Hello friends and Happy Monday to you all! I’m very excited about today’s Expat Extra, featuring Samantha Wei.
We first met Samantha and her boyfriend Yeison (pronounced “Jason”) through the online/social media/blogging world and then we got to meet them in person when we visited the Guanacaste area while they lived in Playas del Coco. We liked them immediately upon meeting them. They are laid back, sweet, interesting, smart and kind. They have the best blog and website (MyTanFeet.com), and I’m so proud of them with how they’ve grown it and make a living on it (although I am NOT envious of their working hours!).
They now live in Jacó, which is much closer to us, and we already have plans to get together in the near future. I can’t wait.
For now – let me introduce you to the lovely Samantha:
Where are you from? Tell me about you, and your life before you came to Costa Rica.
I’m Samantha, I’m a 26 year old Asian America who grew up near Seattle, in Washington state. I had just finished my undergrad at the University of Washington majoring in biology and I worked for a year in a pain clinic as a lab technician before moving to Costa Rica. I had been in a long distance relationship with my boyfriend Yeison who is Costa Rican for two years before moving down. We met when I came down to Central America on a volunteer trip when I was a junior in college. After the trip, I flew back to Seattle, finished school, worked and then decided to make the big move.
Being long distance was extremely tough, especially since Yeison didn’t have a US visa back then and I was still in school so we only saw each other every few months. There was one time where we didn’t see each other for 6 months! I loved my life in Seattle but since I graduated, I was seeking for something new and the opportunity to move to Costa Rica was perfect. Perfect timing for me and for us.
Where do you live now in Costa Rica, how long have you been there, and how did you decide to go to that particular location?
Right now I live in Jacó, Costa Rica. We’ve been here since the end of July 2015 so not too long actually, and our lease is up at the end of January. We’ll probably move to another place when the time comes. We used to live in Playas del Coco for 2 and a half years before moving to Jacó and we moved mainly for work purposes as Yeison had some contracts in the area. Plus we were ready to experience something new since we’d been in Coco for a while.
We initially decided to live in the hills outside Heredia but a week or so after I moved, we got a job opportunity to manage a hotel in Playas del Coco. Neither of us had lived at the beach before and Yeison actually never lived outside Heredia so this was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. So two weeks after I moved, I found myself living at the beach!
Have you lived anywhere else around the world?
I grew up in Olympia, the capital city of Washington, lived in Seattle during college and then Costa Rica. But I haven’t lived anywhere as long as any of those places, we were in Taiwan for 2 and a half months in 2014, living and traveling.
Have you experienced “Culture Shock”?
Yes! I had visited Costa Rica three times before I moved but on very short trips, less than 1 week. And I wasn’t here to travel or visit the country, I was here to see Yeison so I didn’t actually know too much besides what I learned from my experiences with him. And I had only visited Heredia and San Jose, where he was living at the time so I didn’t know anything about Costa Rica outside the city.
You could say I was a bad expat, I didn’t do a ton of research before I moved but it was because I had Yeison. He was the reason why I was moving so I trusted him, that’s all I needed.
You guys used to live in the Guanacaste region – tell me the differences between there and where you live now, in Jacó.
Guanacaste is so much hotter than Jacó. Jacó is hot, but it’s more humid and it cools off a lot more at night whereas Guanacaste is just insanely hot, all day and all night. I wasn’t able to work in our living room in Coco without melting and turning on the AC but here in Jacó, I can perfectly work in the living room with a fan. I even use a blanket at night!
Besides the weather, Jacó is a lot more developed. We live in a condo tower which was kind of weird since you don’t think “condo towers” when you hear someone’s living at the beach in Costa Rica. But I actually really like it – it’s safe, we’re on the 4th floor so I get amazing views of the macaws that fly by and it’s peaceful.
We lived in a small condo in Coco. It was nice but Coco is much smaller and less developed than Jacó so there wasn’t many food options or things to do besides the beach. I did like that it was a lot more family friendly though, Jacó attracts a lot of partiers.
Guanacaste definitely has prettier beaches. Jacó beach is not the nicest with a rocky shore and neither are the neighboring beaches but they are more for surfing. Guanacaste is chock full of gorgeous beaches.
One more thing I noticed is that rent in Jacó is expensive compared to Coco. In Coco we were renting a fully furnished condo for $400 a month, in Jacó we couldn’t find anything less than $700!
You have a car here in Costa Rica – tell me about that process of buying and keeping it updated with the local requirements.
We’ve had two cars since I’ve moved. The first car Yeison bought quite a few years ago so he already had it when I moved. We sold that one when we left on our big Asia trip last year, it was falling apart anyways, Riteve (annual vehicle inspection) was a nightmare for us with that car!
Then we bought a car back in February and it’s been working well for us, but not without a few kinks here and there. It is a Hyundai Galloper 2000, it was actually Yeison’s uncle’s car so we didn’t have to go to a dealership or use CRautos. We actually got an awesome deal for it! Yeison paid for the transfer papers and it was a pretty simple process. His uncle is a mechanic so they already had a lawyer to do their paperwork for them and they just had to sign and transfer the money.
Thank goodness the Riteve for that car is in February because we’ve had some big problems with that car. It is 15 years old so of course we expected to run into problems but we’ve had to change almost everything – the AC, engine, brakes and recently the battery.
