Becoming Location Independent: Arranging the EssentialsSERIES — By Lisa Carter on September 7, 2011 at 01:52
By guest blogger Lisa Carter. Photos Copyright © Jon Lee.
This is Part II in a series on becoming location independent. In Part I, Lisa shared the process of deciding when, where and how to start the experiment.
WHEN JON AND I could no longer sort through the myriad decisions required to take our freelance businesses on the road, we pulled back for a while to let the information settle. It wasn’t long before the universe conspired to lend us a hand.
“I have clients who need to rent a furnished place for three months,” my real estate agent friend said over coffee one day.
My mental cogs whirred: This was the perfect opportunity! We could cover our costs at home, have enough time in Costa Rica to settle down and work, plus explore the country to see whether we could envision going back for a longer stay or even to establish residence.
Within forty-eight hours we had offered our apartment, met the prospective tenants, found them absolutely perfect (mature, responsible, amiable) and received the first month’s rent. It was mid-June. We had exactly six weeks to prepare for departure. Good thing we had already put many hours of thought into becoming location independent!
A surge of excitement lifted us into high gear, but made it hard to concentrate on any one thing. We looked up travel information on the web. We bought the Moon Living Abroad in Costa Rica book. We made ridiculously long to-do lists.
As our adrenaline slowed, it was time to prioritize. We needed to determine our travel dates and ultimate location in Costa Rica, buy plane tickets and secure lodging for the first month.
Our tenants were moving in August 1, and we had prior travel commitments for two weeks after that, so our departure date became August 15. Since tourist visas are only granted for 90 days upon entry into Costa Rica, we knew our return date had to be within that period. Otherwise, we would have to leave the country part way through our stay and re-enter with another visa.
Since we would be at a conference in the Catskill Mountains until August 14, it made the most sense to continue three hours to New York City and fly out of there the next day.
When we began looking for flights, we were pleasantly surprised to find direct, return tickets for less than $500 each. Three things were in our favor here. First, it was significantly cheaper to fly from the U.S. than Canada. Second, May through November are low season in Costa Rica (also known as “green season” because of the rain). And third, six weeks before travel is often when you get the best average travel discounts.
Within days we had completed two of our priority tasks: we had travel dates and plane tickets in hand. The next question was, where exactly were we going once we stepped out of Juan Santamería International Airport?
Oh, there’s a volcano over here! Oooh, look at this beach over there! It was easy to forget our real purpose and look at this as a long holiday. But no, the purpose of this trip was to live elsewhere but continue to work on our programming and translation projects. It therefore made the most sense to choose a base and rent somewhere for at least the first month.
Six months earlier, when we first began to consider location independence as an option, we learned that infrastructure is much more developed in the Central Valley of Costa Rica than it is on either coast. This general area would be our destination, but we had not decided on any one place in particular. We began to scour blog posts, articles and guidebooks to get a sense for different cities. San José was perhaps not the safest. While beautiful, Escazú and Santa Ana were expensive. Atenas, on the far west side of the valley, began to sound like the ideal spot. This small, traditional town is said to have one of the best climates in the world. A growing expat population means that most services are available, as well as a variety of affordable vacation rentals. In terms of location, it is only 24 kilometers from the airport and just off the new Autopista del Sol highway, for quick access to the capital and the west coast.
Done! We chose Atenas as our first destination, but now had to find a place to live. We scoured Craigslist, the Tico Times English newspaper and La Nación in Spanish, as well as vacation rental websites. Prices varied wildly, as did the amount of information available. It was hard to know what we could trust sight unseen. I then remembered a colleague’s trip to Atenas in 2010, and immediately wrote to see if he had a recommendation. He did.
Jon and I had rather simple but essential criteria: the place had to have wireless Internet, screened windows (in case of mosquitoes) and at least one bedroom; it had to be fully furnished, equipped with linens, towels and dishes, and preferably have an outdoor space. Rent had to be significantly less expensive than it was in Canada.
My colleague’s recommendation fit the bill perfectly. We e-mailed the owner and determined the house was available. It seemed so ideal, in fact, that we negotiated a slightly lower rate for a two-month rental.
Ta-da! Within ten days of our decision to go, we had a concrete plan. With just over a month before departure, the hard part of organizing our business and personal lives still lay ahead.
LISA CARTER is a literary translator and writer with a passion for travel. She and her partner, Jon, live in Ottawa, Canada – at least for now. They are currently experimenting with being digital nomads based out of Atenas, Costa Rica. You can find Lisa on her professional website intralingo.com, her personal food blog sweetsaltysour.com and on Twitter @intralingo.