This morning, I had to admit to Hal that my homesickness has ratcheted up a notch lately. A big notch. So much so that, in my mind, I unconsciously find myself adding "when we go back" to the end of my thoughts. Unconsciously, until this morning when I heard my thoughts loud and clear. It stopped me in my tracks. Why was my mind going there? Why am I so homesick all of a sudden?
Consciously, I don’t want to go back. Our lives are good here. We are comfortable, we know people, we get around, we love the country, the adventure. The language is even manageable. We are certainly as comfortable as anyone could be after such a short time in a new country, learning a new language, having left behind "x" number of years of familiarity. TTTT.*
Two years is the common turnaround time for expats who go back and we are fast
approaching two years. No comments from the peanut gallery, Mr. Jones. But is there some catharsis that does or doesn’t happen at the two year mark?
Sandford, my Key West mentor for 18 years, taught me a couple of things. Like the notion of displacement of effective stress: like yelling at the boys when I’m upset over a work situation or really mad at Hal. Like, it is darkest before the dawn. Confusing situations are most confusing just before clarity. Discomfort is most intense just before the seas calm. I’ve noticed that if I just hang in there long enough without quitting or running away, the answer comes. I’m going to assume this intense homesickness a) is not what it seems and b) will resolve. There is a light at the end of this tunnel. Maybe it’s lighting up a path back to the states… I have to be open to that possibility. But I can’t run back because I’m homesick. That would just be too embarrassing. Too weak. Heck, I’m no quitter.
But I’m looking for resolution. I can feel this anxiety in my body. That can’t be good.
I had a dream a few nights ago. We had moved back to Key West and had done it very quickly. Sort of like how we moved here. I don’t remember what precipitated the move, but we were in an empty rented house in Key West. It was really HOT and we were sweating. The house was your basic ranch style 1100sf three bedroom 1 bath center hallway CBS** with older yellow carpeting.
As I walked around this house in my dream, there was no strong emotion, just a pleasant familiarity, relief from the anxiety of "new" which I guess I still feel here more than I care to admit. My dream house was perfectly livable, but definitely the Key West house we would now be able to afford instead of the spacious, newly renovated Key West house with a pool we’d left behind.
As I walked, those nice feelings of familiarity evolved into feeling disoriented, then an overwhelming homesickness for this house, our Costa Rica home: the light, the view, the space. The feelings of accomplishment and security I have when I’m here. Of relief because we escaped to a friendlier place. I thought, "Oh my God, what have we done?" Probably the thought most of our friends had when we left Key West… In my dream, I was so confused, very sad, so much that I started crying which woke me up.
Ok, so I’m a little conflicted. Emotions are messy, illogical and unpredictable. There’s a saying: feelings are not facts. Good thing. Feelings are just clues so you know to look for the effective stress hiding underneath. As far as actually going back…
Politically, we can’t imagine going back unless Ron Paul were to win, which, as Pollyanna as I can be, just seems unlikely. Until last week, I was pretty certain it was gonna be Hillary which will make Mom happy, but I’m in the ABH camp. A Clinton in the White House will be more expensive and destructive for our economy than even we can imagine. Sadly, I don’t believe Obama or Giuliani will be any better. Happily, there’s still a year of promises to go before Decision 2008. What fun.
Financially, going back to Key West right now is out of the question. Cost of living is just too high. We’d be flat broke in six months with the same money that will give us almost two more years here.
Earning a living there that will allow us an equivalent
quality of the life to the one we enjoy here seems unlikely, even in
Key West where I still have a business and contacts. My small property
management business there is good, expanding, even with me here. But
the real estate sales business is costly to be in and sales are way,
way down. Key West is out, for now.
Then there’s the weather. I don’t know if we could live in Florida heat again. Especially when we enjoy perfect weather here: no ac, no heat, with our choice of cold mountain or sweltering beach within two hours’ drive.
So if we moved back to the states, we’d have to move to a new city, probably in central Florida. No language barrier, but we’d be going through the whole New Surroundings thing, culture shock of a different ilk, all over again. We just got through this one!!! Plus starting a business in a completely new place… oy vey. We are doing that here… what advantage is there to moving to yet another new locale?
Besides, it’s my friends and familiarity I miss, not the U.S. So moving anywhere but Key West still leaves me homesick. Logically, there’s no comfort to be found going back. So… what’s the effective stress???
