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Celeste Lawson talks about how she reconnected with her intuition and how that brought her to Costa Rica

Oct 11, 2022

Celeste Lawson is the founder of ''Melanin Tours'', an agency that supports people that want to move to Costa Rica. Celeste has such an interesting life and thus was our conversation full of exciting stories and big visions. We talked about all the things: Celeste’s struggles with PTSD after her assignment in Iraq, reconnecting with her gut feeling after years of orders and clear structure, how Celeste met her husband (very romantic!) and where her wanderlust is taking her. Enjoy this wonderful, international and versatile talk.

Celeste’s business “Melanin Tours” helps busy professionals, military veterans and soon to be retiree’s streamline and envision moving to Costa Rica where Celeste moved 2 years ago. It supports people that want to get out of the rat race and move to a place that has a slower pace of living, better quality of life, better food and better cost of living.

Something that brings Celeste a lot of joy is the “Adventure Thursday” that she and her husband do every Thursday: “One day we go out of the house and just enjoy the beautiful surroundings that we have, like discovering a new waterfall or a volcano. It can easily become complacent in a place like this”, Celeste explains.

Find time to just be in the moment and just be thankful and grateful for life, with its ups and downs, whatever comes”, Celeste

Celeste has founded other businesses before, like an online shoe selling platform, “but I feel like this is the first to see through and nurture success”, Celeste says about Melanin Tours.

Celeste is a military veteran who was serving in Iraq and she tells how people with PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) can take some time to figure out what’s going on. It took 14 years for Celeste and a return trip to Iraq to figure out what was wrong. Within 3 weeks of being there again all the walls came tumbling down and the shell of the person who she had become left broken. Celeste had to seek help. She started to journal and started thinking about what it is that she wants out of life, where she wants to live, how her ideal life looks like.

It’s magic looking back at the journal and seeing the things that happened since then, it’s been a really magical journal. I’ve definitely been very joyful and happy”, Celeste

In 2019 Celeste decided that this was her last cold winter. Initially wanting to move to Ecuador or Brazil, difficulties in getting information on how to proceed and an offer for a cheap ticket to fly to Costa Rica changed those plans. Celeste put her Condo on the market and flew out on March 1st to get to know the country. After some weeks of decompressing and enjoying the beach, Celeste was ready to discover the country, but the world wasn’t. Corona waited around the corner and suddenly Celeste had to decide if she wanted to leave or stay. She decided to stay and two weeks later met her husband. On the day that she initially was meant to leave. I love that story! If you listen to your intuition you get magic like this!

It’s important to have meaningful work to find joy and purpose”, Celeste

Celeste found herself answering a lot of questions in expat groups and the most asked question was where’s the best place to move. Celeste started organizing trips around the country with visits to real estates, checking out the infrastructure and surroundings and rounding it up with expat dinners. That’s how Melanin Tours was born.

Celeste says that there are so many blog articles and videos out there about Costa Rica, but “the magic of Melanin Tours is that we help sift through that amount of information and figure out what’s relevant to you”. From there, we curate experiences so that you can envision what your life could be. 

It doesn’t matter when you start or how much experience you have, there is someone who needs your specific gifts, your knowledge, your special sauce”, Celeste

We talk about intuition and the military. Celeste says that most people who leave the military initially struggle, because for many years they lived their life in a way where they were told what to do, when to do it, where to be, what to wear, and what to see. It can be a struggle making that adjustment. “I did have to rebuild my intuition. From a very young age I was very grounded and sure about who I was and what I wanted to do, but after returning from Iraq that foundation just started to crumble. I lost the ability to trust myself and my gut. It’s never a good feeling to depend on other people to direct you on how you should live your life”.

During the time of her transformation, Celeste read a lot of books on acceptance and commitment and went to therapy. One of the books that was especially supportive is “Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess” from Dr. Caroline Leaf.

