Category Archives: Americas

The mind-growing effect of living abroad

I’ve lived abroad a few times in my life.  The first time was when I was 21 years old and worked in New York for a year as an intern.  The second time, I went to live in Agadir, Morocco, for three months.  And the most recent time was in Costa Rica for six months.

The locations and experiences were very different, but there was one thing they all had in common.  The level of personal growth I experienced was phenomenal.  I changed and grew in so many ways that I never would have experienced if I stayed settled and working in the UK.  I’m grateful for all of these experiences that in some way shaped the person I am today.

Having lived in London already, the transition to New York was quite easy.  Especially because everyone spoke English.  Looking back, I realise the largest part of why this experience was so much fun was having a large group of intern friends who were just as curious and eager to explore and enjoy NY as I was.  Having friends to share adventures with is a wonderful thing.  I loved the buzz of life, and knowing my time was limited meant I made the effort to do as much as I could as quickly as possible.  Having to start a new life in another country somehow made me very assertive.  I wasn’t so worried about what others thought of me as before.

Morocco was a completely different experience.  It felt very ‘foreign’.  I didn’t understand any Arabic and I was forced to make use of my school French and develop my language skills.  I enjoyed the hustle and bustle of a less modern world, like buying all of your fresh fruit and veg from a market stall, and appreciated how everyone took the time to relax.  Agadir is based by the beach, a beautiful place, and it’s where I learned the importance of enjoying life, remembering to take things slowly once in a while and enjoy the beautiful views.

Costa Rica is a very beautiful country, and the experience of living there was nothing like what I expected.  Funnily enough, it’s where I learned to enjoy relaxing at the beach properly with friends.  I used to find sitting at the beach quite boring before, but I finally understood the joy of spending hours in and near the sea.  I loved living in Quepos, a little village near Manuel Antonio on the coast, for six weeks.  I adored being surrounded by tropical forests, humming birds and I even had a tear in my eye when I saw a flock of wild scarlet macaws near my home.  It makes me feel so awful when I think of how these beautiful red parrots are only seen in cages around the world.  Being immersed in nature was an amazing experience, as were the horrific thunderstorms I witnessed (from the balcony) in rainy season.  Truly magnificent!

Moving to San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, made me appreciate all the things I’d taken for granted about living in London.  I kind of assumed that all capitals across the world were similar to London – international, full of work opportunities and great restaurants!  It turns out that’s not the case.  I found the language barrier to be a barrier in getting to know the locals, another reason to improve my Spanish skills.  I also enjoyed the opportunity to visit rainforests, waterfalls, beaches and volcanoes around Costa Rica.  One of the highlights was visiting Tortuguero and going kayaking for the first time… by myself… with a random dog that insisted on joining me!  It was amazing and I loved ‘adventure dog’, he was awesome.

I learned a lot from my time living abroad.  Living somewhere is completely different to just visiting a place for a weekend or a week.  You get a different feel for the place and understanding of the culture.  I learned that people are kind and helpful, but most of all, I learned that I can rely on myself.  That gave me a lot of confidence in myself – knowing that in a foreign situation you can and will always find a solution for what you need.

I also learned and realised that sometimes you can’t control everything.  Things happen in life, and you just have to go with the flow.  I learned to let go of a lot of my life expectations, and sometimes the distance from ‘home’ also helped me to accept and let go of the past.  Making the effort to step away from your everyday life helps you to see life from a different perspective.  Somehow, travelling and living abroad really helped me to grow spiritually and accept everyone and everything more than before.

Going to new places makes your senses come to life as you have to pay attention to everything around you.  It’s a great opportunity to meet new people and experience different ways of living.

I’m grateful that I’ve had these opportunities to experience personal growth, and I’m aware that this kind of growth would have been very limited if I hadn’t travelled and lived abroad.

I realise that living abroad is usually a huge step, but I highly recommend it to anyone who is considering it.  Most people actively manage their career growth, but I think personal growth is just as important in life, if not more.

 

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The Landmark Forum – NY

I decided to attend the three day Landmark Forum course (three and a bit days technically) while I was visiting New York.

Reviews have compared it to a ‘cult’, but I think anyone who has been through it will know that it’s not. It’s just the result of people having major life realisations over a period of just a few days – which makes it pretty exciting stuff so they keep going on about it!!  I think the best description, having completed it, is a course in ‘life skills’.

I didn’t really know what to expect, and the decision to actually sign up was in the spur of the moment.

The whole course takes place in a large room with screens and whiteboards at the front and a speaker who leads throughout. The hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday are long: 9am – 10pm with a total of approximately 2.5 hours break per day.  On Tuesday evening we only needed to attend for a few hours.

I felt exhausted by the end of day 1, but strangely energised at the end of days 2 and 3. We learned SO much, more than I had ever expected.  I learned about my own negative patterns with certain people, and as I thought about it longer I was able to spot more patterns with other people, issues that I hadn’t even been aware of. The course encourages you to accept responsibility for your part in negative situations or relationships, and make amends where possible.  It also helps you to put the past in the past for all aspects in life and leave you free to move forward.  It was wonderful to see people on the stage sharing their ‘breakthroughs’. One person called a parent they hadn’t spoken to in 15 years. Other people finally made their peace with horrible experiences from their childhood or adulthood. Relationships on the brink of breakdown were brought back together.  (Sharing is completely optional, and apparently very therapeutic)

I learned a lot and I’m sure it will be having a positive impact on my life and how I deal with people and situations in future.  I’m glad I went and it was a great lesson in self improvement that I won’t be forgetting any time soon!

