Landing in a new place: how do you do that?

We get this question often: ‘when you move to a new place, how do you settle back in?’ And: ‘is it not tiring to ‘start over’ again and again? Are you not ready to just settle somewhere instead?’ To start with the last question. Travel is our yin to the yang of being ‘at home‘ in The Netherlands. What I mean by that is when we are in the Netherlands, we spend a great time with family and friends, we are ‘out there‘, going to a party every now and then, eating out with friends, go camping, traveling up and down the country to visit family, nieces and nephews. We spend time organising and hosting entrepreneurship training programmes and help people start a business and maybe travel a while, whatever their terms for life are. We spend time with people we hold close to our hearts. This charges us, it fills our cups. After a few months we feel the urge to be together again as a family, our ‘yin‘, a time to be more quiet and more reflective, to get back in our box, to focus on ourselves and our family. To go on family adventures, to speak a different language and be in a foreign country with different habits and routines. We are confronted with different ways of doing things and that opens our mind, every time again. For us this strikes an awesome balance. We feel like we experience the best of both worlds. But yes, it can be tiring. It can feel like a huge job to ‘start all over again’ someplace new. 

Why? It is not always easy to leave the place where you have it all in order, in a routine, everything in its place. In Holland we have our mobile home, our washing machine, our coffee machine, the supermarket, fast internet and a great school and kindergarten. We have been relocating every few months for a few years in a row now and it seems like we have developed some kind of routine that fits our family and business in setting up camp in a new place: housing, transportation, school/ kindergarten, food, work. ‘Let’s organise and set it up’, is our motto as soon as we land.

It takes us about five weeks. From the day we leave the Netherlands, to the day we have it all back in place again in the new destination. It helps if we have been there before. The better we know a place and its people, the easier it is to settle back in. Knowing people allows us to arrange things upfront, from the Netherlands. Costa Rica and Puerto Viejo are fairly new to us and we don’t know many people yet.

Running a business ánd having a family ánd travel
In the weeks we travel to a new destination we have an out of office message responding directly to our clients. However it does not mean we don’t work or don’t have to work. It is simply unfair to let people hanging for five weeks. We don’t like to work that way. So, all our clients know the dates we travel, and know we are less responsive in that period. Having that appreciation from your clients, is really a gift. We could not travel and work at the same time without the support of our clients and that’s simply great. In the early morning we check email, often before the kids are awake, around 5 or sometimes earlier, depending on the time the kids wake up. One of us sits at the balcony (if we have one) and does a short morning routine before starting the email programme. If we get one hour in the early morning to respond to emails, that’s awesome. If not, it will have to wait until we arrive at a destination, until siesta time or until the evening when both kids are in bed. Before we leave the Netherlands we always book the first week accommodation at the end destination upfront. We travel to that location and set up camp to arrange long term housing and all the other things. Booking this week in advance gives us a goal to travel to.

From the Netherlands we did a search for a long term letting in the Puerto Viejo area, which is not so easy as many houses are only available for short term rent. We checked several sources, like a Facebook group for long term rental in Puerto Viejo, contacted a real estate agent in Puerto Viejo but ended up booking a place via AirBnB that matched our criteria for first landing a new place: wifi, a washing machine and A/C. We usually spend a week in an AirBnB rental before moving on to a more permanent residence that we then have to find locally in this week. This time we could make a deal to stay in this house until the summer holidays that start mid December. After that, it is all open again. We extend our stay or move to a new place, for the second leg that will last until mid-may, we would not require A/C as we will get quite used to the heat. To make it more comfortable for every member of the family to transition into a new climate, we start up the A/C in the late afternoon for about two hours to cool down the house and ourselves. It would be great to have a more permanent place to live here, preferably in Playa Chiquita, close to the school so we can take our kids to school by foot, a short walk through the jungle every day. How great would that be?! From where we live now, it takes us about two hours every day to bike to school and back.

