Abigail and her children on the beach near their home in Costa Rica

Abigail Pilcher, 36, lives in Costa Rica with her husband, Oliver, and their four children, aged 12, 10, 7 and 4. 

The way things were
It was a bizarre series of events that led us to where we are now – and I was reluctant at first. The reluctance was in that I didn’t want to create unnecessary change for the children. We had lived in London for five years after having our first baby in NYC when I was 23 years old, then moved back up to Scotland, where I’m from, and then back to NY. I’m originally from Edinburgh and my husband Oliver is from Dundee. We had our second baby at home in Edinburgh in my husband’s beautiful Georgian student flat. We sold this to buy our new home in London, where we had our third baby.

 

Abigail with her two-year-old son

In 2012 we decided we wanted to move out of the city, back north to be nearer family so we chose a big house in the north of Scotland, a three-hour drive from where I grew up in Edinburgh. We were amazed that we could swap our home in London Fields, East London, for a 12-bedroom 23-acre home with a walled garden in Scotland. I opened a guest-house within six months of us arriving in Scotland when the kids were 7, 5 and 2 and we hosted a friend’s wedding with 150 guests during our first summer there. Suffice to say it didn’t work out with my husband working away a lot (he is a photographer), and the house and grounds needing so much care that we couldn’t afford to pay someone else to look after, and didn’t have time to look after it all ourselves.

The long and short of it
We went to Turkey for 6 weeks to have a break and saw that the world was still turning outside of our bubble. We were free and happy and realised we had missed this feeling over the last three years. With a sense that this was our new destiny, we decided to sell up the mansion in Scotland and return Stateside. This time around, we moved to a quaint little town on Long Island, NY – but now with an additional 18-month-old in tow. Bellport, our town, was lovely and we met good people there; lots of creatives and a taste of NYC, too. It was fun. We rented houses and enjoyed less responsibility. We consciously decided to take a load off ourselves and make things easier and enjoy life. We bought a little speed-boat to cruise over the bay to the private beach. Our kids made friends and started sailing. Things were good.

 

Abigail and family on the road

Then, in February 2017, I took my husband and kids on holiday for my husband’s 40th birthday. We went to Costa Rica, to a surf spot to learn to surf. My husband loved it and was keen to return but I couldn’t bear uprooting the kids again and getting stuck into another language. Then we heard some news in June 2017 that changed my mind. The first being, we finally sold the property in Scotland, secondly, our landlady stopped by where we were staying – our third rental in two years in Bellport – and said that she was expecting and that she wanted to take her house back earlier than planned. The third piece of news that week was the hardest: one of the schools the children were at had hit the news for being unsafe due to chemicals found onsite. It is situated behind a dump and this dump takes waste (both legal and illegal) from the whole state. Eleven teachers had died and 20 had survived various diseases and cancers over the last 10 years. There had a been a massive cover up by the school board.

The last straw
I was appalled, shocked and pretty cross at the system for seriously letting us down. There was no way my children would set foot in that building again. I decided that as we had no real ties to the place that we were able to move, so we gave the property back, used the funds from selling up and headed to a family home in Aracena, southern Spain at the end of that summer in Bellport. We had the most wonderful month there, followed by a month in Scotland, then a week in Bellport to collect our things and we headed off to Mexico! I began homeschooling in September in Spain. It was a whole new thing for me and a challenge at first just to ensure everything got done. The children have been incredible from the start. They are open and receptive and I’ve been surprised at how they have taken a hold and a control over their own education. We stayed with a family connection in Sayulita, Mexico and it was incredible! So much fun. From there we came to Playa Negra, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica to a property which we had even reluctantly looked the previous February while we were on our surf holiday here.

 

The Pilcher children have been immersed into various cultures in their lives

No stress
Life here is a simplified version of what we have been looking for. It’s simple, calm, and healthy. Stress and pollution and overall health and well-being have become very important to us as we build our family. I have suffered from eczema through my life and was advised to use strong topical steroids. On arriving in America I decided to bare all and be myself. I couldn’t rely on the creams any longer. This was one of the hardest things to do. My skin was red and falling off as my body had to heal from the damage. I am still healing and working on my immune system which was compromised through use of these creams and ointments, but being happy – really happy – and eating a basic diet, swimming and surfing in the sea, and time will hopefully heal that.

The best things are being warm, having a relaxing life and really being with my kids. It’s so enriching, our relationships are so much stronger and we all know each other so much more! I believe Costa Rica will be a part of where we are but we don’t have to commit to any one place. We will all feel our way through this and decide as a family. Europe and NY still call. Europe to be closer to family and NY for sailing, friends and work.

Life lessons
I wasn’t sure at first And I truly don’t know why but after a few months here and sadly losing my father in March 2018, I feel good here for now. I miss my family so much, we all do but I also have my own family now and this is where we are. Health and happiness have become more and more apparent and important to us through our travels. Stress is a no-no, it won’t do you any good. Why not be able to really enjoy life and show your children that there is not just one way to be? It does not have to suit everyone else and it doesn’t have to make them all happy. You must do what’s right for you, what makes you thrive. We were in Mexico for day of the dead which taught us a lot. I heard a woman say the most amazing thing: ‘when you go, do you want to look immaculate as if you have been preserved or do you want to go with lines and scars having had the ride of your life?’

 

Life's a beach

I started home-schooling the kids in September. It was never of interest to me necessarily and a decision made out of necessity. The children need the constant of me, and then the constant of their education for this time to have security. It’s new and a challenge but I think it’s working. I can see great benefits for us as a family. The kids actually like it, they have an element of control over their own education and this freedom allows us to do what we want. I have never been so on top of their education or so aware of what they learn, where they excel and what they thrive on to how and when they don’t click with a subject – or are just being lazy, tired or hungry!

My advice to others thinking of moving away but scared of what it might bring, I’d say ‘do it’. I like control but I’ve also learnt that sometimes you have to lose it in order to really have it! There is not just one way to do things, it’s what you want and what suits you, you must do what you love.

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