• Kristi Burke

6 Months In Costa Rica & 6 Lessons I've Learned

Exploring the Tipanti National Park

Today marks half a year since Dave and I traded the concrete jungle for a real one, but it already feels like we've been here for ages. They say time flies when you're having fun, but what happens to time when your soul finds peace? In my experience, it slows down in the best way possible.

We've experienced many ups and downs, have moved around multiple times, and are still working out the kinks of living abroad. Still, each day here has brought us closer to the kind of life we've dreamed of living. I'm beyond thankful for this beautiful country, my adventurous husband, and our newfound Pura Vida attitude.

The lessons we've learned are invaluable, and I will take them with me into every future chapter of my life. I thought I'd share six little slices to celebrate six months here in paradise.

Struggle Is The Lifeblood Of Experience

I'll never forget the nightmare that was moving day precisely six months ago. We'd crashed through so many roadblocks leading up to that day that we were both already so exhausted. I recall trying to squeeze through the airplane aisle with a stuffed backpack, a laptop bag, and two cat carriers. I was pouring sweat, my heart was palpitating, and I felt like I was walking toward the edge of a cliff, overlooking the dark valley of a breakdown. But I made it to my seat. I made it through the second, third, and even fourth time I had to repeat this taxing maneuver. I made it into my new host country and the soft embrace of a transport van. Through all the sweat, tears, fear, and worry- I made it.

It hasn't all been easy since, but we've had more life experiences in six months than we have in the last six years. We've climbed mountains, explored the crater of a volcano, spotted wild sloths, and eaten our weight in chifrijo. We've hiked in the clouds, jumped into waterfalls, soaked in volcanic hot springs, and made friends with iguanas. We've walked along black sand beaches, eaten exceptional local cuisine, and observed colorful toucans searching out food with their mates. Life is now full of color and adventure, and unexpected magic. We live every day anticipating what amazing things we might encounter.

With every difficult journey comes reward and growth. At the end of every steep mountain trail, you'll find a breathtaking view. Now, every time I encounter the opportunity to struggle, I walk through with the confidence that it will be worth what awaits on the other side.

Mother Nature Is Your Greatest Mentor

With every trek through these mountains, I am further reminded of how to simply be. I spent so many years trying to survive that I forgot how to live. Trying to survive through anxiety and leftover religious shame, deep-rooted trauma I'd buried rather than healed from. I'd become so warped from what was inside that I'd even forgotten how to breathe correctly. Now that I am constantly immersing myself in this vast jungle, Mother Nature is gently showing me how to exist in peace and with purpose. Her lessons are life's most excellent, but you have to seek them out. She isn't stingy, though, and will gladly share her most ancient wisdom if you're willing to put in a little face-time.

The mountains show me how to take up space, stand tall and with confidence, and never shrink down for anyone.

The trees teach me to stay grounded, trusting the foundation I've worked so hard to build for myself.

The stream tells me to stay steady, reminding me that I have no choice but to keep moving forward.

The birds show me how to be free.

The fresh air reminds me to breathe.

Convenience Is A False God

In the states, our grocery shopping went like this:

-Fill up a virtual cart with frozen and processed food

-Panic over the outrageous total and uncheck a couple of unnecessary boxes

-Schedule Delivery

-Groan over having to put it all away when it arrives

Now, Saturday is Market day. It is also our favorite day of the week. We start at the farmer's market for all of our fresh produce and flowers. Then we fill up on carbs at the Colombian panaderia. After, we walk several blocks to the cafe that serves our favorite pollo casado for lunch. When we're full of fresh chicken, rice and beans, we catch a ride to the supermarket to complete our pantry and meat shopping. From the smell of fresh herbs to the kind smiles of local farmers, from picking out the prettiest flowers for our dining room table to stocking up on the freshest mint and parsley, the feria is always such a lovely experience. Because the prices are so low, we can stock up on every yummy treasure that catches our stomach's eye and leave having spent around just $15-20.

The panaderia has the yummiest bread and so many options to choose from. We always end up going overboard on sweets and savory rolls, garlic cheese loaves, and blueberry cream cheese bread. We usually end up snacking on something like a cinnamon roll before heading to a healthy lunch at the cafeteria.