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A wonderful weekend in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

So I can confirm that the joy of being in Costa Rica isn’t necessarily living in the capital San Jose, but more visiting the beautiful beaches and forest areas that Costa Rica is renowned for!

I went to Manuel Antonio last weekend to visit a couple of friends, and had a really wonderful time.  It takes about 3.5 hours by bus to get there.  I stayed at the hostel where my friend works and met lots of wonderful people.  I visited some of my favourite restaurants and bars there (Barba Roja, Salsipuedes, Tiquicia and Z bar) as well as the beach and the Feria market.

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I’m really glad I went and it was a good reminder to get my travelling shoes back on!  I’m making plans to visit more of Costa Rica soon…

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An update on life in San Jose, Costa Rica

So far, so good!  I feel pretty settled in and comfortable here.  Costa Rica is not very cheap, so I’ve come to terms with living on a reasonable budget!  I do miss my frivolous ways back in London, but I also feel I have learned some valuable and important life skills again!

It’s a beautiful sunny day as I write, looking out on the mountain view from my bedroom window – the mountains that are beyond the busy main road view 🙂

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Teaching is going really well, I enjoy it and I’m always so flattered to get good feedback from my students.  I’ve also started teaching online lessons, I’m really enjoying those too!

I do need to make more of an effort to travel around Costa Rica.  Most of this country’s beauty lies outside of the capital!  My last trip was for New Year’s Eve in Manuel Antonio at the beach.  Perhaps I have become too settled in San Jose!

I do love the music here.  Reggaeton is really popular and I love dancing to it.  As much as I’m enjoying it here, I do find myself wondering what I will do next…

 

 

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Costa Rica: San Jose, Monteverde, Volcan Poas and Manuel Antonio

It’s been a month since I moved to San Jose, and I have mixed feelings about it.  It’s a loud and busy city.  And it doesn’t help that I’ve been having stomach pains for the past two weeks, which is very unusual for me.  The doctor tells me I have an inflamed colon!  So I am taking medication and taking it easy.  Unfortunately, it’s not helping how I feel about being in San Jose!

On the plus side, teaching has been going really well and I was pleased to have positive feedback from my students.  I also had a friend come to visit me for a week – the perfect excuse to do some travelling in Costa Rica.  That’s one thing that San Jose is great for – it is the travel hub for the country so pretty easy to get to anywhere.

Our first stop was Monteverde for a night, about four hours away by bus.  Monteverde is beautiful and famous for its cloud forests.  We stayed at Pension Santa Elena hostel, a no frills place.  In the afternoon we accidentally joined an adventure zip line tour.  My friend and I bailed after the practice lines as it was just too scary!  In the evening we went to the serpentorium for a guided tour which was really interesting.  They have a number of snakes and frogs that are native to Costa Rica.

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Dinner was at the Tree House, a really lovely restaurant with a unique venue.  There’s a tree in it.

The next day, we went to Selvatura Park for their hanging bridges in the cloud forest and the hummingbird garden.  This was definitely the highlight of the whole week of travel.  The bridges were high up in the trees and the views were outstanding.  I intend to go back!

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We had lunch at a nice place called Amy’s Restaurant before heading back to San Jose.

The next day, which happened to be Christmas day, we went on a tour of Volcan Poas, the Dakota Coffee estate and Sarchi Arts and Crafts.  The tour was really brilliant and I recommend it highly.  The volcano was covered in cloud when we arrived but fortunately cleared after 20 minutes for some spectacular views.

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The Coffee tour was really interesting and full of information.  And the Arts and Crafts was really just a big shop full of tourist stuff, but still interesting to see.  It was great that they picked us up and dropped us back off at the hotel for the tour.

And finally we went to Manuel Antonio for one night.  It takes about four hours by bus from San Jose.  Most of the first day was spent at the beach, and the following day we went to Manuel Antonio Park.  We rolled up rather foolishly at 10am to find the queue was over an hour long.  The wise thing to do is turn up early – say 8am.  It was completely worth the wait and we hired a guide so actually got to see some animals like sloths, bats, frogs and monkeys.  We stayed at the Cabinas Maria Teresa, which was a really nice treat with air con and a lovely shower.

It was a great week of travelling in Costa Rica, and I’m looking forward to doing some more!

 

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Speak of the devil, I got the hummingbird photo!

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What a beauty!

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One month since the move to Costa Rica

Playita sunset

Today marks one month since I arrived to Costa Rica, and it has been a great month.  I have felt so many moments of active happiness and joy, where I catch myself thinking ‘wow, this is beautiful’ and smile to myself for being here.  I have watched beautiful sunsets, swam in pristine oceans, hiked through forests, seen wild sloths, monkeys and iguanas, watched hummingbirds in my host family’s garden – in fact, there is a hummingbird teasing me right now as I have been trying to get a photo of one!  They always disappear by the time my camera is in my hand.

That is just the natural beauty side of Costa Rica.  I’ve also really been enjoying my TEFL course.  It’s been challenging and interesting, and I’ve been enjoying teaching classes this week.  I’ve met some wonderful people, teachers and students, who I have been fortunate enough to enjoy this adventure with.

I think I’m starting to miss London a bit, the convenience of so many places to go to and see.  I do love Manuel Antonio and Quepos, with its beaches and nature on the doorstep, but I’m quite looking forward to heading back to the capital, San Jose.  I have been offered an English teaching position with a school – I’m not sure if it’s quite the right one for me so I will send out a few more applications and see what happens.

I’m really looking forward to investigating more of this beautiful country…

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