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"Surviving in Costa Rica"

Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to throughout my travels. I first heard of Costa Rica in 1996 during a random conversation with another outdoor enthusiast. He told me one of his favorite places was Costa Rica due to its natural beauty, outdoor adventures, and kind, loving people - I filed that in my mental hard drive.


Over the years after that chance encounter, I would see random blips of Costa Rica. It might be a stunning outdoor photo, a fascinating article from a magazine, or a random advertisement displaying its gorgeous beaches and habitat. Twenty years later, I traveled to Costa Rica to see the hype surrounding this country.  One year later, I purchased a property and in 2018, decided to move to Costa Rica full-time. Since then, it hasn’t always been “Easy Street.” I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs and mishaps, but they weren’t anything I couldn’t manage. In each case, I instinctively resorted to what I was taught in military survival training and in combat situations which greatly increased my odds of success. However, I also realized each one of those situations was due mainly to human ignorance and negligence, and also, not preparing beforehand and appropriately reacting when the issues arose.

Throughout my adventures in life, I’ve had to resort to my past military training, specifically “survival training,” to ensure I continue to survive and thrive in new environments. One of the first things taught during military survival training is the principles of Survival, which you can remember using the Acronym SURVIVAL. 


Principles are those absolute truths/guidelines that cannot be neglected. If neglected, you can expect unnecessary and dire consequences. The acronym SURVIVAL applies in many situations, not only in survival situations but also when traveling or living abroad. 


What lies in front of us is unknown, and it’s not a question of “if” but when you will experience a moment of chaos, despair, and survival. When that time comes, you need to be ready. The following acronym will help you manage the situation you find yourself in and increase the odds in your favor. 


S. Size up the overall situation. Assess your mindset, physical capability, and environmental risks (Things you can and cannot control, such as terrain, infrastructure, and people). Are you ready and PREPARED to make a move to a foreign land? Do you have financial, mental, and emotional security? Have you done an in-depth analysis of exactly what awaits you??? Costs of living? Challenges of the bureaucracy? 


U. Undue haste makes waste. Be deliberate in your actions and eliminate IMPULSIVENESS. Take the time to perform your due diligence and establish relationships with subject matter experts. Some folks tend to act on impulse based on emotion; this can be DANGEROUS! Scope the issue from as many angles as possible before making a decision; Before purchasing my property, I visited it on three separate occasions over a year during various seasons to make sure it was right for me. 


R. Remember where you are. Always know where you are on the “Map of Life.” 

Know your limitations and capabilities and what stage of life you are in before making a huge life transition, such as moving to a foreign land. Ask yourself, “Am I in the right stage of my life for this transition?”


V. Vanquish doubt, fear, and FRUSTRATION. “Insecurity fosters doubt, and doubt breeds fear, ultimately leading to mistakes.” The more confident you are with your abilities and secure you are financially, mentally, and physically, the less likely you will succumb to an incident. Frustration will occur; it’s inevitable. Things more than likely will not go as you expect. Hence, EXPECTATION MANAGEMENT is VITAL. DO NOT think you are going to change the methods of how people process things in your new environment. More than likely, they’ve been doing the same thing over and over for many years, maybe even since the dawn of time.


I. Improvise, Adapt, Overcome. Lowes, Home Depot, and Amazon are not worldwide. One of the contributors to those that fail to “make it” is their inability to adapt and improvise in their new environment. They continually want to place the square peg into the round hole. Resourcefulness is key to living in a foreign land, especially Costa Rica. Learn what works and what doesn’t. Ask and seek guidance from those that have gone before you. 


V. Value Living. Remain positive and EMBRACE your surroundings -  ALWAYS BE GRATEFUL. Stay positive when the world seems like it’s collapsing all around you. Avoid situations that create unnecessary stress, depression, and anxiety. Seek others with positive and healthy mindsets who have the will to survive and achieve the unfathomable. It is easy to get steered down the wrong way on the path of life, especially here in Costa Rica. Be vigilant of the thoughts that come into your mind. Feed your mind daily with positivity. 


A. Act like the Locals. As the ancient saying goes, “When in Rome, act like the Romans.”  This age-old saying implies following the traditions, customs, and laws of the country you’re visiting. Some of these things include learning the dos and don’ts of the country you are visiting or living. As previously mentioned, DO NOT think you will change how people live or do things here. You’re just a passerby, a visitor in their land… more than anything, RESPECT their ways and culture. One of the most important things to do is just detach from your fixed-minded ways of doing things and remain fluid. Remember, “Remain fluid; flexible is too rigid….” 


L. Learn Basic Skills. Basic skills are those skills required to accomplish the necessary essential daily functions. This includes speaking Spanish and any skill you may deem necessary for your overall survival rate.   Communication is one of the most basic skills a person should master to succeed in a foreign land and life.  Communicating in the local language will improve your confidence, enhance your relationships with locals, and increase your ability to operate effectively in your environment, e.g., communicating with service providers.

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