There are things I am living without since our move to Costa Rica. Things that in our Dallas life I would have never imagined living without. They are a nice by-prouct of our new lifestyle and new location.
Playing Kick the Can
Just a little pinch between the cheek and gum – What started out as an indulgence when I would go fishing in my mid-teens, became a full blown addiction in my adult years. For the 10 years prior to moving to Costa Rica I would go through a can, or more, of Copenhagen tobacco, dip for you Texans out there, a day.
That was about a $6 a day habit and was such a habit that when I walked into my local 7-11 convenience store the clerk would set a can on the counter for me before I even walked his way (cue Cheers theme song). It was a bit embarrassing when the clerk did this when Jen was with me. Early on in our marriage I had told Jen I would not dip around her – I knew it was a nasty habit and it wasn’t really something she should have to deal with – so, for the most part she forgot that I actually had this habit. Except if we were out picking something up at 7-11 and the kind clerk would have a can waiting for me.
Was it difficult to quit? Surprisingly, no. With our move to Costa Rica I knew there were changes to be made – mostly involving money and living more simply. Chew just was not part of the equation/budget. Maybe it was the excitement of the move or some other factor but I stopped cold turkey with no withdrawal symptoms – no headaches or, really, any longings. The only remnants of that addiction is when I am out fishing – that old standby – I crave a pinch.
I have worked since I was about 13. Whether it was mowing neighbors yards, assisting in roofing (in the Texas summers no less), or building my career in my adult years, I have always had a job and responsibilities.
By the time I left Dallas for Costa Rica I was managing a company which operated 24/7. Our main clients were attorneys and I managed both a production staff of about 20 and a sales and admin staff of about 10.
I was a busy and effective manager. I took pride in being able to hit the impossible deadline, in mitigating disputes, in managing a business in a tough industry. I thrived on being responsible.
When I left work for Costa Rica and early retirement at 41, I had a real fear of the void that would be left by not having work responsibilities; not being depended on. I am happy to report that after a week of weirdness (and of grabbing my cell phone to look at phantom texts) I found it easy to not be working.
Now, my work is whatever hobby I want to play around with for the day: photography, building websites, writing etc… They are all things I enjoy and if they become cumbersome or not enjoyable, I stop.
For the past several years I was placed on ever increasing dosages of meds to regulate my escalating blood pressure. The time-demands and stress of my job accentuated my natural inclination to poor nutrition and lack of exercise. I was eating out a lot and drinking more alcohol than was healthy.
My mindset when we moved to Costa Rica was – I WILL work out, I mean, I have nothing else to do, right? And I did. I learned to love hiking each morning and the first 3 months we were here I dropped 30 pounds. In the year since that first 30 pounds I have dropped an additional 15 pounds for a grand total of 45 pounds.
It was shortly after dropping that initial 30 that I ran out of meds, and low and behold – I didn’t need them. I now regularly check my blood pressure and it stays in a normal range.
In Dallas, every 2 or 3 months I would get a cold, an upper respiratory infection, or bronchitis. I was an unhealthy dude. In addition, I had a warped sense of duty and would rarely call in sick. I would much prefer to be miserable at work (and make others miserable.)
I have been sick twice in Costa Rica. The first “cold” was shortly after we first arrived and my dad died. I was still chunky and I had some additional stress. The second time was just recently, I caught something that made me cough and my throat feel like it was on fire.
So, 2 times in a year and a half versus, what would have been, 6 or 7 times in my previous existence. Also, I am recovering from these illnesses much faster than I would have in Dallas.
When I was 17 I worked at Chick-fil-a. One of the first tasks I learned was squeezing lemons for fresh lemonade. That was the first time, I can recall, experiencing the joys of eczema. Eczema was my constant companion and as the stress of my work increased throughout the years, so did my friend’s flare-ups.
I would love to say eczema is non existent for me in Costa Rica, but it is not. Damn near though. I have only had one awful flareup in our year and a half here and it was due to a local (awful) brand of hand and dish soap called Bactex. Seconds after using this product my fingers started ballooning up. Luckily, we had some coconut oil near by and applying that on my hands had an immediate effect on the swelling.
Other than that instance my eczema in Costa Rica has been gone.
So, there you have it. Some things I am living without that I never thought I would. Probably not the type of list you were thinking about but a great list, for me at least. The majority of this list has to do with my health and the moral is not that Costa Rica cures what ails you – the moral is stress and unhealthy habits wreck havoc on your health and you can improve your health by removing stress and minimizing unhealthy habits.