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What I Learned From a Month in Costa Rica

08.02.2016

Today marks the official one month mark... and what a month it has been.

 

I knew Costa Rica would be beautiful, but the extent of its splendor continues to astound me. However, gawking at the gorgeous natural environment is only part of what I have been doing for the past month.

 

I've also been learning.

 

No matter how often I travel, I can't seem to go anywhere without learning a thing or two about myself along the way. These are a couple of things I have learned over the past month in Costa Rica:

 

 
Pura Vida is more than a catchphrase

 

"How are you?" Pura Vida.

 

"I'm sorry." Pura Vida.

 

"I don't really want to." ut... Pura Vida!

 

Pura Vida is basically the slogan for Costa Rica. And arguably the only words you need to know to survive here.

 

It's on every type of merchandise you can imagine and it rolls naturally off the tongues of anyone who visits for more than a week.

 

Pura Vida is why tourists come to Costa Rica.

 

They picture the white sands, sapphire oceans, fruity cocktails, and brilliant sunshine. They picture Pura Vida.

 

In theory, Pura Vida is a way of living. I say in theory because the tourism industry has turned it into a catchphrase and when I first got here, I saw it as a form of advertising, not a form of living.

 

In theory, Pura Vida means living free of constraints and unnecessary responsibilities. Pura Vida means living your life for you, following your heart, and pursuing what makes you happy.

 

In Costa Rica, that frequently translates to surf and booze.

 

During my first week, I thought Pura Vida was the Costa Rican equivalent to hang loose, and I didn't like it. I love the ocean, but the beach bum life has never been and probably never will be for me. I saw Pura Vida as something the Beach Boys would sing about, not a way I wanted to live my life.

 

But the longer I stay and the more I contemplate the phrase, the more I realize Pura Vida is not just meaningless slang.

 

Pura Vida translates to Pure Life and pure life can have a million different faces. For one person it might mean surfing all day and drinking all night. For another it might mean teaching yoga in the mountains. For another it might mean raising a family with love.

 

For one it might mean traveling the world, studying Embodied Cognition in Edinburgh, and seeing where life takes her.

 

What Pura Vida means to you doesn't matter. What matters is that once you define it, you also live it. That's Pura Vida. That's the pure life.

 

Sometimes stillness is preferable... or at least necessary

 

 

I love to move. I love traveling, I love hiking, I love planes, trains, and cars... if I am in motion, I am happy.

 

I also crave stillness. I dream of the day when I will have my own apartment and I've considered trading my hiking boots for slippers.

 

But as much as I love the idea of stillness, I have trouble practicing it.

 

It never takes long before I am restless again. Since I was a little girl my parents commanded me to, "sit still" and "slow down". Instead I just went where they couldn't see me and ran faster.

 

I treasure my mobility. If you offered me endless cash and all I had to do was live in one town for the rest of my life, I'd laugh in your face.

 

When I planned my trip to Costa Rica, I didn't question my decision to stay at a surf camp in Tamarindo for a month. I would be teaching yoga and meeting new people; it would be great!

 

Two weeks in I was considering bailing. I've been here so long! I thought. It's time for me to explore the next place. It's time to move on.

 

I managed to convince myself to stay and every day I am obnoxiously aware of how many days I have left (11). But at the same time, the longer I stay here the more I can tell how much my body needed a break.

 

Because motion is fun, but only in stillness can we relax. Only in stillness can we heal.

 

I don't imagine that I will ever stop traveling. But I am constantly re-learning how to balance and trying to discover what that ideal equilibrium is.

 

Too much stillness and I grow stagnant and depressed.

 

But ignoring my need for stillness, though tempting, is not the answer.

 

Because too much motion and I will inevitably become exhausted. So as much as I would like to be in eternal motion, I am slowly learning when to sit still and for how long.

 
You are never done learning

 

 

I often think that travel has made me wise. I think I have learned the things I was meant to learn and am ready to start the part of life that comes after the learning. The part where you know everything and can finally put it to use.

 

Then I keep living and laugh at my own ignorance.

 

We all want to believe we have figured it all out, but none of us ever really know what we are doing.

 

Instead, we keep living our lives, keep embracing the lessons as they come and go, and keep our eyes open to whatever might show up next.

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