Posts filed under ‘Pura Vida’

How To Achieve Happiness

.:{Joy, Smiles, Glee, Elation, Sprinkles, Bliss}:.

Wanting a little bit more happiness in your life? Ooh yay, me too. Please do read on.

In my last blog post, The One Thing That Really Matters, I use what I’ve experienced in the US and Costa Rica to explain my take on the priorities in life—matters that will ultimately provide a happier life. And, sorry money. Although you’ve seduced the US, you’re flirtations are just not cutting it in other countries.

This morning, my mom sent me the link to John de Graaf’s article, The Progressive Politics of Happiness, featured in Gary Null’s Guide to Natural Living. This article is the more spruced up, wordy, fact friendly, snazzy and verifiable version of my recent blog post.

Please take 5 minutes to read the article—perhaps accompanied by an aromatic cup ‘o joe or jazzy cup of tea…mmmm…

Don’t believe Mr. de Graff? Well, considering Costa Rica follows these guidelines and is the happiest country in the world by several happiness-measuring scales (for more specifics, read here), I think his article may have some truth to it.

Pura Vida = Happiness

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June 14, 2010 at 5:22 am Leave a comment

The One Thing That Really Matters

.:{Hint Hint: It’s Not Money}:.

Tonight was very interesting for me. My host mom’s family that lives in the states, in Florida, is here visiting for the week. They are very nice people, but they embody the “American Stereotype” ie: only like to eat fast food—and a lot of it— like to have a lot of money, and enjoy quantity over quality.

I was talking with the dad, who used to live in Costa Rica, about if he would ever move back here or what his thoughts were about the two countries. His answer was very interesting. He immediately started talking about money. And his job. And more about money. And how he does not like his job at all, but it’s good money. And how life would be better if he didn’t have to work as much. But at least he can go to nice restaurants and has a big house and can buy a lot of stuff right?

It was in that moment, when our conversation straddled my two worlds, that I realized the main thing that I love about Costa Rica.

People here, at least where I live, don’t have a lot of money. I mean they have money, but not in grandiose amounts by any means. They have simple houses, enjoy simple but, delicious, fresh food, if they buy something they take care of it so that it lasts, they reuse most things (ie: almost all the soap in bathrooms here is in old water bottles instead of buying a new bottle of soap every time), they appreciate their health, and they don’t have a lot, but what they do have is plenty. Not once, here, have I heard someone talking about their job as though it is the worst thing ever, as though it encompasses their lives, as though it is the primary reason for living. Not once. Ever. Coming from the states where almost everyone complains about their job on a daily basis, and often center their lives around their career, it’s pretty remarkable. Here they just seem to have their priorities in line, ya know? It’s like, yeah, maybe I don’t earn crazy amounts of money, but that’s not the most important thing in life.

In fact, the other day, my host sister’s husband was talking about this exact thing. He said, “The only that really matters in life is your health. If you are healthy and happy that’s all you need. If you have a lot of money, but have some terrible disease, the money doesn’t matter. Taking care of yourself is what matters”

But why are we so disconnected from this in the states? I mean, it’s not like I have traveled the world or anything, but I have been to a decent number of places and this seems to be the consensus everywhere but the US.

QUALITY over quantity.

The basics of life come first, and are the priority.

It’s an understanding about what really matters in life.

For that, Costa Rica, I am grateful for you.

Muchas Gracias

June 10, 2010 at 9:19 pm 1 comment

Puerto Viejo

.:{Jah Bless}:.

As if I haven’t been lucky enough to be in Costa Rica, have gone to the beach for the week during Semana Santa, travel for a week with my mom, and have a weekend back in the states, I also spent a week (a few weeks ago) in Puerto Viejo with Ray, Jen, and Jen’s two friends from college.

We had been planning this trip for what seemed like forever, actually before I even left for Costa Rica. In fact, Puerto Viejo was the only vacation I intended on taking while here, which just makes it even more awesome that I had the opportunity to go on the other trips.

What is so awesome about having these different trips is that I have been able to experience so much of Costa Rica (who knows when I’m going to be here next, so I might as well see as much as I can right?). Because the country is small (the size of New Hampshire and Vermont put together), you would think that by visiting one part of the country you would have a good understanding of most of CR, but that is not the case at all. Every part of Costa Rica is so different from the next, and I have loved been able to experience the extreme differences.