By the time we get home, we've been to three stores and have spent several hours gathering all of our groceries. We slowly stock the kitchen, trim and display the flowers, prepare cucumber and mint water, and then stand in the kitchen admiring all the fresh goodies. It isn't long after that I'm already starting to prepare dinner. The day is gone, but every moment has been joyful and well spent.

Nothing Lasts Forever

Life is fleeting, and these magical moments are rolling by. Don't let them simply pass. Breathe them in, embrace them, and hold them tightly until they refuse to stick around any longer. Because nothing-and I mean nothing-lasts. The breeze will wake your soul and then quickly pass you by. The clouds will kiss your cheeks and then break into the sea. The birds will sing you a song and then fly off to perform for some other unsuspecting stranger. It is an unavoidable fact of life. If you don't soak yourself in every moment, big and small, it will pass you by and become lost forever. But within this lies a dichotomy: Where good things cannot last, bad things won't last either. Although we must experience the grief of losing what we love somehow, we also know that this truth means that the most challenging moments are also fleeting. We are given both a gift and a curse, a perfect balance, yin and yang.

Living is about creating memories from moments that last to the end. Nothing lasts forever. So learn from the bad and embrace every moment of the good because neither is going to last.

Simplicity Is Happiness

Why did I spend so much time trying to prove myself? Why did I spend so much money on useless stuff? Why did I waste so much time working to find purpose in my career accomplishments?

These are questions I ask myself every time I take a walk through the garden or dip my toes in a river or stand at an 11,000 ft peek. I spent so much time complicating my life by buying things I didn't need, working to impress others, and devoting myself to futile efforts. Had I given myself space to soak in and connect to my surroundings, I wouldn't have felt the need to find fulfillment in so many other ways.

My closet has shrunk down to about a fifth of the size it used to be, and I regularly rotate 4-5 outfits. I own one pair of jeans. I don't have a car to maintain. I spend most of my days listening to the birds sing and the breeze whistle through my open windows. I find joy in minor pleasures like the growth of a recently planted succulent or new flowers blooming on our vines. I find the most fulfillment in the simplest things, and I don't have to do much more than take a walk.

Planning Makes Life Boring

Okay, so it might seem a bit extreme, and of course, there are some things you're required to plan in life, but I've learned that if you want to create an exciting life for yourself, you've got to let your plans stay lucid. Always keep a door open for spontaneity.

Dave and I started talking about moving to Costa Rica about 5-6 months before taking the plunge. We considered staying for one more year to better plan and save up. But something told us to toss caution to the wind and take a considerable risk. Forget a five-year plan. What if we're not even here in five years? What if we're not here in one? Had we stayed another 12 months, we would have continued the miserable, mundane routine that was dragging us down. We would have missed out on a year of life-changing experiences.

You can spend your life planning for some big moment and never even make it there. I'm not going to waste my life preparing for what I might never see. I'm going to experience as much as I can right now before it's too late. Because, as we've already discussed, life is fleeting. You never know when your last day has come and gone. And a life packed with experience is far superior to a life littered with planning. Do something crazy. Take big risks. Experience what you can now. And let your plans take a back seat when an opportunity presents itself.

I wouldn't change this experience for anything else in the world. I am so thankful to have followed my heart and taken this crazy plunge with my husband and our four fuzzy creatures. I have already had such an awakening within my soul and a revival within my heart. I am learning more every moment I soak in this mystical paradise. And I am ready for all the future lessons that Costa Rica has in store for me. I'm not finished learning, and never will I be.

Yours Authentically,


*If you liked reading my posts and are interested in reading more about my life and thoughts as an expat, artist and former fundamentalist christian, you can subscribe to future posts using the link at the bottom of this page. To leave a comment, sign up to be a site member*

Follow Me On Instagram: @Artistkristiburke

Other notable posts:

"Why I'm Selling Everything And Moving Out Of The States"

"My Move To Costa Rica: Learning To Embrace Struggle With Open Arms"

"Turning 30 In Paradise: A Birthday Surprise In La Fortuna"

"Exploring Irazu: The Enchantment of Costa Rica's Tallest Active Volcano"

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