A note from the executive editor: Costa Rica Travel Blog has chosen to feature the following article for its exploration of the meaning of “pura vida” and the statement: “if there is one thing I absolutely hate, it is missed opportunity”. Thanks to Andrea for submitting her personal account to us. It is a treat to know that your free trip to Costa Rica awarded you with rich realization and priceless learning. Pura vida!
Featured Author: Andrea MacEachern (visit the Another Day Of Grace Blog)
I opened my inbox one day to find an email with a peculiar subject line. “Congratulations, you have won a trip to Anamaya Yoga Retreat in Sunny Costa Rica”. I promptly deleted it but a nagging feeling prompted me to retrieve that email and read it thoroughly to be sure it was, in fact, just another scam. Four months after I read that email, I was boarding a plane for San Jose, Costa Rica and onto the small Pacific Coast village of Montezuma where I would learn an important lesson in life and in living it to the fullest.
There wasn’t much going on at Anamaya Yoga Retreat on my 4th day in Montezuma, Costa Rica. I had gotten into the routine of waking early and watching the sunset, reading in the hammock, taking a dip in the infinity pool and checking emails all before breakfast was even served so on this day, I decided to break the routine and do something a little different. I didn’t want to waste the day sitting by the pool so I strolled down the hill into the village and spent the day exploring the little streets and surf shops and enjoying the beach in the village. The village had so much energetic ambiance. Smiling, energetic people of all walks of life, embracing the day and one another. I can still feel it now if I close my eyes and bring myself back there.
It was the hottest morning in Montezuma since I had arrived and the walk down the hill was torture. I was only half way to the flat part of the road when a young man on a motorbike stopped. “Senorita, I take you to bottom of the hill if you like.” He was wearing nice shirt and khaki shorts which gave him an air of coolness and confidence, like he often picked up strange women who were about to pass out while walking down that hill in the heat and deliberately dressed the part each morning before leaving the house. I never take rides from strangers but I didn’t think I was going to make it any further without collapsing so I took him up on his offer and a few minutes later he dropped me off at the beach. With a wave and a friendly “Buenos dias”, he sped off.
Since I was on the beach already, I plopped myself down on the sand in a shaded area and relaxed and looked out over the ocean. A storm had passed near Montezuma the previous night and the water was extremely rough. I tried to go for a swim but the waves were too powerful and the undertow too dangerous so I relaxed under a tree. The smell of cerviche and Empanadas in the restaurant a few meters from the beach filled the air. The sounds of palm trees rustling in the gentle breeze and locals and tourists going about their daily business lulled me. A dog chased a stick nearby and his barks were followed by the laughs of the happy children who were egging him on. A stray cat sat near a foot cart, waiting for a hand-out. The rhythmic sound of the waves coming ashore, like a lullaby, gently rocked me to sleep.
Shouting zapped me out of my trance to see people on the beach pointing to something in the water; Some brave, fool-hardy surfers were attempting to surf dangerously rough waters close to some jagged rocks. It looked like the scene might end in tragedy but, fortunately, the surfers made it safely to shore. Welcome to Costa Rica – home of adventure seekers, lovers of life and daredevils!
By late-morning, the heat was really getting to me and I was starting to feel dehydrated. I wanted a refreshing fruit smoothie but didn’t want to pay the going rate of about 7 dollars for one at a tourist trap. So off I went, up and down those little streets, in search of a reasonably-priced smoothie. At the end of one of the main roads heading back towards Anamaya, I noticed an interestingly-decorated, outdoor smoothie bar. The thatched-roof and various trees and plants that seemingly sprouted from the walls were what caught my eye. It looked like it might be just my kind of place to sit for a bit and relax.
A free-spirited and friendly young man was eager to take on the challenge of making me up something that was refreshing but not-too-sweet. It took a long time for him to make it as he carefully thought out each and every ingredient he put into it and made sure it was mixed to perfection by allowing me to taste it at intervals to see if it was mixed enough. After some mixing and shaking and adding of various exotic fruit, some of which I didn’t recognize, he placed his finished masterpiece before me. For the price of 3 dollars, I received a delicious orange-colored smoothie in a massive glass.
I stayed at the bar and took a seat. “So are you from around here?” I asked him. “Yes, born and raised in Costa Rica, just down the road a little bit.” He obviously loved his life in Montezuma and at one point, he asked if I knew what “Pura Vida” meant. To me “Pura Vida” meant The Pure Life and it was what I had witnessed over and over again while traveling through the country. Natural, untouched, simple and pure. He went on to explain it in more depth for me. “That is how most people interpret it. You see, ‘Pura Vida’ can be a greeting, a state of mind, a way of life. You meet someone walking down the street, you say ‘Pura Vida’. You catch the perfect wave while surfing, you say ‘Pura Vida’. You have a wonderful day, instead of saying goodnight, you say ‘Pura Vida’. You find a great smoothie bar while walking the streets of Montezuma, you say ‘this is Pura Vida’. It can mean anything but always something good. Anytime something good happens, “Pura Vida” is the appropriate thing to say.” Made sense to me. How can you not be living the “Pura Vida” in a country that is considered to be one of the happiest in the world according to the Happy Planet Index and to all the locals?
It was mid-afternoon when I started walking up that steep hill to Anamaya. I managed to make it without collapsing in the ditch. There was still enough daylight left to hike to Montezuma Falls. I had gone there the day before and chickened out of jumping off the falls into the pool below but now I was determined not to leave Costa Rica without taking the risk.
The path to the falls was steep and rocky. I stopped to take a rest mid-way down the trail and that is when I became fully aware of my surroundings. The growling of nearby howler monkeys, the buzz of millions of tropical insects going about their business, the sound of the distant waves crashing onto the beach below, the trees rustling in the gentle breeze. The rainforest felt so alive that it was almost like the forest itself was living and breathing.
I made it to the waterfalls and again paused to take in the beautiful sight before me. Beautiful, cascading water falling into a crystal clear, blue pool beneath a canopy or thick rainforest. Before I could talk myself out of it again, I took the leap into the clear, refreshing water. If there is one thing I absolutely hate, it is missed opportunity. I take every chance that comes my way because, sometimes, you only get one chance to do something and that opportunity never arises again. And to think, if I had not listened to that little voice in my head telling me to read that email again, I would have missed out on the time of my life and would never know what it is like to live the true Pura Vida.
About Andrea MacEachern:
I grew up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, lived in Newfoundland for over ten years and recently returned to my hometown. I am a freelance travel writer who recently found a love for another art form; photography. I love being outdoors and traveling to new places and keeping my life as interesting as possible!
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