My skin usually crawls when I hear the well-worn phrase “ignorance is bliss” in its generally-accepted, misconstrued interpretation that knowing less or not knowing something makes one happy. My belief has always been that learning something knew is a true source of happiness. However, it is ignorance that compels one to learn, so I suppose it could be argued that ignorance can lead to happiness. Certainly this was our case in Costa Rica. We have been pleasantly surprised a number of times at destinations we have chosen for our yearly escapes from winter. This year we boarded the plane truly ignorant of our destination, but quickly learned about this fascinating, friendly, and colorful country. Discovery truly is bliss.
Costa Rica is a land of tropical beauty and should one wish to enjoy the cliché of sitting on a beach with a fruity, rum-based drink to pass away a week in the sun, then this is certainly possible. We may have passed away an afternoon or two like this ourselves. The true magic of the country however is in its natural diversity and the pride and passion Costa Ricans have for it. This is a country roughly the size of Switzerland but with half the population, yet they have two coasts, rainforests, mountain ranges, volcanoes, hundreds of microclimates, and some amazing biodiversity. Although we have no regrets enjoying a few afternoons with drinks by the pool, the true joy of discovering this country happened in the national parks and nature preserves.
It’s this self-awareness of the gift of nature that Costa Ricans have, coupled with their 100% dependence on renewable energy, and investment in education instead of a military that makes one understand the unofficial national motto of pura vida. Translated roughly as “pure life,” it encapsulates a unique Costa Rican joie de vivre that perhaps would be better translated as “real living,” reflecting a laid-back yet ever-optimistic worldview of and full enjoyment of life.
Our trip took us to the highlands around the Arenal Volcano, the verdant cloud forests of Monteverde, and to the tropical Pacific coast near Manuel Antonio national park with beautiful sights and exotic creatures great and small to fascinate us. Although my language ability could best be described as “Sesame Street Spanish,” Elise had a course at work which was immensely helpful. Though possibly more helpful was the fact that everyone was patient and warm with us gringos. And though the roads at times tried my own pura vida enjoyment, whenever we arrived at our destinations we were inevitably floored by yet more natural beauty.
I feel that I am hyperbolizing a bit, but looking back through our photos I remember that I am not, it just really was so very cool. What else can I say?