Prep: packing up, learning Spanish, feeling all the feels

Enough folks have asked whether we’ll be blogging about our adventure that we’ve decided to ignore the reality that the internet does not need another blog about white people living abroad. We’ll do our best not to whine too much (wahh, moving to a foreign country is hard!), and use this space to keep friends and family updated, record our memories, and share our experience with others who may be interested in doing something similar.

Please promise you’ll tell us when we start to sound smug, and we will cut that shit. Right. Out.

So, yeah! Andy and the dogs and I are moving to Costa Rica in a couple weeks. (Andy already answered the “Why?” on his blog, so I won’t go into that here.) We’ve spent most of our free time this year gearing up: getting our house rented out, researching, packing up, and learning Spanish.


Practice-packing the car with a year’s worth of junk. Side note: you might be surprised how many intelligent people think Costa Rica is an island, and ask us how we’re going to drive there.

That last one is the kicker. I took French in school and Andy took German, so between us we had about enough Spanish to order a beer and find the bathroom. After studying a little bit a day for the past several months, I’m still not confident I possess enough Spanish to handle the five border crossings and subsequent residency application process smoothly — that’s my biggest anxiety about the trip. But I do know a heckuva lot more than I did. Here are the tools I’ve been using:

  • DuoLingo: This app makes learning Spanish a game, and holds you accountable with a “shaming notification” delivered each night if you haven’t practiced your Spanish by 10pm. It’s fun, and helpful for getting started.
  • Coffee Break Spanish: I listen to this podcast while walking the dogs and doing dishes. It’s a series of digestible, ~20-minute lessons from a Spanish professor (who happens to be Scottish). I appreciate his detailed explanations for why things work the way they work, and I love me a Scottish accent.
  • Drive Time Spanish: I listen to these CDs in the car. It’s sporadic because I don’t have a commute, but I manage to absorb a little something while I’m out running errands.
  • Verbling: In my last-minute panic about sucking at Spanish, I signed up for these one-on-one online video lessons with a real Spanish teacher. I wish I had started them much sooner. There’s no substitute for having real conversations with native speakers.

We also have the Rosetta Stone program, but I never got into it because I already have my computer open all day for work, and often the last thing I want to do is stare at the screen any longer.

We knew our last month in Austin would be crunchtime. But it’s more of a crunch than we predicted, because I’m horrible: a couple months ago when sweet Andy tried to convince me we needed to start on the Costa Rica residency stuff now, I stuck my head in the sand and argued we should focus on leaving, and we’ll worry about that crap when we get there. Well, he was right. (Hear that, Andy? YOU WERE RIGHT.) Turns out we do need to get fingerprinted at the local police station so that we can get letters saying we’re good citizens, among other tasks we could have handled earlier had I not been sticking my fingers in my ears and singing LA-LA-LA.

Andy has also learned his lesson about sending me to REI to buy camp stove fuel, because I will walk out with two new Patagonia dresses.

Here’s the part where I ignore my pledge not to whine: I’m stressed the eff out. Penny-dog has ringworm (because it’s a super great time for her to be contracting spreadable illnesses!), and a bad attitude when strangers (such as border agents) approach the car. Some mornings I wake with a sense of dread that this is all a terrible idea. Andy and I haven’t spent a whole day off together since our honeymoon. All our energy is being funneled toward this thing, and we have no idea how it’s going to go, or if they’ll even let us into the country, but they’d better let us in, because our house is rented out for a year.

But: Eyes on the prize, right? Soon we’ll most likely forget the hassle of planning our adventure, because we’ll be too busy adventuring. And it’s not an adventure if sometimes you wish you weren’t having it.