137. Barbed wire fences are not always the most effective for keeping cows and horses contained.

 

Road Trip - Day Well Lived

138. JetBlue offers the best refundable airline tickets out there; you can buy any ticket and as long as you choose the 24-hour refund option, you can get a full refund when you cancel the flight within 24 hours of booking.

139. Delta is still the best airline for hassle free baggage policies.

140. Spirit just sucks. It’s a company that succeeds by gouging people and they stole my late uncle’s bike from me; a story I should have written about and still might, so long as I can see clearly through the anger to bring through the humor.

141. It is cheaper to fly from Costa Rica to Brazil by flying first to Florida. This is the case with many international destinations. Don’t just look up direct flights and assume you can’t travel because it’s expensive. Spend a little time, get a little creative, you can find good deals.

142. For U.S. taxpayers, you are completely tax exempt up to $90,000 USD (and beyond as they adjust for inflation each year) if you can meet the physical presence test, which requires you to be outside of the US for 330 full days in a consecutive 365 day period.

143. Nothing clears the mind like a long walk on the beach.

144. Salt water helps cleanse and balance your chakras.

145. Companies I’ve worked with this year with nearly all remote employees have better “internal” communication and are more organized than I’ve ever experienced with companies that require employees to be in the office every day.

146. The longer you wait to make a decision, the more likely you are to falter and possibly pass up a worthwhile opportunity.

147. Places that are the most difficult to get to are often the most beautiful; DON’T steer clear of obstacles, face them head on 😛

148. Living in a “vacation” destination does not eliminate your desire to travel or your choice of destinations.

149. Sugar cane is harvested by executing a giant controlled burn of the field; this is wild to see in person.

150. Raccoons look different in Central America. Squirrels too.

151. And there are deer, but they’re much smaller than in North America.

152. We pay our utility bills here at the grocery store. Yep, take the account number right to the cashier and give him or her the money.

153. We add money to our phone plans there too.

154. Except for cable and internet, we pay that at the bank.

155. My husband and I struggled attempting to work together. We have discovered our working styles are vastly different.

156. Some people truly want you to be happy. Some people just don’t care. Focus on developing and maintaining friendships with the first group.

157. Purchasing real estate or property in Costa Rica is pretty much only feasible through cash transactions or owner financing.

158. If you do buy property, the process is fairly simple and Costa Rica heavily protects your rights as an owner, even if you’re not a resident of the country.

159. Costa Rica has no army. I really like that.

160. Employees in Costa Rica receive a 13th month salary; consider it a sort of mandatory Christmas bonus.

161. Women in Costa Rica receive a mandatory 4 months of maternity leave in which they are entitled to 100 percent of their salary.

162. Families are close knit here. It’s fairly common for adult children to stay in their parents home until they get married, and move on to a new home with their spouse.

163. There are also many people who move away to different parts of the country to work at a young age, it varies.

164. Tico (a) is a term for someone native to Costa Rica. It’s not derogatory. It would be the equivalent of saying Costa Rican.

165. Ticos don’t like stress and they avoid it all all costs.

166. They also don’t like tourists who come into the country and bring their stress along with them. They want you to leave it at home and just enjoy their beautiful country.

167. I think that’s pretty swell of them, and we could all learn from them in that sense. Stress is not good for anyone.

168. Ticos are some of the most friendly humans on the planet. They develop friendships quickly and always greet strangers and friends alike with an “Hola!,” “Buenas!”or “Pura Vida!”

169. “Home” is a funny word. These days for me it’s more of a feeling than a place.

170. I thrive on routine. I’m willing to be very flexible, but a general shell of a routine to follow is good for me.

171. Don’t plan so much for your future that you lose sight of what’s happening now.

172. A lot of times we focus on what we want to become, but don’t forget sometimes bettering yourself can be equally about who or what you don’t want to be.

173. Up to this point in my life I had been present for all things I deemed to be of the utmost importance. This year my uncle, may he rest in peace, ended his own life, and I wasn’t around. It’s really tough to be far away when every inch of you feels you need to be close to your family.

174. This can be a consequence of seeking the life you truly want; sometimes you will miss stuff. Big stuff.

175. In going through this process from afar with my family, I was reminded of how much of a stigma still exists in our society over mental illness and suicide. More people need to keep drawing more attention to it. This needs to be a normal thing to talk about, that’s the first step.

