Cut IOK, by now – a lot of you know I’m not normal. I’d even go so far as to sometimes say I’m crazy. Or unique. Whatever. No label necessary. I’m cool with how I am and love myself, so that’s all I have to say.

After quitting my job in the States, and moving to Costa Rica to live a more simple life, there were other changes I knew I wanted to make as well. This was the time to do it, right? Some changes were made with a conscious effort, others seemed to happen naturally. And yes – Costa Rica has helped with almost all of these things; however, that’s not to say that moving somewhere else (or staying put) couldn’t help with these things too.

Here are 10 things I’ve cut out of my life since moving to Costa Rica, that have made me a much happier (and sane!) person.

1. GOODBYE RULES! Yes, I have stopped “always having to follow the rules”. Growing up – I always seemed to follow the rules. Always doing things the way they are “normally” done… who says I have to do things the normal way? Now it’s almost a challenge to myself. When I was talking with Greg the other day about something, he said: “Well, the way it’s normally is done is xyz…” And I thought to myself WHOA – why do I have to do it the way it’s normally done? Is there a different (but legal) way to do it? I love this new me. I feel more brave and crazy and adventurous these days, and for me, that is a very good thing.

2. FAREWELL HAIR DRYER and ARTIFICIAL COLORING! I like having long hair. But I don’t always like drying it: it can take a long time, it’s boring, and it uses a lot of electricity. In the States I used a hair dryer every single morning. Just think how many minutes of my life I wasted doing this, not to mention how much electricity. I also used to color my hair, until it started getting “too” blond.  I now love my natural, dirty-blond color. Now a-days, I just let my hair air-dry, sometimes sitting in the sun for a bit. I’ll wear it up in a messy bun or ponytail (something I NEVER did since I was in grade school and a neighborhood-bully-girl told me I looked like a boy with my hair up). I have natural waves, so if I’m going somewhere, I touch it up briefly after it’s air-dried with a large-barrel curling iron (which takes all of 3 minutes) and I’m ready to go.

3. SO LONG DEBIT CARDS! We have a bank account here with a debit card/ATM card – but we don’t use it as a debit card. We take out cash at the ATM machine, and use cash for our expenses during the month. I love it! In the States we used a debit card, and I would write every debit item down in our check book to make sure we always balanced with our checking account (see?  rule follower). Now – I have an envelope system for the cash, and it works great and saves me tons of time. Bonus: it makes us practice our numbers in Spanish when we have to pay for things in cash.

4. TA-TA NAIL POLISH! In Dallas, I got pedicures every 2 weeks. And yes, my toes looked beautiful (I’ve always thought I had ugly toes), especially in a pair of heeled-sandals. But here? Nail polish is unnecessary – or maybe I’ve just come to love my toes more. I’ve gotten to know my toes pretty intimately. Naked, one could say. My toenails seem so much healthier now, and definitely grow faster. Sure – polish has its place (especially in Dallas, where it is almost unheard of to not have polished toes), but I’m quite happy these days with my naturally naked toes.
toes naked
5. BYE-BYE TALKING ON THE PHONE! I don’t like talking on the phone. At all. Texting, emailing and instant messaging? Best things ever invented. I mean – it’s so non-invasive and the receiver can get back to you when they want, on their own time. You’re basically never “calling at a bad time” or interrupting someone unnecessarily. One great thing about quitting my job in Dallas (besides not having to sit in a window-less cubicle all day), was no more talking on the phone! My friends know that the best way to get ahold of me is to email or message me. Okay, so there is one person I still answer the phone for – my mom (Mom: if you’re reading this, I hope you feel special. Because you are.).

6. I DON’T MISS YOU ALARM CLOCK! I really don’t miss an alarm clock going off every morning. It’s interesting – in Dallas, we absolutely needed an alarm clock to go off at 5:30/6 in the morning to get up in time for work. It was always dark and it was always a struggle to get up. We never set the alarm in Costa Rica, and I’m always up before 6 am. It’s also light out at about 5:30 am and I always get 8 hours or more of sleep each night, so I’m sure that helps.
7. CIAO NICE JEWELRY! Since I moved to Costa Rica, I’ve traded in my silver jewelry for my arm candy, that I make myself(!) out of waxed thread and cheap (but beautiful) beads. I love my arm candy. I also traded in my silver watch for a sports watch. Of course I still have some special jewelry that Greg gave me – but I just feel more natural here, and never have the urge to wear it.
8. ADIOS DIET COKE! In the States, I drank Diet Coke every day. Probably around 2-3 cans a day, sometimes more. I know, I know – it’s SOOO bad for you. But I was addicted to it, I could never stop drinking it. In Costa Rica they don’t have Diet Coke, but they do have Coca Cola Light (which, OK, is basically the same thing); however, water with lemon is now my go-to hydration source, with a can of Coca Light being a treat every other week or so. No, still not perfect, but much improved.
9. GOODBYE ALWAYS HAVING TO BE DOING SOMETHING! OK – this one, admittedly has been hard for me, and I’m still working on it. I kinda like always having something to do. But sometimes, I make myself go outside and sit in my leather rocking chair with a cup of coffee in the morning – and just – BE. Without any computer, or electronic device. I just go outside and sit.   There’s so much to see, you guys! There are parrots and butterflies and squirrels and yes, bugs (let’s not go there), neighbors walking by, and the gorgeous central valley laid out before me… It’s ok to just – BE. It’s good to let your mind wander sometimes. I don’t always have to be doing something. And 9 times out of 10, Greg will come out and join me and we’ll have the best talks. It’s awesome.

