Here I am, in a very quiet hotel on the top floor lounge. This space is an indoor/ outdoor hybrid and so it has open walls to the outside. Hammocks line the perimeter and I can hear bugs chirping and thunder in the distance. 2 weeks ago today, around this same time, I left LAX airport not knowing exactly what to expect.
The amount of things I have learned about this country and about myself in such a short time is crazy. Here are 10 little tidbits that I would love to share with you:
1. Understand nature. If bugs and critters aren't for you, then Costa Rica will be an interesting place. At the moment I am covered in bug bites because apparently bugs really love me. That part isn't so fun. But, I have so many cool critter stories to tell as well. A gecko climbing on the ceiling as I cook dinner. Huge frogs jumping in the road at night. Monkeys playing in the trees. A monkey on a power line and seeing it get shocked... that was sad. The happiest dogs and cats you'll ever see roaming around. A huge crab walking across the road and scaring the crap out of me. Parrots fighting in a mango tree. Sea Turtles floating in the ocean (trying to mate haha). Spotted Dolphins swimming and jumping alongside the boat. An iguana walking across an alley and another bigger one sunning on a rooftop. Tiny hermit crabs crawling across your towel on the beach. The list goes on, and I LOVE IT!
2. Try to speak Spanish. Don't be afraid! From the moment I got on the plane, I was flying with Copa Airlines which is a Central American airline and it hit me fast that my Spanish was not up to par. However, little words like hola, gracias, como estas?, mucho gusto started coming out of my mouth. Here in Costa Rica they speak very formally I've learned. Instead of "de nada" for "your'e welcome" you say "con mucho gusto." "De nada" is like saying it was nothing. "Con mucho gusto" is like saying it was my pleasure. "Usted" is always used instead of "tu" and "ciao" instead of "adios." Also when in doubt, a smile goes a looooong way!
3. Costa Ricans are good people. I have met so many very very nice souls here. People who genuinely want to help you. People who care about their livelihood and businesses. People who go out of their way for you. Everybody helps everybody, that is the Costa Rican culture.
4. PURA VIDA! The saying Pura Vida means Pure Life. It is the Costa Rican way of life most simply put. Pura Vida is said as a greeting to a fellow friend (like whats up!), as a farewell, as a thank you, and as a general slogan for this wonderful country. To the Costa Ricans, pura vida means life is good!
5. Appreciate everything. This is another reason to say pura vida! Costa Rica is not the most wealthy country. Things like hot water (suicide showers scare me, google that shit and be thankful you can pay for gas heated water), toilets you can flush paper down, and paved roads is a major luxury. Things are not convenient or perfect here. You go with the flow and be happy with what you have! This is so different than american culture and I am thankful for the change of pace!
6. Things are always wet, muddy, sandy, and probably that means dirty. My rubber flip flops are my friend. Sand is always in the shower because 99.9% of the time it is also stuck to my feet. And when it rains, it is muddy. Then clothes get muddy, then you hang them up and water drips everywhere. The cycle never ends, and my feet will never be clean. I think I will live. As long as things aren't smelly, then we are good!
7. Learn to do some math. The money here is very different. 500 Costa Rican colones equals about 1 dollar. So, for example 4000 colones equals 8 bucks. It is a little alarming when you pay for something that costs 25,000 colones and then you're like oh wait that is 50 bucks. Whew! I used dollars here at first (yes there are accepted basically everywhere) and you don't always get a good exchange rate because it's always rounded to 500 when the daily exchange rate could be anywhere from 525-535:1. Get colones and have some fun! Plus the money is colorful and has awesome animals on it so why not.
8. Bring a Go Pro! This little camera is awesome. I have the HERO 4 Silver which comes with a built in screen and shoots 2.7 K resolution. This thing is small, pretty indestructible, and water proof! You can take it anywhere, including in the ocean and get some sweet shots and you don't have to worry about leaving valuables on the beach while you swim, which I would not recommend.
9. Keep your eyes open for art. Costa Rica is full of murals, handmade artwork and creativity. It is bursting and thriving with art and beauty. So much authentic, colorful and heartfelt work goes into making these pieces and they bring so much charm to this country.
10. Learn about yourself. Costa Rica is a beautiful country with a much slower pace of life. Be introspective. Figure out what is important to you. Cut out the bull shit. Find what makes you happy and what you want when you return home. For me, I have learned that I love and miss my family, friends and boyfriend more than humanly possible. I have learned that if something does not make me happy, then leave it behind. I have learned I am stronger than I thought. I have learned that my heart is bigger than I thought possible.
This beautiful country has taught me so much in 2 very short weeks. It is incredible how traveling pushes you and challenges you, all in unexpected ways. It is a blessing!
Love and light,