Sitting down to write INSIDE at my computer didn’t feel right… I live in Costa Rica. It’s gorgeous outside. This place, this incredible spot is so teeming with life it feels like a crime to distance yourself with walls. So now, I am lying in a hammock enjoying the sunshine and gentle breezes…That’s better.
Growing up in North East of the US (where I’ve heard people referred to as ants) and then moving to Costa Rica it takes some transitioning to find your balance between gringo time and tico time. In the North East the sentiment was that your life was not your own. For some undisputed reason you need to commit begrudgingly to a lifestyle centered around and just barely maintained by a job that often leaves you miserable and feeling unfulfilled with little time and energy to enjoy your life outside of the job. Often to fill a void people shop, but the more items you acquire the more you have to maintain and take care of and the harder and longer you need to work. This is a cycle that most people haven’t willingly stepped into, however the cost of rent vs. income can create a slippery slope.
We decided to take a leap, a giant, crazy, invigorating, exciting, slightly terrifying leap. Simplifying our lives in a quest to enjoy our lives much more. Trade collecting things, for experiences and realize life while we live it, in Costa Rica. I watched an antique auction show and every person who brought in some treasure they’d held on to forever wanted the money to travel somewhere….typically they didn’t get as much money from it as they had hoped. We on the other hand decided to just, go. We’re figuring out life as we live it. Sometimes too much planning can cause paralysis when life happens to your plans. Life in Costa Rica isn’t without complications….they’re just different and I am thoroughly enjoying this experience.
Here are 12 things I discovered I no longer need living a simpler life in Costa Rica and my life is better without them.
- My Car– I have been driving since I was 16 and truly believed I needed a car to get anywhere. In Pennsylvania, where I lived, I did. Now I bike everywhere and I love it. I am more in tune with what is happening around me. I stop to visit with friends and locals. My son LOVES to go on bike rides in the attached bike seat. Biking is a greener and more healthful option and I eliminate all the hassle that comes with car maintenance and registrations. If I need to take a bus, they are cheap, or I can taxi if I need to move my massage table to someones vacation rental, and for longer trips, renting a car or taking a shuttle are still options. Driving in Costa Rica can be an adventure of it’s own. The above photo was taken yesterday at the end of my road that dead ends to a river you can walk across to a beach at low tide…you should not try to drive across….This moment was one more reminder…I don’t miss owning a car in Costa Rica! (not everywhere in Costa Rica is walkable, we live where it is)
- Baby Items and kid toys- My son was born on a 40 acre farm here in Costa Rica. I was quite preoccupied with figuring out all the things babies need as most mothers are…yet I needed to figure out how to get those things here in Costa Rica. I kept trying to narrow down, yes, but what will he REALLY need? Babies, newborns need momma. Momma’s milk, you need a body butter or salve for their bums for that black meconium poop so it doesn’t stick to their bums. Some form of diaper -we started with gdiapers with biodegradable inserts. A ring sling, breathable blanket and in this climate he didn’t need much clothing, or any as most of his beginning was spent on mom.As he’s gotten older I have wondered what is the right amount of toys. My son has shown me how exciting sand, flowers, leaves and branches are. He has always loved Balls, so he has a healthy collection of balls, but he did not need all the shiny flashy kid toys one would think their kid needs for development. My two year old is bilingual and doing just fine!
- Lots of Groceries. We seems to waste so much less food. My son loves to go for bike rides for bananas or bike rides for juice. We buy what we need at the time and we combine our trips into town with hitting the grocery store. We don’t need the big box store, the little corner store does just fine and the staff are so friendly they’ll play with my kid while I shop if it’s slow…and no I’m not just dumping him on them. They will literally call him and pick him up. This was so helpful when my husband was back in the states! We also don’t need lots of chips or snacks. We get cookies and icecream occasionally for my son. We also make icecream from frozen bananas and it’s delicious. We don’t buy in bulk just what we need for the next day or so. Only bulk pancake mix because my husband makes the most amazing ginger turmeric pancakes and the bulk is a deal. Typically though just the fresh fruits and veggies for the next day or so. We spend much less this way. We eat way more rice and beans. And no processed / fast food.
Socks. I live at the beach and I live in my crocs or barefoot. My crocs are on my short list of prized possessions, I wear them all the time and they have survived Costa Rica when most shoes don’t My Favorite Crocs (I have black and purple) It’s warm and if it’s wet who likes wet socks?? I see no purpose for socks outside making a cup of coffee…this is a Costa Rican way of making coffee without electricity. You hang a sock of coffee grinds and run the hot water through it. It works. I’m not a coffee drinker though. Something else I can do without in Costa Rica. Caffeine.