Do you do anything work-wise, or are you retired? Tell me about a “typical” day for you.
I work mostly on our website and some other random things like content creation, social media and copywriting. A typical day for me is waking up around 7 AM, do a little bit of yoga, have coffee and then I’m on my computer for the next 8-10 hours. I wish I was a bit more organized but every day consists of answering emails, content creation, social media and editing photos.
Since we work for ourselves, our hours aren’t stable. A typical working day is kinda like anyone else’s except we work from home. But we travel and work a lot, so that changes. If you’ve ever wondered why I’m on my phone so much, it’s because the work never ends! I’m constantly doing social media and answering emails.
So when we’re on the road, our work days change a lot. We like to take short trips so we may work at night when we’re on the road. When we come back home after traveling, we work like, at least 7 days in a row to catch up on everything.
You guys have a very popular website and blog business. Tell me how this started, and how you got to be so successful.
It started off kind of as an online journal. We did know that it was possible to make a living from the Internet, we were curious to see what it was like and if we could make it so we started the blog. We were fascinated by blogging and the Internet so we researched, learned and studied every day to see if we could grow our site which it did.
As for how we got successful… hmm I think a big part of it was that we were filling a need in the market. There were websites about Costa Rica but many of them were tour companies or of commercial nature. Our blog talked about both foreigner and local points of views, sharing our personal experiences and giving tips that were hard to find on the Internet. I think people liked that and really appreciated the information, and that’s how we started getting more people finding out about us.
(Jen’s note: Click on this picture to check out their awesome blog, besides having tons of information on it, they’ll also help you with your travel plans!):
Do you have any funny stories from living in Costa Rica? Please share!
One of my most embarrassing moments was a Spanish slip up. I’m not 100% fluent but I’ve learned a good amount so far. Thanks to Yeison I’ve learned a lot of slang and a lot of bad words but of course, when you learn you don’t really understand the meaning of the word if it’s slang.
So I was doing a stand up paddling tour by myself at Playa Herradura by Jaco, and it was just me and the guide. Just a few days before I learned a new Spanish slang word, “se despicho” which I thought was the equivalent to the English slang “I ate it” (like I tripped and fell super hard). So there I am, doing SUP for my first time with my guide who was super nice and we were talking about different Spanish words when all of a sudden, I completely fell on my face on my board. I blurted “Me despiche!” and my guide just looked at me with a really weird look. The rest of the tour he kept this weird look on his face and I didn’t know why.
Turns out “se despicho” (conjugated to me despiche in first person) doesn’t mean “I fell.” It’s like “I f*cked up!” – really, really bad. It’s not a very nice lady like thing to say, at all. Even worse is that I was wearing my GoPro which caught the whole thing on video, so when Yeison was editing my video he burst out laughing. He tells this story to all his Tico friends and his family but they always tell me how proud they are, that I’m a true Tica for using such a slang term!
I’m still embarrassed about it to this day!
(Jen’s note: Here’s the video, even though Samantha’s little slip-up was edited out, thought you still might want to see her SUP video:)
Tell me one or two of the “best” things about living in the Costa Rica.
The nature and wildlife. I’ve had some amazing wildlife encounters that I never imagined that I would have, and some that people pay a lot of money for! Like snorkeling with whale sharks and turtles. The nature continues to surprise me every single day.
The next best thing is the fact that I live somewhere all my friends and family love and want to visit. All my family and most of my friends have visited me, and it’s such a joy to show them around and share with them my love of the country. Some of them have told me that their trip to Costa Rica changed their lives and perspective, which is well, what Costa Rica does to you!
Nowhere is perfect, it cannot be “pura vida” all the time. Can you tell me about one of the worst things you’ve experienced here?
Oh gosh, there’s been a couple. Well one is the cockroaches. I’m by no means a squeamish person but when it comes to cockroaches, my inner scaredy cat comes out. Our condo in Coco had a huge cockroach infestation, we had fumigated multiple times but the guy couldn’t find the source of the nest and it was a nightmare. I would wake up to dozens of cockroaches in the bathroom every morning, I woke up to a cockroach on my face in the middle of the night, they’ve crawled over my feet when I’m cooking in the kitchen. It was not pura vida at all!!
(Jen’s note: I’ll just pretend like I never heard about this…)
Any advice for new people moving to Costa Rica?
Be patient with your new life and yourself. Things are going to be really different, you will get frustrated not being able to communicate and you will feel like a foreigner (which you are). But be patient and forgive yourself if you’ve had a bad day. You can’t expect everything to be perfect, and you cannot move to Costa Rica with the idea that your life is going to be this magical tropical paradise with cocktails on the beach every day. You will be in for a rude awakening if you do!
Samantha – thank you so much for joining me this week on the Expat Extra! It’s been lovely hearing about you and Yeison and your life in Costa Rica. Pura Vida! — Jen
Samantha is a blogger, social media manager and content creator living at the beach in Costa Rica. She loves coffee, photography and wildlife so you can often find her in the jungle with a camera in hand, chasing birds. She runs Mytanfeet travel blog with her Tico boyfriend and is obsessed with Instagram. Follow her for inspiring photos of hidden gems of Costa Rica and other travels they embark on.
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