Hang on. Things may get bumpy.

Closing for sale of house: June 21

Flight to Chicago: June 22-26

Flight to Miami/Costa Rica: July 8

Excited. Exhausted. Happy. Frustrated. Content. Confused.

These are the range of emotions one goes through several times each day when getting rid of all your earthly possessions except for what you can fit into three suitcases each. It’s Tiny House on steroids.

Meanwhile, so many things remain moving targets. These are the things that cause the most stress and sleepless nights because you just can’t nail them down or they keep changing on you.

First on this list is residency documents. We will enter Costa Rica on a 90-day tourist visa, meaning we must leave the country every 90 days and then re-enter on a new visa. This is common down there. People who do it are called “perpetual tourists.” They do “border runs” to Nicaragua to the north or Panama to the south. You exit the country and eat lunch and do some shopping for a couple of hours and then walk back into CR with a fresh 90. But these things change (i.e. moving targets). One day, Panama suddenly required a 2- or 3-day stay. It’s all unclear. And fluid. Nicaragua remains simple. But at any time any government entity could change their rules on a whim.

Filing for residency gives you two years, a renewable third year, and then the chance for permanent residency. During that time, no border runs are necessary. And you can buy into their very affordable national healthcare program. There is a stack of documents one needs to present in order to apply—birth certificates, marriage license, FBI background check, and proof of income. All must carry an apostille—basically the international equivalent of a notary, issued by the state or federal government agency of issuance. Thus, we go to Chicago for apostilles on birth and marriage. Waiting on the State Department in Washington for the FBI. Trying to figure out how to get one for a teacher’s pension. As a backup, we will get a Pennsylvania notary and apostille for the sale of our house, in case we need to move money to a CR bank to get a different type of residency. The source of the money needs to be verified so everyone is assured no hanky-panky is going on. Many balls in the air. Moving targets. Stress. Oh, and then we discovered that all of these documents must have been issued in the past six months, so we had to get new birth and marriage docs. <sigh>

Of course, none of this affects our ability to get into the country on a tourist visa, and we could live on that a long time doing the border runs. Some expats have done it for more than a decade. It’s just that getting your residency docs in order is much more difficult once you are down there.

In the meantime, the packing continues. It’s like a twisted version of Survivor or Hunger Games, in which a sweatshirt fights to the death against a beloved book or a framed family picture for prime space in the suitcase.

In the end, we both see this as a spiritual practice in detachment. With most things, you put them in the pile and give it a day or two and suddenly you realize you don’t really need it or you can probably get it down there.

Very grateful to have a spouse who is not freaking out about not bringing every sweater or scarf or porcelain treasure etc. This morning we saw a Facebook post from Costa Rica that American Airlines is limiting international non-first-class travelers to only 2 bags each, with no way to pay for an additional bag. After doing some website searching and calling the airlines, we found that this applies to some countries but not Costa Rica. Crisis averted. Just another hoop. But we both took it in stride, as it helped us realize that we could do this with two bags, if necessary. Now we will pack a third “burner bag” that could be jettisoned if the rules change.

Just another day on the journey.

Published by Tom Cox

Tom & Jean, a couple of contemplative ex-pats from Pittsburgh, shed all their earthly belongings and move to Costa Rica. What could possibly go wrong?

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