A local family is following their passion for a country by moving there to live for a year.
Lana Garner, her husband Shawn Grier and their two children Maya, 13, and Ethan, 10, are spending 2016 in Costa Rica, after travelling there several times and falling in love with the Central American country.
The couple, both of whom have lived here most of their lives, first went to Costa Rica about 17 years ago and dreamed of going back, living there or maybe even retiring there, said Garner.
In January 2015, they took their children with them and had a similar, awesome experience, she said.
“We loved what we saw and experienced and it started a conversation between us of ‘could we do this?’” said Garner.
Garner had decided to quit her job at Northern Health a couple of years ago to devote more time to her family, and she has never regretted it, as putting her family first is most important.
“I’ve been able to go to my kids’ Christmas concerts and not be rushed. I’ve been home for them after school, able to bake, get my social work degree,” she said. “The time that it’s given me with my family, it’s priceless so this is a continuance of that.”
That includes making sacrifices this past year to save up enough money to go, she said, and to have enough money to survive without working because they did not get work visas.
Given their skill set – Garner is a reflexologist and her husband a carpenter – they want to see what they can build from their shared skills. They are thinking they can be part of the community in Costa Rica and trade skills with others.
As for her children going to school there, she said from what she has learned from researching it, that it will be great for them. “The experience our kids will have is just awesome,” said Garner.
They will be going to a bilingual school, taking their academic courses in English and other courses in Spanish so they should learn the language in a short time, she said.
“Kids are so good that way. They’ll be teaching us,” she said.
The school district here has been very supportive and said that travelling and taking your kids somewhere is a far bigger education than they can get from school classes.
Garner has used the internet to research anything and everything she has wanted to know. “You can basically find whatever you want to research online, whatever question or concern, type it in and there is oodles of blogs and videos, all sorts of things to make these things possible to prepare you,” she said.
Another thing she learned was that people can travel the world by housesitting for others. “There are ways in which you can go on a shoestring budget and live somewhere,” she said.
They found a couple in Alberta with a rental in Costa Rica in the area they are going to, which is in the southern part of the country south of Dominical.
They chose to go there because the area is less of a tourist area, smaller, more low key and not as dry as in the northern part of the country. The medical plan they have allows them to be out of the country for up to two years once in a five-year period so they’ll be covered, she said.
Another thing she found online is an ex-patriot checklist that lays out things to do at certain times before you leave, which has proven to be a big job just to get through, she said. “We’ve had multiple garage sales, so it’s been a lot of decluttering,” she said.
The last weeks before they leave has been stressful with things coming up last minute, such as problems with the car they were going to drive there.
Garner had traded her car in for a Honda they bought on the internet from Vancouver that was supposed to be suitable for a trip like theirs. However, it started to die and sound bad and after the dealer here looked at it, the cost to fix it was going to be a fortune.
“They showed me the quote for the vehicle and it was going to be quite a bit of money. It’s easy to say ‘you know I could do this later’ but we need to have something when we come back too, right? We can’t not have a vehicle,” said Garner.
The staff at the Honda dealership here knew a bit about the family’s trip and said they would cover the bill. “That was just very generous and we really appreciate that,” she said, adding they’ll buy a car in Costa Rica.
Garner has a blog she’s started – pathtopuravida.blogspot.ca – and hasn’t posted on it for a while with everything getting so busy but she intends to start again once they get settled.
Pura vida as directly as you can translate it means “pure life,” but in Costa Rica the people use it to say “life is good,” she said.
She is thankful for all the support from their family and friends. “I’m looking to encourage other people to pursue and make happen whatever they want to and not be held back,” said Garner. “We’ll go and have an experience together which will impact all of us for the rest of our lives,” said Garner.
The family left the city Dec. 24 and the country on Dec. 31.