Monday, November 18, 2013

Living my Pura Vida

 La Pura Vida. I think this Tico proverb captures the essence of Costa Rican culture. Pura Vida, the ‘pure life’ or the ‘good life’, is something that is used in everyday greetings. From hello, “Pura Vida.” To ‘how are you?’ “Pura Vida?” to ‘I am good’ “Si, Pura Vida.” To ‘Cheers’ “Pura Vida”. For me, it is a subtle reminder to enjoy the small things in life, and embrace the ‘good life’.

For me, La Pura Vida means:
1.     Enjoying the moment.
2.     Embracing new experiences
3.     Realizing that you are one small piece of life’s puzzle.
4.     Accepting that you can’t control everything.

This proverb seems intrinsically linked to time, which I pondered in my last post. For those of you who know me well, you know that I like to keep busy, that I get anxious when the future is uncertain, and that I like to plan my days, weeks and life! I often spend more time doing than observing, expend more energy worrying than enjoying and plan for scenarios over which may never occur. It is hard to imagine living La Pura Vida within this mindset; in fact I think it may be impossible. By taking my Tico-time, I am observing, learning and experiencing so many things I hadn’t before, helping me to embrace my version of La Pura Vida.

            This weekend I treated myself to a mini-vacation to Manuel Antonio, where I practiced living La Pura Vida. Several Ticos had told me that Manuel Antonio is one of the most beautiful places in the country. This central-pacific beach town did not disappoint. I took the 6am bus from San Jose on Friday morning. When I arrived at Casa Buena Vista at around 9:30am the air was already thick, the sun was warm and the temperature hovered around 33 degrees. Situated on the mountainside, my room was mostly screen windows with a beautiful view of the ocean and the Manuel Antonio National Park. I quickly changed, packed my beach bag and made my way down the steep, dirt road to the beach. Although I felt slightly delirious from the sun beating down on me, beginning to scorch my skin and melt my face, it did not distort my view of the beautiful landscape.

            I didn’t make it far down the pristine beach before I planted myself in the sand, only moving to take dips in the ocean, or take cover under a palm tree (which can be quite scary when coconuts fall off them). The water was warm, almost too warm, the sun was ferocious, but the breeze was refreshing and the shade provided a much-needed oasis from the mid-afternoon heat. For six whole hours I did nothing. I kept waiting to get bored, or feel insecure that I was sitting alone on the beach. But it was absolutely lovely. All of my worries and preoccupations of travelling alone seemed to dissipate and there was something refreshing about it. I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and at that moment I wanted to do nothing else but sit on the beach and watch the world go by. 
           On Saturday I went to the National park, eager to see some wildlife that hopefully excluded snakes and spiders (miraculously, came true!). I explored the park from end-to-end, beach-to-beach and trekked through potentially crocodile infested water. I saw monkeys, iguanas, several species of lizards, pelicans curiously perched on a tree, and the highlight; a sloth!
            After a full day walking through the jungle and the beach, other Casa guests and I enjoyed an evening at a local restaurant for a Tango exhibition. To sum it up, I want to learn the Tango, or at least some form of respectable dance that is not considered the North American ‘grind’.
            I am not sure if it was the ocean air, sunshine, having time alone with my thoughts, meeting new people in unexpected places or a combination, but I couldn’t help but smile and think, “My life is amazing.” I am living my Pura Vida. Sometimes we just need a change in pace, change in scenery or a change in perspective to appreciate how fortunate we all are. We are all living La Pura Vida, sometimes we just don’t realize it.


  1. Very wise-old-owlish for such a young woman. In fact, inspiring. Thanks for this post, puts things in perspective for me, reminds things I know but tend to forget, what with fear and apprehension of leaving what is familiar.

    Leaving today for El Salvador. I'll bring this with me.

    Que le vaya bien.

    1. Thanks so much Robert. Safe trip to El Salvador, please keep me updated on your adventure!