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Gabriel Golcher: “Know where you are and be grateful for it”

Know where you are and be grateful for it. To reach your goals, it’s important to know where you currently are in relation to them. And furthermore than that, it’s important to be grateful for when you’re starting. Gratitude is the key element that will make pursuing your American Dream worthwhile, because without it life […]

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Know where you are and be grateful for it. To reach your goals, it’s important to know where you currently are in relation to them. And furthermore than that, it’s important to be grateful for when you’re starting. Gratitude is the key element that will make pursuing your American Dream worthwhile, because without it life will seem hollow once you achieve it — you will then fall into the thankless mode of achieving more to try to fill the emptiness in your life.

With gratitude you have an appreciation of what you are, and what you currently have. Knowing and feeling that no matter how bad things are, they’ve made you who you are and have given you the ability to pursue your dreams, means that things are actually good.

It is too easy to look at the negative in life. Yet, there is also a wonderous side to life. Being aware and appreciating it will give us the fuel to turn our wants into musts.


As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gabriel Golcher the CEO and Co-Founder of ExpatBuddy, a company whose mission is to make moving to a new country the best, easiest process possible. Gabriel has lived in the US, Argentina, and Costa Rica, and hopes to grow this list in the future. As an expat himself, he’s experienced first-hand the incredible benefits and challenges of living abroad and passionately believes he can use his knowledge and experiences to improve the lives of other expats.

For over 12 years he has worked as a UX Designer for companies such as Amazon, PayPal, SecurityScorecard, and others. Through his experiences, he’s learned what it means to truly care about the customer and how to be laser-focused on delivering value in the fastest, leanest way possible.

For his studies, he has a Bachelor’s in Computer Science, Software Engineering, and Mathematics from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. He also has a Master’s in Human-Computer Interaction from Carnegie Mellon University, a Master’s in Psychology from Walden University, and an MBA from IE Business School. He also taught at the Master’s in Interaction Design program at Veritas University in Costa Rica for two academic years.

In his spare time, Gabriel enjoys watching football (soccer here in the US), traveling, good food, and spending time with the love of his life, Anna. He is also a Life Coach and really passionate about everything related to personal development. He is currently happily living in Austin, TX.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

It’s a real pleasure to do this! Thank you for the opportunity!

My story growing up is not the story of an immigrant who overcame abject poverty and hardship, overcame all odds, and finally came to the US. That type of story is notable and admirable, but not my story.

My story is that shared by a significant proportion of immigrants — that of a great life that got even better in the US. I had a very happy childhood, with an amazing family, great education, and many opportunities. I had a lot going for me (loving family, smart, good friends, good education), and also faced significant challenges (born prematurely, low emotional intelligence growing up, victim of bullying in school). In other words, I had a pretty standard life, with things that were easy and things that were difficult.

But regardless of my story, what I do share with most immigrants is gratitude for my life. After all, everything I went through growing up has shaped me into the man I am today. My experiences, just as with other immigrants, have given me my current blessed life, and have endowed me with the passion and desire to help others lead better lives.

Was there a particular trigger point that made you immigrate to the US? Can you tell a story?

Sure! The Diversity Visa Lottery was the trigger for me to immigrate to the US! Let me tell you the full story:

My affinity and admiration towards the US started early in life. I did my high school in an American school in Costa Rica called Lincoln School. I learned about the values, work ethic, and kindness that characterize Americans, besides the opportunities available for people to be successful. I resolved I would continue my studies in the US.

And that’s what I did. I got a student visa and obtained an undergraduate degree, and 2 graduate degrees, from American schools. Afterwards, I obtained a work visa and worked for PayPal for almost 5 years. After I left the company, I decided to move back to Costa Rica and resume my life at home. In my mind I was closing a great chapter in my life and was very grateful to this country for the opportunity. I did not intend to stay in the US but did not rule out maybe returning in the future, although other countries tempted me as well.

One thing I did learn while I lived in the US is about the Diversity Visa Lottery. I learned that it was extremely easy to participate and free, so there was no downside to my participating. Thus, I scheduled it in my calendar and every year I would get a notification to apply for the lottery, which would take 5 minutes of my time, and 6 months later I would get a notification to check the results, which I would do almost absent-mindedly. It was never in my plans to be chosen in the DV Lottery; it was just an easy action that took very little effort.

After moving back, I lived happily for several years in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is a paradise: a prosperous, democratic country with warm people. My family is there, and I had everything I could ever want. Life was great.

Yet, life has a way of shaking things up. In 2015, while casually checking the DV Lottery results I found I had been selected! I had not expected that this would ever happen as the probability is infinitesimally small. Yet, happen it did. I reflected on what to do and realized that this was God showing me the way forward. That there was this amazing country selflessly giving me an amazing gift, a Green Card. This is something many people worldwide spend their entire lives pursuing, and it had just been handed to me.