The second item on our list to arrange, is a nice kindergarten, a spot for our two kids to play, to meet kids and to pick up the language again. In our first stay in Puerto Viejo in the early months of 2019, we found a kindergarten and primary school in Playa Chiquita, where Isa spend several great months learning Spanish amongst other things. Both kids will spend several months at Las Semillas. I guess it is the location, the atmosphere of balance, peace and quiet, the teachers who sing the entire day, the play.. We just love pretty much everything about this school. When we left for Holland last May (2019), we asked the school to keep two spots reserved for our kids, which we needed to confirm and pay in October 2019. The educational year starts in February 2020 and runs through December 2020. And so we did, Vesper who turned 2 in November could start in October with some morning visits accompanied by one of us to get to know the school and make the transition to a new language and being away from us for a part of the day.

We don’t have a car yet, as our VW bus still did not receive permission to circulate here in Costa Rica and sits at the mechanic in San Jose. We are trying to get to a decision what to do with the van: either make a great roadtrip with the kids back to Mexico, or sell it… Which would be very sad… More on that later! So, transportation means get ourselves set up to move around, we shop around for bikes, wíth kid seats at the back. We buy the bikes and sell them back to the shop when we leave for Holland next year. 

Climate and Language
Climate and language might just require the biggest adaptation for all of us. It is hot in Puerto Viejo with high humidity. In the weeks before traveling to Costa Rica we start speaking more Spanish at home, start reading Spanish stories to the kids and watch Spanish videos and sing songs together. This helps all of us transfer to Spanish after a full summer in Dutch. It takes our oldest (4 years at the time of writing) about two or three weeks to pick up the spoken language and start singing songs by herself. Another two weeks later she is able to start and hold a conversation in Spanish and make a new friend at the beach. The youngest (two years at the time of writing) copies a lot from his big sister and speaks a few words, and makes two word sentences in Spanish. The kids seem to love the heat and humidity, although the youngest sweats a lot more than his sister, they both seem to like it. We both know that it is gonna be hot and this time decided to make the transition without using the A/C, which has been a very smart decision. It took about two weeks to get used to the heat. Although biking to school leaves the both of us completely soaked.

Ready to live and work!
During these transition weeks, we are working about two hours a day. It is difficult to make space in our minds and days to get the creative energy flowing, write, Skype with clients and work. As soon as the kids go to school, we can work about 4 to 5 hours every day. And we have to because Costa Rica is a very expensive country for our budget. So, as many people ask us: how does a day in your life look like?’ It goes something like this:

  • 05.00 mom or dad is up doing a morning routine and checking email
  • 06.00 kids are up, we prepare and eat breakfast as a family, phones off
  • 07.45 ready to bike to school
  • 08.15 arrive at school and hang around
  • 08.30 leaving the kids at school and bike back home
  • 09.00 arriving at home and preparing breakfast round 2
  • 09.45 walking through the jungle to a cafe we work from
  • 12.00 walk home to make lunch and prepare the family afternoon-play bag
  • 13.00 bike to school and phones off
  • 13.30 pick up the kids
  • 14.00 pick a beach to go to, play at the slack-line or go swimming in the pool
  • 16.00 bike to the store
  • 16.15 grocery shopping with the kids
  • 17.00 home to cook dinner and shower
  • 18.00 eat dinner as a family
  • 19.00 time to read a story, sing songs, brush teeth, play around on the bed
  • 19.30 bed time (Steven goes running, Diana puts kids to bed)
  • 20.00 kids are asleep, Diana prepares coffee, phones on
  • 20.00 work day starts
  • 22.00 evening routine
  • 22.30 to sleep

This is the routine we are looking for to create in our lives. This allows us to spend as much time with our family as we possibly can and we set ourselves up for creative working days that pay the bills. Every time we take a look at our routines and point at things that are still missing. For a long time, what was missing was an interrupted night sleep. Our youngest is 26 months old now, still breastfeeds and sleeps through the night (YAY!). Sleeping through the night makes a big difference in the amount of energy available to do things during the day. Not sleeping very well for the past years has taken its toll on us and especially on me, Diana. One of the things high on the ‘lifestyle design‘ list is to take personal time in the morning before the work day starts. Doing yoga, taking a walk on the beach, do some exercises, it hopefully will return to our routines as of February 2020 when our holiday to Mexico has ended. We will keep you posted!

With this blog I hope to have given you an idea how we land in a new place as a family, why we chose to relocate every few months and what our daily routines look like as a family and digital nomad entrepreneurs. It was fun to write this, as for us this is our normal. I am curious what you think of it and if you have any suggestions to make our transition to a new place easier!

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