Day Well Lived Uncle Ricky 1988

176. Not all hostels are grimy scary places. I had never been in or stayed in one until we moved here, and I have been pleasantly surprised.

177. The more in touch with nature you are, the more grounded you are.

178. Nothing beats starting your day off with a good workout. I had lost that, and now that I’ve created time in my life to make it a priority again, it feels wonderful.

179. I can also say I’ve experienced the benefit of a quality workout buddy.

180. Key to success? Scheduled coffee dates after said workouts. 😉

181. While getting up early in the morning can be rough, I never regret it.

182. Talking about your goals out loud with other people will help you set them into motion.

183. The same action will help you attract what you are seeking.

184. My love of dreadlocks has been forever confirmed.

185. If you just pull a mango off the tree with your bare hands, the sap can give you a terrible rash.

186. I value a serene outdoor living space; mornings enjoying the view from our balcony here have truly been cherished.

 

Harvey enjoys mornings on the balcony too :-) #monday #morning #balcony #coffee #mindset #daywelllived

A photo posted by Jackie Minchillo (@mrsminchillo) on

187. No matter where I am in the world, I always know I’ll be able to find a solid group of gals to watch the Bachelor and Bachelorette with.

188. You never know who you’re sitting next to, don’t hesitate to strike up good conversation with someone on the plane, at the bar, on the beach – wherever!

189. As humans we adjust much quicker to new circumstances than we may think.

190. I don’t miss having a shopping mall or mega convenience stores nearby.

191. Having money automatically deposited into your 401K is not the only way to create a stable financial future for yourself; diversify.

192. I value my husband’s zest for learning, it inspires me to be a better student of life.

193. As I had more time to read this year, I enjoyed it more. Now I know I need to read even more.

194. Harvard (yes, Harvard) offers hundreds of free online courses through a website, www.edx.org on a large variety of topics. Check it out, why not take advantage if there’s something that interests you?!

195. The biggest struggle for people who try to open and run a business in a foreign country from my observance is the difference in cultural expectations.

196. If you ever want to do this, understand the culture in the country where you’ll operate and be prepared to adapt.

197. Someone told a friend of mine “Just remember, you will not change Costa Rica, but if you’re lucky Costa Rica will change you.”

198. Always remember that new places do have something to teach you, but you have to allow it.

199. When you feel someone is trying to guilt you, remember it is likely a reflection of their own inadequacy, not yours.

200. Same thing if you feel you’re being talked down to.

201. A fresh fruit smoothie is the BEST way to start the day!

202. Beets, avocado and some greens make for excellent veggie additions.

203. A lack a self confidence will cause you to fumble through mistakes.

204. A healthy level of self confidence will allow you to get away with mistakes and learn from them at the same time.

205. Improve your self confidence by minimizing self doubt. Every decision truly has an infinite number of possible outcomes, but the choice that does the most damage is wavering in making one.

206. People struggle with priorities mainly because the word was never meant to be plural. One thing at a time.

207. Worry can truly be debilitating.

208. There’s a huge percentage of the human population that never learned how to interact with or approach animals, specifically dogs.

209. If you’re one of them, even if you have a fear – screaming, running, sudden movements and reaching straight for their face from above are all things on the list of terrible ideas. Real talk, even if you’ve never had a dog yourself you should know this. Teach your kids, too. :)

210. When people tell you not to burn bridges, listen. It’s true that past connections can come into play at the most unexpected of times.

211. Boxed wine in Costa Rica is next level boxed wine. “Clos” is cheap, tasty and essential for every get together.

212. I keep even the red in the fridge, because it’s just darn hot here, and it tastes good chilled!

213. Sometimes you have a million things to do, but you actually just need to sleep in. I love that I now have the freedom to make that decision.

214. Most people don’t quite grasp what it’s like to be a writer for a living and thus they often times make up their own conclusions about how much or how hard you actually work.

215. I will tell you, it’s a highly creative process requiring energy and inspiration from many sources.

216. It is hard work.

217. And a lot of work.

218. But can only be done when in the right frame of mind. A little glimpse into my world!

219. I have a new love for tile flooring in a hot climate. I don’t think I’ll live in a place with one shred of carpet ever again in my life. (A rug might be welcomed at some point, but it’s going to have to be one rad rug.)

