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COVID-19 Forced Us to Abandon Our Life in Costa Rica

Aisling Force

What life is like six months later.

January marks just over six months since we made the hard decision to leave Costa Rica. After immediately losing work when the pandemic hit, we realized it wasn't going to return to "normal" for quite some time. 

So, here we are: 2021. Ten months into this wild ride of a pandemic and with COVID challenges continuing to grow and people reaching an understandable point of exhaustion, all over the world. Everywhere we are tired from a lack of community, connection, income and normalcy. Personally, we have been stretched thin from the turbulence of constant transitions, job hunting and raging political and social dynamics.

What we left behind in Costa Rica

Family, friends, nature, and adventure brought us to my husband’s homeland. It was a change that was needed in so many ways. It was a dream that manifested and then was quickly taken away; a rug pulled from under our feet.

We also left many possessions behind that will, hopefully, make it easier to escape for extended stays in the future. A car, two beds, and all the pieces to fill up a small casita, which we have on mis suegros' (my in-laws') property.

When we left Costa Rica’s COVID reality was mild. Yes, people were not strictly following the rules. But, the rules they had implemented did support actions to manage the spread and stay overall healthy. What their approach has failed to do was protect from the economic mayhem that has unfolded.

In an unprecedented move, the government provided workers affected by COVID with three months of financial support. That was months ago, and the economic situation across the nation is not turning a corner anytime soon. Far from ignorant, politicians are turning a blind eye to the real struggles of the masses. If fortunate enough to have work, they are faced with reduced hours and pay.

I believe Costa Rica has about a year longer before it will be back on track as a top tourist destination, which is one of the problems with being reliant on international travel. There has been a noticeable push to get ticos out supporting their treasured tourism resources, such as boutique hotels, beach communities and national parks.

Back to the USA and reality

When we arrived back stateside in late June the situation was far from ideal. Tension was running at a near all-time high as the economy continued to suffer, COVID cases spiked, political pressure and push back magnified, and people were on edge regarding critical justice issues.

This has not really changed. However, the point is that we left Costa Rica where we were mostly isolated from this stress and reality.

We were seeking to re-enter the American dream. Get back to work and get back on our feet. It has taken time, but it is working. I managed to land another contract position assisting a startup sustainability consulting firm. This has been an engaging mix of relationship building, strategy planning and implementation, communications and process development.

The struggle has been very real for us, and yet, we have it all and more. Gratitude has remained the centre for us as we have been taken in by family and friends, supported across our wild journey, and finally landed once more at Bozeman’s doorsteps. 

Now, we have a newfound warmth and appreciation for Montana. To a community, security, wild landscapes, and recreation opportunities that we love. 

Today, Bozeman feels like home. After all, it was where our son was born and one of the first places my husband and I discovered together. It is hard to say if it will be home forever, but for now, it feels like the home we were always looking for and simply did not let ourselves witness it the first few times around.

We are re-establishing a strong foundation as the foundation of the USA is being tested and questioned. What a bizarre 2021 reality. Yet, I remain hopeful that we come out of this with a stronger sense of who we are as people (I am saying this for myself) and a nation.

Last year tested us in more ways than I could have imagined. I have faith that this year will prove to be the start that we anticipated in 2020—the new decade, when we can begin seriously addressing the environmental and political challenges that we can no longer ignore as a global society. 

Plans for a future with—and without—Costa Rica 

When will we return to Costa Rica? With the uncertainty that 2020 brought us, it is unlikely that 2021 will bring us back.

The eight months we spent in Costa Rica were a treasure allowing us to forge stronger connections with friends, family and a sense of place. This is especially true for our son, who became incredibly vocal in this Spanish-speaking world. That gift is undeniable.

Costa Rica will always have its draw. There is a part of me that remains in those tropical rainforests, beaches, rivers and cool mountains even if I live in a winter wonderland. Yet, we have come to the conclusion that we do not want to do what we did again. Not the same way. First of all, our work situation would need to be entirely different.

Our next Costa Rica venture may be a simple vacation, an escape to a place we love to the core. Someday, who knows, the right opportunity may present itself—one that draws us in once more to try out a Costa Rican life once again.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Aisling Force

Aisling is an artist, ex-raft guide, and sustainability professional. Costa Rica is her ‘temporary’ home, where she’s reconnecting with her husband's family and supporting her son’s exploration and development. She is currently working as a freelance consultant in sustainable tourism.

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