Today I’m very pleased to share this guest post written by a mom who not only loves to travel—but decided to make a permanent arrangement of living in the place she and her husband loved visiting most: Costa Rica. Dahlia Nahome, mother of two young children (above), offers her advice here for parents considering making a similar move, and shares some tips that ought to help any of us planning travel to the Nicoya region with young children, as I will be in just a few months.
I live in Costa Rica, on the Nicoya Peninsula, where the jungle meets the sea. It is right out of Jurassic Park. In fact, Michael Crichton dreamt up Jurassic Park whilst lying on the beach at Mal Pais where it borders the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve. The book’s opening scene features that exact spot.
Anyway, my friends back home in London tell me that I am living the life over here. They are incredibly jealous and think I am in paradise.
There is no question of that, but what they don’t seem to realize is that living in paradise after uprooting your two small children away from a lovely life in North London and moving to the jungle has not been easy.
There are things that I wished I had known before we left that I know now—that I hope can help those who are thinking of doing the same:
1) Bring your car seat, travel cot and high chair with you or buy them in San Jose as soon as you arrive. I read loads of blog posts before I left London, from mothers traveling with young children saying not to bother with all of the above. NOT TRUE LADIES. Renting car seats [here] is really expensive and hiring travel cots / high chairs are almost impossible, especially down on the Peninsula. Buying things in San Jose rather than waiting till you get down to the coast is also smarter because everything costs about 25% more down here, due to transportation costs.
If you are going to buy a travel cot back home, and listen to my words of wisdom, then please, please buy the Little Life 2 travel cot. It is lightweight, compact and easy to assemble. My kids even like playing in it together (and that includes my 4 year old son as well as my 20 month old daughter). It is without doubt, the best thing I brought with me. [More travel bed suggestions here.]
2) Always take your youngest child with you when running around to get the daily chores done. Unlike being in London, having your little one or ones with you is a help and not a hindrance. Queues are a national pastime here. Walk into a bank with your baby and you no longer have to worry as you will get ushered straight to the cashier desk. This is because the Costa Ricans love children and give mothers the respect they deserve in social situations. Yeh!
3) Never, never turn up on time for a children’s birthday party. You will be the only one there for about 45 minutes, which can feel like 45 hours when your Spanish is pretty non-existent. The only thing I managed to say once was what I thought was ‘oh, I am really hot in here’, when I actually said ‘oh, I am very expensive’.
Not good. Everyone here is on Tico-time. You get used to it and it is actually very good for your health and peace of mind, but it really takes some getting used to, coming from the advertising world of London.
4) Don’t spend hours worrying about what your children will miss out on educationally by taking them out of their London, Boston or San Diego school. Yes, the system is different but they not only learn their ABC’s, they also learn another language and culture, which is priceless. Leon now walks to school along the beach, watches monkeys in the trees en route and hundreds of butterflies swarm around the enormous mango tree outside his classroom.
5) This is the last and most important piece of knowledge. Your children are incredibly adaptable, much more so than you are. I have learnt that I am the one learning how to deal with things every day and that my children take it all in their stride. We have chosen a very different life for ourselves here on the Nicoya from our very comfortable one back home but there are reasons why the area is one of only a handful of Blue Zones in the world. These are places on earth, which have a higher proportion of people living longer than anywhere else on the planet due to their environment and surroundings. You should come and check it out for yourselves.
Dahlia, thanks so much for sharing your insider tips on Costa Rica, and your lovely photographs. Dahlia can be contacted at http://www.costaricanvacation.com/ for more information about coming to and staying on the Nicoya Peninsula. Dahlia and her husband also just launched Pura Sonica, a web-based radio station for Santa Teresa dedicated to music, surfing, and all the fun to be had in the region. Visit http://www.purasonica.com/ to check it out.
Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning guide Travels with Baby