What I learned during my first few days travelling in Costa Rica about the value of spending my money on supporting people rather than corporations.
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Costa Rica Lesson #1: Buy From Real Live People (Not Corporations)

What I learned during my first few days travelling in Costa Rica about the value of spending my money on supporting people rather than corporations.

We’ve officially arrived in lovely Costa Rica!

It’s a bit surreal and, after our incredible voyage here, it feels earned. Airplane delays due to snowstorms, a 10 and a half hour layover, and buses that said they’d arrive at 5:30 (but instead came at, precisely, 6:30)—it’s been a wild ride.

On our first night, we arrived in San Jose around 11pm. Our first rental was about a 6 hour drive away. So we rented a one-night place on AirBnb from a guy named Pedro. This post is dedicated to him.

Pedro met us at the airport, his eyes full of fire and his countenance so friendly that, if you were going through a rough time, you’d have to resist telling him your entire life story and crying on his shoulder.

Picking us up wasn’t included in the price of our rental and neither was the price he had to pay for parking in order to get us, but he did it anyway. He didn’t even mention it. He just said, “I would love to,” and he did it.

Zig-zagging through a Costa Rican night, he told us about the town he lived in (Alajuela) and spoke to us about his life as if we were long and dear friends. And as it happens when someone treats you like that—friends, we became.

We thought the kindness of our host had ended there, but it hadn’t.

We arrived to his place, tired and starving (back in my day, the airlines fed you and showed you movies without charging extra for it). We were met by a gigantic vegetarian salad, homemade iced tea, and a welcoming hug and kiss from his partner Lenin.

We meant to go to bed as soon as we got there, but our fatigue soon dissolved as we laughed and told stories with our host. He told us about how much he loves snow and how he wants to go to Russia. We told him about how much we love the beach and how we’re thrilled to be in Costa Rica.

He wasn’t the only one that stayed up with us. His little dog, Tequila, and his cat, Sam, stayed up with us too, their friendly eyes mirroring their owner. Soon enough, we also met his bunny (the biggest bunny I think I’ve ever seen), his parrot, and his three excited parakeets.

Before we went to bed, he warned us that we might hear the sound of stray cats running across the roof in the middle of the night and that this was normal. He put on a lavender oil infuser in our room and asked us, for about the fifth time, if we had everything we needed.

We were in bliss. And you know, it wasn’t the Ritz. It wasn’t what you’d get at a hotel. It’s what you’d get staying with a friend—clean, of course, but well-loved. There was nothing like it in the world.

In the morning, we woke up to freshly brewed coffee and breakfast. Just like the night before, Pedro told us to serve ourselves food and patiently waited for us to choose our portions before serving himself. He ate with us and offered us more before taking some for himself.

In the coffee, he had put some edible, essential oil of cinnamon and clove, which made it the best coffee I’d had in years. He put little drops of essential lemon oil into our water. He told us about these amazing oils that he sells, which are made for eating and using on the body as well.

When he saw our excitement about the lemon water, he just gave us the rest of the bottle for ourselves. No price, no conditions. He just gave it as one of the numerous gifts he’d showered us with.

We had to take a bus that day to our next location—Tamarindo—on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Pedro had already pre-purchased our bus tickets for us and, then, he drove us 45 minutes to where our bus was picking us up. He even came into the bus station and made sure with the terminal attendants that we had the correct tickets and platform.

No, it wasn’t the Ritz. It was better.

When we were giving Pedro the money for the bus tickets, we gave him more than they cost. How could we not? While the airline starves you of food and experience, Pedro nourishes you with food, laughter, and genuine human contact. I have no doubt that, no matter how much the airlines overcharge and hike up their prices, Pedro will always deserve to make more money per customer because he puts more joy into people’s lives.

Pedro is a perfect archetype of how the world should be. Pedro does business how we should all do business and how we should all live our lives—generously, authentically, and, always, always, with love.

I kept thinking, throughout this experience, was about how glad I was that we were paying this incredible man for his space and his time. I have no doubt that he is as loving of a massage therapist and essential oil practitioner as he is a human being. If we’re ever going through San Jose again, there’s no doubt we’ll stop in to Pedro’s—maybe for a night, maybe for a massage. Maybe just to see his bright smile and be reminded of the beauty of human nature.

We hadn’t just done business, we’d made a lifelong friend.

What I learned during my first few days travelling in Costa Rica about the value of spending my money on supporting people rather than corporations.

I can’t help but remember the gigantic resorts and Holiday Inn hotels I stayed at earlier in my life because my parents considered these establishments the safest, best choices. Of course, the cleaning staff will leave you towel animals and the attendants will be kind to you, but they won’t be your friends. There’s still a strange power structure there—the servant and the served, the customer and the help.

In those corporate places, you pay for everything you consume, and you get the exact same, cookie cutter service as everyone else. Even if it’s excellent service, it’s not really authentic. If you were to be a guest in that cleaning lady’s house, she’d treat you differently. She’d have her own way of cooking and cleaning for her guests, of speaking to them—a way that is unique to her as a person and a member of her culture.

