It often takes a trip out of your comfort zone to understand what the world has to offer. Through the time I spent in this beautiful country with the amazing people I met along the way, my eyes were opened to the beauty of a world outside the cutthroat life I had come to call my own, and experience la pura vida.
This simple phrase, pura vida, in two words sums up the atmosphere of the country. Beyond reflecting a laid back “surfer brah” attitude, the phrase, “pure life,” functions as a greeting, a blessing, a question, a response, and a reference to living in the present. After just a few days, I could easily understand why Costa Rica was named the “happiest country.”
My first impression of the culture was that people were very comfortable with physical proximity. There were fewer boundaries in touching, hugging, and kissing, and the idea of a “personal bubble” did not exist.
This environment, where “Tico Time” meant that it was normal to be two hours late to your coffee date and to spend three hours catching up with an old friend in the middle of the street, encouraged me to slow down, connect with others, and to develop a more relaxed outlook on life.
I found myself using “pura vida” as an opportunity to experience what Costa Rica had to offer, to take risks and face challenges that I never would have pursued back home.
Within the course of those four weeks, I undertook activities based on the adventures that scared me the most. I rode through white waters on a raft with five amazing friends and a sexy rafting guide, Esteban, who had us raise our paddles and shout “pura vida” once we made it through the rapids.
I zip-lined through the cloud forest, suspended hundreds of feet in the air by nothing but a few wires and a glove for safety. I hiked through the rainforest, up a volcano, after a mudslide, almost slipping off the s
ide in attempt to recover my lost Ray Bans. I engaged in a late-night-wildlife-trek through the dark rainforest with just a flashlight illuminating our path, as a guide pointed out where the tarantulas and scorpions liked to hide.
Somewhere along the way I was able to gain perspective. I had truly lived. I thought about how much energy I had spent in my life worrying. At home I stressed about first world problems such as studying for tests, writing papers, and getting to school in the morning. These activities, once seemingly momentous, shied in comparison to my Costa Rican adventures.
Costa Rica taught me to slow down. During my time there, our deadlines were flexible, our meals were not rushed. One day, walking home from the university, a student asked me why I was in such a hurry. I realized that my normal pace was a speed-walk, and from that moment forward, I became aware of the beauty in slowing down.
While I didn’t study, read academic papers, or write an award-winning novel, I did get to enjoy life at its purest. I will forever look back on my time in Costa Rica as an experience of letting go of unimportant stress and appreciating living in the moment.
Maybe we all need to travel outside of the U.S. to realize that there is more to life than school, work, and money and that we shouldn’t rush through every minute because we can never get that time back.
So ask yourself, how often do you get the chance to slow down and enjoy the beauties of life? Now, take a moment to define pura vida for yourself.