Writer Wednesday – Meet Nadine Hays Pisani
Costa Rica has been a dream destination of mine for years, so it’s no surprise that I love getting to know others who have also fallen in love with this remarkable country. Nadine Hays Pisani is one of these people. Nadine decided to walk away from a successful life in the United States and opted for one in Costa Rica where she feels happier than a billionaire! But after getting to know Nadine I can’t rave about her light-hearted, warm and witty writing enough!
Writer Wednesday would like to introduce you to Nadine Hays Pisani
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I’m originally from Linden, New Jersey, a town known for its Exxon refinery. Despite the high levels of benzene fumes and occasional toxic spills, I had a wonderful childhood and have no apparent side effects from the pollution. I eventually became a chiropractor (as did my husband), took out a hundred thousand dollars in student loans, only later to realize that I would much rather swing in a hammock than spend twelve hours a day in an office.
Fast forward to today, I am the author of the Happier Than A Billionaire series. The third book Happier Than A Billionaire: The Escape Manual has just been released and is the “how to” on moving to Costa Rica. However, I also include funny stories since there are always some when you are an expat!
You up and moved to Costa Rica, why Costa Rica?
Wish I had a better answer to this question, but the truth is my husband and I hated our jobs and wanted to move, preferably somewhere tropical. When we investigated the Caribbean, It was quite expensive. Costa Rica was cheaper, but we didn’t know the language. So like any responsible adult, we sold our businesses, our possessions, and arrived in Costa Rica with four suitcases, a cat, and our dog. I often say, “Two plane tickets, no plan, one dream.” That pretty much sums it up. Not one person expressed to me that this was a good idea. My parents included.
If you could recommend 3 must have experiences in Costa Rica, what would they be?
Zip-lining is a must. Who doesn’t want to fly through the air marginally attached to a harness and wire? It’s wonderful, freeing, and opens you up to more adrenaline packed experiences. A trip to a volcano is a cool idea, and then head on over to one of the amazing beaches Costa Rica is known for. If there are too many people on that beach, go ten minutes down the road and you will find one without anyone on it. Not a sole. Room to stretch out, have a picnic, and contemplate your own escape from the rat race.
How many countries have you visited?
I believe around eight. I would love to travel more. The biggest thing I regret is not backpacking through Europe after college. I was a waitress and was saving for graduate school. I thought, “I’ll always have time for that later on.” Heavens, was I wrong!
Time is a thief and steals so much away in the middle of the night. Next thing I knew I had student loan debt, then business loan debt, then mortgage debt. Once my husband and I paid off everything we knew that we didn’t want to work the rest of our lives in an office, only to retire in our sixties hoping that our health is good enough so that we could travel. As a chiropractor, I saw how quickly one’s knees and back get arthritic, and my patients had all these plans for retirement but couldn’t do them because they were in pain. That was the worst part of my job, seeing how many people had dreams that were crushed by time.
What is your favourite place and why?
My favorite place is Sugar Beach, Costa Rica. It’s a little cove with this perfect beach nestled in it. I boogie board there and sometimes do some writing. But anywhere is my favorite if my husband is with me. He can make a trip to a porta potty funny. I really did marry a comedian.
If you could describe your method of travel in one word, what would it be?
Scooter-minded. There is something about riding one that makes you feel like a kid again. And to me that’s what travel is all about: feeling free and uninhibited. We’ve rented scooters in Bermuda, and also in Capri, Italy. We drive one here and it saves a bunch of money on gas.
I love sitting on the back while wrapping my arms around my husband. I’m not allowed to drive it since the first time I did I crashed into an azalea bush within ten seconds of starting it. I think that’s the only time my husband has said to me, “No way, you are absolutely not doing that. Especially since your feet don’t even touch the ground.” I didn’t bother fighting him, considering lying in an azalea bush really isn’t the best place to negotiate driving privileges.
What is your must have travel accessory?
I’m one of those people who forgets everything. I remember taking a kayaking trip in the Osa Peninsula and a family walked into the business behind us. The mom had a cooler of baloney sandwiches, drinks, and sunscreen. We didn’t even remember to bring water… a three-hour kayaking adventure and no water! I’m amazed I’ve survived on this planet so long.
I suppose my only travel accessory is my husband. I never forget him.
What is your most memorable travel moment?
I remember walking in Italy and turning the city corner and seeing the Pantheon right in the middle of the street. I couldn’t get over it. Right there, in front of a McDonald’s, was one of the most famous places in the world. It was then I knew I had to get out of that office. There were too many corners I was missing, too many places where I should be standing in awe.