- Rushing. I used to get myself so worked up and stressed over timing and the implications of being late from traffic jams. Something completely outside my control could cause me to get worked up and feel almost criminal for being a minute late. I worked in a call center for a number of years and they count the length of your every thought and tie you to your computer…As a massage therapist here in Samara I am mindful of arriving on time to my clients and am able to give myself the time necessary to arrive. Seldom are there blockages that would keep me from getting where I need to go and I don’t feel that same weight, the impeding doom feeling like I’m going to be scolded. When others around you rush, you feel like you need to rush too to keep up and not lag behind.
Here my job is to help other people slow down, relax and adjust to a new pace this is extremely fitting for me and easier when others are relaxing around you.
- Heat or AC. Other appliances breadmakers, dishwashers, etc. We don’t need heat here. It’s always warm we don’t even sleep with a cover sheet, sometimes I’ll use a sarong to cover me when it’s breezy at night. I live near the beach and some people would say you need AC here in Samara. If you are used to AC you will need it, however, it’s quite expensive here to run and if you don’t use it, it’s easier to adjust to a more comfortable temperature. Besides the beach and ocean are always breezy, beautiful and just the right temp. If you are two warm, turn it into a beach day. March and April are the hottest times here there in the Nicoyan peninsula of Costa Rica. Towards the central valley it is cooler. Atenas is said to have the best climate in the world. You shouldn’t need heat or ac. We bake bread less, individual ingredients can be expensive due to import fees and taxes so you decide you don’t really need it, and you don’t. No need to heat the house up with the oven. We can get yummy breads from the organic market if we want.
- Leaf blowers, Snow blowers- I don’t miss shoveling snow one bit. If I want to play in snow we can visit when it’s on the ground somewhere and enough to play in. I don’t miss shivering, some people would. I know you are out there people who love cold weather…but I’d rather be hot and wear less clothing with a good reason to dip in the pool or ocean.
- A variety of pets. I used to see a cute creature and think. Aww, can we keep it? We didn’t, but I still thought it. Now we have Pizotes that visit every morning, geckos, raccoons, iguanas, monkeys, leaf cutter ants, exotic birds and other creatures I have yet to identify that visit us on a regular basis and we don’t actually need to take care of them. Above is a squirrel a local was caring for. Our two dogs that came down with us from the states love it here and remain our only ‘pets’. My son loves all the visitors that come by but has no desire to keep them, we are much happier that they come and go!
- High heels. And panty hose. They really weren’t doing my any good. Here it would be down right dangerous and comical to wear high heels…don’t do it.
- Carpet- The gross deteriorating kind….It seemed to follow me in the states…now it’s all gone. Carpet is so very rare here. Tile everywhere.
- Excess. Extra clothing. My husband commented today. ‘I really don’t need a shirt for work unless I have a conference call’. Makeup. Almost no one wears makeup here. I do miss my skincare and massage products. My Lemongrass Spa Products don’t ship here, and I do miss them so. But I do not wear makeup, I didn’t in the states but then I was in the minority for not wearing it…now it’s perfectly natural and here, being more natural is perfectly natural. We live near the beach so other parts of Costa Rica will expect you to wear a shirt, closed toed shoes and many ticas even high heels… but here it’s quite tranquila.
- Expectations for a specific outcome– I’ve let go of my expectations of how things have to be…this has made all the difference to adjusting to life in another country. Costa Rica is not the 51st state of the United States. Experience it for what it is. When planning my child’s 2nd birthday party I resisted the urge to emulate every idyllic pinterest post of ‘what is expected’ of a kid’s birthday party. Supplies can be tough to source here and trying to replicate some DIY projects can make you crazy…and for what? My son’s birthday party was at our favorite hang out ‘Lo Que Hay’ meaning ‘It is what it is’. We had horses on the beach with my sons friends, here that is a lot simpler than it sounds and everyone had so much fun.
This is an ongoing list I will continue to update.
Special Thanks to the expat community.
Here are some things other expats commented they no longer need living a Life of Pura Vida in Costa Rica.
Some of these didn’t apply to my family so I separated them.
- Point of use hot water showers, or no hot water at all. – While pregnant I didn’t have any hot water where I lived in Samara even for showering…this was tough for me to adjust to…perhaps it was the pregnancy, but this one may not make my can live without list. I can handle the point of use suicide showers, but not ice cold showers!
- Washing clothing with cold water. We do this. We’ve adjusted.
- A Dryer. We do have a dryer. Often we hang clothing to dry, however I do a lot of laundry for massage and it’s nice to use a dryer. This also keeps the ants off my massage sheets.
- Dry Cleaning.
- Pants…we’re not all wondering around without pants, but I guess some are. Shorts are very common on the coast, though.
- Expensive Clothes
- Medicine or Inhalers. I love hearing these stories, that fresh food, sunshine and relaxation have replaced a need for meds. We didn’t take meds before, so we’re still not taking them.
- Alarm Clock- Rising and sleeping with the sun. And monkeys.
- Storage…without all the extra stuff, you don’t need extra storage.
Happy People Having Less, doing More. It’s beautiful!