Thus, I resolved to repay the gift with interest. I decided to move back to this country and contribute as much as possible to make this country even better. I decided to convert my gratitude into action.

Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?

Moving back to the US went well. After my Green Card was approved, I applied to several companies and ultimately decided to pursue an opportunity with Amazon in Seattle. I had visited Seattle several times previously and knew well the natural and cultural beauty of that city.

For the logistics themselves, I knew how things worked in this country and so it was simple to slot back in. Additionally, Amazon provided me with a lot of support with my move.

Socially, my cousin introduced me to a friend of his who lived in Seattle. This friend of his introduced me to his friends, all from Costa Rica. Very quickly I realized I had a community of amazing individuals who did everything in their power to make me feel welcome.

Overall, the move was very positive, and I found myself feeling “at home” very quickly.

One notable thing did happen after I came back into the country. While I was at Amazon, I realized I was not doing enough for this country; I wanted to go above and beyond. I resolved I needed to start ExpatBuddy on the side. It took me a long time to get over my fear of starting a new company, but when I finally did, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I am convinced ExpatBuddy would not have happened if the US had not opened its doors to me.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?

Throughout my life, I can point to people who have been at the right place, and at the right time. From my friend who saved me from drowning in a pool when I was young, to the friend who showed me the advantages of personal development and changed my life, to the friends who opened their doors when I came to the US and treated me like family, I have been blessed by many angels.

I’d like to share a story about the first time I moved to the US as a student. I moved to Terre Haute, IN, a small town 1-hour west of Indianapolis. To this day, I remember full of gratitude how I was received with arms wide open by pretty much the entire town. From people in Church, to students and staff at school, to random people in town, I witnessed firsthand the open, giving hearts of Americans. The most salient example occurred a couple of months after arriving, a local family from Church saw that I had no plans for Thanksgiving, since all of my family was in Costa Rica. They invited me in, and I celebrated with them, even though they did not know me. Their incredible act of generosity has remained permanently etched in my memory.

So how are things going today?

Things are going great! At home I am in the best relationship I could have imagined with my significant other, Anna. We’ve been together for 5 years and I can honestly say they’ve been the best of my entire life.

My family is doing very well, they’re healthy, happy, and still very close.

Professionally I am focused on making the lives of expats better. I want them to have the best opportunities abroad as possible. This is the mission that drives my soul to work nights and weekend, so as to ensure what should be a great moment for them, is truly so.

Finally, I am loving living in the US. I feel at home and have a deep gratitude for this country for opening its doors to me. I look forward to becoming a citizen in a few years, as I feel I’ve become a part of its people.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I believe I’ve been successful in three key areas: in pursuing my dream, in personal development, and in my sense of gratitude. In each I now seek to give back.

My dream has been to empower people to lead better lives when moving abroad (based strongly on my life experiences). I’ve pursued my dream by creating ExpatBuddy. Through this company I am bringing goodness to expats worldwide. I believe I can ultimately impact the lives of millions of expats; that’s why I persevere.

Additionally, I’ve been very successful in the realm of personal development. I went from being an arrogant, abrasive individual to one that is more fulfilled, more at peace, more successful, and better appreciated by others. Throughout this time, I’ve consumed over 50 books, dozens of seminars, a Master’s in Psychology, a certification in Life Coaching, and much more. All this experience, growth, and knowledge I’ve accumulated I now put to the service of others by giving Life Coaching for free to those around me that ask for it. I’ve seen first-hand how people have transformed their lives and been able to accomplish things they previously did not think possible.

Finally, I seek to bring goodness through my sense of gratitude for all that I’ve been given. As a result, I try to give in terms of money and time to those that have received less than me. My girlfriend’s family, thankfully, is strongly oriented towards giving to others; they participate in a series of charities and social initiatives in Costa Rica to help the poor. It is with them that I contribute and have witnessed firsthand how their immense hearts and dedication towards others make a real difference. They serve as a real beacon to me.

You have first-hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you change to improve the system?

I am a Permanent Resident, and thus a guest in this country. I do not believe it’s a guest’s place to tell their host how to do things. Beyond that, I do not like to get political. There are people much smarter and more knowledgeable than me to ask about how to improve the US immigration system.

What I will say is this: I am extremely grateful for the opportunity the US immigration system afforded me to come to this country. I have been able to grow both personally and professionally and have been given ample opportunity to give back as well.

Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.

Absolutely! Here are my ideas:

1. What is your American Dream?

The American Dream describes the values in this country that enable anybody to be successful and prosperous. Yet, each person’s definition of success and prosperity is different. You cannot be successful or prosperous if you don’t know what it is and when you’ve achieved it. Make sure you clearly define your goals and then works towards them!

