On paper, Nikki Griffith and her husband, Travis, had a comfortable life in Austin, Texas. Yet, the stress of their careers in social work and finance, respectively, was hard to endure. “My husband was sick and tired…literally. The demands of the finance industry was taking its toll, and we needed to make a big change,” she says.
Four-and-a-half years ago, they decided to take an eight-month sabbatical of sorts. “We cashed out…sold our home and most of our belongings. We had never been to Costa Rica…but it kept coming up in our research as a place we could bring our Great Dane puppy, and not have to worry about a quarantine period…so we went for it,” Nikki says.
They stayed their planned eight months in a tiny town called Matapalo, about 15 minutes north of Tamarindo on the Pacific coast. “We spent that time exploring different areas, and we also checked out some businesses that were for sale…thinking that might be one way we could make it work long-term, but at the time we didn’t’find anything that was quite the right fit for us.”
“Community was the number one thing we fell in love with. Living in such a small place, for the first time—we got to experience a sense of togetherness we had never quite felt in our life before. Random things like people sharing fruits and vegetables, meeting people who don’t have much but are still so giving, and the lively town celebrations—it was the diversity of the people and how everyone always came together that solidified it for us,” Nikki says.
Nikki and Travis, finished their blissful trip to Costa Rica with a plan. They were going to figure out a way to earn their income remotely. They returned to Texas—this time to Houston—where Travis ended up starting an oil and gas company. “After a couple years of getting the business established we were confident with the income level, and he was able to work 100% remotely. The final push to make the move back to Costa Rica came in August 2016, when we officially adopted our daughter Zara. We knew we wanted to raise her differently, and for us that meant taking the leap and making the permanent move back to Costa Rica.”
In January, the family made their return to Costa Rica and have since settled in Playa Flamingo. “Travis works out of our home office and our daughter attends the La Paz school, which we just can’t say enough about…it’s wonderful. My focus has been on really digging in and getting involved in this community, as well as looking at ways to create some additional income.”
By partnering up with a few local tour companies, Nikki has found a way to earn simply by doing something she would be doing anyway. “Whether it’s people who come to visit us, or people renting the condos around us, people are always asking what they should do, and I’m always recommending some of our favorite things—like the Panache sailing catamaran in Flamingo, for example. Most of the tour companies here, will offer you a commission if you send people their way, so it’s a win-win.” Nikki says most companies will offer between 15% and 20% commission to anyone who sends customers their way. “You just need to go and ask them if they have a commission and referral program. It’s pretty simple.”
Art is another passion Nikki has been able to re-discover since making the move back. By getting involved with a studio in Brasilito, nearby her home, called Sage Brush Art Studio, she has not only discovered a close-knit, talented group of creative women, but has also discovered a demand in the market for some of her own work.
“I go every Thursday for a four-hour women’s intuitive painting class, and that has been incredibly inspiring for me,” Nikki says. “I’ve begun to have work commissioned from people locally. I’ve seen a lot of demand for the collage pet portraits I specialize in, as well as the watercolor pendants I make. It’s a perfect blend of passion, and income that just sort of fell into place here.”
In their newly designed life, Nikki says both she and Travis feel like a weight has been lifted, and they have time for all of their priorities. “Travis has schedule flexibility—he can take a break to pick Zara up from school or be there for activities.
We have time to walk down to the beach and catch the sunset. And I have time not only to focus on work I love, but also to give back to this community that has embraced us, which is so important to me. I spend a lot of time with Barbara’s Animal Rescue Center here in Flamingo, and I have a new group called The Beach Society, which works to bring women together to share their talents and form social connections. It’s true we had to reinvent ourselves to make this all work…but I’m so thankful we did…there’s something to be grateful for every day.”
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