220. Hammocks are the best nap spot.

 

221. Somehow people often confuse Puerto Rico with Costa Rica; they’re not the same.

222. I have an interest in reptiles I never knew I had; particularly lizards and iguanas. I just love seeing them!

223. My dog admittedly is sometimes not the best listener; but when there’s a crocodile swimming parallel to him in the water, he comes when called on the first try. Phew!

224. There are seat belt laws in Costa Rica, but if there’s a  group of people riding in the bed of a pickup truck, it’s no big thing.

225. A bikini does count as clothes in a beach town.

226. It’s no problem to go into a restaurant or grocery store here with no shoes on, and I don’t mind it!

227. The drinking water in Costa Rica is clean and perfectly fine to drink, so if you plan to visit, no worries here!

228. It is hard water, with a particularly high amount of calcium; researchers have actually found this to be beneficial to stronger bones and reduction in heart disease.

229. Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula is one of the world’s five “Blue Zone’s.” If you’ve never heard of it and have a few minutes, do a little reading up.

230. I took high speed internet access for granted in a past life. While we have reliable internet for sure, some days it can go out or operate slowly and it’s something I definitely struggle with some days.

231. For those curious, the typical internet speed offered in Costa Rica is 2 Mbps. You can upgrade, up to “10 or 15,” but you will pay. We’ve done this, for the record, and by our speed test indications we usually end up getting between 7 and 8.

232. What I learned in my research however is something to keep in mind for those on the “U.S. is just the best at everything” train: The U.S. does not offer the fastest internet in the world. In fact the country is outdone in this category by several: Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Latvia, Hong Kong (specifically), Switzerland, Japan and South Korea! A fun fact particularly for all you digital nomads out there.

233. It doesn’t bother me that the electricity flickers and goes out on the regular here.

234. It doesn’t usually stay out for long, and it reminds me this is yet another valuable resource to be used wisely and to be grateful for.

235. When you lose a debit card issued by a bank in the United States they will only mail a new one to your address of record.

236. This is an issue when you’re in another country with no plans to return for a significant period of time, and your address of record is still in the U.S.

237. I am ultra appreciative of friends willing to do favors like mail new debit cards to other friends who can than bring said debit cards with them when they visit Costa Rica.

238. I am also appreciative of nieces who enlist the help of their parents to ship large amounts of Girl Scout cookies to friends who then check bags specifically for the purpose of smuggling said cookies to Costa Rica.

239. Some things are just WORTH IT!

240. You haven’t really done Zumba until you’ve taken class with a Latin instructor, in Latin America.

241. Even though they’re the headliner of every tourism advertisement, there is no guarantee you will see a sloth while visiting Costa Rica.

242. Yes they are here, but they are darn hard to spot.

243. I have lived here for a year and still haven’t seen one.

244. Bougainvillea is probably one of the most common flowers I’ve seen throughout this country and they are just stunning!

245. While many people think of parrots, toucans, hummingbirds and other tropical, exotic birds when they think of Costa Rica, the national bird of the country is actually the Clay-colored Thrush or known locally as a yigüirro.

246. The bird is known for its well recognized song; males begin to sing at the start of the rainy season which has historically been a signal for local farmers that water for their crops is coming!

247. Many people would consider a majority of dirt roads to be a sign of a lack of infrastructure and funding, which is one sense it certainly is.

248. But consider this; leaving dirt roads the way the are can also preserve the charm of place and help prevent over development.

 

Boys walking

249. Aside from the occasional unexpected crater or particle of dust in my eye, I quite like that most of the roads in Costa Rica are dirt and a little rough around the edges.

250. One area where I have noticed the lack of infrastructure, in a sad light, has been public services. Where we live in Tamarindo, we are governed under the Santa Cruz municipality which is about a 30-minute drive. In our time here, we’ve watched two beloved restaurants burn to the ground and into oblivion, because they just simply couldn’t make it in time.

251. Improvements in areas such as this are the ones I hope I get to witness for this beautiful country and its people living in some of the more rural areas.

252. When you can’t just run to the store around the corner to grab something you “need,” you often go without or just get creative. Accessibility and necessity are different.

