I went to the Caribbean for my first time 10 years ago. I had just graduated from college and my mother and grandfather took me on a cruise as a graduation gift. My first thought upon arriving in the Bahamas was “why don’t I live here?”
I was raised in the Pacific Northwest, a part of the world that I love and hold dear, but the only crystal clear and warm waters are found in hotel pools, coconut water comes in a box, and exotic animals can be spotted on t.v. I wondered for years what it would be like to relocate- to live in the country and climate of my choice- to give up the American dream in exchange for a tropical one.
And then last year, something wonderful happened. I did it! I quit my job, sold all my furniture, packed a suitcase and a backpack, and moved out of the country! My boyfriend is French and liked the idea of moving to a less expensive country than the USA. My adoption of my daughter was finalized and we had a full year to travel before considering her kindergarten options. I had saved enough money at my job to be able to live a year or more without working. The stars had aligned!!
We found a house in Costa Rica for our first month for $400. It was advertised as being a couple blocks from the beach, a two bedroom two bathroom, and furnished. We were in for a surprise. A 2 hour drive from the airport in Liberia brought us to our new home in Playa Negra. An orange two story house situated among a grove of trees welcomed us.
We struggled to contact the friend of our landlord who brought us the key and let us inside…. to a house that had been empty and open to the elements and insects for months. Bugs were everywhere. Ants marched well worn trails along the walls. Dust covered the table and chairs- our only furniture other than the bed and fan. The upstairs was separated by an iron gate that laid over the stairs. The bathroom downstairs was broken, the bedroom too far away and creepy for a child to sleep in alone. The kitchen had two plates, a couple of forks and three cups, two frying pans, several knives, a sink, a fridge, and gas stove top. Upstairs became our shared bedroom with the bathroom and shower, separated by a curtain. Bugs swarmed the toilet and so Bitty and I found ourselves peeing into the hole in the shower floor. The bed was a hundred year old mattress covered by a thin plastic sheet, and we had to bring the downstairs mattress up so that Bitty could sleep in our room. The first night, we pushed the full size bed away from the wall and the three of us slept an uncomfortable and restless night together. I cried. They were not tears of joy.