Leave it to Hal, my accidental therapist. When I told him all about my homesickness, wondering if he felt the same, he laughed out loud. He said, "You just say that because we don’t have an income. Let’s keep working on the income. Then the question we’ll be asking is, ‘Where do we go next?’"
Whoa. There it is. I’ve been asking the wrong question. See why I married him? You know, I always go back to safe. Hal never does. The "where do we go next" question completely eluded me. If the answer turns out to be "back to the U.S.," I can live with that. I’d just like to be driven forward by hope and possibility rather than driven back by anxiety and fear. If Hal can do it, I can learn to. There’s something useful to teach the boys!
*TTTT = Chat room talk for "these things take time."
**CBS = Concrete Block Structure
I think Hal’s totally right. We are in the same situation, no real income coming in and this truly gives me stress and anxiety. We came mainly for two reasons: 1) give our kids a great education that we can’t afford in the US (I just don’t like most public schools there) and 2) try to pursue a business that we would be more passionate with.
Before we left I said that we would give ourselves at least 1 year and then evaluate things after that, but I don’t see going back as a defeat. I feel that what truly is a loss is if we didn’t even try to pursue what we want just because of fear.
I have been dealing a lot with fear and a desire to “go home” since our landslide. I can really feel what you are going through. It is a lot of work to live in a different culture, even when things are going well!. When things are not so good, it becomes so difficult I long for the familiarity where it is easier to run on autopilot.
But for me, I have come to realize that there is no “home” to go back to. Dominica has become home. But I do wish it were easier.
When I get into a lot of fear based thinking, I have been reminding myself that right here, right now, I am OK. Today I am fine. Today I have everything I need.
I create a lot of fear for myself which is not based in reality and is my mind projecting into the future. If I can stay here and now, I do much better.
And as for the politics, it does seem like more of the same. I would love to see Ron Paul vs Dennis Kucinich, now that would be some interesting political dialog for a change!
I wish I could send you a Symphony Bar! Actually, I wish I could send us both one!
I can’t resist. It’s like I’m a psychological shark, and you’re dangling fresh meat in front of my nose!
I think what you’re experiencing is cognitive dissonance.
On one hand, you’re living in an area that’s been billed a “peaceful” and “The Switzerland of Latin America” and the type of place that people dream about retiring to.
And on the other hand, you’re experiencing the realities of your location: The constant struggles, hassles and trials.
If you’re like me, you’ll eventually realize that the easy life is back in the States. All politics aside… life is easier.
You might even find that, after traveling a bit in Latin America, that there are easier places to live. I’m in Bogota right now, and it’s a wonderful city. And while you don’t have the cheap living (not that Costa Rica is really all that cheap) … you do have a ton of culture (real culture), fine dining (lots and lots of top restaurants), concerts, city events (like bicycle and walk streets blocked off to traffic on Sundays), etc…
It’s not perfect– but I can tell you: It’s easier (and safer, surprisingly) than living in Costa Rica.
Yet still– there are the everyday hassles of living in a developing country. The Escape America web site does a good job of “selling the dream.” But there’s a reason why they call ’em “dreams” and not “realities.”
Stop being logical and start listening to what your gut is telling you. Emotions are a survival trait that have helped us survive for thousands of years. They’re not always foolish things that women have. 😉 (I tease, I tease.)
Anonymous, I would only consider it a defeat if I ran back because of fear. Going back as a choice is a different thing entirely. Hey, if you only spend a year here, your lives are richer for it!!!
Hey, Jen, I can hear a little of that in your blog – you are so honest. What can you do? I feel the same: there really is no “home” to go home to. Even Key West is very different right now, not a happy place. My cocoon is here. And I KNOW you know this one: that land didn’t work out because there is something better waiting for you around the corner!!! Kinda like my job quitting on me: it’s an opportunity. right?
OMG, Mr. Jones, I had to look up cognitive dissonance: the uncomfortable tension that may result from having two conflicting thoughts at the same time. Part of me agrees completely with what you say: there are easier, less hassle places to live. But I have resistance to packing up. I’m just not ready to go: so far, here is easier for me at this time in my life than the U.S.
I’m also not sure, if we left here, that we would go rushing back there. Heck, you went to Bogota – that sounds swell. The U.S. will always be there. We could always go back and visit, or live. It is always available. I think we are still so thrilled with the notion that it’s not the ONLY place to live, that we are still excited about living elsewhere.
Life was so easy for so long. We are willing to trade easy for the time being for the different stresses here.
