Pura vida– what does that mean? Los ticos (Costa Ricans) say it all the time. Costa Rica is the happiest country in the world where everyone responds to questions with pura vida. As an American visiting Costa Rica for the first time in April, I had to learn about this mysterious idea. I explored San Jose, La Fortuna, and Montevideo, with one of my good friends from college, and we experienced pura vida every day.
Below I have summarized my experiences in Costa Rica that provide color to the concept. Pura vida…
…is passionate about daily life. While in Monteverde, I had an amazing tour guide through the cloud forest. His passion for the cloud forest was contagious as he searched for and communicated with the animals. All the park rangers knew him– he shared his telescope and alerted park rangers when he found interesting plants or animals. I experienced similar passion with my tour guide during the horseback ride from La Fortuna to Monteverde. His zest for life and passion for helping animals shone through his eyes. Whatever I do or wherever I go in life, I want to have the same expression and genuine passion.
…is adventurous. While in Fortuna, my friend and I climbed through La Catarata, where we swam in fresh springs. Never have I felt so comfortable climbing through rocks, especially near a powerful waterfall. We also met a solo female traveler from Norway, who inspired us to feel comfortable traveling alone as women.
…is appreciative. During my Cafe Britt coffee tour, I developed a new appreciation for the intricacies of coffee production– recycling coffee beans for fertilizer, drinking fair trade/organic amer-colored coffee, eating chocolate covered coffee beans and fruits, and more. Observing the details and benefits of even the small things in life helps us have a more positive outlook.
…is hospitality and opening your doors to guests. I stayed at the Cariari Bed & Breakfast, where the owners greeted me with a glass of wine, welcomed me into their beautiful home (decorated with trinkets form around the world) and described what it is like for Americans to live in Costa Rica. They served a delicious homemade breakfast (huevos over easy, el major mango and papaya in the world, banana bread, and Costa Rican coffee) in the morning and made sure we were safe and comfortable in their home. I also experienced incredible hospitality from GMI, a semiconductor manufacturing firm with a factory in Costa Rica, who opened their doors so that my friend and I could learn about business in Costa Rica.
…is helping others first. On my last day, I thought I lost my passport for good (turns out it was left in the taxi 3 hours away). My hotel chaperone who arranged the taxi worked tirelessly to help me find my passport and arranged for the taxi driver to deliver my passport. He had no incentive to do this, except for being a good person. I am forever grateful for his generous help.
…is finding faith and helping others find their faith to live happily. While riding the plane home from Costa Rica, I met a woman who shared her experience finding the Evangelical church, which saved her life after a terrible marriage and depression. Now she gives back to abused women by empowering them through classes at her church.
After a six day trip in Costa Rica, I came to realize that pura vida is a way of life. It is welcoming, inclusive, passionate, honest, friendly, helpful, relaxed, grateful, and joyful. I aspire to live everyday with a smile on my face, greeting others happily, and responding to “how are you?” not with “well” or “fine,” but rather “pura vida” :).