10. FAREWELL MAKE UP! Yep – I’ve stopped wearing make up every day. Moisturizer and sunscreen is it on most days. And when I do wear it for special occasions, it’s very minimal. I love being more natural, and so does my pocket-book.
jii 2

OK, so I know that was 10 things, but I’m on a roll and have a couple more:

11. SO LONG UNNECESSARY YAKING & MINGLING! Yes, I know, most girls just love to hang out and socialize, talk, and yak with each other all day long. But not me. It’s just not how I am. I’m more like my Dad in that regard, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing (Greg definitely thinks it’s a good thing). Now, I pick and choose what I want to do and with whom. I definitely have some good friends who I’m comfortable with and are interested in me for who I am, but I am just not one of those girls that has to be doing stuff with other women every single day – I prefer to be by myself, with Greg, or with close friends.

12. CIAO COACH PURSES AND BAGS! I admit, I still have a slight bag fetish – but now it is more a “$10 cross body bag fetish”, not a “$500 Coach bag fetish.” Which is perfectly fine with me (and Greg).  Oh, don’t let these cute guys on the end here distract you from my cool “Pura Vida” cross-body bag made out of an old coffee sack!
So, that’s all I got. But I think that’s enough. My life is full here – but with less “things” to distract me. Life is great.

Pura Vida! — Jen


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  1. GREAT article – so inspirational!! I have been trying (here in New Jersey, for now!) to downsize over the past couple years. I have too much “STUFF” and have to start getting rid of it, so someday, I can lead a ‘pura’ vida! Thanks – keep on writing!!

    • Thank you so much Linda! Keep downsizing, and going forward – I know it has to be harder in the US (or it would be for me, anyway) – so kudos to you, really. 🙂

  2. Jen, I just can’t wait to meet you.. after reading this post, I realize that we are similar in so many ways.. I’m a fellow rule breaker, i HATE talking on the phone, I LOVE to disconnect and do something simple or even nothing at all… and I’ve never been one for small talk. I’d much rather be out on a hike with my beautiful wife than doing just about anythign else. Thank you for being such a wonderful inspiration and probably the best friend I haven’t met yet. haha!

    • Wow – it always amazes me and warms my heart to hear about “other people like me” out there! The four of us definitely need to meet – we’d have so much to talk about!!! Are you guys coming back to CR anytime soon??? Let me know, keep in touch! 🙂

      • We are definitely going to plan a trip back to CR, and when it happens, you’ll be the first to know! As far as I’m concerned, we’re still on this journey together in spirit, even if we haven’t met yet; it feels good to be so connected to other people who are just DOING IT!

  3. Jen, since being here, mostly alone, I’ve adopted all your non-comforming attitudes except just BEING, and working on that. . I feel I’m more fulfilled by having some little project as my mosaics, washing windows, walk with Dobey, etc. Reading because no TV. Interesting how our outlook changes when removed from the States.

    • Hi Bev! Yes… I’m still working ton the just “BEING” too… but feel I enjoy it here, when I can do it, more than I did in the States. I so love reading here, and not watching TV too (we have a TV here, came with the house, but we NEVER use it, and I just LOVE that about us!). Cheers, friend!

  4. I can’t wait for #2 to materialize in my life! I’m currently an attorney & have to have a “polished” look which includes three hair products, a hair dryer, and a curling iron on a daily basis. I feel like my hair “runs” my life (I don’t want to take a Saturday nap because it will mess up my hair, I don’t want to swim in the pool because I’ll have to do my hair again, etc.). My husband can’t wait for “Latin American Laura” (read: grown out hair that air dries)to emerge when we retire to Costa Rica (hopefully in 13 years)!

    We are visiting CR for the first time in December and I have to tell you, I’m going to look like a hot mess with the humidity and no hair dryer. Be prepared CR!

    • Laura – that’s awesome, that you have this to look forward to. I’m telling you, it is SO liberating! Yay on coming here in December – have an awesome time!

  5. I’m so with you on these things. Even in our short time here, I can relate to all the non-girl stuff! The purse thing is hard for Cindy, although she’s adopted the slouch bag idea!! 😉

    • Thank you Dan! I bet she’ll become more enamored with the slouch bag/cross body bag – it’s just so handy here, and there’s really no head for a “gourmet” purse here. Cheers!

  6. So me and my wife are retiring early also moving to the Caribbean side of CR to live a more minimum relaxed life style, the whole why of socially accepted lifestyle in America is messed up. We want to retire young enough to enjoy the rest of our lives and stop making other people rich. Love what your doing!

