Bonus Episode: Life Lessons from Costa Rica

Hello, everyone, and welcome to Your Own Wellbeing the podcast. My name is Catherine Henderson, and I am your host. This is a bonus episode called life lessons from Costa Rica.

Travel Update

So you guys know that I’ve been doing this series as an update about our family travels. My husband and I recently quit our jobs and moved our family to Costa Rica for nine months. Originally, that was our plan anyway. As it happens, the plans continue to evolve and we will be visiting more places than just Costa Rica. I’m sure I’ll be updating you all on that news soon!

I wanted to start this episode by giving you a general update on where we are and what we’re doing. Then I want to wrap up some things we’re learning, noticing, and thinking about on this trip to hopefully inspire you to think about your own life.


First off, here is a general update on where we are. We have been in Costa Rica now for just almost seven weeks. We are in the town of Potrero in the Guanacaste province, the northernmost Pacific part of the country, so we’re very close to Nicaragua.

We’re within walking distance of the beach. It is rainy season here, but we haven’t seen a lot of rain. I don’t know why. If you’re ever thinking about traveling to Costa Rica and someone says, “don’t travel in the rainy season,” it will be okay if you do. If you choose the northern part of Guanacaste, the rainy season is not much to be worried about. And in fact, they say we’ve had a lot of rain this year. I’m wondering what rain they’re talking about. It might rain once every day, but it’s not much at all.

I can tell you that I think I was made to live by the beach or beside water. We walk on the beach almost daily. We swim in the ocean. It’s beautiful. It’s so beautiful. We really, really love it. I’m having no signs of boredom yet, even after being here for, like I said, about seven weeks now. The beach is not getting old yet.

I thought maybe seven weeks was long enough for the beach to get old. It’s not, It’s definitely not long enough.

Next stop, La Fortuna

Next week, we are moving on to a different part of the country, so we will be saying goodbye to the beach, and we will be saying hello to a volcano. We are moving by the Arenal volcano in the town of La Fortuna.

I think that since we’re in the central part of the country, it is still a tourist-heavy area but not quite as popular as the beach. I’m thinking maybe, just maybe, I’ll have the opportunity to practice my Spanish a little bit more and be challenged in that way.

As I’ve mentioned here on the podcast before, most people in this area do speak English. I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to work on my Spanish, which was something I was really hoping to do.

We’re excited to see a new area of the country and to be in a new home. We’re looking forward to exploring a different place. Maybe we’ll meet some new people, see some new faces, and have some new conversations.

Processing life lessons.

That’s the general update, and now I want to move on to the life lessons that we are learning and the things that are on my mind as I’m processing throughout this trip.


I’ll tell you a little bit of backstory about my life. So a few years ago, I was in a job that I loved. My family and I had just finished our dream home and had moved into it. I’ve got two children who are growing up, great pets, and a great church family with a growing ministry. Lots of good things were happening in my life a few years ago. Everything was just great.

Everything was fine, but I was at a point in my life where it felt like all of the decisions had been made.

Too much of a good thing?

I could see that our lives were very, very focused on our careers, finances, and the home. We had all of those things. Our possessions, our wants, and our material desires were causing us to trade a lot of our time and a lot of our mental capacity. A lot of our thoughts. Because of that, I felt like I was trading important time with my kids and important time connecting with my spouse.

There just was not enough margin to maintain the material possessions that we had and to still have that family connection that I wanted.

I could just see time slipping away year after year; my kids were getting older. I just knew that there was a deadline on the time that I had with them and that, in a lot of ways, I had chosen poorly. So I suppose outside looking in, people could see that we had all of the things, and truly we had great jobs, great hours, and even a lot of wonderful things. It still was just never enough.

There was never enough material wealth, and there was never enough time with my kids. It got to the point, really, that we were going to have to choose to give up something. What we ultimately chose was to give up something for a time to figure this out. That’s where the journey is.

The American Dream

I’ve been thinking a lot about the American dream, and I got curious about the term American dream. Where did that term come from? Was it even originally meant to be what it’s turned into today?

The American dream was a term that was coined by a historian named James Adams in 1931 as he was trying to make sense of the crisis of the Great Depression. What he concluded was that America had lost its way by prizing material success above all other values. It had started to treat money as a value instead of a means to produce or measure value.

the real american dream

So he declared that the American dream was not a dream of motorcars and high wages but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman should be able to attain the fullest stature of which they are innately capable and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.

So in actuality, this term, the American dream, was never meant to be about material wealth. It was meant to be actually about the reverse of that. It was meant to be about the work that you did being important. It wasn’t supposed to be about how wealthy you are, but that your character, your moral value to be emphasized. That was the American Dream; you could pursue those things no matter what.

Over the years, as we all know, that has changed. That term has changed in meaning, and now it truly is this belief that you can have this rags to riches story or that you can have a riches to richer story even because many of us did not grow up poor. Yet we have this American Dream that we’re chasing and pursuing material wealth.

At what cost?

I just want to ask you the same question that I’ve asked myself, and that is, at what cost? What is the cost of gaining this material wealth? For me, the cost has been time with my family. I know that’s what we’re doing right now. Right? What we’re doing right now is changing that.

We’re paying really a material fee and quitting our jobs in order to get back some of that time with our family. Ironically, for me to pursue the true American Dream, I actually have left America.

leaving america

Now, I didn’t need to leave America to pursue this. You can pursue this in America. But leaving America allowed me to leave behind my normal routines. It forced me to do different things because I wasn’t bound by any of the social conventions or any of the routines that I had already built. We really had to start over here.

What’s interesting is being here in Costa Rica, we have not purchased, as far as I can remember, we’ve not purchased a single material thing. Aside from the consumable things that we need as a family, you know, the groceries and household items that we’ve purchased. Since we’ve been here, we haven’t purchased any clothing. We haven’t purchased books. We haven’t purchased anything.

Think about when was the last time you went seven weeks without purchasing a material possession. And that’s not a long period of time. But you notice it, you definitely notice it when you’re not making those purchases, and what we’ve traded that for. What I’m very excited about and what I want to continue to do, honestly, with the rest of my life, is trading those material purchases for simple joys.

What I can’t get enough of

I cannot get enough of the sunset here, cannot get enough of the sunset here. I cannot get enough family dinners here. I cannot get enough new conversations here. Game nights with family, we love those. Allowing ourselves to just enjoy these things now has been such a blessing for us.

The part I’m still learning, and I think this probably will be the update of the entire trip, is figuring out how to do this when we return to our normal lives. You know, it’s almost like being in a vacuum here. When you are on a trip like this, when you’ve quit your regular jobs, it really is like living in a vacuum.

Where do we go from here?

I’m not sure how it will stack up. When we get back home, I’m not sure how it will all pan out. Honestly, if I can ask, make a request. I covet your prayers. I covet your prayers for us and what we’re figuring out. That we can make something useful of it for our family and that we can hopefully be an inspiration to others.

I do believe that this issue, this longing in my heart, is not unique to me. I believe that this longing is common in a lot of us and that we really don’t know what to do about it. I guess I pray or I covet your prayers for God to show us something new in this and that, hopefully, these update episodes can become more about some wisdom that God gives me through this process and less about the little updates. I love to share the updates, but I’m really excited to learn things to share with you guys.

So with that, that is our episode for today, and I hope to have something new and exciting to share with you next time. I’ll talk to you soon. Bye now.

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