Costa Rica has received an enormous amount of attention over recent years, and even more so over the last few months. This incredible country has been a feature of dozens of National Geographic articles, the main filming ground for several episodes of David Attenborough’s Planet Earth II, and just last month, it became the focus of a brand new TV Series called ‘Escape to Costa Rica’. Finally, in the spring of 2017, on a trip of a lifetime, I was lucky enough to explore what all the fuss was about.
On April 26th, I loaded up my backpack and the boyfriend and I escaped to the breath-taking Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. We spent a short, but incredible two weeks backpacking across what felt like a tiny segment of such a vast and aesthetically rich country. As we moved from place to place, I could not help but fall in love with the majestic forests that engulfed the landscape. Each forest was exploding with more colour than an artists palette, and they breathed the kinds of sounds that vibrated through your body as you felt the flourishing of life around you. I stood in awe of the trees that defied the rules and regulations of growth, fully aware that they were the grandfathers of the forest. I spent hours poised with a camera, ready to capture a fleeting moment of the striking wildlife in motion; my lens moving swiftly in the attempt to record the brilliant blue of the butterflies’ wings as they danced around me. Inevitably, I realised that only an artist’s hand could capture the true splendour of this exotic world that was here long before the people came, and would live on long after they have gone.
That said, even as I jumped into the fiercely crashing waves of the ocean, or watched a monkey happily chew on a spider web just metres from my face, I still could not deny that the genuine radiance of Costa Rica lay in something far deeper than the glorious views that transpired from every direction. For me, the allure of this country manifested itself in the words that left the Costa Rican’s lips (or Tico’s as they are known), during each and every conversation; “Pura Vida”. You couldn’t help but relax with every Costa Rican that you met; they were endearing, welcoming and, to me, they lived the true meaning of Pura Vida.
Pura Vida is a common phrase in Costa Rica that, as Gabriel (a local waiter) enjoyed telling us, means something different to everyone. The crux of Pura Vida is the idea of ‘everything is cool, you can feel relaxed; there are no worries’ and this relaxed and peaceful lifestyle radiates throughout their lives. The Tico’s love their country and everything in it. They are extremely proud of their commitment to eco-tourism, and as I walked through the forest, I was astonished by how clean, well-loved and natural it has remained.
The Happiest Country in the World
Costa Rica has been at the forefront of eco-tourism long before any other country. In 2009, the Guardian reported Costa Rica as the top rating country using the Happy Planet Index (HPI). The HPI “measures how much of the Earth’s resources nations use and how long and happy a life their citizens enjoy as a result.” The Guardian explained that “Costa Rica is the greenest and happiest country in the world, according to a new list that ranks nations by combining measures of their ecological footprint with the happiness of their citizens”. This was 2009, and 8 years later, Costa Rica is still number 1 in the HPI ranking as the happiest and most ecologically friendly country in the world. See the top 7 rankings below, and visit the HPI website for more information.
HPI Ranking (Top 7), 2016
Without this level of pride and gratitude that Tico’s express for the natural wonders of their country, I do not think that Costa Rica would have remained as majestic as it has. This sensational country remains so untarnished because of the great pride that the locals take in maintaining its natural state; and this is what I believe Pura Vida embodies. Let’s be honest, how many other countries can operate so peacefully without an Army?
Pura Vida, Gabriel explained, is the beauty that is found in Hakuna Matata. It is more like a feeling; it is a problem-free philosophy that focuses upon living a pure and simple life. Pura Vida is intended to relax those that you come into contact with and promotes a lifestyle where you remain positive and compassionate towards everyone and everything around you. I couldn’t help but feel that it is this embedded culture of benevolence that has made this country what it is, and this problem-free philosophy will ensure that this country remains as magical as it always has been.
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Gabriel, Waiter at Costa Verde.
HPI Information & Image: http://happyplanetindex.org/about