While I must refrain from giving specific examples, as I feel their scars are too fresh, I can share that Nosara has chewed up and spit out many an optimistic individual. Numerous souls who have arrived, wide eyed, flush with cash from a recent sale back home, eager to embrace a brave new world of sun and salt. They arrive ready to being life anew, prepared for a baptism of fire in order to be born again Nosaranians.
Heads swimming with visions of days spent plucking succulent fish from the sea, gorging on sun-ripened mangos and bathing in rivers of cold pipa juice. Determined to prove to themselves(and friends and families), that they have what it takes. That they are different. A sheep no more, they firmly extend a middle finger to their past lives and dive in to their new beginning.
As the first point of contact to many a newcomer, I am often asked for advice. I used to take this very seriously, putting thought and concern into each answer, determined to direct my newly acquired acolyte in the best direction possible. My answers were crafted from years of hard earned experience, from dues paid, from the blood, sweat and tears that are required to make this Nosara lifestyle a reality. I was committed and determined that no charge of mine, would make the same mistakes or get scammed by the same ruthless merchant. I would be the shining light that led them through a painless transition from the concrete jungle, to life in the real jungle. Our jungle.
As you can imagine, I was sorely disappointed again and again. The average newbie’s ability to put themselves in exquisitely frustrating positions and impossible relationships within their first few months of living in Nosara is mind blowing. And I am not talking about the lowest common denominator, not dumbassess and dipshits. I mean intelligent, thoughtful, insightful, successful human beings. People at the top of their respectives games, who arrive and then immediately begin to unravel all that was good in their worlds.
“Why?” I would ask them. “What were you thinking?” I would say. “Are you on drugs?” I would query. “You would never have made that decision back home”, I would state.
And time and time again, with heads slung low, egos bruised, wallets depleted(or stolen), the response was the same; a glassy eyed, mumbled version of “I don’t know, it, it just kinda happened.”
So, like any other ego driven “local” who’s advice was just shunned and who’s young student has just failed miserably, I would buy them a drink, and share their pain, and wonder where I had gone wrong. I warned them about trying to go to the bank AND the ferreteria in the same day! I had told them explicitly to avoid the treacherous waters of the local auto mechanic scene! They took a backpack, to the beach, with ALL of their cash and passports and camera, and then went for a swim???? Smack my freaking head!
Over time, I became less invested and less willing to go down that sad, well traveled road with people. My answers became shorter, more obvious. I had failed so many, it was easier to disengage and leave them to their struggles. I could not bare witness to any more Nosara carnage.
Then, one day my family was reminiscing about our first travels around Costa Rica in the early 90’s. We laughed and rolled our eyes at our clumsiness and naivety. We shared our old experiences that were the first sparks of my love for this country. And as we joked and teased, I realized that all of our failures, were also our best adventures. That each time we were lost, or our car broke down, or we were forced to wade through a river crossing, Costa Rica was pushing us out of our comfort zone. The heightened risk made it an adventure and through the filter of time, those adventures are the ones that have stayed with us. They are our family lore, our heroic tales of victory snatched from the jungley clutches of Pura Vida adversity.
And so, I have changed tact. These days my advice to newbie’s is the following: The trick is not to figure out how to avoid the mistakes, the trick is to embrace them. To learn to laugh, hard, and often, and mostly at yourself. In many cases, it will be either laugh or cry, and I have found that balling, or the stamping of feet, rarely improves crisis situations.
A sense of humor is your greatest weapon in the battle for the ultimate Nosara lifestyle. Wield it with care, but use it often. I promise you that the bureaucrat stuck behind the window at immigration will not be sympathetic to your cause of having just spent 6 hours in line, when they have spent the last 33 years behind the same window dealing with the same version of a different gringo every day. Make them laugh however, and you have just broken the monotony of their day, and as a reward, they may move your file to the top of the stack.
And so, while the fish are harder to catch, the mangos seasonal and the pipas expensive, the lifestyle exists and is there for the taking. Actually, its here for the earning. Be prepared to pay your dues. Pay homage to those who have come before you. And for Nature’s sake, pace yourself man!