“It’s never too late to begin again”. Making the choice to move abroad can be difficult but is becoming more and more common as people are realizing that life is just too short to put off that dream of living abroad. Moving abroad is no longer an adventure for just 20 year old college grads or gap year explorers, we are now seeing people of all ages and professions taking the leap. It’s challenging and frightening but totally worth it! Our Teacher Trainer Eleanor Smith can relate. She decided to trust in the universe and moved abroad from the UK to Costa Rica at the perfect age of 39. Eleanor shares her inspirational story below:
Living abroad when you are older or even deciding to travel, comes with some different considerations than when you are younger.
The Same Old, Same Old
After university, I worked for a major UK bank for 11 years and then went into teaching for a further 5. My main focus during this time was to work hard and progress in my career. So, I bought a house, had a car, went on holiday regularly and lived the kind of life I always believed I had to aspire to.
For a long time, I was extremely happy and it was great to be comfortable and feel safe financially. However, in my mid-thirties I began to want more. Not in a relationship or material things, but in meaningful experiences. While I am grateful for the career I had, it started to become ‘the same old, same old. I felt like I was running on the treadmill of life and not really adding to my experiences. The only time I felt this way was when I was visiting other countries, experiencing the culture, marveling at the architecture, and being adventurous, doing things that really exhilarated me.
Like most people, I would return home from a holiday and pine for the next one. I never really considered combining the two, being abroad and working. I remember speaking with a colleague who told me about a friend she had who went to Japan, completed a TEFL course and never came back.
Life is too short
I didn’t really think much about it, until a few years later after the sudden passing of my mum. When she passed away it made me really realize how short and precious life is and that we should do what makes us happy and not make excuses as to why we can’t or haven’t done it. Fear was holding me back; fear of the uncertainty and fear of losing the security blanket I had created.
Take the Leap
3 months later, I signed up for Costa Rica TEFL https://costaricatefl.com/contact/ and the rest is history. Just before this, I had taken a trip to Majorca to see if I could handle traveling alone. The holiday was designed to enable you to meet people who had booked through the same company. It was amazing! I had such a great time meeting new people and taking adventures with my new friends. I did two more holidays like this while I waited for my course date of May 2020. While I was in Hungary in March 2020, COVID really started to spread and as my country went into lockdown, my dreams of moving to Costa Rica became a lot further away.
COVID won’t Stop Me!
After finally making the decision to move abroad, I was ready! I was excited, inspired, and motivated to see where this chapter of my life would take me. I refused to let COVID change my mind. So when I was told that the course would be restarting in October 2020, only a few weeks away, I went into overdrive and got everything ready. Some members of my family were rightly concerned, not just about the move but with the future of COVID being uncertain, they were concerned about me being so far away. I think a few people even thought I was a little crazy while others squashed any uncertainty with encouragement and excitement for my adventure abroad.
Teach English and Live at the Beach
In October of 2020, I started my journey to living abroad. I had always told people ‘I am going to Costa Rica to live and work for a year’. That was what I believed and wanted to make happen. I was in the mindset that it was going to happen. I never doubted it. The first 4 weeks in Samara beach while I completed the TEFL course were better than I could ever have imagined. I loved every minute of it! My fellow teacher trainees and I became a family support unit. Friendships became strong and as well as working hard to become great teachers. We spent weekends on adventures around Samara, chilling on the beach and enjoying the bars and restaurants. We all stayed together in a local hostel so really became like a family for those 4 weeks.
Once I graduated from the course, it was only a matter of days before I had interviews lined up for two online teaching jobs, courtesy of Barbara Miller the Course Director. Due to COVID, schools were only delivering online lessons via Zoom so I had to adapt. Having 5 years of in-class experience, this was something that made me a little nervous, however, times were changing and there was nothing I could do about it. I had to embrace it.
Teach English Abroad
I jumped right into my new role working with Intercultura, a language school based in Heredia, Costa Rica. The beauty of working online was, that I could stay here in Samara with my new friends and really start to settle into my new life abroad. Within weeks I fell in love with Samara and the local people. It is such a welcoming place with a real sense of community. I loved working with Intercultura. I formed such a bond with my Costa Rican students, that when the opportunity came for me to return to Costa Rica TEFL as a teacher trainer, it was bittersweet as I really knew I was going to miss them.
ESL Teacher to Teacher Trainer
Fast forward almost a year since starting my role here at Costa Rica TEFL and I am still loving it. Friends have come and gone. Samara has changed in many ways, but most importantly I have settled here and made it my home. I can honestly say I wake up every day and am thankful for the opportunities which have presented themselves to me. I meet new people from all over the globe and get to watch and support them as they get TEFL certified. I travel around Costa Rica on the weekends or during my frequent vacations and see so many beautiful places and of course, have lots of adventures.
Challenges of Living Abroad:
Living abroad does come with its challenges. Firstly, I did not know much Spanish at all. Samara is a tourist town so there are many English-speaking locals and visitors but I still find opportunities to learn Spanish. I definitely know a lot more than when I arrived to Costa Rica and I’m still learning every day.
Missing Family and Friends
Another challenge is definitely being absent from family and friends in the UK especially when something significant happens, such as a marriage, birthday, or passing, or even seeing how much younger members of my family have grown in what feels like such a short time for me. At these times you definitely feel the distance but as I have come to learn and accept, this is all part of the choice to live abroad and do it wholeheartedly. You have to be prepared and embrace it.
Happier and Healthier Than Ever Before!
How long will I remain in Costa Rica, who knows? I certainly don’t. All I know is I am happier and healthier, both physically and mentally, than I had been in years. What I have learned over the last 20 months is that as long as I am happy and feel that I am gaining from this experience I will remain in Costa Rica.
Do I see myself living in another country in the future? Never say never!