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The Real Meaning of Pura Vida – Costa Rican Point Of View & Tamarindo

We left San Juan Del Sur for the Costa Rican border with the usual uneasy feeling of a problematic day. Not because we are pessimists, but simply because it's like a box of chocolates... you never know what you're gonna' get. If we were crossing with a backpack it wouldn't be as bad. However, a car full of stuff is a different story. We had never been to Costa Rica and were excited and feeling optimistic about our chances to find work in San Jose. (our final destination) We decided that San Jose would have the best possibilities for teaching English and making some money. The little research we did, showed a TEFL International location in Manuel Antonio in the south and since we got our TEFL/TESOL with TEFL International, they help us with job placement.



Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Pura Vida

Nicaraguan Border

We arrived at the border to the usual group of "helpers" who swear that we will be required to take everything out of the car without their help and it would be costly and time-consuming. As usual, we brushed off the advances and did things on our own. The Nicaragua side of the border was fairly easy. Within the 30 minutes we were there, we got stamped out of immigration and made our way to the "aduana" (customs) which is the "box of chocolates" I refer to. The customs agent asked us to open up the back hatch and asked what was in a bag. I explained it was clothes and offered to pull the bag out for inspection. She said it was okay and told us to have a good day and sent us on our way.

Costa Rican Border

WHEW!! One catastrophe averted... now Costa Rica. We drove the short distance to Costa Rica and parked the car. Got stamped in to Costa Rica without issue and a mildly long line and wait. We went into the little blue building that said "Aduana Revision de Equipaje" Which means Customs Baggage Search. We were given some papers to fill out and then the lady told us to go to another building which was about 3-500 feet away to get our permission to drive in CR. HUH? Could it have been that easy? She didn't even look at our Jeep. Not the color, nor the make, nor even attempted to see if we even had a car. Maybe the other place would be the spot where they tell us to pull everything down out of our car for a full search for drugs and guns.



Road To Tamarindo

Pura Vida

Getting Out Unscathed

We drove around the corner and made copies of this, and that. Then went to the insurance window to buy insurance for a month for 30 dollars and submitted our paperwork for the vehicle. Within minutes, we were out of the Costa Rican border with permission to drive in the country, insurance, and passports stamped. Total time... 1 hour and 15 minutes! They didn't even look at the vehicle. No bags through a scanner. No issues whatsoever. We were borderline elated when we left the border, traveling on our way to Tamarindo Beach to explore a little of Costa Rica. Traveling from Nicaragua to Costa Rica was in no means difficult. We felt we deserved it from our Honduras/ Nicaraguan experience.



Local Avacados

Pura Vida

Driving To Tamarindo

We drove through Guanacaste (state in northern Costa Rica) with ease and stopped off at a roadside stand and bought some of the biggest avocados we have ever seen. They were soft and ripe and the size of our hands. The terrain was arid and dry, much like southern Nicaragua. It was hot this today, 95 degrees at least, but the drive was still beautiful. We arrived in Tamarindo in the afternoon and began the usual search for a place to stay. Hostel after hotel, price shopping and failed attempts to find something in the town, we finally checked out Hotels.com and found a decent price with the Best Western Camino a Tamarindo, about 10 miles outside of town.



Volcano Brewing Co.

Pura Vida

Surf and Great Beer

Tamarindo is a surfing mecca for Costa Rica and the town certainly reflected it. Surf shops, and boutiques with people in boardshorts and bikinis everywhere. It really had a small town California vibe to it. We drove out to the Best Western Camino a Tamarindo to check out the parking situation which was fine and booked a night using their wifi in the lobby. It was a great modern room, with free breakfast, huge pool and other than the distance from town... perfect. We unpacked some stuff and headed into town to get some food and maybe a beer. Craving a good beer, saw the Volcano Brewing Company on the beach and couldn't remember the last time we had a good micro-brewed beer.



Sol Naciente Surf School

Pura Vida

Robeardo and Chris

We got a beer and sat down and almost immediately started talking to two locals sitting at the bar with us. The bearded one was named Roberto and the young-looking gringo (who was obviously a local) was Chris.  Roberto, who Shelly called "Robeardo" to help her remember his name, owned a tour company called Seaz the Day and offered mostly fishing charters on his boat.  Robeardo loved his nickname from Shelly. Chris worked for Sol Naciente which is a surf school and tour company about a half block from the brewery.

I enjoyed a nice pale ale while speaking to them in both English and Spanish and found out that Chris was born in Canada and his parents moved to Costa Rica when he was very young. He spoke perfect English but, with a somewhat strong latin accent. He turned out to be a great guy and amazing help to understand a little about the "pura vida" lifestyle in Costa Rica. We enjoyed our drinks and exchanged facebooks with them and returned to our hotel that night with a real sense of pura vida.

Pura Vida - Real or Marketing Strategy?

Pura Vida means pure life. It's the feeling that nothing needs to be rushed, enjoy life, don't worry and take it slow. Live every day with a daily outlook, not worried about what needs to be done in the future. Live for the moment. I asked Chris if this whole pura vida thing was real, or a marketing strategy to get tourists to Costa Rica. He said it was real, and that he and most Costa Rican's live it. We felt invigorated at the ease of entry, the ease of lifestyle, and the ease of making friends in a country.  We are also enchanted with Costa Rica and happy to have made the decision to come here.



The Best Western Tamarindo

Pura Vida

Leaving Tamarindo

The next day, we left Tamarindo for San Jose. We really didn't want to leave, but realized after being there two days, that with the pura vida attitude and the small town nature of Tamarindo. Coupled with the fact it was low season, we were really simply spending money in Costa Rica and had little possibility of getting work there. Another realization we quickly noted,was how expensive it was in Costa Rica. We had heard it was "a little more expensive than Roatan", but the 14 dollar beer tab after only 4 drinks between Shelly and I proved more than I had anticipated.

Food at the grocery store was pretty expensive too. We cooked meals in our hotel room with our Instapot Pressure Cooker to save money, but were really in shock as to how much everything cost. We needed to head to San Jose and begin to find work, or our lifestyle of traveling Costa Rica could put us in the poor house. At any rate, we were loving Costa Rica and the idea of Pura Vida and couldn't wait to get started living there, it just felt right.

Change in Perspective

That first night after talking to Chris about Pura Vida changed our perspective.  We figured that Pura Vida was a marketing strategy used by the tourism board to drive people to an ideal of what Costa Rica is about.  Learning that it isn't, was refreshing.  I remember sitting outside our hotel with a sense of well-being, content.  We saw Costa Rica in a different light.  Was it the way we saw it or the the way the Costa Ricans saw it that created this feeling of contentment?  Was it the fact that people actually believed in living day to day, or our wish to do the same?

We realized something important and almost life changing.  We realized that life is not necessarily a big picture. It's daily living that creates the big picture in the long run.  A view of what your life becomes through an accumulation of the day to day.  Life is actually day to day living that creates the big picture. We are not destined to do one thing or another based on what our life has become.  It can change daily based on how you look at it.

We talk a lot about perspective.  The ability to change the way you look at something.  We realized that each day holds it's own obstacles and victories.   It is all on how you look at it.  Viewing your daily life not as it is, but how you want it to be.  Pura Vida is this.  It's the ability to look at daily life in a positive light.  A way for the us to view life on daily terms by taking it slow and realizing it's not the big picture that matters.  It's what you do with the day and how you perceive it that matters.   The total accumulation of positive days creates a positive life.  Maybe this is why Costa Ricans live so long.

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