As usual, before moving to Costa Rica and accepting my contract I did very little research. To be honest, when making major life decisions I go on my "gut feeling" rather than reading what other people say (so ironic, because now I'm writing this for you to read). I knew the school I would be teaching at focused on sustainability and had an inquiry based curriculum, and it had my magic word that I find it very difficult to resist - "rural". This is was I found to be the pros and cons of teaching Costa Rica based on my personal experience living in a smaller town (not the capital city where most international schools are located):
1. You are surrounded by a country known for its biodiversity. I've never seen such colourful birds, butterflies and constant spottings of wildlife. I'd wake up to the sounds of howler monkeys right outside my window and I literally lived in the jungle surrounded by trees and fruit that would just fall down in abundance.
2. Beach life and eternal sunshine. Need I say more? Obviously if you're teaching in Costa Rica, aka tropical paradise, you're going to want to find a school or living situation that is close to a beach or in the forests. The lifestyle you live in Costa Rica is close to nature and naturally you spend more time outdoors. We were at the beach every weekend, hiking, trail running or mountain biking.
3. Costa Rica is vegan/vegetarian friendly and health conscious in general. There are an abundance of tropical fruits and many of the expats who have made Costa Rica their permanent home have bought along their kombucha, natural healing, organic produce preferences and crystals along with them. I was constantly surrounded by others who were looking for alternative ways to living that were more natural and aligned with sustainability. We'd just open our back door and chuck vegetable off cuts and fruit peels into the jungle, giving it back to the earth and whatever creatures lurked outside.
4. You get to practice slow living, get down to basics and escape the hustle and bustle. You spend so much time in nature that you become more accustomed to more natural ways of being. You're no longer surrounded by malls and even advertising! I remember our town putting up its first "billboard" and it looked so out of place. You are not constantly being bombarded with information but instead are surrounded by nature and fresh air.
5. I found myself surrounded with positive, conscious, like-minded individuals. I feel like many people choose to move to Costa Rica because it offers an alternative lifestyle away from the fakeness that a western society can so often bring. These were people you could be yourself with, that accepted differences and you could have an actual conversation with without them constantly being on their phone.
1. Its very expensive. I had this idea that Central America was cheap and boy was I wrong! Prices are on par with that of Europe - seriously. I would sometimes think about how local people even managed to survive, and basically many of the people where I lived would live in a bigger town (away from the beaches or forests) which meant rent was cheaper and they would live off of simple staples. You're able to find all of the western luxuries but you're going to have to pay for them. Coming from South Africa and living in Asia, most of what you'd expect to pay there was tripled in Costa Rica. P.s the teaching salary DOESN'T triple along with it and there is little opportunity for saving, but some things are worth more than money right?
2. Flights to Costa Rica from any other part of the world (besides the USA) are ridiculously expensive, and so are flights within Central and South America. When I first booked my flight to Costa Rica I made the mistake of thinking I could easily transit through the US, because I would be staying in the airport and not leaving. Unfortunately, as a South African I needed to go for an interview at the US embassy for something as simple as a transit visa. I didn't have the time or the money at that point and had to opt for flights through South America instead with a hefty fee.
3. There are tons of tourists. I mean technically I was a tourist but what I mean is I wasn't just passing through. At high season it can be difficult to go anywhere without it being overcrowded. On the plus side, low seasons are amazing. You constantly have whole beaches to yourself and in the rainy season the country is so beautiful - everything turns green and lush.
4. Most of the international schools are located in the capital city, San Jose. This is an inland city and it takes hours to get to the beaches where most people would rather be. As foreigners we are not permitted to work in a government school and therefore have limited options.