12 Life Lessons Learned by Living in Costa Rica

picstitch3 years ago this week, I jumped down the rabbit hole and hopped on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride…and what an adventurous journey it’s been.  While the picture above makes it look like I’ve had a super fun and “pura vida” life living here…that’s not exactly 100% true…

What I’ve learned from living in Costa Rica…

1.  $&^t happens everywhere.

Our grass might technically be “greener” here because it rains so much but if you look underneath the surface, it’s still got shades of muddy gray.

2.  Life is more about who you are, not what you own or how much money you have

I already knew this for many years before moving (I gave up my addiction to Coach purses and $100 bottles of Silver Oak wine long before moving to Costa Rica) but having been robbed twice and having a daily fear that it will happen again, it’s a good reminder that it’s more about who you are as a person, than what kind of car you drive, the sunglasses you wear or that your haircut cost $300.

3.  As a gringa, I may never fully understand the mantra of Pura Vida.

And I’m okay with that.  While I’m letting go of the rat race as much as I can, I think the concept of pura vida has some serious flaws to it.

4.  Not everyone will love you.

All my life, I’ve always been a well liked person. But living here, I’ve learned that I don’t need to get along with everyone and they don’t need to get along with me.  I’ve become super particular about the people with whom I associate.  Jim Rohn has a great quote that I keep coming back to again and again: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”   That’s pretty much my daily mantra at this point.

5. It’s okay to fail and Costa Rica will make you fail again and again.

Just get back up and brush yourself off.

6.  This is my life to live.

See this post here for a longer explanation.

7.  Work smart. Play often.

Life is too short to be in an office for countless hours every week.  Find ways to work more efficiently and you’ll have a lot more time to do other things you love.  There’s no good or sane reason to make easy hard (which by the way, is the real mantra of Costa Rica).

8.  It’s okay to say No.

Tico’s will almost never tell you No (they think it’s offensive to say no and for some reason, not offensive to not follow through on what they agreed to do – go figure).  But I have learned how to say No in a very big way.  I’m tired of being taken advantage of here and I’ve been faced with it time and again.  I might get fired or lose friends because I say No (ie No, I will not lend you money, No, I will not work for free) but I’m okay with that.

9.  You can’t always get what you want. Let me rephrase that – you will almost never get what you want.

Finding workarounds are a part of my daily life.

10.  Appreciate the small miracles when they happen.

The wild yellow lemon tree on the mountaintop, homemade peanut butter cups, rainbows, kale in my local veggie market, Lost Coast beers in the local supermarket

11.  You will find out who your real friends when are they borrow money from you.

And really, just don’t ever lend money to anyone because even if you think they’re your friend, chances are good you’ll never see that money again.  If you want to be kind and give someone money, that’s an option – just have the understanding that you’ll probably never see it again.

12.  In contrast to my life in California, a daily part of my life these last three years included being lied to, stolen from, manipulated, taken advantage of, discriminated against, disrespected and disappointed time and again…

While I’ve had to adjust and acclimate to this new way of living, I still have to maintain my morals, values and standards.  Not always easy but what other choice do I have?

Bonus lesson::  When you stand up for what you believe in, what you know is right, deep within your soul, you will often get screwed over, pushed down or disparaged.

Keep standing up.