I recently visited the vibrant country of Costa Rica, not only did I bring back faint tan lines, a few touristy items, and a backpack full of sand but I also came home with whole new outlook and desire for life. I re-fell in love with food in a way I never thought imaginable and while I have always had a love for song and dance it has since been strengthened along with my more calming and positive outlook on life. I know this may sound cliché, but it is absolutely incredible the impact of stepping outside of your comfort zone and immersing yourself in a new culture can have.
It didn’t take long after getting off the plane before a feeling of complete relaxation washed over. Our journey started in La Fortuna, a small town located just below the Arenal Volcano. While we were there we managed to tour the town by foot, admiring the colourful houses, watching the school children play soccer under the tin-roofed courtyard, exchanging smiles and greetings with locals as well as contributing to their local economy by shopping in small boutiques and indulging in the tasteful food. We also partook in a guided hike of an inactive volcano just beside the Arenal volcano. This hike was insane. Not only did we climb our way through the rain forest (leaping and ducking over large tree root and making sure to not step on any hidden creatures) but we also slide our way down into the little lake that sat in the crater of the volcano. After enjoying the breath-taking views and catching our breath we then ended the day soaking in a natural hot spring river. But it wasn’t necessarily the tour or the village itself that had us starting to fall head-over-heels for this beautiful country, it was the people, the way they lived. The simplicity. Everyone we met had a smile that stretch from ear to ear on their face, the type of smile that comes from within. There was no rush on anything. Can you remember the last time you stayed an hour after finishing your meal at a restaurant, just sitting there soaking in the atmosphere and thoroughly enjoying a meaningful conversation? Everyone seemed to go at their own pace and walked to the beat of their own drum and still somehow no one seemed out of place.
After our lovely stay in La Fortuna we said goodbye and made our way West to a small surf town – Tamarindo. Looking at the minimalist lifestyles outside the window and watching the lush grounds turn dry we took a 5 hour bus ride from the jungle to the ocean (from hot to hotter). We spent the rest of our trip swallowed up by the waves and caressed by the sun while filling our bellies with nothing but exceptional seafood and ice cream. But let me just take a minute to talk about the food. The food – oh my goodness, was just incredible. The flavours. The freshness. The smells. Eggs that came from chicken who ran free, meat that came from properly treated animals, and dairy products that were not altered. The difference in taste from a common North American meal was night and day. The fresh produce and seafood amplified the quality of each meal. I am not saying everything sold was a healthy option but the majority wasn’t bad either – which made choosing what the eat so much easier.
It was apparent as to why the locals were so happy and always at ease. The ocean, volcanoes, exotic animals and some of the friendliest people, with all of this how could one not be happy?
But look at North America, we have mountains and beaches, historic landmarks, and some of the most majestic wildlife, yet we also have some of the highest rates of depression. Why? Are we so far out of touch from reality that we have forgotten the most important things in life? Have we become so caught up in this quick paced, consumer driven world that we have forgotten sometimes less is more? I think it is easy in an environment when we are scheduled to work a 40-hour week but instead put in 60, to forget there is more to life than just getting by or trying to ‘keep up with the joneses’. We forget that life isn’t about the things we have but rather the experiences we accumulate. Life is about what happens outside of the office, it is about the laughter shared with old friends and the camping trips spent inside the tent because you got rained on the whole time. It has more to do with the last-minute date nights than the tired apologies or cancellations. My trip to Costa Rica opened my eyes. It forced me to look at the way I organize my days, the way I prioritize events in my life. It caused me to question the reasons behind my decisions. It made me become more aware of all that is important to me and all that is not. It taught me to value my time, to value myself. Pura Vida.