Making Memories in Costa Rica
May 06, 2013
By: Sarah Sullivan
Dear WI reader,
If you have a family (or even if you don’t) you’re no doubt familiar with the term ‘making memories’. I think there’s even a television commercial that refers to this, showing a mother making cookies with her children… and it’s true, you do become more conscious of everything when there are young ones around, they remember everything!
Prior to having a family, my husband and I wanted to travel – not unlike many young newlyweds. But not the ‘all-inclusive, lounge around a resort’ kind of travel; more the ‘throw a backpack on and see where the wind leads us’ kind.
We had a lot of fun! We explored much of Europe, checked out Thailand and Cambodia and even got a chance to go to Australia (thanks to a family connection). But one of our favorite places to explore was Costa Rica. We rented a 4x4, grabbed a map of the country and just went… this was definitely not something we would have done in other countries we had visited, but Costa Rica is almost set up for this kind of exploring. That was by far one of our most memorable trips, and we returned the following year with another couple, to do almost the same jaunt.
But, as time will have it, our careers started to take precedence and the next thing we knew, 8 years had passed, we had two young children and aside from trips to more local destinations, our travelling was on hiatus. That being said, we were still eager to travel, and were excited to bring our young children along for the ride. It didn’t take us long to come up with a place that we knew would be safe, affordable and keep us and the kids busy and stimulated… Costa Rica.
After landing in San Jose and renting a 4x4, we started driving. We wanted to stay away from the heavy tourist areas, so we headed towards the Nicoya Peninsula, an area we had been, but only once and briefly. Plus, we liked the idea of taking the ferry and knew the kids would get a kick out of it.
We had caught an early ferry, so our plan was to stop in Cobano for groceries and then head to Santa Teresa, where we had rented a small apartment for a few days. But it was hot, and we wanted to stop for a swim and the picnic lunch we had packed. My husband and I knew that our drive took us through a small town called Tambor, and that they have a beautiful, quiet beach in a nice calm bay. We made our way down to the beach, parked and started unloading the truck. The next thing we knew, the kids had taken off at their slow, waddling pace towards the soft waves brushing up against the beach. It was such a beautiful moment, to see them dip their toes into the warm ocean waters for the first time. We ended up spending a few hours at Playa Tambor… it was the perfect location for that moment.
During our stay on the Nicoya Peninsula, and then later, down towards Manuel Antonio Park and the southern zone, my husband and I very seriously discussed living in Costa Rica. We were both in jobs that would allow us to work from a remote location, and since he travelled to the US quite a bit for work anyway, we justified that flying from Calgary wasn’t much different then flying from Costa Rica. And the kids… I really wasn’t sure what their perception of the country would be – different food, different people, different language – they exceeded our expectations ten-fold. I was a bit concerned about the education system, but by speaking with other family’s we met during our trip, we discovered that the school system is very good, with a variety of options, depending on where we would live. That was it. We were sold.
It’s been 5 years since we returned to Canada after that trip to Costa Rica, and 3 of those years have been spent living on the Nicoya Peninsula. Both of our children are in school now and are enjoying life to the fullest. We spend our free time with other local families or at the beach. Now that our oldest is getting bigger, he wants to learn how to surf; so many weekends are spent in Santa Teresa, chasing the waves.
When we first told our family and friends in Calgary that we were going to move to Costa Rica, they thought we were ‘loco’! Moving to a foreign country with young children was not something people in our neighborhood did. Many people were concerned with the well-being of our children and that they wouldn’t receive proper education or a stable upbringing. Those are the people I was determined to prove wrong, but as I’ve discovered, that’s not even necessary. The life my kids are living is just as good, if not better, then what they would have got back in Canada. Not only are they bilingual, but they’re also compassionate and patient little people.
Making memories for our family happens daily. We still travel extensively; exploring the world from Costa Rica has opened up easy access to countries like Nicaragua, Panama and Ecuador. Ultimately, we’re just trying to raise well-rounded, polite kids, just like everyone else. We just happen to be doing it in a more unconventional way.
Ps – thanks so much to Sarah for sharing her family’s story with Where International!
Moving your family to a foreign country is an exciting, exhilarating and rewarding experience. If you’ve considering a move like this for your own family, why not consider visiting Costa Rica on a Discovery Weekend? You’ll have a chance to explore some of the neighborhoods, experience local culture and see how living in this extraordinary country can be an affordable experience…