Becoming Location Independent: Arranging the Essentials

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!

The Plan

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.

Atenas Plaza

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.

The church in Atenas

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.

Our Atenas rental

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.



Part I – Becoming Location Independent: Decisions, Decisions

Lisa Carter of Intralingo

Lisa Carter


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, her personal food blog and on Twitter @intralingo.

Tags: , ,


  1. Lisa,
    I have been looking forward to part 2 of this series!
    It is something my husband and I talk of a lot.
    Right now he has his job and it will be awhile before we would have the opportunity to do it. I am happy right now just to get a vacation a couple times a year. One of the places we are considering going to is Costa Rica in two years for our 40th Anniversary. If you have any suggestions on visiting, I’d love to hear them.
    Great article, cant wait for part 3!

    • Sorry to keep you waiting, Betsy! But so glad you’re finding these posts useful.

      Costa Rica is an incredible country — it’s clear why so many people come here and never want to leave. 🙂 Hopefully I’ll give you an idea of different locations as these posts progress.

      Part 3 will be all about how we got our businesses ready to come here — perhaps your husband could do something similar?! Stay tuned…

  2. Wow, it sounds like things fell into place for you really well! The flights from the US is a real bonus, the flights for us to go from Calgary were double that. Good to know you can get wireless internet access, and the rent is reasonable.
    Thanks for the pictures, Atenas looks wonderful! Looking forward to Part 3. 🙂

    • Yes, Katherine, quite a lot did fall into place for us. To me, a sure sign that this was the right thing to do.

      I hope to get Part 3 to you very soon…

  3. This is awesome! I like the house….it’s exactly what I pictured! Y’all are so bold, daring and COOL! I am super excited for you and can’t wait to hear how it works out! Keep us posted…..soon!

    • Isn’t the house cute as a proverbial button?!

      As for being bold and daring, Costa Rica really is a place where that’s not totally required. There are lots and lots of expats here, lots of people to turn to when you need a hand. But cool, yes, it is that! 😉

      • LOL! Lisa, you are modest. I can see that Ann meant *you and Jon* are cool for doing this daring adventure – and I heartily agree.

        Even though Costa Rica is a supportive place for expats, it’s still a bold move. Many people I’ve known are afraid to leave the town they grew up in, or the house where they’ve lived for 25 years, etc. When I moved from Seaside, OR to Taos, NM by myself, I had locals in Seaside say, “I would be too afraid to do that.”

        Perhaps your series will help people with their fears, as well. The way you’re documenting all the methodical steps you’ve taken to get to where you are now is very reassuring – and that can help reduce fear of the unknown.

  4. I’m breathless – in the best way! I love reading about this. Your approach is so logical and forward-thinking (not my strong suit), and yet, I’m totally excited reading about it. I guess it’s because your careful plan is in the service of something most of us wouldn’t ever try.

    I am so loving this series!

    • Thank you, j! Your comment has brightened my morning. 😉

      As for being forward-thinking, yes, it’s all part of going location independent if you want to make sure your business still runs smoothly. But you can’t plan for everything…

      • Ha! “But you can’t plan for everything…” sounds like a tease for the next installment!

  5. Pingback: a culture of language and thought » Blog Archive » Becoming Location Independent: Ready…

  6. Hey Lisa, I came to this site to read your article – and compelling and beautifully written it is – but also I love the nature and spirit of the site. As a passionate meanderer I’m impressed with the content and approach here. I’ve just subscribed. So, Lisa, thank you for the read and for the site introduction. Fi

    • Fi — I’m so glad you came by. And yes, the site is really terrific, isn’t it?! There’s such a great variety of articles, all written well and with spirit, as you say. I’m glad you found it. 😉

  7. Debbie Barran says:

    Hi Lisa,

    I’m sitting in the Dwight Public Library reading Part 2 with delight. As I’ve always maintained, you are a beautiful writer.

    Thanks for including a picture of your new house – it looks so cute – and brings your whole journey closer.


    • Deb! So glad you checked in… from the cottage no less.

      Thank you for your lovely compliment. The house we’re in is wonderful and it is nice to show people exactly where we are. More on that in future instalments, though. 😉

  8. Pingback: Weekly favorites (Sep 5-11) | Adventures in Freelance Translation

  9. Wow Lisa!
    Well done for coming so far on your dream in such a short space of time. The pictures are beautiful.
    Hope you thoroughly enjoy your time in Atenas.

  10. Izabela Jonczyk says:

    Hi Lisa!
    I am pleased to read your posts on Costa Rica! Thanks for sharing your headquarters’ photo, always interested in how other people are organised. Please keep sharing your insights on how this indenpendent location works for both of you! My partner and I are also spending a month (December) in Costa Rica so I can’t wait to read what your impressions are.
    I wish you all the best in overcoming any deviations from your plans!

  11. Pingback: Moon Living Abroad in Costa Rica · WWW.MINFOWIZ.COM

  12. Pingback: Becoming Location Independent: Ready… | Intralingo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *