Costa Rica, Expat Living, North America

Expat Living: Jen Seymour in Costa Rica.

September 15, 2014
Jen Seymour in Costa Rica

Let’s warmly welcome Jen Seymour, the latest person to be featured in my Expat Living Interview Series. Originally from the United States, Jen and her husband retired early and moved to start a new life in Costa Rica.

She talks about expat living and joins the esteemed ranks of others, like Christopher Allen in Munich and Mar in Milan.

All About Jen.

Jen Seymour in Costa Rica
Jen Seymour is the “Costa Rica Chica”.

In June 2013, when in her early 40’s, she broke free from the rat race of North America where bigger was better and moved from Dallas, Texas all the way to Costa Rica with her husband. She quit her artificially lit cubicle job, sold nearly everything and left all sense of stable income behind.

When she’s not blogging or writing, she is either hiking, baking, “yoga-ing”, sipping coffee, making arm candy or enjoying a glass of boxed wine. She has found life to be completely different than in the United States, in a very good way.

Where are you from?

I’m originally from a little town in Wisconsin, but after college followed a boyfriend to Dallas, Texas. I ended up dumping the boyfriend but stayed in Dallas for the next 18 years.

Where are you living now and how long have you been there?

We now live in the mountains of the Central Valley in Costa Rica. My husband and I decided to retire early from our jobs in Dallas and moved here for a more natural, affordable, and down to earth life.

We’ve been here for a little over a year and it’s been amazing so far!

Jen Seymour in Costa Rica

Have you lived anywhere else around the world?

Nope.

Do you plan to stay in your current location or move somewhere else in the future?

For now, we are planning on staying in Costa Rica. The people, sunsets, coffee, climate, fresh fruits and wildlife are making it impossible to even think of leaving.

What’s your personal story? What made you decide to take the big leap and leave home?

Jen Seymour in Costa Rica

My husband’s job was killing him – both physically and mentally. That’s what got us starting to think about alternative solutions. At first, it seemed really crazy to move to a foreign country, but the more we thought about it, we thought why not?

My dad died very young and never got a chance to enjoy retirement. We made the bold decision to retire early, even though we weren’t as “financially set” as most people are when they retire, because we know life can be short.

We don’t know what’s around the corner and didn’t want to wake up one day, find one of us sick and dying and not have had this opportunity.

We made the decision to stop driving ourselves crazy with our current stressful lifestyle in the United States and trade it in for a more low-keyed, down to earth lifestyle. We took a year and a half to sell our house, furniture, cars etc. and we moved here with just nine suitcases.

It was very freeing and one of the best decisions we ever made.

Do you ever miss home? What do you do to cope?

It may seem odd, but I don’t really miss home. We use Facetime to call our moms and siblings and keep in contact with friends through emails and Facebook.

How do we cope?  We tell people to come visit us. We’ve had visits so far from both of our Mom’s!

Sunset in Costa Rica

How do you blend in and be accepted by locals?

Well, it’s pretty hard to blend in here, at least physically. I’m blond (most Costa Ricans have black or dark hair) and my husband, Greg is 6’3” tall (most Costa Ricans are much shorter than him).

However, the Ticos (Ticos are local Costa Ricans) are the nicest people – they accept us, are kind to us and treat us with respect. It has been amazing getting to know them and their culture. Actually, the kindness of the Ticos is one of the best things about living here.

Did you have to learn a new language? If yes, what? How did you go about learning the language and how long did it take you to become fluent?

I should learn the language faster.

But in reality, I’m very slowly learning Spanish, at my own pace.

It does not seem to be too difficult to get by here with just a little Spanish. Most Ticos are so kind that when they see me trying to speak their language, they help me out – either with sign language, or the bit of English they usually seem to know. Between pointing, hand-motioning, lots of laughing, some Spanish words and some English words, I am almost always able to talk my way through something and sometimes even surprisingly have a “conversation”.

What has been the most shocking thing you learned about the local culture?

When we first visited Costa Rica on a trip in early 2012, I was introduced to bathroom etiquette.

I sat there on the toilet, looking at the sign in front of me that said in Spanish and English “Please put toilet paper in the trash can”.

Say what? Maybe they meant the paper towel after you dried your hands? Surely it didn’t mean used toilet paper. But if it did mean used toilet paper and I flushed it down the toilet instead – what would happen?

Later, I found out they did indeed mean the used toilet paper. The plumbing system here in Costa Rica just can’t handle the heavy toilet paper, so most places asked you to deposit the used toilet paper in a sealed trash can.

Another shocking thing is to see people everywhere with machete’s!  They walk on the street with them, travel on buses with them and use them for everything, from cutting grass, to weed eating and to chopping bushes.

Life is much more simple here, but the Ticos have a solution for everything and usually at a much more affordable price tag than how we do things back home.

What is your number one tip about how to live life as an ex-pat?

Be patient.

Life here happens at a much slower pace. There is also what is called “Tico Time” – meaning things happen very slowly, or mañana – tomorrow, or another day, or even later.

Do not try to bring your culture into the Costa Rican culture. Remember that you are here as a guest, in a foreign country and you should respect the local culture.

What do you love most about living abroad?

Jen Seymour in Costa Rica

I love the freedom and absence of the “go-go-go” mentality in the US. For me, the “American dream” seemed to be a bad dream. You know – working harder for less, buying a big house and other things …  We weren’t happy, especially with my husband’s stressful job.

Living abroad in Costa Rica has really opened my eyes to a happier, more low key and pleasant life. I don’t have a big house or a car to my name now, but I’m happier here with much less.

