One of the reasons many are drawn to the Guanacaste coast is the lure of simplicity. After traveling for a full day or two, waiting in endless lines, sitting cramped for hours and spending their savings to leave the busy streets at home behind, visitors wind up falling in love with Costa Rica. And for good reason.
After landing, walking out into the sultry humid air and rambling along dusty roads backed by expansive rolling hills, bliss awaits around the corner on a sublime beach or atop a steep hilltop with panoramic views of the Pacific. Just the drive itself to the coast is like a meditation (except for the bumps!). Witnessing the pastoral countryside dotted with massive Guanacaste trees, rustic houses filled with few possessions, families walking together, older couples dancing and children running free leaves travelers awestruck with all that is opposite about life in their home countries.
Although they may not show it, deep down they crave simplicity. This is why so many foreigners move here, to get away from the mentality that bigger is better and that doing more and making more money equals happiness. It doesn’t, as research has shown time and time again.
Buying new things offers a quick satisfaction but doesn’t last. According to Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones and Thrive, after the basic necessities of life (food, shelter) are met, money provides only a short-term happiness. Strong social connections, meaningful life experiences and being part of a community are deeply satisfying ways to achieve happiness.
Research has been done on the effects of the brain after individuals have spent time in rural settings. The results showed that people exhibit a stronger capacity to focus their attention and improve their memory. When individuals slow down, the brain shows a heightened ability to become calmer and sharper. Also the character trait of empathy increases when we slow down.
In a nutshell, life in Guanacaste and in rural Costa Rica is alluring because of its simplicity. People here create more time to drop into conversation with family and friends and carve out time to connect with community. Life takes on a slower pace which allows more time for pleasure and relaxation, which in turn increases well-being. This trait is one of the reasons why Costa Rica consistently ranks as one of the happiest places on earth. The daily practice of siesta as a way to escape the midday heat and rest or sway peacefully in those ubiquitous Costa Rican rocking chairs, made ingeniously with string and rebar, is the ultimate act of self-care.
As technology grabs so much of our attention and the material world seems to expand daily, it’s becoming more and more evident that we all need a dose of the Pura Vida lifestyle. Here in Guanacaste, the urge to do less and just be is a direct path to happiness and success of a different kind. Of course, it goes without saying that life is not “pura vida” every moment; people here work hard and it shows, and like anywhere, there are ongoing struggles. Even here, with each passing year, the pace of life accelerates, but nonetheless, it’s admirable to witness so many Ticos gracefully balance hard work with the Pura Vida lifestyle, so thank you for setting an example with the simple way you live.