Woman looking out at mountains

Choosing Costa Rica

My family moved from Columbus, Ohio to Nosara, Costa Rica in 2018. My husband, Colin, was being managed out of his role in the corporate world. He sat in front of multiple computer screens and TVs airing anxiety provoking 24-hour news. It was not a good fit and was an underlying catalyst to our move. 

Then, the birth of our son really changed things. We had all kinds of theories on what we wanted out of life, but just chalked it up to being crazy kids – we have known each other since we were children ourselves. We always thought having children of our own would be the end of those dreams but caring for him in my belly and thereafter, motivated us to move toward them.  No longer was it just us living sedentary lifestyles and lacking Vitamin D – an issue for African Americans living in northern latitudes – but now we had our little boy and he had a fresh start. We found that we were not equipped to raise him the way we wanted in that environment and with a small exit package, set off on what was going to be a year-long sabbatical to return to basics that ended up being a permanent move.

We had been vacationing to Nosara since 2008 and fell in love with the holistic vibe of the surfer, yoga, hippie town. When it came time to move, Costa Rica was the only place we considered. At the time our son, Brendan, was two and we were looking for a school for him. We found Del Mar Academy which is an International bilingual school in Nosara. Once he was accepted, we didn’t have any more excuses, it was time to move! 

Planning the Move

From that point my Virgo kicked in and I became super organized and detailed with our lives and the things that needed to happen to make a move of this kind. I got a white board and made columns for June, July and August and under each column I listed exactly what we needed to complete that month before we left. For example: rent our condo, buy a car in Costa Rica and get bank accounts with no fee for international withdrawals. We sold a lot of our belongings and put the balance in storage. You would be surprised how unprepared some people are when coming down here, but that is not my style! We moved to Costa Rica with fifteen suitcases and smiles. The first time my son was on an airplane he was moving to another country; he now has a passport with lots of stamps that he enjoys seeing.

That return to basics created the space necessary to fill myself up with new interests and possibilities; it was an unexpected gift resulting from decluttering my mind and our lives. Living in a Blue Zone introduced me to the benefits of plant medicine. I became interested in clean beauty and began clearing my house of as many toxins as I could.

Alexis O'Reilly on beach with child

Image courtesy of Alexis O’Reilly

During this time my son developed a seemingly incurable rash lasting for months. A neighbor recommended I ditch the cream from the pharmacy and that I dilute oregano oil with coconut oil. He was cured in two days! I started making my own skin care items, such as coffee body scrubs, sea salt foot scrubs and essential oil roller bottles for myself and friends while sealing my toddler’s many cuts and scrapes with Sangre De Grado and other tree saps containing antibacterial properties along the way.

I grew a desire to formalize my methods professionally. In educating myself about holistic health and wellness, I discovered the path of coaching. I enrolled in The Institute for Integrative Nutrition the next day and began my studies. This role spoke to me as integral in connecting the various facets of wellness that many individuals need in terms of education, motivation and advocacy to find their success. 

I wake to the sound of howler monkeys in the trees outside and a cup of coffee. After making fresh juice for the family, I take a three-mile hike on a mountain to start my day.  During the hike I listen to podcasts until I get to the top and there I sit and meditate overlooking the ocean. This quiet time each day helps clear my head and creates an hour of uninterrupted mindfulness. 

Closed Borders

In early March of this year, we started to hear around town that Costa Rica might close its borders due to Covid-19, so on March 14 we made a ‘border run’ to Nicaragua to renew our tourist visa for another ninety days. The next day the borders closed so we got stamped just in time! We decided to stay in Costa Rica because if we returned to Ohio we might not have been able to get back into the country. Faced with that decision, we chose to quarantine behind the gates of our small housing development with other families and their children, and better weather. Being quarantined in Costa Rica was the right decision for my family as the state of affairs in the United States motivated us even more to continue building our lives as expats. We did have driving restrictions in place to slow the spread of the virus from cities to the rural beach towns such as ours. The beaches were closed for over a month and slowly re-opened; this was tough on our family and community because the ocean is a huge part of our life here. The community found ways to stay active however, and it was interesting to see the physical activity move from the beach to the hiking trails and mountains during this time. On evening walks by our son’s school on any given night, we are sure to see up to three soccer games going simultaneously on the fields.

We are so blessed because our community of eight houses quarantined together during the pandemic. The kids were still in the street playing together as soon as the sun came up and riding their bikes together as it set. For three weeks they worked each day on making a movie of their experience during the crisis. Brendan is now doing virtual school each day which has posed its own set of challenges, but we have been making the best of the situation. We have been baking and cooking more than ever these days while we are quarantined, and Brendan is learning fractions by using measuring cups. We are still navigating work/life balance while my son is home during the week and Colin and I alternate going into our office to work. 

In early 2021, I will be opening a multi-purpose facility in Costa Rica from where I will procure my herbal and botanical ingredients onsite, while hosting retreats in partnership with plant medicine practitioners and physical and mental wellness professionals.

This has all been an organic process for me, following the signs and walking with faith. Inspired by friends, family and a few clients who have felt compelled to explore making a life abroad as well, I also offer relocation consulting. I help with the logistics of a move including arranging school tours, realtor introductions, and figuring out what to do with a client’s ‘stuff’.  The prospect of becoming an expat usually seems daunting at first, so this program is often done in conjunction with my Integrative Wellness Program because there are usually fears standing in the way of the lives my clients want to lead as well as actionable changes that need to be made. This is never the easiest decision to make, but I can say that it has been more rewarding than I ever imagined, and I want to help others who feel the calling.

To learn more about Alexis’ coaching practice, visit her website or follow her on Instagram.

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