My life is actually richer here with the natural beauty and time I have with my husband now.

Did you make the move solo? Or are you with a spouse or significant other, other members of your family, or friend(s)?

I’m here with my husband and honestly don’t know if I would have made the move all by myself. We’ve met single women and men expats here, and I admire them for making the move solo, especially the women!

What do you do work wise? Did you have a job before you arrived or did you look for work when you got there? If you didn’t have a job, how did (or do) you land work?

I don’t work anymore! Hard to believe, as we are in our early 40’s, but yes – we are retired. It’s a balancing act, as we try to live frugally and on a budget, but at the same time try to enjoy and experience life as much as we can.

For more Costa Rica expat living tips, check out this interview from travel blogger Samantha from my Tanned Feet.

Find Jen

Blog: http://costaricachica.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jenbeckseymour
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/costaricachicajenjen
Instagram: http://instagram.com/jenjen1969

Recommended reading – Jen’s book, Costa Rica Chica: Retiring Early, Simplifying My Life and Realizing That Less Is Best, where she doles out even more about her story and moving experience.

Expat Living Information

If you like these interviews like this one from Jen Seymour in Costa Rica, check out my Expat Living section. Also, learn about what it like to come home after living abroad or how to learn German in Berlin.

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21 Comments

  • Reply Jen Beck Seymour September 16, 2014 at 11:59 am

    Thank you for interviewing me and featuring me Cheryl!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard September 16, 2014 at 5:02 pm

      Hi Jen!

      My pleasure. Thanks for sharing your story.

      Cheryl

  • Reply Valerie Peel Rodriguez September 16, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Thank you for sharing your article with us on Jen. I have been following her blog for months. I love reading about the adventures she and Greg are sharing. I am 62 and have felt the same longings for a simpler life for years. Jen and Greg are pioneers for their generation and I am proud of them. They make their lives richer through the relationships they build with others.y husband and I are now selling our home and stuff and follow in their footsteps!! May God continue to bless them!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard September 16, 2014 at 5:03 pm

      Hey Valerie –

      Thanks for stopping by the blog. That’s such exciting news – I wish you and your husband the best of luck on your new adventure. 🙂

      Cheryl

  • Reply Jen Beck Seymour September 16, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    You are so kind and sweet Valerie!! Can't wait to meet you one day… 🙂

  • Reply Niki Meeks September 16, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    Hi Jen & Cheryl,
    Wow, spot on! You are so right about living a richer life with less money, especially in Costa Rica. Our family has thrived here with much less, making more friends every day! And, I also have to agree with your statement about the locals. I think the best part about living in Costa Rica is the Ticos. They are warm and friendly and since we have 3 small children, they have really embraced us as a family. Pura Vida!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard September 16, 2014 at 5:11 pm

      Hey Niki –

      Yes, life does become “richer” if you can learn how to live with less. So nice to see others happy with themselves and their life!

      Cheryl

  • Reply Expat Living: Jen Seymour in Costa Rica. | Loca... September 16, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    […] Get some advice and tips about how to live life as an expat. An interview with Jen Seymour from the United States, who's living abroad in Costa Rica. (Check out my interview with travel blogger Cheryl Howard, who features me on her blog today!  […]

  • Reply Patrick September 16, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    I love the interview. I’ve had the pleasure of looking at all you and Gregorio’s pictures. Slow down and enjoy the view!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard September 16, 2014 at 9:22 pm

      Thanks for reading the interview Patrick! Glad you enjoyed Jen’s story. 🙂

  • Reply Jack Albritton September 19, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    I believe I know the bookstore in that first photo. 🙂 I'm envious. I love the beach but really like the mountains! Loved the article and can relate having lived in CR for 15 years.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard September 19, 2014 at 5:51 pm

      Nice Jack! I am a little jealous too, especially with another Canadian winter on the horizon. 🙁

  • Reply Mary @ Green Global Travel September 19, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    Great interview! And it’s great to see someone who made it happen and is living life more fully! Looking forward to the next one!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard September 19, 2014 at 5:50 pm

      Thanks Mary. It is always great to see someone create their own happiness. Bravo to Jen!

  • Reply Giselleandcody September 22, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Great interview. We have been looking into buying land elsewhere and Costa Rica is one place that keeps popping up. Always great to others are ditching the rat race to live their lives.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard September 22, 2014 at 3:26 pm

      Thanks guys! I imagine that life in Costa Rica must be pretty nice. I’d settle for a vacation there right now. 🙂

  • Reply Laura @Travelocafe September 23, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Great interview! Thanks for introducing Jen to us. 🙂

    • Reply Cheryl Howard September 24, 2014 at 10:57 am

      Thank you Laura. I like to share these stories with the hope that they inspire others.

  • Reply Thee Getaway Gal September 25, 2014 at 1:08 am

    So fun to meet you Jen and hear more about your story. I really admire you recognizing, at an early age, that the lifestyle here in the states wasn't for you and your husband and your decision to take an early retirement and make changes. Way to go!!!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard September 25, 2014 at 11:47 am

      Glad you enjoyed Jen’s story! And stay tuned as we have lots more expat stories coming up on the blog. 😀

  • Reply Expat Life: Challenges of the Expat Life | Create Resumes | Find Jobs | FastJobz.Com October 7, 2014 at 7:47 am

    […] begin to feel the pressure of a new challenge which is working too often to actually enjoy the expat life they were in search of. They end up working terrible long hours, and realize that the struggle […]

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