One thing Costa Rica is known for is the catchphrase pura vida, which translates to "pure life." It is an essential part of greeting people when meeting both friendly faces and strangers. Now that I am settled here in Puerto Viejo, I get a glimpse into what pura vida truly means. In Costa Rica, living stress-free is what life is all about. Things do not move fast here and everyone is content.
The Happy Planet Index has touted Costa Rica as one of the happiest countries on Earth for a few different reasons. After experiencing this culture for some time, I am learning that this concept of pura vida can definitely be attributed to that happiness.
A slower pace
The sense of urgency that was ever present in my life in Canada is gone now that I have slowed down my pace to match this beautiful, relaxed town. It is a nice feeling to take the time to notice the details of things: looking out into the jungle to see what is out there, exploring at the beach and observing people on the streets has made my appreciation for everyday things grow. My expectations have changed, and I am learning through my husband that running a business doesn’t have to be stressful. It should be rewarding. This isn’t to say he doesn’t work hard, but sweating the small stuff just isn’t part of this life.
No plans, no problem
My husband’s catering and cooking business works with this concept of free and easy living. Often, he will get last minute bookings for a cooking class. Puerto Viejo is a town that runs on tourism, so when one gets a chance to work and make some money, one takes it. I am always amazed at how my husband goes about getting things done and how things seem to always fall into place, even at the last minute. For example, if he cooks for a group of people and they decide they want fish, my husband might get lucky enough to score some that very day, right from the fishermen coming off the water. Sometimes, he gets a message out of nowhere and jumps up—springing into action. It is time to get to work. With little warning, he prepares to cook a traditional Caribbean dinner, with rice and beans.
For these last minute requests, he quickly does inventory—checking what we have versus what he needs to buy—and then he’s off on his motorcycle to the supermarket. I am then tasked with cleaning the kitchen for prepping and cooking; I'll also start making the juice so it can have time to get properly cold.
Going with the flow
At the mercy of the pura vida lifestyle are schedules, appointments and plans. A lot of times, things don’t happen exactly as they are planned. I have learned the hard way to just let things happen. If someone tells you that they are "soon coming," be prepared to wait anywhere from five minutes to five hours. It was difficult to let go of that old mentality—the constant busyness and strict schedules—and just live free and easy as my husband does. Letting go of the need for everything to be perfect and just going with the flow has saved my blood pressure!
A new way of life
Now that we’ve been here several months, I have noticed that my walk is slower. I have let go of the compulsion to speed walk and instead enjoy taking my time when walking through town. In fact, it is nice to see some familiar faces and call out greetings. Everyone acknowledges everyone here in this small town. Even after just a few weeks, one starts to recognize people about the town: the girl who raced past us on her motorcycle, her passenger clutching a surfboard; or the man who sells patty—a traditional Caribbean food—from his bicycle; or the woman at the grocery store who always tries to get staff to help carry the 18-litre water jug to my car when I go shopping alone.
On beautiful days, the beach calls out to me. There is something truly cathartic about sitting under an almond tree, staring out into the horizon. The Caribbean-blue waters gently lapping the shore beckon me for a swim. The sun—bathing everything in a golden light, imparting warmth—is what has called me back to Puerto Viejo throughout the years. My piece of the pura vida lifestyle. To me, it seems that people are happier here because of their experiences and because of living in the moment. Taking the time to relax, slow down and practice gratitude has opened my eyes to a pleasantly different way of living.Add this article to your reading list