• Jill Reed, Ph.D.

Moving to Costa Rica with Kids: a time of transition

Transition: the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another. 

In a contemporary sense the word, transition, has multiple and often weighted meanings. I have a great deal of respect for this word; here I mean it to convey the process by which my family is moving from one country and culture into another. It’s that simple and uncomprehendingly complex. 

The Reeds – our USA selves hanging in Big Sky last August. Before the big move.

We left Charlottesville and River Rock Farm in July for the Pacific Coast of Guanacaste, Costa Rica and we’ve been dribbling down ever since. We arrived with six large bags, one cooler and one Snoot dog (an old agreeable dachshund). Over the last three months we have acquired a black labrador puppy, a 43 foot shipping container of furniture, a beat-up 2005 Nissan Xterra, and an invisible but giant pit into which we toss all our cash. We’ve also managed to bring back with us on a recent visa trip home, our beloved golden retriever. Somehow, we are still not all here.

While the kids and I have been shedding our uptight skin from the states, my wife is

still managing the farm back home. Her transition is glacial compared to ours. She is still in the world where things run on time and life is scheduled accordingly. Where a run to Costco keeps you in fresh fruit and batteries for less than a monthly paycheck. Where you can leave the sugar bowl out and it doesn’t need a couple of silicon packets to keep it dry. Where wild pizotes, fast iguanas and giant birds with talons don’t threaten your lunch.


Sunset is indeed an event. (Avellanas)

The boys and I have become accustomed to outdoor showers, the mud and the mold of the rainy season, all new fruits and veggies, sunset as a special event and waking up at daybreak. We are transitioning to this new country and its wonderful customs, habits and nuances.

We are adjusting to being in a neighborhood and not having the unlimited privacy of our farm. “You must wear trunks to swim in the pool!” In very small increments we are developing Spanish vocabulary and hoping that we pick the right verbiage to go along. The boys are rapidly becoming part of a new school and learning how to manage homework and spelling tests. One was named star student of the month for October.

The other won his running event a couple days ago.

Typical neighbor in Pinilla.

As if transitioning to a new country isn’t enough, we have also had to move our household from our first landing pad in the wonderful surfing community of Hacienda Pinilla to the more restrictive and manicured confines of Reserva Conchal. Completely first world problems, but imagine, if you will, the difference between Paia and Wailea. One is more open, organic and laid back. The other is perfection in landscaping – blues and greens blending seamlessly for days – and a camera every 15 feet. Big brother is watching. Keep the dogs on leashes! And off the golf course! Do not worry, dear friends. We have managed our secondary transition well, in part due to my very best friend Liza and her organization and love. She arrived as pet sitter and became move coordinator. Kudos.

Conchal beach club. Ridiculous.

All of this is to say that we are growing and learning and flexing our cognitive muscles, but we are also emerging from our shed skin as something different than we were. Things look a little peculiar, the world looms large and our connections to this place grow with every passing day. Our bodies are physically adjusting to the heat and humidity of life near the equator and our minds are adapting to a slower pace. My shy observer first son has come right out of his shell. Other kids shout his name when we are out and about. My funny jokester second son has demonstrated his math skills so well that his teacher let him create a homework project for the entire class. As for me, I’m handling an L4/L5 disc issue and what that means for my identity related to fitness and running. Oh, and I’m writing again.

Look for a post on what being broken means to me.

Adjusting to new trail walks. Pura Vida.

Just to recap, we moved to Costa Rica from Charlottesville in July with one dog and a house full of furniture and spent the next couple of months negotiating new territory and acquiring new friends and one extra dog. In the middle of our visa run to Virginia last week we moved into a different house in a completely different development, and brought down one more dog. Here’s to transitions! Someone should follow us around to collect all this skin we’re leaving behind.

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