Taking a few days to breathe in Costa Rica was exactly what the doctor ordered. After a month of craziness between a move, work, and daily life, it couldn’t have been more timely to escape to the coastline of Guanacaste.

Nestling into the room at Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort & Hotel, it was the morning after the first night where I felt like it started to sink in. The cool breeze, the hot climate, and the easy days set the pace slow — slow enough to pause and enjoy the moment. It was a reminder that it is good for the soul to be still. Costa Rica knew exactly how to stop time.

There’s this saying in Costa Rica called “pura vida.” It translates to the pure life, but yet it means so much more than that. They say it in almost every setting. When you ask how their day is going, it’s pura vida. When you say thank you, they respond with pura vida. When the car in front slams on their brakes, they throw their hands exclaiming pura vida! When talking about something easy going, it’s pura vida.

The saying in Costa Rica encompasses a mindset and a way of living. It really challenged me while I was there to step into the pura vida. You meet any local, and you know they’re living the pura vida through their actions, their expressions, and their easy going spirit. It was refreshing, and so contrary to life at home. I envied the ability to go slow and with the flow, to not control each moment of the day.

Though I’ll never find the true meaning of pura vida as a visitor and won’t pretend to, there was definitely a lot to be learned from the phrase. The saying puts a smile on your face. And that was my first lesson in Costa Rica: Smile. Smile when you wake up, smile when it’s out of your control, smile when something doesn’t go right, and from there respond.

The phrase sets the pace of the day in a natural and stress-free way. The second lesson: Find the pura vida in a manner that can change how you move through the day. Admittedly, I move fast and always have. It’s been a habit since I was young, to move fast. With pura vida in mind, I’m challenging myself to move slower.

Pura vida is a way of living simply and in contentment with that. The final lesson was leaning into that life of simplicity, and learning to find the exotic in the every day.

Costa Rica’s fulfilling joy through pura vida was a reminder how beautiful life can be in every corner of the world. Thank you to the slice of paradise for the challenge and inspiration.

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A First-Timer’s Guide to Guanacaste, Costa Rica

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