Ten years of Costa Rica life experience and an unconventional attitude make me unique.
I’m here to share my perspective.
I am Lisa Valencia. I came to Costa Rica from the USA as a single woman alone, ten years ago. I didn’t speak Spanish. I had hardly any money and only some sketchy ideas of how I would get by. But I brought with me some very helpful qualities – confidence, rock solid determination and passion for adventure. Today I speak Spanish. I own and run a lovely little guest house in the jungle by the beach. I am married to a wonderful Latino twenty years my junior. And I live a productive, creative and interesting life that many would dream of.
My life is full of hard work and challenges — which you’ll discover in my stories — but it’s worth it. Fresh healthy food and medicinal plants are abundant. The tropical climate and outdoor life style encourages exercise and physical fitness. Interacting with guests from all over the world and a husband who is of a different culture, language and generation creates constant opportunity for learning and growth. When you live in accordance with your values and beliefs life can be difficult at times but the gratification is immense.
Why am I here?
Many people ask me. What made you decide to leave the United States for Costa Rica? Why would you leave your country?
Ten years ago I wrote a letter explaining my plans to move to Costa Rica. As I read it now, I am amazed at how relevant it is today. Below is an excerpt:
There are many great things about The United States of America. I grew up with my hand on my heart pledging allegiance. I’ve lived all over this country and loved it’s many characteristics. I’ve seen the beauty of the land from Pennsylvania farm country to breathtaking views in the Rocky Mountains. I’ve known the diversity of it’s people through the Italian, Jewish, Syrian and Irish who were my friends growing up and the Native American culture when I lived in Montana.
I am proud of the advances made by sincere, hard working citizens for human rights and equality. Woody Guthrie is my hero, with his songs of support for union workers and his free and independent spirit. This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land brings tears to my eyes. At one time the tears were for pride and the belief that his words were true. Now it is for sadness that they are not. Woody sang songs of the Great Depression when people were forced to live with sparsely. Men rode the rails — “bums” traveling from town to town hopping on board the box cars. There was a rebellious individualism and a fierce drive for independence in his words. Not Big Brother, The Boss or The Man – no one – is going to run my life and tell me what to do! These ideas seem to have fallen by the way side, prey to politics and greed.
Where is that “rugged individualist” now – that unique person in each of us? Look around and everywhere you see a huge consumerist eating machine. It tells you what to wear, what to do, what to think and look like, what to want and what to be. Thinking for ourselves is no longer necessary, in fact it is discouraged.
Our educational system prefers conformity. If you rock the boat, thinking for yourself can prove to be anywhere from unhealthy to deadly dangerous. For some, that’s OK. There’s always the new car, bigger house, latest fashion. I am not impervious to this experience. It is tempting. Cool things are fun to have, but at what price?
The conditioned desire for more stuff has put most North Americans in debt to the point where they are like hamsters running on a never ending wheel. And when you work that hard, who has time to notice our rights and freedoms being taken away, who has time to write their congressman, who has time to think? So while we are not looking, we are being conditioned and controlled by “Big Brother, The Boss, The Man, The Machine.” While we’re just working hard trying to get by to obtain that “better life,” the powers that be – governments and mega corporations are bulldozing their tanks of exploitation into every corner of the world.
Do all the North Americans who drink Coca-Cola know (or care) that the company kills (yes, assassinates) union leaders in Colombia? This is what we support, living in this country and it is just the tip of the iceberg.
Am I a traitor for leaving? Should I stay and fight? To be honest I just don’t have it in me. I think my country was sold out from under me before I even had a chance. And I truly believe that I can best contribute to making the world a better place on a one to one basis in a simpler society.
Where to go? I’ve been to Tibet. the people are the sweetest and most beautiful I have ever seen. But over their simple and happy life, hangs the huge dark cloud of Chinese communist rule. Nepal is a tropical paradise with Maoists that terrorize the countryside and lovely people with a monarchy who’s prince killed his father, the king. Most of South and Central America is run by corrupt officials. Europe is expensive and a lot like the U.S. Where to go? There is no where to escape the tribulations of government.
However… Costa Rica has a stable government. As tourism is their bread and butter industry, they promote positive environmental laws. It is a beautiful place where I can have a fairly simple lifestyle. I have met like minded people from the States and from all over the world, in Costa Rica.
So here I am.
What I am doing in Costa Rica?
Living: I moved to Costa Rica in 2007 in search of a new life. Not that my old life was so bad. I’d lived in the sweet little Rocky Mountain town of Whitefish, Montana for twenty years. As a single mom, it was a great place to raise my kids. I ran my own business as an artist and interior designer. And I enjoyed a lifestyle close to nature. But when my children moved out to start their own lives I longed for something new.
Working: Unless you have a tidy sum in your savings or a good pension, you’ll have to be creative in finding a way to get by in Costa Rica. I’ve worked as an artist, English teacher and a Costa Rica consultant and guide. Now I’m the happy owner and manager of a guest house and private cottage. None of this was planned. Everything evolved gradually, engendered by desire and driven by determination.
Exploring: My passion for adventure and my natural inquisitiveness sometimes gets me in trouble but always leads to an interesting story.
Writing about my Experiences: To my own surprise my creativity took a turn to the literary, as I recounted in writing, my new life experiences to my friends. When people found my articles on my website they began writing to me with great praise. They said my sentiments were the same as theirs and my writing touched their hearts. In September of 2009, I wrote a book about my first two years in Costa Rica, coming here as a woman alone. My book, “If She Can Do It, So Can I!” is available as an AUDIO BOOK an EBOOK and the paperback version is available from Amazon. And I am still writing.
What’s Next? Since my move to Costa Rica almost nothing has been planned. Everything that’s happened, everything I’ve done has come to me step by step, developing as time goes along. I’ve never worked in the hotel or hospitality industry yet here I am with a very successful guest house. It’s a good way to make a living yet it’s not what I want to do for the rest of my life. When the time is right a new opportunity will come. I’ll sell my property and business and go on to something new. This is what keeps me young. This is what keeps life exciting!