Most different from them all is Puerto Viejo. From what I have seen, Puerto Viejo is nothing like anything else I have encountered in Costa Rica—and I am absolutely in love with it. When I think about my other trips, the things that really stand out to me are the events: the snorkeling, the hikes, the waterfalls, just the activities in general. But, when I think of Puerto Viejo, the thing that stands out is the feel of the Caribbean. The vibe of Puerto Viejo is very relaxing, earth friendly, bohemian, quirky, and laid-back. I could absolutely live there.

Our trip to Puerto Viejo started out with some bad luck. A passport was missing, I was recovering from my sickness and such from the States, and the day before everyone was suppose to come to Costa Rica the road to get to Puerto Viejo was closed because of flooding. I mean, it is the rainy season here, but Puerto Viejo is supposed to be dryer than the rest of the country. A flood? Really?

Luckily, everything worked out, everyone made it to Costa Rica, AND we got to the road just in time before it was going to close again. Seriously, Costa Rica is magical. On top of it all, our shuttle driver was amazing and so nice (although we all believe he definitely got lost trying to find our place in Puerto Viejo as the drive there took waay longer than the drive back with other people). After a nice ride with him, a stop for some local food, driving up to the wrong place, and reversing, we had made it. We, thanks to Ray’s research, found an awesome and cheap place to stay for the week right outside the main town of Puerto Viejo on Playa Negra. Although the lady that we were renting it from was really nice, she definitely needs to work on her welcome speeches.

“Hey Everyone! Welcome! So, what can I tell you? Well, theft is rampant here. It can be dangerous, which is why we put the new bars on the windows…”

Umm what?

I mean my host family had told me to be careful at night in Puerto Viejo, not walk alone, especially if you’re a girl, to lock the doors, ya know basically just use common sense. But this lady was making it seem like we were living right next to an unsecured prison. However, everything turned out all right and we didn’t have any problems, so no worries there. In fact, that night we even walked into town (about a 10 min walk that we first made on a sidewalk-less street, dodging cars, and from then on out, walked to and from town on the beach—much safer and prettier) to get some essentials, ie: Imperial beer and snacks, and returned back home to celebrate our first night in Puerto Viejo.

[I am realizing that this blog is becoming absurdly long, so from here on out, I will do my best to summarize the week.]

The next day was absolutely beautiful, nice and sunny (which could explain why everyone woke up freakishly early for a vacation, ie: 5am) and we spent that day lounging on the beach, busting out the Kan Jam game Ray somehow managed to stuff into his suitcase (if you’ve never heard of Kan Jam, you’re missing out), and exploring around town. That night we went to our first of the many excellent restaurants for some Costa Rican food with a Caribbean flare. It was absolutely delicious. At that restaurant we saw a perfect example of the kind of hospitality and attitude people have in Costa Rica. We were the only people at the restaurant and after taking our orders the owner made a special trip out on her bike to pick up ingredients for our food and the type of beers we ordered (instead of just saying they were out). Gotta love Costa Rica.

Oh geez, I feel like I have so much to say about Puerto Viejo, but this is going to take forever. So… basically

Every single restaurant that we went to in Puerto Viejo was amazing. Everyone seemed to have their favorites too. Whether it was Pan Pay with the good atmosphere and delicious Tortilla Espanola, Ali Baba’s for some A-MAZ-ING tasting falafel, pita’s and Mediterranean food, Bread and Chocolate for some all natural, homemade (including the bread and jams) food, delicious french press coffee, and veggie friendly breakfast, or Salsa Brava for great Tapa’s, drinks, and sitting right next to the ocean, we were all happily satisfied with the Puerto Viejo’s food.

The group at Ali Baba's

Delicious french press coffee at "Bread and Chocolate"

AWESOME cinnamon and oatmeal pancakes in the shape of a sun at Bread and Chocolate- yum

The amazing tapas at Salsa Brava restaurant


We were also able to go on two awesome tours while we were in Puerto Viejo. The first was a combination tour of an animal sanctuary, indigenous chocolate making, and a waterfall hike and the second one was a fantastic zip-lining tour. I think pictures explain better than words for these so, please note the photos below.

At the animal sanctuary : Here's lookin' at you monkey

Ray with one of the monkeys at the animal sanctuary - cute!

Baby sloth!

The cutest two-toed baby sloth ever

Baby three-toed sloth...how can you not love that face?!

At the animal sanctuary with the littlest of the monkeys : Brad Pitt

The girls at the indigenous chocolate-making tour with "lipstick" put on directly from a berry

Beautiful waterfall that we hiked to and swam under after the animal reserve and chocolate tour

On the way to the ziplining, our transportation broke down and we were told to walk to "the zipline place right up the road." Well, about 30 min later and one never-ending incline climb, we made it.