253. Creating the opportunity in life to travel is really one of the greatest things you can do for yourself.

254. On a 30-day trip to Brazil, for example I did much more than sight-see.

255. I met my husband’s, MY extended family, for the very first time, and got to spend quality time with them.

momdad

256. I understood for the first time the multi-faceted benefits of people taking real time to enjoy meals together.

257. I discovered a history of Brazil’s favelas that I find utterly fascinating. I encourage people to read more about them; not the news headlines, but the true inner workings of how these communities came to be, and how they still operate today.

258. There’s nothing more electric than attending a futbol game in a Brazilian stadium.

259. I found Rio de Janeiro to be a bit overplayed. Don’t mistake this for me saying I did not like it. It’s a gorgeous, intriguing, amazing place to visit.

260. All I’m saying is that if you plan to travel in Brazil, don’t let Rio be your end all be all, research other areas.

261. Hint, hint: places in the northeast like Recife, Olinda and Porto De Galinhas were among some of the most amazing places I’ve ever been.

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OlindaPorto-9

OlindaPorto-2

So today, we went to Nicaragua! #border #centralamerica #crossing #adventures

A photo posted by Jackie Minchillo (@mrsminchillo) on

262. Another fascinating experience is walking across the Costa Rica and Nicaraguan border at Penas Blancas.

263. It’s wonderfully informal and seemingly completely unorganized but somehow from what I could tell, it works.

264. When you move somewhere far away and people come to visit you, you learn things about them you might have never otherwise learned.

265. I learned both of parents get so seasick that even in a tropical, coastal destination, they have literally NO desire to go on a boat.

266. I learned my friend Bobby is hilariously afraid of bats.

267. I learned my friend Mae is deathly afraid of heights; yet still willing to conquer them like a champ.

268. Adult coloring is not only therapeutic, but makes for a great break from work to refocus.

269. Frequent breaks are the key to productivity.

270. Spotify’s “coffee chop,” “chill vibes,” “mood booster,” and “afternoon acoustic” pre-set playlists are among my favorite to work to.

271. Moving to another country and transitioning to working from home alongside your spouse will require you to work on your relationship in ways you’ve never had to before.

272. Communication is everything.

273. Sometimes, someone needs to just get out and go to a coffee shop.

274. And sometimes you need to yell a little.

275. But above all, a circumstance such as this is an opportunity to gain clarity.

276. I can spend day in and day out with my husband and still look forward to date night.

277. I used to think “gringo” was a really negative term.

278. It may be in some places and instances, but at least in Central and South America and at least in most cases, it’s just a common term to describe someone from North America.

279. Regularly getting enough sleep has been monumentally good for me.

280. I’ve always loved naps, but even more so now that I live in a tropical climate.

281. I don’t get Snapchat.

282. I realize that puts me on the older end of the social media user spectrum, and I’m okay with it.

283. In Costa Rica, they pour molasses on the roads to control the dust during the dry season.

284. It’s safe for the environment, and smells like gingerbread cookies!

285. You will be more fulfilled when you’re willing to help other people without expecting anything in return.

286. I’ve met people this year more willing to help for no reason other than to just make life easier for a friend, than people I’ve known for years on years.

287. Exposure to such selflessness has in turn made me want to be better, too.

288. While distance can be tough, it does make time we do get to spend with friends and family deeply meaningful.

289. Our international move has prompted my parents to learn how to use Facebook and FaceTime…win!

290. Sitting around a bonfire on a remote beach with a multicultural group, eating fresh parrot fish being grilled over the fire that had been caught moments before via spear sounds only like a scene from a movie.

291. I realize I had this opportunity and many others this year solely because of the risks I was willing to take.

292. White water rafting and rock climbing are two things I’d love to have more of in my life!

Tenorio - Day Well Lived

rock

293. Every experience no matter how bad it seems, does have a silver lining.

294. I’ve found that by throwing myself far beyond my comfort zone, I’ve improved my ability to find those silver linings.

295. I’ve always known my husband was an entrepreneur, but in working side by side with him every day, I’ve gained a much deeper understanding of just how smart he is; yet another opportunity I’m thankful to have.

296. No matter how far you try to distance yourself from consumerism and obsession with material; money still makes the world turn and people will always try to make more of it.