What is your dream destination?
I think less about a dream destination but more about my attitude. Since becoming an expat, I’ve learned to be grateful: Grateful for my running water (there are days we don’t have any), grateful for electricity (ditto), and grateful that I get the chance to share my story with others.
I’m so much different than when I first moved here. Once I started letting go of the rat race, my disposition changed. I am a much kinder person. I had to depend on the kindness of so many Costa Ricans; it really made me reflect on what kind of person I was.
I want to travel more of course, but I don’t have a bucket list. I appreciate every moment now, so my dream destination is always where I am today.
Do you have any upcoming trips? If so, to where?
We are in the process of building our house in Costa Rica, so I doubt I’ll be going anywhere except the hardware store this year. I might be visiting a psychiatrist depending on how the building process is going. Some days I think I’m half crazy to be doing this in the first place.
How has travel changed you?
Travel is the best way to get out of your comfort zone. I think some people get the bug, while others don’t. I like the introspection that occurs when you see things being done a completely different way than you are used to. When problems occur, there is no other choice but to work through them. I suppose you can pout, I’ve seen plenty of tourists here pout when things didn’t go their way. I’m always learning from these people, maybe because I can see my “old” self in them. You got to go with the flow when you travel abroad, which is probably the best metaphor for life in general.
How long did it take for your first book to come to fruition?
The first one took a couple years. It chronicles leaving the office (and being a really irritated and stressed out person) to finding my way in Costa Rica. It also chronicles all the ridiculous things my husband roped me into. He’s a “how bad can it be?” person while I am “we might die if we do this” sort of gal. I’m always thinking I’m going to perish in any activity I pursue. Even when I go for a swim in our pool I tell my husband to listen for my screams (the pool doesn’t even have a deep end).
A month after publishing the first book, a CNN reporter contacted me. She enjoyed it and wanted to do a piece on me for CNN.com. I almost deleted that email because I thought it was spam. Good thing I didn’t. That one article made my writing career. It was just the thing I needed to continue the craft and really see myself as a working writer.
The second book took over a year to write, and the third was a beast and took over two years. Since The Escape Manual is a “how to” guide, I had to get all my information correct. Laws change all the time in Costa Rica, so I would have to rewrite chapters, only to find the laws changing back to what they previously were. Boy oh boy, I almost went insane writing it.
What do you hope your readers walk away with from ‘Happier Than A Billionaire’?
I hope my readers know that I found happiness, and that it was there all along. Happiness was just buried under a hundred layers of hardened varnish. Stress can pile on, year after year, until you end up stiff and inflexible. I’m an all-or-none kind of person, so the only way I could figure out how to get back to my happier self was to remove everything around me. In the end, one doesn’t have to do that. It may just take a career change, or even moving closer (or farther) from family.
My journey was sometimes stressful, most times funny, and always truthful. You can’t hide from yourself when you need to figure out basic stuff, like why you just chugged buttermilk instead of regular milk. Or why everything you just learned from Rosetta Stone — all the conjugation and vocabulary that you diligently practice — cannot be understood by one Spanish person. If there were a Rosetta Stone college, I would be expelled immediately.
Do you have any new books on the horizon?
I’ll be writing about building my home in the Mar Vista Development. It’s going to be a funny journey, especially since my safety-conscious husband wants to put booby-traps around the property. If you don’t hear from me this year, it’s because I’m probably stuck at the bottom of a twenty-foot hole.
What is your favourite travel book?
Hmm… that’s hard. I love anything where people travel. Under the Tuscan Sun had me believing that you could move to a foreign country and be happy. Eat, Pray, Love taught me that it’s okay to admit you’re sad and to tell some things about yourself you normally wouldn’t. And A Year in Provence convinced me that the local people you meet in your journey are truly the best part of your story.
What is your favourite travel quote?
Not sure if you would consider Henry David Thoreau a traveler, although he did venture out into that remote cabin, but this is my all-time favorite:
“I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”
It reminds me that we all need space, even when we don’t think we need it. Sometimes you have to search for that room, for that pumpkin. But once you find it, and strip away all the non-essentials, you realize that life is best when it is at its simplest. It’s where I want to be, on that pumpkin with my husband.
And if I’m lucky, my story will end, “Happier Than A Billionaire lived happily ever after.”
Nadine is truly and inspiration to us all, to live life to the fullest, find your own happiness and cherish every moment!