Preparing for Repatriation


Just like the term Expat or Expatriate defines a person who has decided to live in a country other than their native land, the word that describes the act of returning to the place of one's birth is called repatriation.  So I guess from here on out we'll be called "repats."  Friends of ours who returned to the States last year have dubbed themselves "ex-expats." 

Regardless of what we are called, this article delves into the preparation one must face when they decide to return home.

Closing out one's life in one location and reestablishing it in another is not new to us.  We faced it 6 years ago when we moved to Costa Rica and we faced it every time we counseled anyone who was thinking about moving here.  Relocating is not an easy thing to do but for us, it was not that difficult either.

In our 40+ years of marriage, Fran and I have moved many times, to different states, different climates etc.  The good thing was, all our moves were paid for by our employers.  Virtually all of the relocations expenses had zero financial impact on us.  Our biggest decision was deciding the  location of the best public schools.  Fortunately, that was not a factor in moving to Costa Rica, nor will it be a factor when moving back to the States.


Our goal is to replicate (in the U.S.) our current Costa Rican lifestyle as closely as possible.  Florida's Central Gulf Coast will become our initial landing zone, our new stating point.  While we are focusing on the area near Venice Beach, our options as to where we finally light are wide open. 

If you have been watching our videos and reading our newsletters, we are employing the same strategy regarding our repatriation to the States that we offer to new Costa Rican expats.  While home ownership is NOT out of the question, we maintain that the soundest strategy is to rent before you buy! 

Still with the Due Diligence?

While Fran and I were both born and raised in Florida, the Gulf coast is new to us.  In addition, many things have changed since we moved out in 1974.  Just like many of you who are looking to Costa Rica as a potential new home, we too are in the learning phase about our new life in Florida.

Following a short vacation, we will be undertaking a very intensive, two-week due diligence trip to the Gulf coast.  We have some very specific objectives and tasks which need to be completed so as to make our new Day One experience hassle free.

  • Finalize the area to which we initially move

  • Rent a small, but functional, furnished house for a period of no less than 2-3 months.  While this place probably will not meet all of our needs, it will serve as a beginning point for us to start networking with the residents.  This will eventually help lead us to finding a more permanent, long term residence, which we can either rent or buy.

  • Secure a Florida Driver's License

  • Buy a car and arrange for its safe storage until we actually move there at the end of July

  • Signup for health insurance

Once these objectives are complete, it then becomes a matter of simply packing and moving.


We came to Costa Rica with about one thousand cubic feet of personal stuff, some of it (we learned) was completely unnecessary.  Our plans are to return with 75% less.  We are not taking any furniture, just clothes and essential things like computers, software, amplifiers, PA systems, guitars and of course Fran's MP3 player.

Recently we had an online moving sale where I created a website containing pictures and descriptions of everything we wanted to sell.  I was very aggressive with the pricing because there was no way we were going to pay big bucks to take home 20 year old possessions, especially when we could replace them with better quality items at cheaper prices.  We even sold our car!

We gave ourselves plenty of time, three months to be exact, to rid ourselves of excess stuff.  Much of what we were selling was delivered immediately while a few of our items such as a flat screen TV, window fans and auto, needed to stay in our possession until it was actually time to leave.  The buyers were made aware of that stipulation and all agreed to our terms.

I do have one regret... the premature selling of my toaster and blender.  For it wasn't 6 hours after they went out the door, I was "jonesing" for an afternoon piña colada.  I had all the fixings... just no way to make it.  And to make matters worse, when I awoke the next morning, all I wanted a perfectly toasted English Muffin with my fresh cup of Costa Rican coffee.  But alas... no fucking toaster.  Oh well, at least I learned what the BROIL setting on my stove was all about.


With most of our extraneous personal belongings now properly disposed of, we begin to focus on repatriating what is left.  The question now is WHO is going to ship it, HOW are they going to ship it and HOW MUCH is it going to cost. 

Since moving here 5 years ago, we continued to talk with many expats and specifically focused on the moving of personal goods.  We always asked, "Did you ship a lot of stuff?  Who shipped you?  How much stuff did you ship and how much did it cost?" After putting folks through the third degree, our last question was... "Were you satisfied with the service?" 

In the end, there will be a lot of movers who say they will ship you anywhere.  Sales people will tell you anything if it means making the sale.  However, in reality, few shippers really have their act together. 

When all was said and done, we elected to use the same company who brought us to Costa Rica in 2009... Charlie Zeller and Ship To Costa Rica.  After describing to him (at a high level) what I had to ship back, he quickly guesstimated that I had less than 285 cubic feet of personal belongings and it was going to cost somewhere south of $2500.  The exact charge would not be known until everything was boxed, loaded and weighed. 

I did not have enough things to warrant an entire container (8'x8'x20'or 1280 cubic feet.)  What I had would require about three pallets (4'x4'x5') or 240 cubic feet.  Be advised, not all shippers will permit partial loads, pallets or consolidated shipments.  Make sure you ask this question first.


In our five years living in Costa Rica, we adopted and fell madly in love with two Costa Rican dogs.  Úpe (on my left) is a yellow lab/shepherd mix who we rescued from the town of Jacó and Ashka, is a purebred yellow Lab we got right here in Playa Hermosa.  These girls are a huge part of our life and there was no way in hell we would return to the States without them. 

Thanks to the recommendation from friend and recent "repat", Larry Felder, we learned of an international shipper called Ocean Express.  Larry used them just last month to ship his three dogs back to Florida.  His satisfaction was good enough for me so I contacted them and arranged for a one-way transport of Úpe and Ashka from Guanacaste back to Miami. 

We bought two new sky kennels from our vet paying twice what they would cost us in the States.   Reserved air cargo passage to Miami and even arranged to have the dogs picked up and taken to the airport, four hours away. 

Whew... that saved me a ton of grief.  So for all this pre-planning, I can rest assured that on July 29th, Úpe and Ashka will get picked up at our house at 11am.  We will meet them the next morning at 9am in Miami following our late afternoon flight out of the Liberia Airport.  Both dogs will have cost only $790 and that even includes the pickup at my house.


With all the big stuff out of the way, the few remaining things we still have like towels, sheets, office supplies etc. will all get will be donated to our Tico friends and neighbors.  

Our list of final things to do seems to be getting longer, as it should:

  • Schedule one final dental visit for a cleaning and to make any necessary repairs that may be necessary in the next few years

  • Stockpile any meds which may be needed for the next few months until healthcare infrastructure is finalized

  • Arrange key exchange and final walk through with Property Manager

  • Relinquish PO Box key to friends

  • With electric always in the rears, we left adequate cash to cover final electric payment.

  • Deliver our car to new owners

  • Arrange for rental car for final week in country

  • Schedule final (deep) cleaning with our home cleaning service

  • Turn off internet and cable TV service (because they are in my name)

  • Drain local bank account.  The bank will actually close it on its own after several months of inactivity.

Some of this things may seem like minutiae to you and may seem unnecessary.  But if you have ever relocated your home, especially internationally, it's the small stuff that will bring your lofty plans of a successful relocation to a grinding halt. 

Don't be in a hurry.  Write down everything you need to do, regardless of importance.  Then prioritize everything and give it an order in which its to be done.  The bottom line is to prepare - prepare and prepare (again).



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