Costa Rica is an edenic, lush, and peaceful country. From the gorgeous beaches to the cloud forest of Monteverde, this is a country that has something to offer everyone. When friends ask where they can take their children on an international vacation—this country is always my first recommendation. It is safe. It is clean. And if you pride yourself on staying at resorts that focus on environmental sustainability, this is the country for you. In fact, The Blue Juice awarded Costa Rica with the highest ranking in its coveted annual safety review, titled “The Top Three Countries Where You’re Unlikely to Acquire a Communicable Disease or Get Mugged.” (Note: this is not as interesting as the article Where to Acquire Yellow Fever and How to Die Abroad which will post later in the year)
Safety, cleanliness, and ecological stewardship aren’t the only upsides to Costa Rica. Upon arrival, it won’t take you very long before you notice there is something quite different about the people who live there—they are accommodating, kind, and perpetually positive. So positive, in fact, that I once referred to their tourist industry employees as the Stepford Wives of Central America. I am not going to lie to you. At first I didn’t respond well to the positivity. You see, between the “Pura Vida” slogans and the life affirming graffiti* in San Jose, I found myself wanting to pack a duffle bag in the middle of the night and head to the Nicaraguan border in search of normal (i.e. negative, jaded, and chronically sarcastic) people.
But after a few days there I learned a valuable lesson: it wasn’t that Costa Ricans were overly positive—it’s simply that I am an asshole. (It pains me to report that I have learned this lesson on more than one continent) I have grown accustomed to facing adversity with a hyperbolic FML attitude, and in many of my social circles, negative has become the new normal. Perhaps you are asking yourself, how do I know if I am overly negative? Engage in a simple thought experiment: consider your reaction to ‘Positive Peggy’ who works in your office and is a little too upbeat before you’ve had your morning cup of coffee. Do you want to slap her when she says, when life hands you lemons make lemonade? If the answer is yes, you’re probably a negative asshole—like me.
So, while there are several great reasons to travel to Costa Rica, chief among them should be a desire to embrace a more positive outlook on life. I like to think of the country as an attitude reeducation camp. If you make this journey, there is a very good possibility that you will wake up and realize that our attitude, and how we respond to adversity, shapes every facet of our existence. If life is a gift, living the Pura Vida means accepting that gift whole-heartedly, without bitterness, anger, or negativity, despite the hardships that we face. And if you can’t do that while you are there–hey–at least you can enjoy the zip lining.
*Pura Vida translation: the pure life/the simple life/the good life. Work on your pronunciation now because you will feel obligated to repeat the phrase multiple times throughout your stay. (Poo-rah Veed-ah) And yes, pay attention when you are in San Jose because you can find graffiti with positive messages. Of course, this will require you to be able to read in Spanish; if you cannot, you will just have to take my word for it. It’s there.
The Blue Juice Recommendation: if you’ve never travelled internationally before and would be more comfortable on a group tour, or if planning an international vacation feels daunting, the following agency is highly recommended: www.gate1travel.com/latin-america/costa-rica
All you will have to do is pack your bags and show up; they will take care of the rest.