Some eh-Splainin’

When an expat moves back to the native kingdom from their selected soil, gossip hell breaks loose in local forums and coffee shops. Everyone wants to know: “Why?” Since at least 90% of ex-expats never eh-splain why, the rest of us ponder aloud, hoping we are not next in the long line of “expat failures.” ¡Qué vergüenza! Indeed.

Well, I don’t feel like a failure. I feel like a huge winner: I got to move from what has always been considered the greatest country on the planet (in many ways, it still is) to the sweetest country on the planet and live a great life for five years. I got to meet and become friends with fantastic people, see places and wildlife and have truly magical adventures I would never have otherwise. I learned to speak Spanish, almost died, then lived to tell it all. Failure? Hardly.

But leave we did. Here’s why:

1. Money. My illness cost over half our net worth, which wasn’t that much before I got sick. We worked all the years we lived in Costa Rica. Despite our best efforts, our income never quite caught up to our outgo and the life was a steady drain on savings. We only came for a year, planning to return to my real estate income and the old life after a brief adventure. Except, at the end of that first year, my U.S. income had slipped even farther away. There was no money in real estate, save in property management, which I was doing from Costa Rica. Since life was still cheaper in Costa Rica, returning to Key West didn’t make sense. Besides, we were happy in CR.

Even so, if we hadn’t moved this year, we would have had to in another year if the income picture stayed the same. Money does not grow on trees. I did not want to actually go broke in Costa Rica. Being poor there was one thing; being broke quite another. If I was going to go flat broke, I wanted to be around family and friends. Specifically, around my rich criminal defense attorney brother. Everyone should have one. My getting sick simply hastened our departure.

2. Getting so sick so fast freaked me the hell out. Happy as I was in Costa Rica, as much as I love my Costa Rica friends and the life, my homesickness never fully abated. When I got out of the hospital, all I wanted was to be near my family and life-long friends. I wanted it so badly, I could feel it in every fiber. Like ET, my being felt drawn home. (Yeah, ok, so sometimes I tend toward the dramatic. I have a degree in it, after all.)

3. I wanted to work. I’d been antsy for months. I wanted to do something more with my life. I wasn’t ready to retire or earn my living staring at a computer screen. I wanted to work outside the house, not necessarily in real estate. I really wanted to do something in the health and wellness field: like acupuncture. Like ortho-bionomy. Like pursue this blog idea. Nothing like almost dying to gel your dreams.

4. The boys needed to move on with their lives. I blogged about this one already. It is difficult for an expat teen to move on in a foreign country, particularly when they have remnants of a life back in their native land. It pulls. They did not choose Costa Rica. They love Costa Rica, they miss it a lot, they look forward to visiting next spring, but they were ready to live in the homeland for awhile. Get driver’s licenses, GEDs, higher education, jobs that pay decent money, be within driving distance of their lifelong buds and extended family. They are American kids. They need to be here for awhile, then make their own choices.

5. The final straw was that my Mom needed me here. She was in the hospital right after I was, twice. She needed care and assistance. My siblings and their spouses all live here, but work full-time jobs. No one could really be there for Mom as much as she needed it. End of analysis: we moved. [Mom update here.]

This was the right move for us. It’s been expensive and stressful to move and buy everything new, but that’s the price, isn’t it? The risk. It was well worth it. Besides, there’s an (exciting) new job on the horizon (more on that when I actually have it). The property management team is growing and we have a good system in place, so I still don’t have to be there. I am enrolled in acupuncture school starting in January. I’m loving the new blog, plus I can still visit the old one! We are all loving being around my family and will visit Key West and all those “old buds” in the spring.

My homesickness for Costa Rica and new friends has not abated, but I will see them again. Like Hal likes to say, “How can I miss you if you won’t go away?” So, we are gone for a bit, just long enough to miss and be missed, but not for good. Heavens no, we gotta get back and build our earthbag house at Ginnee’s farm!

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11 comments to Some eh-Splainin’

  • Ginnee

    There will always be a spot for you here at the farm. This expat is not moving back. I would be a duck out of water, this is home, the farm, Costa Rica.

    Even if we are poor, we have lots of spinach and big eggs, we won’t starve. We planted some wheat this past week, hope it sprouts.

    Miss you…but I know you will move back.

    • xoxoxo I love spinach and eggs.

    • Jenna

      Hello Sally & Ginnee,

      I followed “a broad in Cr” and found these comments. I am considering a move to CR and will be there for two weeks in November looking for business opportunities. Can you tell me where you all lived in CR and what it takes to make living there work for the long run.

      • Jenna, that topic is SO HUGE, I couldn’t possibly cover it in a few lines. Read thru my blog There is a list of blogs on the right column “Costa Rica Expats”: visit those blogs. is great, as is and

        The most basics are here: if you are going to own a business there, do you speak Spanish? Do you understand the tico culture because they will be your employees? Do you have plenty of money/income? It ain’t cheap. It’s beautiful, the life is so wonderful, but it’s cheaper to live here in KY than in CR. Master those three topics (language, culture, money) and you have a chance, if you are buying a business.

        If you are not buying a business and don’t need to work there, culture and money are essential. Language, you can get by but you will never fully appreciate the country until you speak the language. That’s my bias. Ginnee doesn’t speak it much and she LOVES it there. Couldn’t pry her out with a forklift…

  • barbara

    Sally, all these experiences make you a hell more interesting than most! We could excluse the “almost dying part!
    I just heard,,,”stop looking in the rear view mirror” you’ll get into an accident”,,,corney but I think it states the obvious.
    We keep our eyes on the road and go for it!!!!

  • George

    Your decision to come back to family at a critical juncture in your life was the right one—your mom’s need for care, the boys adolescence years(which is very critical) in attaining an American education and potential college scholarships; and your own health issues were the catalysts to come back from your beloved Costa Rica. Keep your enthusiasm level high, your focus on helping people in the medical field, combined with your Key West property managment expertise will additional income and social security benefits for the time when your retirement will be more secure –your Costa Rican friends are patiently waiting for your return.How can they not adore you?lol

  • I’m just so happy your road in life lead you to Costa Rica and through your blog about your experiences (A Broad in CR), I got to know you and become your friend. Plus, you inspired me to create a blog of my own.
    Thanks for sharing your reasoning for “the move”,,, a near death experience can really put one’s priorities into perspective.
    I’m just so happy to hear you haven’t missed a beat and still following your yellow brick road!
    Best to your mom and family. -t

  • DW

    CANT DECIDE ON A NEW DESTINATION TO LIVE . This move it has to be some where near unschoolers and warm in America. I think I will stay in America . I am not exactly sure to venture into a strange country with my fear of the people everything is new . I see why people move and why people dont. Now to make a decision.

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