Why do I love Costa Rica?

Why do I love Costa Rica?

 It’s diverse and not in the way you might think. 

Costa Rica is such a diverse place. Now before your eyes roll at this overused word in western culture, give me a chance to explain and I think you will agree, the word diversity actually fits here. What is diversity if not something more than what is the norm. Variety of thought and deed.

Costa Rica offers the mental elbow room for the abstract person to build a life he or she chooses, to think what they will, and to discover internal and external expressions that are often pounded out of you by a more conformist culture. Isn’t that diverse?

I know, deep right? 

While this travel destination offers your typical tourist enticements and excuses of indulgence by the casual interloper. It is what Costa Rica offers the rest of us, the people looking for more than a weekend diversion, for something more, that I would like to discuss. 

As a conservative man with what I thought was a fairly libertarian point of view, I often found myself looking at others with childish amusement at why they wanted to live the way they did. I saw most people in the world, with all its technological advances, busying themselves with the trivial matters of the masses. Living to have a relationship with their devices, their things, or their jobs instead of looking, talking, and enjoying the person or place right in front of them. Why did I even bother myself with such things? Ticos find the time to concern themselves with a sunset, a piece of mango, a good conversation, a tender moment. Pura Vida is a way of life. 

What really matters to you anymore? What do you spend your time focusing on? What are you hoping to accomplish with that focus? There is nothing wrong with ambition or desiring nice things, but what exactly do those things bring to your life? Can you get more quality of life from a new car or designer outfit or appliance that tells you what to buy and sends you pictures of what is in it than from a sunset that will take your breath away? The warm smile of a friendly face? The embrace of a loved one? Ticos still prioritize the little things in their lives. Most still realize that as long as their friends and families are healthy and happy, the rest is just gravy.

Many gringos come here and shake their heads at locals and think of them as backwards or “third world.” This is short sighted and arrogant on our part. Yes, I said “our” because I was one of them. When I first started living in Costa Rica, I wanted to scream in frustration at all the things I couldn’t “manage” about the locals. I had decided that I loved the place, but then immediately wanted to impose my worldview and philosophy on them! I wanted them to live like I lived instead of the other way around. Do you see the irony in this? I quote Jack Johnson’s song Good People, 

“You interrupt me from a friendly conversation, to tell me how great it’s all gonna be.”

I was trying to tell them how I was going to change their happy lives into something better. Why? Wasn’t I the one seeking the “better” life?  I am not suggesting that we all sell everything we have and join a cult. I am simply suggesting that if we live or look at the world from a different point of view for a minute, we might like what we see. Diverse thought, a simpler, more satisfying way of living.

“Gringo pricing” is a good example of what I mean. I think we need to look at this with new eyes. I believe there is a general lack of malice in Costa Rican culture. We confuse and project our perspective on others. Shop owners who try to get more money from “gringos” are not doing it out of greed or disrespect. I see them as true capitalists who realize they have certain customers that are willing to pay more for things. Time and time again, they are proven correct. It is simple economics in a deregulated society. They have the right to charge what they wish and we have the right not to buy at that higher price. People have gotten so used to the idea of fixed pricing and cheap products from other countries in the United States that they expect that “right” always and everywhere. If you think you’re getting overcharged, say no, turn to walk for the door and see what happens. No! We want our fixed, “fair” price and do not want to be taken advantage of! Add some whine and stomp the feet to sound like one of my nieces or nephews when they were 3. 

Now, if you noticed, I didn’t once say Ticos expect you to live like them. They believe in the deeper meaning of diversity, to each their own. They do not grumble and try to impose their life philosophy on us. That would be hypocritical and counterproductive to what they are trying to accomplish. If you want to make a billion, go ahead. If you want to impress everyone with your refrigerator pictures, go ahead. If you want to spend your days buried in the world’s frivolity, go ahead. Whatever makes you happy, fulfilled? That is diverse thought. Their focus is on a happy, healthy, and rich life, full of moments they can enjoy. 

A sunset, a piece of mango, a good conversation, a tender moment. 

Pura Vida………..Pure Life.

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