There are also a few things that I can do here since I’m not walking around with my cell phone attached to my face selling real estate 24/7. I can explore the yoga thing. I can really spend the last coupla years with my boys. I can see about getting an online business going, Hal is working on his publishing. You’re right, it ain’t exactly cheap – not like it used to be – but we can still afford to live comfortably and do some personal and business expansion. If we can get a base operation in place, we can afford to do some traveling. Visit Bogota – I do miss top restaurants. Visit Dan (saltshaker.net) in Buenos Aires. Jen in Dominica… there’s a whole world out there.
Thank you – I appreciate your comments, CR. I did goad you… I knew you couldn’t resist. I’d never thought of emotions as survival traits… you mean they aren’t the enemy? They seem to just get me in trouble! Probably ’cause I’m a GIRL.
You have some very smart readers.
Robert, I agree! Would it be too egocentric to suggest birds of a feather…?
And one more thing to Mr. Jones that I left out: I knew you Wouldn’t resist, whether I goaded or not. I always look forward to your comments, particularly since you were here and moved away… Keeps me on my toes, makes me re-consider the options. Something else I have time to do. I feel like the world, the options, are all open to me at this moment. Lovely. Now back to Mr. Myers…
It could be that you are not homesick at all and are having a touch of the wonderlust. Once you have moved to a new place for what ever reason and you stay in the new place for awhile, usually a couple of years you start thinking about other places that may be interesting to experience. I sense you are really a traveler and not a tourist. The big challenge on moving to different places is financing those dreams. There are so many wonderful places to move to and and people to meet. After awhile just one place doesn’t do it. “Just a thought”
You know, that did occur to me. Before Key West and marriage and children, I did tend to move around a bit… And you are SO right: there are so many wonderful places, people in the world. Why limit ourselves? Just need that income. Don’t need much, just a little… Thank you for sharing that thought!
My husband and I have been talking about “when” vs. “if” we move back to the States. It’s hard to imagine never living there again. Aside from the “ease” of daily life (taking away the push to work so much and do so much and have such complicated lives there- there is a reality called “ease” present in the US that I do like!), also, we certainly miss family and friends. We live in the back country here of CR and the public education is so poor here, that with the Tico culture (friendly, but not inviting), our new friends are other expatriates- many of whom don’t live here full time. I’ve found it much harder to make satisfying friendships with the locals here than anywhere else. They are very, very nice people, but not friendly and we don’t have much in common (average education is 6th grade, poor quality). So it can sometimes feel lonely. We talk about making sure our kids get some primary or secondary education in the States. Not all, but some- to balance things out.
But when it comes down to it, Hal’s response to you rings true on our end. The better off we are financially, the more choices we have. And as our tourism business here has grown, just having more money to travel both to the States to see people who do not visit us here, and to continue to explore the world aside from CR and the US, has satisfied some desires. I don’t want to feel stuck here. And I don’t feel at all ready to leave. Heck, we’re just hitting our groove. We do want to choose (vs. decide based on fear or failures) whatever our next step is or next living locale. We don’t give up easily, so succeeding here first, being fulfilled in all aspects of life- that is our challenge here. Even in a developing country where what we’d consider the basics of life are simply NOT a given day to day.
So we’ll see. I like having taken the plunge into a drastically different living environment and culture (city life in the US with a ton of responsibility to country life in CR with responsibility, but much less). We can then integrate the pluses from both cultures and lifestyles into wherever we are. For example, after living in CR, I believe I MUST have more trees around me than when we had lived in San Diego. And I do NOT want to live somewhere the cost of living is super high, it pushes you and everyone around you to be in a rat race. It’s challenging to maintain balance then. So those, and other changes to our way of life and setting, have come from having moved here over 2.5 years ago and still going strong! Who knows? Next stop may be another country that is new to us? It feels good having succeeded here and knowing the world is more wide open than it was previous to our move to CR.
Excellent pos/topic and thought-provoking comments. Thank you all.
Heidi, what – are we twins separated at birth??? You sound just like me. The ease of our lives is greatly increased living in the central valley. Many more services here and familiarity. I don’t know how you do it all the way out there. Beautiful gorgeous area, but not enough people. Good to know your business is taking off and doing well!
Hal and I were talking about our cash stash, what’s left, what are our options. One thing became imminently, abundantly clear: we are definitely NOT ready to go back to the states. That is an option and we both froze at the thought. We love living here, we love living outside the box. At this point, the only reason to return would be to get jobs. Actually work for someone else. That would be a huge waste of time because we’d be terrible employees and would be fired in a heartbeat.