  7. Life is easier when you down size and move away from the “BIG” city. I found that out when I moved from Houston to Rockport, TX. We don’t “dress” the same, don’t wear heels (they sink in the sand, lol…), minimal make-up (it melts off) and don’t “rush” to do things, it’s like “Island Time”. I look forward to continuing this lifestyle in Costa Rica but understand, having been there, that it will be MUCH slower. And I look forward to meeting you.

    • Teri – good for you for slowing down and doing this already! Love the sinking in sand and melting of makeup (see, some things are just easier to do!)… lol Thank you!

  8. Yes Jen, I have stopped all of the same things. I started to grow my hair out of “color” 1 year before we moved. Gave up Mani/Pedi ( I get one when I go back to the USA, but that is a TREAT) Not a weekly thing. Clothes are cotton, no iron, wash & wear. Fancy stuff just doesn’t fit in here, and I don’t want to be the Gringo that stands out like a sore thumb. It started when we were clearing out the house in Florida to get ready to sell it. I found it LIBERATING to have less “stuff”. Also, the fact that I don’t work 50 hour weeks, means I can cook more from scratch, no processed foods, and for the first time in over 20 years my cholesterol is normal!!! Pura Vida

  9. I cut all those things out of my life with the exception of occasional make up( very occasional) and landlines in the United States. I use a landline- its cheaper than a cellphone and when I walk to the post office or drive or whatever, I am simply living, not ‘on’ 24/7. I return messages and email when I am at home.

    • That’s great Cathy! I love what you do with the phone, and not taking a cell with you everywhere. I love how you said that too – that you’re not “on” 24/7 – very important to me too.

  10. Seeing you sitting there in the rocking chair relaxing made my day! On one of our visits to CR, I bought one of those rockers and had it sent back to the USA. I could sit in it all day, just wish it was in CR and I was sitting in it.

    • James! That’s so great. Yes – we LOVE these rocking chairs here! A friend who visited last December ended up ordering some when she went back to the States too. Pura vida and cheers!

  11. What a great, timely article. I needed this today! I was just fired from a 15 year job 2 weeks ago. My gut tells me it was because I slowly morphed into your lifestyle; minimal make up, favorite hair – messy bun, hair cuts only every 6 months, gray is showing and I don’t care, NEVER heels – flats or sandals, socializing with people I work with – Meh!? (not if I could help it), sitting and being still, napping, journal writing with no guilt that I am NOT DOING SOMETHING!! Stopped wearing jewelry years ago. So, so many similarities – but I was fired for it. Ouch! They said it was for “making a mistake” but I have never been reprimanded for that in 15 years so I honestly think it was their rock to get in younger blood. I am 61. Still nursing my ego back to health – but sure did love, love, love this article. Can we be friends?

    • Oh Kay! My heart really hurts for you and your situation. I hate thinking about corporations “getting rid of the older crowd and bringing in the new blood”… Ouch. I’m so so sorry. Of course we can be friends! Let me know if I can do anything to help.

  12. I love this list! I am definitely happier to be doing nothing now than I was before. I am also less hard on myself, and opposite to you, MORE social. I also still love my hair colour and nail polish… I think that’s part of the learning process one has when they move to a place with a slower pace of life and less societal pressure. We learn to be ourselves and to embrace all parts of that.

    • Thank you so much Liisa! The details are different for everyone, but for you – being less hard on yourself is a truly great thing, and also just that you are happier now. Cheers!

  13. Hi Jen! I Dominic lived in Costa Rica 4+ years ago for almost 2 years, been back to Canada, last 2 winters have been hell, i am looking at visiting Costa Rica this winter once i take care of business, i will like to keep busy, do you have any hobbies to keep you busy and do you still enjoy it there for the amount of time you’ve been there?

    Thanks Dominic

    • Hi Dominic! Yes, I keep very very busy – I write (blog, books, articles), bake/cook, make bracelets, go to yoga once/a week, hike every morning…. all of this keeps me quite busy, which I like. There’s a fine line for me between busy/happy and too busy – my personal thing to work on. Good luck!

  14. Jen, you are making a beautiful transition that is so fully dimensional. Your focus is on being more genuine, more natural, more creative and more self confident. It seems to me that one does not need to be in Costa Rica to be more in control (although it’s a beautiful place to do so.) I find your journey/blog inspirational and encouraging. Keep up the great work and the sharing with all of us.

    • I love your comments, friend. You are so in-depth and personal. And you’re right – one does NOT need to be in Costa Rica (although that has helped me with my transitions). You are very natural and genuine, and you live in California! Thank you for always pumping me up! xo

  15. Hola Chica! You are too blessed to be stressed. Hooray!

    P.S. I’m not quite sure I could give up makeup, hair color, or my coveted DP. Besides, I don’t think anyone would want me to!

  16. Jen, just wanted to thank you and Greg for your book, your blogs and your inspiration. After visiting Grecia in April I am hoping to move there the early part of December. There is such a great feel to the community and I look forward to becoming a part of it.
    Thanks again

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