While I believe in the value and purpose of a plan, I also know that life requires the ability to learn and adapt. It is through this growth that we can improve ourselves, our situation, and our outcomes. So, when I moved to Costa Rica last March, I found myself prepared with research and information, but also prepared to gain knowledge through locals, personal experience, and natural consequences.
Approaching the one year anniversary of living and working in Costa Rica, I have found that there are a number of tech tools that I didn’t even know about until my passport was stamped and my life abroad had begun. Thankfully, these tools work wonders and help make both my personal and professional day-to-day noticeably better.
Browsec is a Chrome Extension that I would have never thought I needed going into my move overseas. However, I found myself being hindered by the availability of a number of services like Netflix, Hulu, and Youtube being only available to accounts withing the 50 Unites States and its territories.
That’s when I thought to myself, “there has to be a way”.
With that thought as the catalyst, I went about searching for solutions and found Browsec, which, according to their website: “Hides your IP address. Encrypts all traffic. Bypasses firewalls.” After a couple clicks and a light-weight Chrome Extension install, I found myself able to not only toggle Browsec’s on/off status, but also select the country of origin for my internet access .
Goodbye error messages. Hello browsing freedom.
Download Browsec for Chrome here.
After attempting to communicate with friends and family through every possible electronic method — email, Skype messaging, Facebook messaging, Snapchat, Voxer — WhatsApp came through as the clear winner. Simply put, it is the best at what it does; you can easily send pictures, video, or audio to individuals or groups, its push notifications work well, and it is fast, eloquent, and feels just like “normal” texting.
The only problem that I’ve seen is getting friends and family on-board. I ended up sending emails or texts explaining WhatsApps merits and how I’d love to communicate through the app. Fortunately, the signup rate was pretty good on and I can now enjoy constant contact despite living an international lifestyle.
Google, per usual, continues to work wonders in just about every category of information and knowledge organization and use. Google Translate adheres to their consistently easy-to-use, practical, thoughtful, robust, and beautiful design and development principals.
Available in 90 languages, Google Translate accepts written, spoken, and…get this…even photographic entries. Yes, you can, in fact, take a picture of a sign or a printed document and, with Google Goggles-esque scanning abilities, read translated text.
One really nice additional feature is that you can download your language’s library so it is available offline. Here in Costa Rica, where I don’t have a data plan on my phone, it means that whether I’m at the beach, on the road, or roaming the grocery store, I can still use the app for successful and timely translations.
When you live abroad, you may end up in a place where you don’t know the local language. From there, you have two routes: live in a bubble and limit you the connections, understanding, and relationships in your new home or try to learn the new language and open up the door to new experiences and people.
While it’s no small feat and requires plenty of deliberate patience, effort, and time, learning a new language is well worth it. Having once worked for a world language education company, I know there are a lot of tools at your finger tips.
For me, in Costa Rica, the first and most important component of my language learning has been speaking with, listening to, and being surrounded by Spanish speakers. This gives me real world context for various verbs, nouns, places, and tenses while also honing my ear for the sounds that are unique to Spanish.
However, it is also important to have some formal context as well and, for that, I’ve turned to DuoLingo. This app and website is, astonishingly, free and helps you practice your written, listening, and speaking skills in Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Irish, Danish, Swedish, and English. The product is beautifully designed, has a clear and simple interface, and moves you forward with smart gamification and tracking.