I was back in the airport for the third time in four days. After going through security, I rushed to the ladies room…I was itching to get out of these stiff dress clothes and into something comfortable. I was just about to depart Florida and return to my home state of Wisconsin. I should have been thrilled.
Earlier that day I had interviewed for a marketing position in Daytona Beach. It was right up my alley. The field I wanted to be in and the warm climate that I desired. I was even told I was the candidate they wanted. I could only crack a fake smile.
Thousands of people have been looking for jobs and I was handed something on a silver platter. But I didn’t want it. I know people thought I was out of my mind. Sometimes I even thought so as well. But the truth was, I was no longer the same person. Living abroad had changed me.
Heading South for the Winter
January 2010 marked the beginning of a new life. I flew down to Costa Rica to learn how to teach English to non-native speakers. I left my secure marketing job in the states with the mere hope of landing a teaching job in Costa Rica. I had no idea what to expect. But I was ok with that.
Life up to that point had been a series of calculated actions. Work hard in school, graduate from college, get a decent job and make the best of it. That wasn’t just the life I was expected to lead, it was also the life I had wanted to lead.
But as is often the case, the reality is much different than the perception.
Three years in the corporate world and I found myself burned out and incredibly unhappy. I became a victim of a monotonous routine. Even worse, I became a yes-woman. I did what I was asked and, truth be told, I was good at it.
But it simply wasn’t what I wanted for myself. So I left.
I got a fresh start in Costa Rica. There, I was just another tourist. I was free to create a new identity. One that wasn’t defined by a resume.
Over the course of a year and half, this is exactly what I did. I tried teaching, but didn’t pursue it. Instead, I discovered that I really was in the right field. I loved writing and graphic design. But my job in the U.S. was sucking the life out of my passion rather feeding it.
In Costa Rica, I worked for a small graphic design company where I wrote magazine articles and used my design skills. I wasn’t constricted by corporate standards. Creativity was encouraged, not suppressed.
But work was just one part of the picture.
I was five minutes from the beach. I never knew how much I could possibly love getting up at 6:30 a.m. for a morning run. It was liberating. An experience like no other.
Running was my conscious form of exercise, but walking and biking were byproducts of the lifestyle. I had no car. Thus, no worries about gas, car insurance or mechanical failures.
A bike was all I needed. I made good use of it. Nearly every night I met up with girlfriends to chat, laugh and have a drink. For the first time since college, I had regained a sense of social connectedness.
My life was simple, but more fulfilling than I ever could have imagined. I didn’t need a fat paycheck or a fancy car. I was living by doing. I wasn’t watching the clock or counting the days. I didn’t need to.
I loved my life. But there was still a part of me that felt this lifestyle was a fantasy. I couldn’t sustain it. So I packed my bags. I returned to Wisconsin in June of 2011.
Just over 24 hours after I had arrived at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and I was flying again. Not to Costa Rica, but to Florida. I barely had enough time to unpack my suitcase before I was re-packing.
But this was a short overnight stay.
I had applied to a job in Florida while I was still in Costa Rica. It appealed to me at the time. I liked the people and the location. But there was still something missing. It was passion. I would have liked the job well enough. But I wouldn’t have loved it. And that was what I was seeking.
I declined the job offer.
I decided that instead of continuing to job search, I was going to give myself time to think about what I really wanted. I needed to work, but I wanted it to be something that I wouldn’t end up dreading in another few years.
That’s when I started to reflect upon my own experience.
I was having a difficult time adjusting to life in the U.S. because I had experienced a different culture and a different way of living. But I knew I wasn’t the only one.
That’s when inspiration took hold. I wanted to create a community for returning travelers. Those who wanted to share their international experiences, showcase their photos and connect with others.
Native Foreigner was the result. Launched this past January, Native Foreigner is a digital-only magazine for travelers. While it is targeted toward returning travelers who are adjusting to life in their native country, it is also a source of inspiration and a community for any and all travelers.
It was a personal dream of mine to combine my passion for writing, graphic design and travel. Native Foreigner was not only the perfect combination of all three, but it was a meaningful way to close a gap in the travel community.
The Coast is Calling
I just returned to Costa Rica. This time I plan to stay for three months…or until I am fully ready to leave. Life is too short not to do what you love and be in a place that makes you content. Pura vida!
By Lindsay Hartfiel
Bio: Lindsay Hartfiel is the editor-in-chief of Native Foreigner, which is a digital magazine for travelers returning home from an extended trip abroad. She is originally from Wisconsin and currently resides in Samara, Costa Rica.
You can follow her on Twitter at @natforeignmag
and say hello on facebook as well.
This is an ongoing series of inspiring stories from intrepid travellers around the world. If you have an experience in travel that changed your life, made you look at the world differently or an amazing moment that you want to share, please contact us for more details and we will email you right back.. You can also read more about submitting an article to this series at Calling All Writers, Share your Inspirational Travel StoryRead More Inspirational Stories
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