When US-born Samantha met Costa Rican native Yeison on a Central American excursion, it was love at first sight… But it wasn’t until a few years later that Samantha decided to uproot and move south to join Yeison in Costa Rica — a move that, as Samantha states, was a complete “culture shock.” The couple has since created My Tan Feet — a travel blog that not only captures their journeys around the world, but offers some stellar advice and guides for traveling around Central America.
We spoke with Samantha about her travel tips, living life as an expat, and what it was like to leave everything behind and start afresh in a new country.
- The Trip Tribe: You say that you want to provide insight to life in Costa Rica from a local point of view… Considering your initial culture shock, when did you first feel like a local?
- My Tan Feet: To be honest, not for awhile. It wasn’t until maybe six months after I first moved that I actually started exploring the town and the area more and knowing more about Coco and Guanacaste. Even then I still felt like a stranger, especially being just one of two Asians that live in Coco. It didn’t help that everywhere I went, the locals would point or stare at me making me feel especially foreign. After I started getting to know more people in town and people recognized me, I started to feel like I fit in more. Luckily I have Yeison who is Costa Rican so it helped my image a bit 😉
- TTT: Does being an expat in a foreign country give you a different perspective when traveling?
- MTF: Yes definitely. It’s so interesting to see the mix of people in different countries and how they act. I became more aware of my own actions and behaviors and also to the customs and culture of the country I am in. I don’t think that you have to act or be exactly like a local if you are an expat but it’s important to learn the norms of the country and be respectful. This applies to traveling as well. We travel to new places to enjoy something different and gain new experiences and there’s no way to do that if your mindset and behavior is completely closed off.
- TTT: Any great tips on traveling around Central America?
- MTF: First, dollars are not accepted everywhere. I’ve run into so many tourists who have this expectation that Central American countries take dollars, which is true to an extent. Panama does and some parts of other countries, but not everywhere. Second, Costa Rica is more expensive than the rest of the countries so expect to spend more there. Third, tap water is usually drinkable in the city or the more touristic areas but always ask a local first. And if you’re not sure, better to buy bottled water. Research the weather for the time you are coming so you can pack accordingly. Rainy season here is quite intense so you don’t want to be packing all summer clothes only to get soaked during your whole vacation!
- TTT: Besides your own, what are some of your favorite blogs?
- MTF: I’m a big fan of food blogs like Pinch of Yum and Cafe Johnsonia. Kevin and Amanda is another fantastic blog I follow, they have some wonderful photography tutorials and recipes. I also love Luxirare, she has really interesting fashion articles and food recipes.
- TTT: Describe yourselves in 6 words.
- MTF: Oh geez. These are always tough! Loyal, adventurous, studious, animal lover, supportive and dependable.
About My Tan Feet
We are Yeison and Samantha, a couple living in Playas del Coco, Costa Rica by the beach. Yeison is Costa Rican, born and grew up in Heredia and Samantha is from the United States and grew up in Washington state. Our blog is all about Costa Rica since that’s where we live right now and we share our adventures and travels while showing what it’s really like to live in Costa Rica. We also enjoy blogging about traveling as a couple and are expanding to other countries as we travel more!
This piece was originally published April 2014.