The girls and our ziplining gear

The beautiful view of the rainforest

We did it!


Along with the tours, another moment that stood out specifically for me was one night when we were walking home from town. Not only was it already beautiful because, I mean, our entire walk home is along the beach, but this night was especially beautiful. As I was walking with Ray, we looked up to notice that the stars were exceptionally bright. EXCEPTIONALLY bright. I have never seen anything like it before. I felt like I was in a movie or like Jen said, on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at DisneyLand where there are fake stars above you. The stars were not only remarkably bright but actually twinkling. TWINKLING. Every single one. We all stopped just to stare up at the stars. It was something so simple, but it’s the simple moments that matter the most.

And really I think that is what I loved the most about Puerto Viejo. The simplicity. Life is relaxed. Life is good. Quality is more important than quantity. The priorities are all that they need to be: good food, good company, happiness, awareness of the world that we live in, love, peace… it sounds very hippy-ish, but hey maybe the flower children had it right.

There is so much more that happened in Puerto Viejo, but I’m not going to bore you all with it. Basically to sum it up. Puerto Viejo = Happiness. I was so so so happy to see my friends and see Ray (but that definitely is making these last few weeks without them very difficult). I was so happy to be on the beach. I was so happy that I was lucky enough to be in Costa Rica, I was so happy with the food. I was so happy with people. I was so happy with the activities. I was, simply, so happy. And am still so happy.

Big thanks to everyone that helped me or encouraged me to come out to Costa Rica. Seriously. It’s thanks to you that I am surrounded by such happiness.

Muchas Gracias
Pura Vida

[continue on to see more photos!]

Our fantastic place next to the Playa Negra beach in Puerto Viejo

Our beautiful view walking every day

I just loved this house in Puerto Viejo

Love Puerto Viejo

Typical Puerto Viejo

Please note the third line down

Attempting to make local food for breakfast

Beautiful sunrise on Playa Negra


June 7, 2010 at 11:04 pm Leave a comment

Mom Comes to Costa Rica

.:{Pinch Me (4/9-4/16)}:.

(This is a long one)

Keeping with the trend of attempting to update everyone on my adventures in the last two months, last week, I finally wrote about my time at the beach during Semana Santa, and am now onto the absolutely WONDERFUL week I spent with my mom in Costa Rica. During her entire week here, my mom and I kept saying how dream-like everything was, and truly, looking back on the trip now, it all seems like a dream.

The dream started as we left the airport and headed to the La Fortuna area of Costa Rica which is famous for the Arenal Volcano. We absolutely loved our hotel, Casa Luna Lodge, as it was the perfect mix of natural and modern comforts. As soon as you stepped inside the hotel grounds you felt like you were in another world. It was so peaceful and beautiful, and the perfect start to the vacation. We spent the first night enjoying a delicious dinner and drinks and just taking it all in. The next morning we hiked to the La Fortuna waterfall [see images below], which was amazing. We actually were able to swim in the water below the waterfall, which was freezing, but absolutely worth it—There is something unexplainable about the feeling you get when you are surrounded by such beauty and wonder that is nature. After our refreshing dip, we hiked back to our hotel and enjoyed hour-long massages! This was my first professional massage ever, and I could not have asked for more. The massage was in a room that opened to the trees and river below, which was already beautiful but was topped off with a rainstorm which provided the perfect calming ambiance to my relaxation. After our lovely massages, we went on a guided-hike in the rain forest at the base of the Arenal Volcano. Even though I had already been so amazed by the beauty of Costa Rica, during this hike I really realized just how awesome our world is, and how important it is that we remember how much our daily choices affect our precious environment that is becoming more invaluable as it is dwindling away.

Our inspiring hike through the rainforest ended at the Arenal Volcano. Now, this is an active volcano so when it is not hidden by it’s usual cloud-cover, you can see lava rocks flowing out. When we got to the volcano, it was cloudy as could be, but our guide had hope. He made us wait at the volcano, just in case, by some miracle, the clouds parted. And wouldn’t you know it, the clouds parted and we were part of the 30% of tourist groups that are lucky enough to see the lava rock (one of the first of many magical moments of the trip). Incredible. And even after all of that loveliness, we got to go to the local hot springs to enjoy the naturally healing waters….ahhh.