2. Know where you are and be grateful for it

To reach your goals, it’s important to know where you currently are in relation to them. And furthermore than that, it’s important to be grateful for when you’re starting. Gratitude is the key element that will make pursuing your American Dream worthwhile, because without it life will seem hollow once you achieve it — you will then fall into the thankless mode of achieving more to try to fill the emptiness in your life.

With gratitude you have an appreciation of what you are, and what you currently have. Knowing and feeling that no matter how bad things are, they’ve made you who you are and have given you the ability to pursue your dreams, means that things are actually good.

It is too easy to look at the negative in life. Yet, there is also a wonderous side to life. Being aware and appreciating it will give us the fuel to turn our wants into musts.

3. Plan and Be Flexible

There is a saying attributed to President Eisenhower: “plans are worthless, but planning is essential”. This is especially applicable when pursuing your dream. Once you know where you want to go, and where you are, you need to map out how you plan to get there. It’s important to properly research how to achieve your American Dream before starting out blindly.

Yet, also understand and be aware of the assumptions you make, which will be many. As well, there will be a myriad of external factors you will not be able to control. Thus, don’t take too long to plan — once you have a good enough plan, execute. You’ll soon realize that your plan is completely unrealistic.

That’s ok! Just be ready to adapt your plan as the reality around you changes. Remember, your plan is just one of many ways of achieving your American Dream.

4. Measure and Learn

As I stated above, there will be countless situations where what you do does not have the desired result. As a result, you need to be flexible and willing to change plans or adapt them to continue forward.

To do all this, you need to be able to measure whether you’re on the right track or not. Set metrics for yourself and regularly measure them. If you are not achieving your outcomes, either your metric targets are not being met, or your metrics themselves are the incorrect ones. Again, that’s ok! Just learn from what you’ve done before and try something else. With persistence, passion, and perspective, you’ll eventually get there.

5. Celebrate Even Small Successes

At several moments during your path to your American Dream, you’ll achieve milestones both big and small. It’s important to recognize the achievement and celebrate the successes, even if they’re very small, even trivial. By celebrating appropriately, you’ll ensure you have your motivation as strong as ever, and you’ll renew your sense of gratitude.

We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?

Again, I do not like to get political, so I will not comment on whether the US needs improvement or not. What I will say is that my optimism for this country has never wavered.

Throughout my time here, I have found Americans to be warm, loyal, intelligent, and ethical. American values have and always will be exemplary. Thus, no matter what happens, I am sure this country will continue to go from strength to strength; I will most certainly do my part to contribute in this area.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I have a long list of people I’d love to meet. From tech immigrants who changed the world for the better like Jan Koum or Sergey Brin, to selfless people whose mission is to improve the lives of others like Tony Robbins, there are many people whose achievements I admire.

None of these people are perfect. They are, like me, fallible human beings. They all have their strengths and their challenges. Yet, that’s all the more reason to admire them. It’s easy to change the world if you’re perfect, much harder if you’re just human. From much more difficult conditions than me, they still went ahead and did it; that’s seriously impressive to me.

Yet, there is one person who would top my list: Bill Gates. Mr. Gates is a person who has not been afraid to set out a huge, world-changing vision, and then executing on it intelligently and courageously. He’s done it many times over, improving the lives of billions of people worldwide. After his success at Microsoft, Mr. Gates could have quietly retired to enjoy his wealth. He did not do that, he instead decided to tackle some of the world’s largest health and poverty problems, and to enlist the help of the wealthiest people in the world to give back. That is, again, his capacity to set a world-changing vision and make it a reality. I seriously admire his drive and his philanthropic selflessness.

It’s funny because when I was fresh out of school it was my dream to work at Microsoft. Several times I applied to work there, and I was never able to get in. When we’re younger, these situations become tragedies in and of themselves, as we face the sudden realization that our lives will not always turn out the way we want. As I grew up, I obviously got more perspective and realized that that was a good thing as it made me better and more resilient. Today, I do not focus on whether I’ll work at Microsoft at some point or not; that’s immaterial. What I focus on learning all I can about the skills, drive, determination, and generosity that has led Mr. Gates to change the world for the better several times over. If I learn this from him, I can truly make a difference.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

I am by nature a very private person. I do not post much or otherwise speak out in social media personally. As such, the best avenue to follow me is by following ExpatBuddy on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and our website (expabuddy.com). As a company, we leverage my passion and experiences, and that of the rest of the team, to provide the most valuable, relevant information we can provide to expats. We share stories from ourselves, those of other expats worldwide, and other relevant information. If you find the content we share to be valuable, I would also recommend you try our app on iOS or Android. With it you can connect to a worldwide community of expats that can make the experience of living abroad much easier and more pleasant.

If you still want to reach out to me on a personal level, you may do so through LinkedIn. I’d love to learn more about you and see if there is any way I can help you out. Additionally, I’m planning on launching a YouTube channel dedicated to personal development at some point this year.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Thank you! I really appreciate the opportunity to share and hope my experiences prove to be valuable to your readers.

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