In Costa Rica, they have an expression.
This expression itself is incorporated in to everything - from conversational greetings and farewells to every conceivable manner of branding and advertising associated with the country.
The expression is ‘Pura Vida’, which literally means ‘pure’ or ‘simple life’.
But, the meaning goes way beyond the words themselves and has slowly become an inherent part of the culture itself.
Here, Pura Vida really is a way of life: a mindset, an attitude, an emotion.
It’s applied to how people work, how they interact with one another, how they approach their money and finances, their relationship with time (literally everything seems to run late here – punctuality is regarded as strange and even rude in some cases!)
It’s evident in how they decorate their homes and even how they dress - in fact, I didn’t see one pair of heels or high-end designer label for the entire duration of my 5 week trip; here, it’s all about minimal effort and maximum comfort (my kind of dress code ;)
Spend but one short day in Costa Rica, and you won’t fail to feel the physiological effects of Pura Vida-ism.
The term was first coined in the 1956 Mexican movie ‘Pura Vida!’ – the expression used by the protagonist who chooses to remain optimistic, despite a plethora of unwelcome circumstances that continue to surround him.
By 1970, the term was being used nationwide and perfectly encapsulates the energy of both the people and the place itself.
The Costa Ricans (or ‘Ticos’) don’t stress or worry over things the way many of their visitors do – which is why Costa Rica has been rightfully deemed one of the world’s happiest countries.
Personally, I think this may have something to do with the fact that, whilst Catholicism is the official religion of the country, the church has not exerted a powerful influence politically or socially.
Nor does Costa Rica have the temples or overtly spiritual vibes that can be found in places like India, Nepal or Bali.
Instead, with its deserted, rugged beaches, luscious jungles and rainforests – as well as the diverse and exotic wildlife that can be found here, it’s actually nature itself that the people seem to worship and base their entire lives around (which makes sense considering that the country’s estimated to host 6% of the world’s plant and animal species!)
For Costa Ricans, the majority of downtime is spent surfing, skydiving, trekking through the mountains, white-water rafting, horse-riding or doing something positive for the environment.
I think it’s pretty fair to say that their relationship with nature is as (if not more) important as their relationship with anything else.
This explains why Costa Rica is one of the most eco-friendly places in the world, with 27% of the country’s landmass devoted to national parks and reserves, and sustainability being a huge focus for both the government and its people.
Having spent 5 weeks travelling Costa Rica, I have to say that the sanctity of nature and the culture of Pura Vida-ism combined has probably done as much good for my mind, body and spirit as a good yoga retreat (well, if you overlook the daily sunset Pina Coladas, that is… ;)
It’s also done a hell of a lot of unexpected good for my relationship.
Whilst Joe is naturally a Pura-Vida-kinda-guy (and was delighted to have been mistaken for a native on more than one occasion!) I’m most definitely not – not by nature, any way.
I’ve really had to work at it.
Anxiety and worry have always played a huge role in my life and, whilst this has dramatically decreased over recent years due to my meditation and yoga practice (as well as being in a relationship with a guy like Joe for 3.5 years), my time in Costa Rica soaking up the cult of Pura Vida-ism taught me to a whole new level that our attitude to life – and the energy we give off as a result of it – is the most powerful commodity we have.
But, when you derive from a savagely ambitious place like London, it’s all too easy to find yourself giving off the very opposite of the Pura Vida vibe – particularly when it comes to relationships.
Our tendency to have to try and ‘fit’ our loved ones in to our hectic schedule would, I’m sure, be laughable to Costa Ricans.
Because to them, nothing is more important than creating and savouring precious memories with the people we love.
Which is probably why the moment I arrived at Liberia airport in the north of the country, something in me just knew my routine and to do list was going straight out the window.
I’ve never felt less inspired to work, and more inspired to simply live.
So, on my first morning in Costa Rica, I decided to scrap all the work goals I’d set myself to accomplish during my stay, and just make enough space each week to do what absolutely had to be done.
Which meant that beyond my 1:1 client skype sessions, social media posts and weekly newsletter, I really didn’t achieve anything work-wise while I was there (which, for a coach in the wellness industry, is practically sacrilege – especially considering January tends to be the most lucrative and important month of the year).
My app ‘Moments’ - which tracks your phone usage - also informed me that I was down to less than a quarter of my normal daily screen time on my phone.
This time that I would’ve usually spent working or procrastinating on my phone was instead spent relaxing or having fun with Joe and our friends - mostly in nature.
It was spent learning how to exchange the ‘GO! ACHIEVE!’ approach to life for the Pura Vida approach to life that this country is famed for.
And, whilst Joe and I went through some stuff together during our stay (more on this soon), our relationship was in a significantly better place by the time I’d left.
This is because he and we came before work – which seldom happens in London, where work comes before pretty much everything else.
As a result, our sex life thrived (more on this soon, too).
We spent quality time doing activities together that challenged us.
We laughed more than we’d done in ages.
We ate ridiculously well, slept lots and moved our bodies in ways that were actually fun.
We found ourselves having serious discussions about our future as a couple. Scary, but exciting ones.
This, I believe, is how our relationships are really meant to be: an example of Pura Vida in and of themselves.
I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU:
How can you bring the concept of ‘Pura Vida’ in to your life and your relationship?
And, if you’re single, how do you think embracing the Pura Vida way of life will help you attract your soulmate? (Because I promise you, it’s the most effective way to do it ;)
Let me know below <3
All my love,