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Black Expat In Costa Rica Shares Practical Ways To Pivot And Relocate To Your Dream Destination
Nigerian American Rebbecca Bakre was raised in Houston, TX. In February 2021, the author and life coach relocated to Costa Rica. Desiring to complete a book project she had put off, she thought about where would be an ideal place that would allow her to truly focus and finally complete it.
“At the time, I was living in Baltimore, MD and was recovering from a tragic incident that took place in my neighborhood. I was toying with the idea of four other U.S. cities to potentially relocate to, but none of them were quite satisfying the vision I was holding for myself. I was scared and scattered mentally. The U.S., for many reasons, just felt like too noisy a place to live no matter which city I chose.”
The noise Rebbecca feared consisted not only of the audible type, but also the social, psychological, and physiological noise that had put her in a state of emotional and mental fatigue. Working in politics and public service, while also building a private coaching business online, she rarely had a chance to escape the physical and emotional drain from what was unfolding due to the pandemic. This meant she also had very little time to focus on how to address the trauma she had just experienced.
“In order to heal, focus, and reset back to my typically whole and confident self, I decided to (re)treat myself to a tropical environment. Costa Rica was on my list of dream destinations. I’d done some research a month prior and learned that it was also known to be a great location for digital nomads who worked online. My research also revealed that the cost of living was very affordable. I searched for airline tickets, and found a direct flight to Costa Rica for $76.”
Upon arriving in Costa Rica, Rebbecca was instantly in love and at ease. She enjoyed the food, the people and the ‘Pura Vida’ lifestyle, which greatly benefitted her mental and physical health. She immediately felt at home. The local infrastructure, climate, and landscape reminded her of neighborhoods back home in Houston, as well as parts of Lagos, Nigeria that she remembered from her last visit there.
She began her journey in a city called Quepos.
“What I did not know was that the Caribbean side of the country is where most of the Black Ticos (native Costa Ricans) live. Quepos was on the opposite side, the Pacific side. So I was often assumed to be a Tico visiting from Limon, a major city on the Caribbean side. When I eventually traveled to the Caribbean side and spent some time in Puerto Viejo, it all made sense. There is a much more dense population of melanated people there, which allowed me to blend in more. Standing out on the Pacific side was not that challenging, though, because Costa Ricans are such kind and compassionate people, so I did not feel any less at home with them.”
Looking back, Rebbecca is glad she decided to push past her fear and take the leap to move abroad. Though it can be viewed as a risky endeavor, she believes there is so much benefit to be gained if when we trade the stability and security of the familiar for the new and unknown.
“You hear tragic stories of kidnappings and stagnant economies and assume that things are not as stable in other countries. ‘America, the land of the free,’ has great branding. But I think a lot of people trap themselves mentally with these notions by feeling like they cannot thrive in other countries. Extended travel and living abroad is a critical way to expand your worldview and enhance your learning. We limit ourselves significantly when we are not willing to see beyond the risk.”
Still, Rebbecca realizes the importance of security and preparation that can significantly reduce the risk. When preparing, she recommends considering the emotional, physical, and financial security of every aspect of your planning.
When preparing to move to Costa Rica, she chose locations based on the security of the neighborhood, typically gated, private, and secure. She made plans based on what she knew she could afford, not what looked good to others. This meant that she had to forgo luxury and aesthetics at times. For emotional security, she scoured reviews of the Airbnb hosts she chose and observed how they communicated.
Rebecca shares some helpful tips for individuals who are considering relocating to their dream destination:
- Be mindful of whom you share your plans with. Not many people are risk tolerant enough to make the decision to uproot and move abroad. Otherwise, more would do it. Aware that she would be faced with doubt from others, Rebbecca was very reserved when it came to whom she shared her intentions with.
“I knew their doubt would have me second guessing my decision. You will come across people on the path who don’t even know you but encourage you more than your own friends and family. Your friends and family care about your safety and have to adjust to your absence, so they are going to have a very different perspective than someone who is just thrilled by the adventure. Keep this in mind when you hear their feedback.”
- Save like a savage. To ensure she created a life for herself that was different from the one she had been raised in, for several years prior to her move, Rebbecca saved 20% of her pay.
“I lived far below my means so that I could eventually live a life far above it. When the time came to make a decision, I had the money I needed to feel secure on the journey in my bank account.”
- Get a coach. Rebbecca didn’t have many people close to her who she felt would support the move and understand her need to do it, however, she did have coaches who did.
“At the time, I was working with one personal life coach and another coach who focused on business. Having them in my corner gave me the clarity to know exactly what I wanted to do and build the confidence to do it. These were women who had cultivated an intimate relationship with me and had a deep understanding of who I was as a person. They knew the passionate adventurer that I was and when I was stifling it. They helped me uncover the landmines in my life that were tripping me up and keeping me from walking tall as the woman I was designed and destined to be. Intentionally focusing sessions around the topic of my big move before and after arriving made the transition much easier than if I had gone it alone.”
Rebbecca plans to continuing exploring the world now that she has the freedom to do so. She is currently in Lagos, Nigeria, where she is working with clients virtually with a five-hour time difference between them that allows her to enjoy extra time to herself in the mornings.
“I always wanted to be a traveling Life Coach, who sees clients virtually from wherever I am in the world. The rapid move to virtual life and remote work has afforded me that opportunity. I look forward to seeing more countries and navigating life their way as I support my clients through their own life’s journeys. I am learning so much about myself and people in general through this journey. And there’s still so much more to learn while I’m still living.”
For additional tips and the latest on her journey, you can follow Rebbecca at @yourfavelifecoach. You can also visit her website, www.yourfavelifecoach.com, check out her book, The Black Woman in Leadership’s Survival Guide on Amazon.
“My next book, Go Be Her: Your Life Coaching Guide Back to You, is coming out later this year and is loaded with prompts you can use for a self-retreat or for daily reflection to get closer to God and yourself.”
Related: How This Black Expat Left Her Complicated Life In Ohio For An Unexpected Path To Wellness Coaching In Costa Rica