Simplicity is the Happiness Factor in Costa Rica
Aside from its secluded, pristine beaches and thriving landscape, there’s something spectacularly unidentifiable and umami about living in Costa Rica; it’s that extra sensation that you can’t quite describe. Despite whether you’ve been there for ten days or ten years, this consciousness is palpable to anyone that has the fortune of being in this beautiful country. Ticos, who are the utter essence of this enigma, have been able to quantify this feeling with one simple expression: Pura Vida.
In its most direct translation, Pura Vida simply means “pure life” in English. A less literal and possibly more accurate translation of the phrase could include “real living”, “plenty of life”, or “good living”. Not coincidentally, Pura Vida is also an appropriate response from many when greeted with, “How’s it going?” or “Como estas?”
But what is it exactly that makes life in Costa Rica so Pura Vida? It’s as straightforward as the expression itself: Costa Rica is where minimalism meets happiness.
For those raised in North America or Europe, minimalism is an understood concept that is rarely practiced. In fact, it’s more of an ironically expensive decorating technique than anything else. We are exposed to extreme consumerism from a young age, making it second nature as we grow into our prime credit scores. And with a Target or Best Buy on virtually every corner, you never have to go far to get what you ‘need’.
But despite all this stuff we own (or that owns us depending on how you look at it), it’s rarely what we dream about as we sit in cubicles or what makes the best stories over happy hour. For many, time spent with someone you care about with your feet in the sand and a good strong drink in your hands is the best time of your life and for good reason. On vacation, your cares are typically minimal and the excitement is maxed, all while living on one bag of your possessions. It’s our only real chance at true minimalism, which in this case, encompasses both physical items and mental load.
In this sense, Pura Vida is this lightness of life from worry and consumerism that many of us only experience two weeks out of the year that Costa Ricans seem to know from birth. It’s an ingrained optimistic outlook that as long as you have what you need in front of you and good people surrounding you, life will be fine – and if it’s not, you’ll deal with the crap when it comes.
Pura Vida is truly enjoying every moment in life, not just a few weeks of it here and there, and taking pleasure in the small things like the richness of a banana plucked from your front yard or a glowing sunset over the ocean.
While it’s true that Pura Vida comes in abundance in Costa Rica and is an overall way of life, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have Pura Vida in your own everyday life as well, at least until you can get your feet back in the sand on one of Costa Rica’s tranquil beaches.