The next day was off to Manuel Antonio (a famous beach on the Pacific side of CR) for some beachy-fun. The first day we didn’t do much more than eat and enjoy the ocean view from our enormous balcony at the Costa Verde hotel—which would become a favorite location for the rest of the trip (think costa rican coffee, beautiful views, relaxation, and monkeys galore). After a missed sunset, a longer-than-expected trek to the beach, and the steep hill/insane amount of stairs that you have to climb to get back to our hotel room from the beach, on our first day at Manuel Antonio, I was thinking that we should have stayed at Arenal, but the Universe proved me wrong yet again (as it does daily during my time here in CR).

The next day, we woke up to the pattering of paws running across our balcony roof. We went outside to see what all the commotion was and were greeted by monkeys in the trees right next to our balcony! The mix of the monkey show and fresh coffee was a great start to our first full day at Manuel Antonio. After the monkey-madness, we spent a lovely morning on the beach, followed by a spontaneous dolphin/snorkeling tour. One word: AMAZING. Between the fresh breeze from the front of the boat to the endless supply of Imperial beer, we knew we were in paradise. I had another first here, and went snorkeling for the first time, which was remarkable. So happy. And our daily afternoon rain storm held off just long enough for us to return to shore from the water (another magical moment of the trip).

The next day, we went to Manuel Antonio National Park—enjoyed the beautiful beach inside (1 of 3), saw and stood right next to white-faced monkeys (the beach thieves), stalked a potential celebrity, sweated a lot, and enjoyed more beauty. Afterwards, we went on our other spontaneously-chosen ATV tour—which, like everything else, turned out to be surprisingly magical. Although my mom looked a little nervous to get on the ATV’s, we went and had an experience we will never forget. After a slightly painful, rain-filled, double-seated, palm-oil informative, puddle-dodging ATV ride, we arrived at the Rainmaker’s forest (one of the last remnants of primary rainforest in the Central Pacific. It is home to 60% of all the flora and fauna species found in Costa Rica). Here we had a really informative guided-tour through the rainforest (seeing the plants that make up many of our commonly used products like: Bengay) and finally arrived at a river/waterfall. Our guide informed us, that if we wanted to see a truly amazing waterfall we would have to jump into the water, climb up the little waterfall before us, and hike until we arrived at the “hidden” waterfall about 10min away. At first, only me and one other guy were up for it. But, slowly, everyone agreed and one-by-one we jumped into the chest-high water wondering how the f$@! we were supposed to climb up waterfall before us. Our crazy guide went first, and used the handy rope that was secured into a rock to get up. I went next, slipped and fell at the top, almost sliding back down, but made it. My mom came right after and I was so proud of her. Being taught to avoid slippery rocks as a child, she was definitely not excited about climbing up the very slippery rocks to the top, but she did it! From there we walked through water to finally get to the hidden waterfall. This is a moment I will never-ever-ever-ever forget. The waterfall was in a kind of bowl-shaped rock formation, with a big pool beneath it, so it was like we were in our own private-chilly jacuzzi in the middle of the rainforest. Another magical moment. Suffice it to say, that day was amazing.

Unfortunately, we had to leave the beautiful Manuel Antonio the next day for my home town La Guacima (which is wonderful itself, but doesn’t have the lovely beach life), and although we debated staying an extra day, decided that going back to La Guacima would be the best choice. It was nice because my mom was able to see my home town and meet my wonderful host family and experience the awesomeness of my host mom’s cooking. The next day, after a tearful goodbye on both parts, my mom left for the states and it was on to more magical adventures in Costa Rica for me.

Like I said many times above, my trip with my mom was absolutely amazing and is definitely one of those life experiences that I will cherish forever.

Our room at Casa Luna Lodge (our's is the top balcony)

La Fortuna Waterfall

Me and my mom in front of the Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano (it's hard to see the lava here, but it was awesome in-person)

View of the Pacific from our hotel balcony in Manuel Antonio

Monkeys outside our balcony in Manuel Antonio

Monkey carrying its baby outside our balcony in Manuel Antonio

In Manuel Antonio, probably the best sign I've ever seen

Looks like an ad for Imperial, this was me on the boat before snorkeling in Manuel Antonio

My mom loving life in Manuel Antonio

My mom standing next to a white-faced monkey in Manuel Antonio National Park

Monkey foot : Human foot

My mom and I on the ATV about to start our crazy adventure to the waterfall

In the beautiful Rainmaker's forest

In the background is the waterfall we had to climb up to get to the other waterfall (if you look to the right side of the waterfall you can see the rope hanging)

My mom and I with our guide after using the waterfall as a natural slide to come back down after we had to climb up in the beginning.

