This past December, my partner and I visited Costa Rica. He got a tan, and I fell in love with a country. I don’t think I have ever wanted to come home less than the day we had to catch our flight.
What really struck me about the country (and especially the area we were in), was a particular attitude. Costa Rica’s catch phrase, emblazoned on posters and souvenirs everywhere, is “Pura Vida”. This translates literally into “Pure Life”, but it goes a little deeper than that. Pura Vida is an entire way of life, a cultural concept, and an attitude that the locals and ex-pats alike all seem to embrace. It’s about enjoying life, taking only what you need, and keeping a relaxed and optimistic view on things year-round. To say that this was a refreshing experience may be the understatement of the century.
Sydney is a beautiful city, but it can be overwhelming. Many people here, like in other large cities around the world, are constantly working for the next thing. All the usual suspects are here: the better job, the promotion, the new car, the new apartment or house. The newest fitness craze, the latest restaurant, café, or bar. It’s exhausting, and with prices in Australia, somehow you’re always playing catch-up with your paycheque. Taking in the vast difference in lifestyle threw some simmering discontent into stark relief for me.
The concept of taking only what you need is spectacularly appealing to me, and it seems to be a means for living closer to your own needs, less influenced by the societal and social structures around you. If this also sounds spectacularly idealistic so far, don’t worry – it does to me too. I’d argue that it’s impossible to remove yourself from societal pressures anyway – humans are social creatures, and we naturally create society around us. However, is it possible to get a little perspective on the whole thing now and then.
[Side note: a big thank-you to Montelaguna Residence for the place to get some perspective! I highly recommend a stay there 🙂 ]
It’s important to acknowledge the distinction between a holiday, and actually living somewhere – everyone feels lighter and more relaxed on vacation – but how do we(I!) keep this in our everyday lives? Maybe what we leave behind is key to what we may be able to discard permanently for a less stressful life. Holiday homecoming blues are kind of like a large warning signpost – pay attention to what you’re really dreading. Ask yourself why it is necessary to keep these things in your life, and how you can change them to become something that you can tolerate or even enjoy. Is it work? Obligations? Do you systematically overload yourself with things you “should” do, and end up feeling unable to back out of anything? Is this about boundaries? [Yes, yes, no, sometimes]
I feel like I should apologize at this point for veering into some hippie-touchy-feely territory without warning (sorry!) – but asking myself these questions has led to some pretty big goals and changes I’m aiming for this year.
I hope that adopting more of a “pura vida’ attitude will lead to a more sustainable way of life – both in a literal sense and a spiritual and emotional sense. Just taking a step back now and then to assess what I actually need to be content, versus what I think I need (pro-tip: it’s not more credit card debt), allows me to re-calibrate a bit and aim for bigger end goals.
One final note on all this holiday induced navel-gazing: I really, really want to make clear that this is not intended to trivialize, romanticize or exoticize the local culture of Costa Rica, or marginalize any social issues in the country. Costa Rica has its own set of unique issues to face, like every other country. My entirely anecdotal experience was that this underlying attitude fosters an atmosphere of heightened content.
And if you made it this far through what was basically a convoluted and overdue New Year’s Resolutions post, you definitely deserve some pretty pictures. Behold: Ocean Views!