I recently returned from a five-week vacation in Costa Rica. I can happily report that I’m tanned, rested, and ready to get back to freelance writing and blogging.
Why Costa Rica? For starters, it has a great combination of natural beauty, friendly people, modern infrastructure, and a reasonably efficient economy and government. Also, I wanted to visit a country with a tropical jungle where I could see monkeys and lots of pretty birds and butterflies. Costa Rica!
Where I Went
My trip had two main phases. I spent roughly the first two weeks in the small town of Orosi about an hour southeast of the capital, San Jose. Orosi is a true Tico (Costa Rican) town. It has relatively few travelers or foreign residents, and the economy primarily revolves around agriculture. I studied Spanish here for two weeks, with three hours of private lessons Monday through Friday. I also took several long hikes in the surrounding mountains, where I walked past small coffee and citrus farms and got to practice my Spanish with the locals.
I chose to spend my remaining time on the southern Caribbean coast, primarily in Puerto Viejo and Cahuita. I did another week of private Spanish lessons, but I mostly explored the surrounding jungle and made sure I had at least one long swim every day.
What I Love Most About Costa Rica
Green, Green Everywhere
While parts of the north are dry, most of the country gets lots and lots of rain, which means everywhere you look it’s green, green, green.
These guys pretty much stay in the trees. And every morning in Puerto Viejo I could hear them roaring in the jungle. They’re loud!
So many, and so many colors, shapes, sizes.
My very understanding life partner Stephanie was fine with me traveling alone. (She had to work.) I was very fortunate to meet many interesting travelers along the way: Jasmin from Switzerland, Brenda from England, Bill from New Mexico, and many others from Canada, the U.S., Germany, France, and other places. Many interesting conversations and adventures, plus I got to take a little of the rust off my German.
How Much Costa Ricans Love Their Children
Kids get lots of love here. Mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends – everybody plays with the kids, hugs them, talks to them. I was especially surprised at just how engaged fathers are with their kids.
Watching the Super Bowl – in Spanish
At the Hot Rocks bar in Puerto Viejo. I was with an intelligent British woman who knew nothing about American football. She caught on quickly, but it was interesting having to go all the way back to “the team with the ball has four tries to go ten yards.” She thought Seattle should have won.
The Warm Caribbean
I love swimming in a warm ocean, especially when the waves are on the big side. I definitely got my wish on this trip. The Caribbean has some of its biggest waves this time of year, so I had plenty of opportunity to get thrashed in the surf zone and to ride the big elevator waves beyond the surf zone. I did some body surfing, but this was limited because the waves were usually too big or too choppy. I also tried regular board surfing for the first time. I thought I’d be a natural, but it’s much harder than it looks. (The damned board is extremely tippy.)
The Tico Work Ethic
Costa Ricans work. And if they don’t have a steady job, they go into sales. I saw a young man on a bus give a great pitch for toothbrushes at two bucks a pop, and he sold several. In Orosi, another guy went door to door selling onions. And many people sell lottery tickets on the street.
I’ve mostly studied Spanish on my own, off and on over the years. I still feel like I’m in a mental straight jacket when I speak, but I made it through almost all of the grammar ( through present subjunctive for those of you who know what I’m talking about).
Pura Vida means “pure life” in Spanish. It’s used as a greeting and as an expression. But it’s much more than that: it also encapsulates Costa Ricans’ love of life itself. It’s no surprise that global studies of happiness usually have Costa Rica in the number-one spot.
And What About My Freelance Writing Career?
January and February are usually slow months for textbook supplement writers. I finished the last of several projects from late 2014 right before leaving, so I was primed for some time off. I am back at work now, although I’ve found that five weeks of no writing in English combined with five weeks of learning Spanish has hurt my ability to write well. Hopefully this will change soon, but I think the language circuits in my brain are growing and rearranging to accommodate Spanish, so we’ll see.
Have you been to Costa Rica? What were your experiences? Haven’t been, but want to go? Share your thoughts in the comments.