May 30, 2010 at 7:13 pm Leave a comment

Semana Santa

.:{Week in Guanacaste (4/27-5/3)}:.

In attempting to catch everyone up on what I have been doing for the last two months, here is an overdue post about my week at the beaches in Guanacaste with my host sister and friends. Since the trip is really better explained in pictures, here was my week in the Guanacaste province at Playas del Coco, Playa Hermosa, Playa Panama and Playa Ocotal.

Sunset at Playa Hermosa

Day at the pool outside our place in Playas Del Coco

Me and Grace with the French guy we named "Chiverre." Chiverre is actually a fruit in Costa Rica that is twice the size of a watermelon, it's enormous, and the insides are used, especially during Semana Santa, to make honey stuffing for empanadas and such. Well, he was graced with the name "Chiverre" because his stomach was so huge just like the fruit. We felt the need to get a picture with his loveliness 🙂

The aftermath of a full day at the pool with a gigantic supply of beer

Beautiful beach shot at Playa Panama (my favorite beach that we went to)

My lovely view from the beach at Playa Panama

Group shot at Playa Panama (missing Grace)

Absolutely gorgeous sunset at Playa Panama

Me posing for some silhouette action in front of the sunset at Playa Panama

May 27, 2010 at 9:29 pm 1 comment

An Overdue Update

.:{So, in the last two months…}:.

Okay, so here’s the deal, I realize that it has been about 2 months since my last blog post. This is unacceptable. I know. And actually to me, it really only felt like it had been a month, so I guess that means that things are coming along speedily- which is a good, or bad thing depending on how you look at it.

So, here are my updates over the last 2 months (each update definitely deserves more attention than I’m giving it, but I realize that no one really wants to read THAT much about anything).

  1. I never found a swim suit in Costa Rica. However, when my mom came to visit she kindly brought 3 swim suits for me to pick and choose from. Now I have 2 lovely swim suits 🙂 Thanks mom!
  2. Speaking of which, my mom came to visit in April!!! We had an absolutely amazing week split between La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano and Manuel Antonio. We kept saying how dream-like this week was and thinking about it now it really does seem like a dream. I will write a separate little blog entry on this to fill everyone in.
  3. A couple weeks before my mom came I was lucky enough to spend Semana Santa (the week before Easter, which here is like everyone’s Spring Break) with my host sister, her husband, and two others at the beach in Guanacaste (1 of Costa Rica’s 7 provinces). Spending an entire week, not to mention the hottest week of the year, in Costa Rica, at the beach made me feel as sunny inside as I was feeling outside. The week was so relaxing and I just couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be able to spend an entire week a la playa while I was here in Costa Rica. Not-to-mention it was a great booster for my Spanish because I was with people all day speaking Spanish. Now, you’re probably thinking, wait isn’t that your life in Costa Rica? And yes, it is. But my daily life is spent with 3 year olds, so my vocabulary is very limited with them- and I realized just how much more I would learn if I was around adults all day. Again, like the trip with my mom, I will try to write up a little blurb about this one, or at least post some beautiful pictures for everyone to see.
  4. I am still working at Casa Luz, and boy has that been an interesting experience. From feeling frustrated at first, to happy, to confused, to excited, I am constantly learning more about myself and the world around me during my volunteering. Although it has not been anything like I imagined, it has been life-changing. That’s for sure.
  5. I was back in the states for long weekend as a surprise visit for Ray’s Graduation. A blog is in order for this 🙂
  6. And, as if I wasn’t lucky enough to spend a week at the beach for Semana Santa and a week with my mom in La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio, this last week I was in Puerto Viejo with Ray, Jen, Chayla and Tyler. Like the others, I will be posting a separate blog on this INCREDIBLE experience.

So, there is a little update for you. I am attempting to write as much as possible in my final 3 weeks here (I can’t believe that’s all I have left). Until next time, I hope that everyone is doing well and I am sending a little bit of Costa Rican happiness to all of you!

May 25, 2010 at 9:11 pm Leave a comment

Playa Dominical

.:{A Much Needed Break}:.

Well, on Sunday I will have officially been in Costa Rica for a month…so, it’s only fitting that I finally venture out of little Guacima to see the beach-life of Costa Rica. And that is exactly what I am doing. This weekend I’m going to Dominical (on the south-west coast of Costa Rica) with a girl I met here. YES!  She’s near Dominical, so I just have to figure out how/where to take a bus/buses from Guacima to where she is. Which will be quite the adventure for my directionally-challenged self. Wish me luck!

Pura Vida

March 12, 2010 at 8:31 am 4 comments

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