Journalist & Content Producer
This episode is sponsored by New Hampshire’s Monadnock Region, home of the Radically Rural Summit, Keene Pride week, and the Monadnock Arts Open Studio Tour. Located only a two hour drive from Boston, incredible natural beauty and lively downtowns await! Every Urban Exodus begins with an urban escape, and yours is within thriving distance. Visit MonadnockNH.com today for more information.
I’m excited to invite you to my conversation with Mallika Viegas. Mallika was born in Goa, India, and moved to Canada with her family at age 11. Her husband was also born in Goa and immigrated to Canada. Serendipitously, the couple met in Toronto after college and connected over their shared friends and upbringing.
In Toronto, Mallika built a successful career in storytelling - working as a journalist, documentarian, content producer and podcast host. She has worked for Vice, Toronto Star, CBC, Fashion and The Cut. When Mallika’s son Freddie was born in the early days of the pandemic, she realized her desire to make a seismic life shift so that she could work less and spend more quality time with her family.
Battling the isolation of being a new mom during a pandemic, Mallika yearned to be closer to her parents, who had recently retired in Costa Rica. It broke her heart that they weren't able to meet her son Freddie when he was born. The restrictions had made it impossible. Throwing caution to the wind, the young family braved a pandemic trip to see her family. Fate changed their plans of a return trip, when their flights back to Canada canceled. Mallika and her husband knew they wanted to move to Costa Rica eventually, but it only took a few weeks extra weeks of their prolonged trip before they decided to relocate permanently.
Since moving to Costa Rica, Mallika’s lifestyle and priorities have completely shifted. The lower cost of living has allowed her to be more selective of the freelance work she takes on - giving her much more freedom in her days, and time with her young son. Living in a close-knit beach community, with an appreciation of family and children, has also allowed her to let go from elements of materialism and individualism, raising her son in a more holistic and natural environment.
“In this day and age, our education has very little to do with what we end up doing. You just have to be adaptable, and I think that is the biggest thing. You have to be open to learning new things. As long as you’re open to that, and not scared that you can’t learn anymore, you’ll be okay.”
In Toronto, Mallika would have had to pay high fees for childcare, and would be unable to spend her days with her son. The pace in Costa Rica is much slower now, and the community is warm, affectionate, and more than understanding towards towards parents with young children.
According to Darwin, the species that survive are the ones that are the most adaptable. Mallika has embodied that sentiment this in a huge way, which has paved the way for her successful transitions in her family, career, and home. Moving to a different country, changing careers, and becoming a new parent – all in the same year requires a huge amount of adaptability.
Moving to a remote area outside of an urban center, while striving to keep your city career requires
you to work harder in many ways – but it can also help you tap into more entrepreneurial skills. Looking out for yourself, reaching out to others, and learning to sell yourself requires is a separate and new skillset that needs tending, and is all the more vital in a remote region.
Community is so integral to mental health and wellbeing. Loneliness is one of the most devastating epidemics of modern times. Recent studies have shown that more than half of US adults are considered lonely – and for obvious reasons – Covid has made matters much worse. However, learning about the more collective culture in Costa Rica, the familiarity, the spontaneous hang-outs, a celebration of children and parenthood, makes me wish we could import a little of that spontaneity and connectedness into American culture.
In our conversation we speak about the pain and joy of new motherhood during the early days of the pandemic, how Mallika shifted her career remotely, the realities of ex-pat life, cultural norms in Costa Rica, and much more.
This is a story about the beauty of embracing a new culture, unexpected new chapters, and finding home wherever family is.
•Mallika's Podcast: This Could Work