Finding the Pure Life in Costa Rica - My Family Travels

¡Pura vida! Pure life. Going into my one month stay in Costa Rica, I wrote off their national motto as nothing more than a vague, cheesy saying. Little did I know that no other phrase could more perfectly describe Costa Rican living.

 I began my journey in my comfortable New York City home, browsing online for organizations which took students to Latin America. Eventually I stumbled upon Global Routes, a non-profit organization. I was especially attracted to it because it specialized in community service.

For the first and last week of my expedition, my group visited the more popular Costa Rican attractions—the Arsenal volcano, the Monteverde cloud forest, and Uvita beach. Although all of this was extremely fun and added to my overall experience, it was not the highlight of my trip.

The most authentic component of my trip was the community service portion, when I stayed with a Costa Rican family who lived in the remote village of Aguas Buenas. Aguas Buenas is home to about fifty families. The men farm and work odd jobs, while the women generally cook, clean, and attend to the younger children. A simple town, Aguas Buenas has only one dirt road passing through it, with only one school and one general store.

I lived, worked, played, and grew to love my new community. Everyday, our group worked on a construction site alongside the locals—our fathers, brothers, friends—and we constructed a community kitchen from scratch. Seeing the fruits of our labor with my family immensely catalyzed our bonding, as every single day we would wake up, work, and come home exhausted together. At home, we would relax, share stories, and play games. On several occasions we played gigantic soccer matches with the entire village.

Eventually there was no need for more background information, as I felt as though I knew these people for my entire life. No longer was I testing the limits of my high school Spanish vocabulary, but I was pushing the limits of my mind by having intellectual conversations.

Upon my return home, I was unpacking my luggage when I stumbled across a shirt which I had bought at the airport. It said “Costa Rica: Pura Vida!” on it. Thinking of the lifestyle I left behind, I realized that nobody in Aguas Buenas deals with the excesses like we do. Free from distractions such as the internet or texting, they concentrate on the basics—building real relationships with friends and family. They are free from the small impurities that, to us, have already become invisible. I realized that after being completely immersed in their lives, I took home a part of it. I didn’t just come home with a Pura Vida shirt, I came home with a new outlook on life. ¡Pura vida!

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