I thought of this phrase as another cliche to caption a photo post of a trip to Costa Rica. That was clearly my judgmental side, and one I’m not proud.
After spending nine days in this beautiful Central American country, I’m proud to caption anything with “Pura Vida”- My life, a photo from the trip, my mood of the day, or the way my day is going.
To Costa Ricans Pura Vida means way beyond its direct translation of “pure life” but even this literal meaning speaks volumes to me. My personal interpretation of a “pure life” is to live a life stripped away from excessive “wants” that we mistake as “needs” whether they’re material or nonmaterialistic characteristics of one’s self. Having traveled alone and with a small budget to explore the city of San Jose after my mornings volunteering at a local school in Tirrases, San Jose, I thought my experience would be limited to what my money would buy and to the lack of a tight group of friends with me.
Luckily, I was extremely WRONG. A small budget allowed me to fully experience San Jose, Costa Rica at a local and authentic level and spend time cherishing a priceless gift- people and their minds. Traveling alone allowed me to open up to the other volunteers, to my host family and to random strangers I encountered eating at the local Soda or finding the right bus stop on my way home at nights.
Being stripped from the things I thought I “needed” to what I actually did need made my experience in Costa Rica and my first experience exploring a country on my own extremely abundant. It was full of life, activities and thought provoking moments that I’ll always treasure. Tearing down my protective walls to connect with strangers was also a purifying moment for me. I’m always friendly, and I can talk to almost anyone I meet, but when it comes to expressing my inner self I quickly shy away. I made an effort to truly connect with wonderful and amazing minds of both locals and other volunteers that inspired me beyond my writing abilities to explain in a post. These people were truly unique, full of life, and completely content and optimistic despite having gone (or going) through troubles and apprehensions in their lives. Pure and genuine human connection was all that mattered. Having a limited budget was actually amazing because instead of seeking for things to buy, I was seeking moments to experience far richer than money could buy.
This leads me to the Costa Rican meaning of “Pura Vida.” To them, the phrase means experiencing life from moment to moment to the best of their ability. Even in uncomfortable instances, they’re not defeated by their problems but accept them to conquer them as they come. It’s isn’t a complex concept but one that people (myself included) miss in a world when we’re always thinking of the next great thing we can do, buy or experience instead of actually enjoying what we’re doing or have right now. I now understand that going through life this way can keep us progressing with our goals and aspirations while allowing us to enjoy the process instead of just looking affirmations at the end (We’ll honestly never find it). I engaged in several conversations about this with local drivers, merchants, and workers all around the country, and they all responded with the same thoughts. How amazing is that a whole country thinks this way…I had to force it out of my mouth when I was asked how I was doing just because I wasn’t used to it- but I literally always felt like “Pura Vida.”