297. Thus it’s crucial to know your worth and stand your ground.

298. And also learn how to negotiate.

299. I learned this year that I’m actually a terrible negotiator in person; and this I know I need to improve.

300. On the flip side of everything I’ve accomplished this year, there’s a lot I didn’t accomplish.

301. I’m getting better everyday at not beating myself up over what I haven’t been able to do.

302. Because what I’ve done instead I now understand is far better; and that is to harness the now.

303. Sometimes you take Monday afternoon to go on a Catamaran with new friends instead of check off items on the to-do list; and you still have the rest of the week and next Monday and so on…

304. Finding out you’ve been able to encourage someone is one of the greatest feelings; never underestimate how your experience and knowledge could inspire someone else and always be willing to share.

305. The stigma over pit bulls is worldwide. People either love them, or assume they’re  vicious animals.

306. I have discovered this is probably now in my top five hot button issues.

 

307. When moving to an international destination, the Minchillo’s highly suggest staying in a hotel or vacation rental and searching for longer term accommodations in person.

308. It’s very difficult to vet what you’ve only seen online, no matter how confident you feel in it.

309. Capital One and Charles Schwab offer checking accounts with no foreign transaction fees.

310. I have never felt my safety was jeopardized during our time in Costa Rica.

311. I have maybe felt a bit uneasy walking around the country’s capital of San Jose, but it’s a big city and the same could be said for walking around some parts of Chicago or New York as well.

312. There are few things more uncomfortable than living in close proximity with unreasonable, irrational people for neighbors.

313. I suppose for all my adult life experience, especially living in apartment buildings, shared houses, etc. I have been rather fortunate to have never experienced an issue, and it’s something we probably all encounter at one point or another.

314. Two lessons from this; it’s really difficult sometimes, but always take the higher road.

315. And remember when people behave irrationally they could be fighting a battle you know nothing about.

316. Yes, before we moved to Costa Rica I didn’t know what Swiss Chard was. Now I buy and eat it every week!

317. Once you get into the practice of letting things go that no longer serve you, it gets easier and you feel lighter and lighter.

318. I do miss being able to do to the movies.

319. There are certain “things” that I do just really love. Cute coffee mugs, candles/incense and really nice bed sheets included.

320. While in the midst of building my career, traveling for work and our “big break” to move to the Windy City, I really thought I was more of a city girl.

321. But the charm of dirt roads and peace and quiet have won me over. We’ve even discussed how buying property a little further outside of town might appeal to us one day in the near future.

322. I do not dislike the U.S. nor am I trying to run away. Nor am I any less proud or grateful for the place I come from. Many people have asked me about these things since we moved.

323. However, yes I am worried about the current social and political landscape in the United States.

324. And yes, it would be difficult for us to lead the same lifestyle we lead now, in the United States.

325. So for now, we’ll be back just to visit. Who knows what could happen in the future.

326. We’re a multicultural household. We have a lot of love for the United States and a lot of love for Brazil, and now a whole lot of love for Costa Rica too.

327. I’m frequently frustrated by the common sentiment that it’s somehow “un-American” to love or be passionate about other places, or desire to go other places, or even to desire that perhaps the States could emulate how other countries solve certain issues and could benefit from doing so.

328. It’s great to be proud. But it’s equally great to be humble and to be open.

329. One of the most beautiful things I’ve learned this year is that it’s okay not to know.

330. Not too long ago, if someone asked “so what’s your plan?” I would almost feel ashamed or embarrassed. Today I know it’s okay to just reply with a smile and “I’m not sure.”

331. Humidity can be really rough on iPhones.

332. Freelancing can be a beautiful opportunity to be your own boss, but be prepared for the adjustment of a more fluid income and the necessity to sometimes track clients down for payment. If you’re used to the traditional direct deposit every other week, this will probably be the toughest adjustment.

333. Aside from the beaches of course, Arenal and Monteverde really are must-see areas of Costa Rica.

CCMonteverde-61

334. Even though no one, not even really myself liked my ultra short hair, it was totally worth it. I’ve gone this entire year without doing anything to my hair other than wash and brush it.

335. The more I talk with people the more it becomes clear that a lot of people truly misunderstand what it means to be a feminist.

336. Suggested reading: “We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

337. Not everyone needs to understand the decisions you make. I’ve learned we all spend too much energy trying to explain ourselves to people.

