We are excited to welcome Bryan to our Expat Life Interview Series. He is a solo traveler from the USA, and currently staying in Costa Rica. Let’s learn more about the culture of Latin America through his eyes.
If you want to read last month’s Featured Expat’s life experience, click here.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Detroit, MI, USA.
Q: In which city and country are you living now? Did you move there alone or with a spouse/family?
A: I am nomadic and relocate every couple weeks to a month. I currently am a solo traveler and currently in Costa Rica for the first time!
Q: How long have you lived there and how long are you planning to stay?
A: I will be in Costa Rica for one month but traveling between Latin American countries for the next 3 months.
Q: Why did you move and what do you do?
A: I travel to take advantage of different creative opportunities around the world. I am a Global Creative Director and explore culture around the world. I develop creative projects in industries such as music, fashion, film, etc. through my company Anthem Culture as well as work with several clients mainly in the travel industry on creative content, strategies, branding, etc.
Q: Moving from the USA to Costa Rica, what was your first impression?
A: My first experience in a Latin American country was a major culture shock due to language differences, lifestyle differences, and just learning how to maneuver in a new environment. I’ve been traveling constantly for the past couple years so I’ve grown to enjoy the uncertainty of a new destination. There is actually a large US expat population, especially around San Jose, the capital. One month isn’t much time to truly know a destination but I’m able to network and explore the city by working on different projects here.
Q: What do you enjoy most about Costa Rica? What were some of your favorite experiences?
A: Every country has its own unique culture which is the perspective I enjoy exploring. Over the course of the month, I’m attending several related events including galleries/exhibitions, lectures, shows, etc. Discovering the city through events such as these is a great way to connect with like-minded people and venture into areas that may not be considered “touristy”.
Q: What do you miss most about home?
A: In a word, familiarity. Even while living in the US, I’ve always been traveling between cities and states on tour, working on different projects, meetings, etc. But even with moving around so much in the US, it’s still a sense of familiarity thanks to understanding the language, having family/friends/connections in lots of locations, and just understanding the overall American culture. I’ve since expanded this movement and traveling to an international scale but every destination is so different that it requires an adjustment with each trip.
Q: What has been the greatest aspect of your expat experience so far? What are the adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life there?
A: The greatest aspect is the personal development that I’ve experienced. Constantly being in a new county and essentially having to get accustomed to new lifestyles, you truly learn a lot about yourself. Not to mention being a solo traveler. A lot of time is spent alone with my own thoughts. At this point, I don’t really have a comfort zone which has been beneficial to being able to continue this lifestyle and finding comfort no matter where I am.
Q: How would you rate the quality of life compared to your home country, in terms of cost of living, public transportation and healthcare system?
A: Latin America is an amazing region to live in. I’ve experienced many different regions and this has been one of my favorites. Essentially every country has a lower cost of living. I initially thought that this also meant a lower quality of life but you still see the range of classes. In Costa Rica, for example, I can maintain a great lifestyle level while spending a fraction of the cost. It allows me to put the surplus towards creative projects. I usually prefer to stay in affluent areas of the major cities where you can find many international retailers/restaurants, lots of transportation, etc.
Q: What are the best things to do or places to visit in Costa Rica?
A: I initially would focus strictly on getting to many of the tourist sites but after visiting so many destinations, these aren’t my main priority. By working on creative projects all around the city as well as attending events, meetings, etc. I usually pass by popular landmarks anyway en route or use them as props in videos/photos for example. My agenda of where I visit while in Costa Rica is set based on specific event locations or project locations.
Meeting people and making friends
Q: Tell us about your typical day as an expat in Costa Rica.
A: Every day is different in my lifestyle. It’s actually very fast-paced when trying to accomplish a lot of projects or activities while in a particular city. It’s better to provide a general monthly overview. In the initial week (or preceding week) I do a lot of networking with people in the city to assist with creative projects such as visual artists, manufacturers, companies, discovering events, and other services. A lot of this time is spent on the computer making these connections and scheduling meetings/projects. The next couple weeks is usually spent going around the city working on as much as I can that was planned before. This could be anything from photo shoots, designing/manufacturing merchandise, music studio sessions, interviews, and attending events. Towards the end of the month, is usually wrapping up projects, planning for the next destination, preparing for releases, and more. Throughout this entire time, I spend a good portion of the day making sure various online projects are completed, developing my social media and personal brand, etc. I try to have a general idea of projects that I want to accomplish but when connecting with people and seeing results from past work, this could change at any moment. I like the flexibility of my lifestyle and schedule.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends? Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? Did you feel you fitted in culturally?
A: I actually rarely connect with expats. One of my goals for being in this region for this time period is to learn Spanish so much of my interactions are with natives. It’s actually easy to connect with people because when I reach out to different people to work on projects, they’re excited to be working with an expat. It gives them a new experience and a different reach as well. Being in a location for such a short time, it’s hard to develop very close knit relationships but there are definitely people that I stay in contact with. I started to realize that the general concept of art and creativity is the same anywhere you go. There is always a community of creative people who are interested in working on new projects and collaborations. It’s a mutual respect for one another’s craft so the time is well spent while working together. Many times we end up hanging with each other after or I get introduced to their circles as well.
Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit? Did you tackle the visa process yourself or go through an agency?
A: All of my travels are short-term in a country so I’ve never had to get more than a tourist visa, which has been sufficient. I have plans of traveling to destinations where a visa is necessary so I’ll need to get familiar with the process.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: Although I’m from Detroit, I spent a lot of time in NYC where I really began to grow into my career. Much of my previous work experience is there. NYC is one of the fastest-paced cities in the world. Mentally, I’m used to the pace there so traveling anywhere else, it’s a much slower pace. I’m usually trying to get as much done as possible, including scheduling activities throughout my weekends. I realize that a majority of people don’t work like this, even back home. My work is essentially my pleasure so I’m actually entertained by the work culture difference. I’ve had to learn to be patient, however, when waiting on certain things to be completed. I always like to keep my schedule full so I don’t really notice.
Q: What are your tips or advice for anyone looking to live and work in Costa Rica?
A: Living in a different county is just like moving to a new city. Don’t expect to know everything about it, even if you’ve done lots of research. Sure there may be different levels of barriers to overcome but you’ll be accustomed to it if you really want to. Stepping outside of your comfort zone and learning how to adapt is a big help for getting acquainted with a new location. You’ll be surprised at the similarities.
Thank you, Bryan, for taking the time to be part of our Expat Life Interview Series! Bryan Shelmon is a global media mogul. He is a nomad traveling the world, involved in creative projects spanning multiple industries including music, film, writing, and more. Throughout his career, he has collaborated with companies and individuals around the world, helping to create marketing campaigns, content and brand development, research, etc.
Bryan has been profiled in magazines & website publications internationally thanks to continuous travels and global multi-media projects developed under the brand Anthem Culture. Follow his journey on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
*All photos are the sole property of the author. They were provided and used with permission for this interview only. Any unauthorized use of these photos is prohibited.
The Expat Life Interview Series was created to know more about the country, not just from a traveler’s perspective. We hope to help others who are thinking of working abroad to know how it is to live and work with the locals. If you are living and working abroad even for only a few months or several years and would like to be featured on Wellington World Travels, please Contact Us so we can send you the questions and share your expat life experience.