So I guess we are staying. Hot on the trail of an income… looking forward to meeting you sometime!
Hah!! I re-read my post and I sound so down on making friends here! The truth is, when we travel to San Jose, many, many people we meet who are Costa Rican, we could easily become good friends with and we get those mutual vibes they are giving and it seems so fun and easy… And I think it really would be much easier than it is for us here in the boonies. But that is not the culture where we live, it is impoverished a bit in that respect- you are right. What saves us is there is enough (just) people with whom we can connect who live here part or full time. And, knowing I HAVE to make friends and not just have my husband, it’s not healthy no matter how much I love him and how well we get a long. And, I travel to see friends and we keep in touch a lot via email. It’s not ideal though. I’m really having to work hard at scheduling “dates” with people. It does not fall into your lap like living in a city in the US. I loved your post about your son’s b-day and the parents the next day, get together, I know what you mean. And, thank god, we have some of those times! Yay! Just not with local Costa Ricans.
So, we have to meet next time we’re in your neighborhood or vice versa!! :))
RE: money, working, etc.. Exactly!!! Have it work here and don’t actually “work” like in the States. I’m totally not ready, can’t even imagine when we would be to move back- but I’m sure we will. Like it or not, it’s a home to us. But, if there ain’t no money, ain’t no one happy…no matter where we live. No money = no freedom, no fun, hard to be creative. Even though money doesn’t give you those things exactly, it makes those things easier to access I guess.
Good luck creating your niche here. There’s room here for excellent customer service with english spoken, spanish…there are many areas which are just starting to grown as industries in CR. Have you guys read any money books like: Your Money or Your Life? etc… ? I just started to go through a ton of those boxes of books we had in storage, disseminating them. I came across a nice little stash on money and abundance and that kind of topic.
As always, so good to hear from you! Next time we are in the same province, we have to meet up!
Here’s our money philosophy: persistence pays. We are the most persistent people anywhere… need to work on the abundance area! Although, the truth is we have so much abundance in all the right places: love and luck being the big two.
I can’t imagine having a deep and abiding friendship with a tica girlfriend. Not just the language but EVERYTHING. We’d have NOTHING in common, except maybe our kids. But everything else would be completely different: our likes, our history, our expectations…
When we first got here, people would make comments about how we needed to make tico friends. But all our tico friends so far are people who speak fluent English and have lived and/or traveled extensively. More than us, in fact. I can’t see how this makes me a snob, although that’s my fear and what I have been (almost) accused of… it’s just a fact. Too many differences to overcome.
Unless you and I are way more alike than I know, we’d forge a friendship just to overcome loneliness – we are enough alike to do that! One of my best friends in Key West has been a best friend for almost 20 years. But we were thrown together by circumstances… if we’d lived in a big city with lots of other friend options, we might never have gotten to be such close friends, too different. Lucky us, we overcame our differences and have such a close loving friendship today. But there you go… that’s life. OK, enough philosophy for one morning!!!
I look forward to meeting you!
Three months have past since you blogged this but I just read it today. I’m so glad you decided not to pack up and go back to FL. Your comments resonated because, for the first time since we left 3.5 years ago, I’m homesick for Key West. Our move to Italy has been postponed due to the horrible real estate market here in FL. Since we last wrote you about buying our house in Italy, Jordy and I have been forced back into real jobs. He’s having a blast teaching musical theatre in a magnet high school in Tampa and I’m back in social work. I’ve always said I’d never do social services anywhere other than MARC but reality sometimes sucks. We had Gerri and Don over for dinner last week and it seemed like old times but KW has changed so much. Jal’s right. Let excitement about “the next thing” be your reason for change. We’ll keep you posted about Italy.
I’m so jealous you had Gerri and Don to dinner! What fun that must have been. Nothing like theatre buddies for a fun night out, eh? Gerri and I email back and forth, so I get to hear what’s happening. We will visit when we are back for a visit, hopefully late March, early April.
Sad to have a real job, eh? It sucks, but no more than real estate now! How fun for Jordy – if you have to have a real job, that one would be a blast! I’ll keep my fingers crossed on Italy – just postponed. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I’m living proof. We love it here and will simply do what it takes to stay. See you sometime, maybe when we visit, we can have a bbq. The world is not so big anymore. xoxoso’b