Celeste explains that the book is about finding different physical and emotional warning signs and taking the cue in thinking about what the toxic thoughts are. You work on one toxic thought for a certain amount of days. The whole framework is rooted in how the brain actually creates the neurons based on the thought patterns. You can find more information on the book’s website that is linked below.

Another major happening in Celeste’s life was meeting her husband. Celeste says that she wasn’t interested in meeting anyone, when she first went to Costa Rica, but after deciding to stay, “I energetically gave myself permission to meet someone and a couple of days later, there he was!” : )

It sounds counterintuitive, but being done with finding a partner frees up so much energy which then creates room for new connections. I was in love all the time, in and out, until I finally declared that all men can go to the moon, that I didn’t need anybody. I’ve only been in great relationships since then!

In feeling like you don’t need anybody – which you absolutely don’t, because you’ve got yourself! - you create a clean slate which is the basis for new things to create.

It was not until 29 that Celeste decided: “Ok, I’m not sure what existence I’ve been living, but it doesn’t feel true to who I am inside, so now it’s time to make some changes. It took a lot of faith. It wasn’t an easy transition but it was so worth it”.

“Just having a support system that you can depend on is vital for me”, Celeste states. She met her best friend of 15 years in Iraq, so they understand each other in what they’ve gone through. About the relationship with her husband Celeste says: “Just in being together we learned more about each other and ourselves”. 

When you’re able to sit in discomfort and say “I don’t need to be happy 100% of the time, that I can be in full acceptance of this moment and honor what I’m feeling”, that’s the key”, Celeste

My message is so simple, but it’s just a fact. You could be dead this afternoon and that’s why you want to have a brilliant time now, it’s a decision”, Ronja

I rarely backtrack in life. I’m that person who likes new variety and trying new things within personal reason”, Celeste

Celeste tells how she would totally give it a strong consideration, if someone asked her to move to another country the next day. Celeste really loves discovering new places and traveling but “my husband is my anchor”, he’ll first ask “what’s the plan” before diving head on into a new adventure.

“Travel will always be my first love, that’s what brings me joy and what inspires me”, Celeste says smiling and adds laughing that her therapist said to her: “You shouldn’t have to leave the country to leave the house!”

We talk about Celeste’s financial philosophy: “When I think about values and what’s important to me, that falls into four financial categories”:

Level 1: Financial Security – Ability to paying bills and covering living expenses comfortable -$ 4000 a month

Level 2: Financial Ease – Ability to cover those finances as well as emergencies and large purchases - $ 8000 a month

Level 3: Financial Freedom – Ability to travel, having the resources to just get up and go - $ 12,000 a month

Level 4: Financial Overflow – Ability to give and create more in the world in terms of creating jobs, internships, opportunities for marginalized communities to travel and learn more about studying and living abroad and starting a non profit organization – $ 15,000 a month

Did you ever think in numbers what it is that you actually want to earn? I tell you, that’s a big difference to just dreaming of being rich or having “enough”. 

I feel like there’s this collective shift to the feeling of slowing down and easing into rest and not needing to be on the go and achieving”, Celeste

Sharitta said in episode 99: “Rest is productive”, and I love that. “Rest is productive and necessary for having joy and energy”.

We talk about Celeste’s travel plans and vision and she explains: “I am yearning for new experiences, I feel like there are so many places, so many countries, that I haven’t visited yet, there is so much out there to discover, it’s the new variety for me”.

Celeste would love to live in France sometime, but that is pretty difficult if you’re not a European citizen. Could we please put away all these borders and share all the beautiful places?? Please raise your hand if you’re in for that too. <3

Celeste’s message to the world: “Trust yourself and everybody is doing the best that they can in whatever moment”.

Celeste really nailed it there. Thank you so much for another wonderful wonderful conversation! I love my job and the people I get to spend time with!

This is where you can find Celeste online:


Resources we’ve been talking about:

Dr. Caroline Leaf, Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess

Scratch off map for 100 things to do in Costa Rica:

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