There’s something about paying directly to a human being that feels right to me—it feels adventurous, genuine, and honest. I honestly think this is what’s missing in the world.

And the journey still continues. When we arrived in Tamarindo, I thought we’d switched time zones because we were exactly 1 hour late. Bret, our next host, arrived at the time we did (not the time we informed him we would) and told us, matter-of-factly, that the bus is “always an hour late.” That, they say, is Tico time (a phenomenon in Costa Rica and many other tropical countries of locals following their own internal timeline).

Bret took us to the grocery store and drove us for 30 minutes to our new remote house. He, also, didn’t have to do that. It wasn’t in the AirBnb listing description, and it wasn’t a requirement. Sure, we paid him for it, but we paid the same amount we’d have paid a cab driver—and a cab driver wouldn’t have walked through the aisles with us giving us food advice nor would he have told us insider stories about the community we were in on the bumpy night ride home.

As we walked into our new, gorgeous house, two of Bret’s friendly dogs ran in to meet us. He showed us the beauty and the quirks of the space. It just felt so human. When could you come to a Hilton hotel and have some friendly person show you around the grocery store and let you meet his dogs?

Never.

And, of course, it’s not the Ritz either. I’ve had to invent, already, a toaster, coffee maker, and kettle out of a few pots and some “socks” (interesting coffee contraptions that look exactly like their name). The shower is temperamental, and we have to check everything for scorpions before we put it on. And we couldn’t be happier.

It’s not amenities that thrill me. It’s experiences. And, to have those, you need to deal directly with real people who have their own beliefs, customs, and ideas.

There’s nothing like knowing that my purchasing decisions are enriching people’s lives. There’s nothing like knowing exactly where my money is going.

With Pedro, we know our money is going to supporting his essential oil practice and feeding his beautiful, well-loved animals. With Bret, we know our money is going to supporting his three girls and his new beach-side burrito restaurant.

And that is priceless—knowing that every cent we’ve spent so far is making people’s lives better.

I hope that, if you take anything from this story, it’s this: you don’t have to donate to charity or volunteer to do good in the world. You can just make better choices in your day-to-day purchasing decisions. You can choose who you’re going to buy from. Just that small amount of awareness is what we really need to make the world a better place.

Now, I’m off to explore my new home and my new community. Just as I was writing this, Amy, Bret’s wife, came to give us directions to the beach, ask us if we had everything we wanted, and offer to pick some things up for us when they went into town.

Still not the Ritz, and still so much better.

So, I’m off to drink some more yummy Costa Rican coffee and enjoy this new adventure.

If you’re ever travelling through Costa Rica, let me know, so I can put you in touch with these amazing people who are more than worth the small prices they charge.

For now, leave me a note below to let me know your thoughts on changing the world with our spending habits and share your own adventures of the same flavour.

What I learned during my first few days travelling in Costa Rica about the value of spending my money on supporting people rather than corporations.

Comments

8 thoughts on “Costa Rica Lesson #1: Buy From Real Live People (Not Corporations)

  1. Pedro Vargas Ticostar

    VIRONIKA…

    WHAT CAN I SAY!?!?!?
    TOTALLY SPEECHLESS…
    YOU GUYS ARE AMAZING PEOPLE!!! YOU WILL ALWAYS HAVE A SPECIAL PLACE IN MY HEART & MY HOME WILL BE GLAD TO HAVE YOU BACK ALWAYS, BUT NOT AS GUESTS, AS REAL PEOPLE, AS REAL FRIENDS…

    PEDRO VARGAS TICOSTAR.
    “COSTA RICA, PURA VIDA”

    1. Vironika

      You deserve to be rendered speechless! You are a gift 🙂 Thank you Pedro – just for being you. We will definitely see each other again! Enjoy your birthday!

  2. Ken Dickson

    I’m so glad that you made it and had good people looking out for you along the way. Now, it’s time to slow down and relax a bit–adjust to Tico time. I’m glad you are finally home and starting your new life. I can’t wait to hear more about it. Happy adventures!

    1. Vironika

      Yes, Tico time has definitely come into full effect. The electricity was out, apparently, for three days before we arrived and, now, it’s flickering, so I can’t imagine Tico time has a “power line fixing” exemption attached to it. 😉 At worst, it’ll be a good story, right? Thanks for following along, my friend.

  3. K.Nagarajan.

    Nice to hear that your journey has started and you have landed in Costa Rica. Your letter indicates your happiness and moreover you have good welcoming friends which gives immense satisfaction. Nice photos shared and the feeling of we are all human that also friendly people,helping each other gives immense satisfaction.. Please share your experience,will follow your journey through….see you.Bye.!!

    1. Vironika

      Thank you for following along, my friend! And thank you for your kind words. Yes, people are so friendly here, and I can’t wait to meet even more people, have more wonderful adventures. I will definitely keep writing! The words come so naturally to me here.

  4. Sheila Bergquist

    Wow, what a great way to start your adventure! I’m so happy that you got to meet those people and have such a warm welcome. Can’t wait to hear more!

    1. Vironika

      Yes! I am so happy about this too!

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