338. Amazon is a wonderful thing; did you know you can find things like bug spray and sunscreen in bulk? #thethingsInowshopfor

339. People often would joke with my family that I was probably an only child because there’s no way my parents could handle more than one of me.

340. At some points in my life, this was sort of hurtful. Now I’m thankful my parents never tried to “tame” me. I believe my “wild side” has given me the courage to go places and do things I wouldn’t have otherwise.

341. When I was a young girl I developed an obsession for palm trees vicariously through my grandparent’s travels. I had my grandpa take pictures of himself hugging palm trees in various places around the world to give to me. Now as an adult living among palm trees, I’m happy to confirm they are indeed my favorite tree!

342. Trying to take a decent picture of a butterfly is no small feat.

343. I maintain that some of the best times you’ll ever have are impromptu, unplanned occasions; always remember this before turning down a last minute invite.

344. If you’re traveling in a volcanic area and searching for hot springs, I encourage you to ask a local where you can find actual, natural hot springs.

345. The natural hot spring pools that have been created by resorts and national parks are cool, but if you can step into a natural spring or river and find the different hot pockets and varying temperatures yourself, you’ll really appreciate the magic behind hot springs!

346. Don’t be shy to take a noodle when offered. It makes snorkeling so much easier and more relaxing!

347. I would have never imagined the sheer size and glory of humpback whales without seeing them with my own eyes.

348. In a year completely removed from any gift giving, I realize I’m not much of a gift giver.

349. I would much rather buy something nice for someone randomly, for no reason or just to let them know I appreciate them. Or buy someone dinner or pay for them to do something fun with me – than force this gesture through a holiday shopping frenzy, or feel like I have to look at someone’s wish list to figure out what to get them.

350. I’m so sold on the philosophy of this value that I admittedly sometimes forget not everyone feels that way.

351. Terrorism has struck around the world this year. Witnessing this from a place that might be one of the least likely places to ever be involved in an event like this has been eye opening.

352. Governments, leaders and media outlets around the world, but particularly in the U.S. seem to feed right into what these “terrorists” want. Do your own research, beyond the mainstream. And as you’ve probably noticed a common theme throughout my lessons this year, don’t let fear rule you.

353. For the record, this is not a bash on the Obama administration. Despite some flopped policies, and with my opportunity to observe from the outside, I’ve been able to determine that I think he did a damn good job as President. I’ll be sad to see him go especially with the current successor options.

354. All my life I’ve been hesitant to “identify” with certain titles, groups, etc. And still not much has changed. I’m more liberal than I ever even realized, but I would not call myself a democrat. In fact I think the distinction between the parties is one of the biggest parts of the problem.

355. I have learned to appreciate a good rainfall. In a previous life I used to say I “hated” rain. But now, I rather welcome and enjoy it.

356. Cheese has been probably my most missed food item. You can find it here, but to find and buy really good cheese is a bit of a treasure hunt and it’s quite expensive as of course, much of what I would consider good cheese, is imported. Wah!

357. People said I would miss seasons and maybe snow around the holidays, I thought maybe I would.

358. I learned, I didn’t miss those things at all.

359. In attending Spanish school here I discovered there’s things I do miss about being a student, but doing homework and making time to study is really tough when you work. I admire people who go back to school and also work full time, now THAT is dedication.

360. Building a home, potentially here, is now something I have an interest in; this desire has surprised me.

361. Once a procrastinator, always a procrastinator. Instead of trying to “fix” this habit though, I’ve come to terms that I really do my best work under pressure.

362. I love chatting with people, always have. By letting go and opening myself up to new possibilities I’ve manifested an opportunity where now this is actually part of my job.

363. Turning down work is almost as liberating as signing new clients independently. It reiterates the freedom to take on work that inspires you.

364. Did I mention my new found love for monkeys?

Monkey-1

365. While this experience has brought me some of my greatest life challenges to date; career, lifestyle, social, relationship and otherwise. While it has tested my emotional bandwidth, patience and problem solving skills. While it has literally had me questioning life as I once knew it at times. Getting the chance to go through this experience with my husband by my side has made it all that much more powerful, making our bond and understanding of each other greater yet.  This year, this experience, moving abroad and really starting to look at the world with a refreshed perspective has been the very best of my life.
Pura Vida!

Samara Sights - Day Well Lived

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