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Adventures, Life Lessons

Reflections of Our First Trip “Home”

21 Jul , 2015  

We recently made our first “border run” as many expats call it. We’re living in Costa Rica on a tourist Visa, which means we must leave the country every 90 days in order to come back and stay here legally.

I put border run in quotes, because really we took a two week vacation back “home” which happened to correspond with the time period we needed to leave within. Now I’ve got home in quotes, and you might ask why.

It’s a strange sensation, picking up your life and moving anywhere, let alone a new country. Sometimes, even after months, when you say it out loud you feel like you need to pinch yourself to see if this is real life. Before we left for the trip I was giddy with excitement over the thought of seeing friends and family – they are truly what I’ve missed most through this experience. But also my mind was running wild thinking about how it would feel to be back in the U.S. Would I experience “reverse culture shock” which so many expats say they do? Would I miss it? Or the true burning question: would I miss Costa Rica?

Our trip was wonderful. We just so happened to arrive in Chicago the day the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Gay marriage in all 50 states, just a couple days prior to Chicago’s Annual Pride Parade. In addition to spending time with our Chicago friends, this made it an extra electric weekend to be in the Windy City.

#chicagopride #prideparade15 #electricenergy #lovewins #movingforward

A photo posted by Jackie Minchillo (@mrsminchillo) on

Within the first day, I experienced all the things I think people would normally attribute to “reverse culture shock,” however I’d hardly call it a shock. It just felt like an awakening reminder of what our life used to be like, and how drastically it’s changed in just a few months time.

Here were the top four things that struck me within the first couple days, and over and over again over the two week trip.

  1. Everything is so convenient. A Tico I met our first week in Costa Rica referred to the U.S. as “the land of convenience” which I thought was interesting at the time. And now after our first visit back, I truly understand what he meant. No matter where we stayed in the U.S., any errand we needed to run was within reach in five minutes.
  2. It was cold. By the third leg of our journey, we landed back in a warm climate in Myrtle Beach, SC. But in Chicago and Detroit, it was downright chilly in late June. We wore long pants for the first time in three months and wore sweaters most days too. I learned your body becomes used to a tropical climate very quickly and when it does, anything below 80 degrees is an issue of sorts.
  3. There are just so many people. Tamarindo can become “crowded” when there are a lot of tourists in town, but it’s nothing compared to the crowds you’ll experience in major U.S. cities like Chicago, Detroit or even Myrtle Beach.
  4. It felt weird to ride the train or drive a car to get everywhere. In Costa Rica, we literally walk or ride our bike everywhere – unless we have to head outside of town for the occasional errand in which case we carpool and/or borrow a friend’s car.

It wasn’t these day-to-day observations though that provoked any particular feeling in me, like the strange sensation of being in limbo between being a visitor, and being “home” did. In some ways, I felt completely comfortable, like I belonged. But in others, I had immense clarity in realizing “this is not me – this is not my life anymore,” and in fact, I was just visiting.

We got to just sit with people we know extremely well and talk about life, catch up and laugh. We had the chance to attend the Pride Parade in Chicago, again, a particularly historic year for this experience. I had the chance to spend some Mom and Dad - Day Well Livedmuch needed time with my parents, and visit my Uncle Ricky’s house. Had some quality time with our nieces and nephew. Got to celebrate the Fourth of July in Myrtle Beach with family, and go to the MOVIES, which we cannot do where we live now.Movie Date - Day Well Lived

After being surrounded by so much love, positivity and fun, I figured boarding the plane to head back to Costa Rica would very telling.

And it was. I didn’t feel sad. I didn’t dread leaving. I felt fulfilled; like we had truly made the most of our visit and now it was time to head home, to our new condo and our Harvey boy.

We’ve been “home” now in Playa Langosta for almost three weeks, and I feel peaceful. I feel free. I feel motivated.

We’ve been enjoying morning’s on the balcony, sipping coffee out of my favorite two Anthropologie mugs we brought down with us.

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

A photo posted by Jackie Minchillo (@mrsminchillo) on

We’ve got our work stations in the house set up; Junior has a steady flow of clients and I am now exclusively freelance writing and have time to work on personal projects too which is glorious.

It’s nice to be back where things are a little quieter, slower and (nearly always) sunny. It’s nice to be back to our “routine,” which includes the freedom to dictate when we work and when we play and do as much of either that we want in a given day.

I’m happy to be back to my Yoga studio. I truly love it there and look forward to every class I attend.

I have officially decided that I will enroll in Spanish school here, as learning to speak the language was one of my goals for the year and I’m just not picking up on it from day-to-day life the way I had hoped I would. Working on negotiations now and I’m hoping to start maybe in August. Learning to surf is still on my bucket list for the year. And I’ve added photography to the list. There’s so much beauty here to capture and my iPhone is just not cutting it. I invested in a Canon Rebel when we were in the states and plan to spend the year learning how to use it and taking some awesome photos in the process.

“Home,” is an interesting word. To some people, this means a physical location where they grew up, or to some home might be a specific town — either where they were born or where they spent the majority of their life. To me though, home is not a place, but a feeling. Home for me is where I feel most alive, where I feel truly happy. That has changed more than once for me, and will likely change again at some point. That’s the beauty of identifying home as a feeling, for it allows me the freedom to make changes in my life on behalf of my personal happiness, rather than feeling like my identity is tied to a specific location. they say “home is where the heart is.” I say “Your heart is your home.”

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