What I learned about letting go and living the Pura Vida with no worries (instead of being a Crazy Gringo, as they say here).

After a two-day journey on two different buses whizzing through little shack villages, dense rainforest, and breathtaking mountains, we’ve arrived, safe and sound, in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on the Caribbean Sea.

I thought Playa Avellana was beautiful, but this part of Costa Rica has just blown me out of the water. Immediately outside of our balcony is, quite literally, a jungle full of lush greenery, sloths, monkeys, and 30-foot-tall trees intertwined by gigantic spider webs (with equally gigantic spiders). This jungle runs alongside of the ocean shore, so the rainforest and the beach are both within 20 meters of my front door.

It feels like I’m walking around the set of Avatar.

I’ve only been here for three days so far and already, I’ve:

  • Stuck my foot into an invisible ant nest and been bitten so hard my foot turned red—TWICE
  • Seen more people than I can count on one hand walking around the street with machetes (for fruits and plants… I hope)
  • Walked through the densest, most intense jungle I’ve ever seen in my life
  • Seen a sloth (who, I’m sad to say, fell out of the tree and died a few hours later)
  • Smiled like an idiot watching wild dogs run around, play, and be genuinely, completely free (sounds romantic, but also involves frequent humping)
  • Held a cicada through its dying moments
  • Had a neighbor throw a hermit crab up 10 feet to me on the second floor just so I could “say Hello” to him
  • Had more internet outages and “Wifi is Limited” moments than I can count on all my fingers AND toes
  • Given up on trying to capture this place in photos
  • Had to stick earplugs in before going to bed due to a Reggae concert next door and, last night, an outdoor rave complete with disco lights reflecting off all the trees
  • Invented the world’s most low-tech clothes dryer (see picture)

What I learned about letting go and living the Pura Vida with no worries (instead of being a Crazy Gringo, as they say here).

It’s a jungle out here—literally! Everything is new and beautiful and full of life.

However, I started to understand the moment I arrived that, no matter where you go—there is a downside to paradise.

In Avellana, about a week and a half ago, I got attacked by noseeums in a national park around Liberia. I woke up in the night with gigantic, sore, itchy stings that would not heal. They stopped itching a few days ago and the bites are still all over my legs today.

I’ve already been stung by a scorpion once (not fun) and been randomly attacked by the above-mentioned ants.

No matter where you live here, you have to hide your electronics and valuables when you leave the house, just in case it gets broken into while you’re out.

And forget making plans if you have to rely on people who live here. No one is ever on time for anything, which you’d think would be manageable by saying “come at 11” when you mean them to come at 12, but it’s not. It’s really not.

And then, there’s the internet. Yesterday, I had to turn down an offer for a talk radio show in San Diego because I’ve got a Skype telephone, and there’s no way I can promise them a reliable connection. I’m not able to do Skype video sessions with my coaching clients without cutting out every 20 seconds. And uploading videos for the 30 Day Self-Love Challenge to YouTube has been a nightmare (imagine waiting all those 586 minutes for a 4 minute video just to have the network crash and have to start again—multiple times!)

While I’ve promised my community and my clients that I’ll do my best to get more reliable internet, it doesn’t really seem like it’s going to work out. Most people here take a Hakuna Matata attitude towards it. They shrug their shoulders and say, “No internet today.” This includes the internet providers.

Costa Rica’s version of Hakuna Matata is “Pura Vida”. It’s what people say to you when they’re having a good day and when they’re having a bad day. They say it during crisis just as much as they say it in prosperity. It means something like: “Life is good”. It means no worries… for the rest of your days. It really is a problem-free philosophy.

(If you’re not catching the Disney references by now, watch this before you keep reading.)

The opposite of Pura Vida here seems to be “Crazy Gringo” (or, as the locals say as they twirl their fingers around their temples, sniggering at the red-faced American enraged at something or other, “Gringo Craaaazy!”) This is a phrase used to describe foreigners with type-A personalities who just can’t seem to get their head wrapped around living without problems.

When it comes to issues like the ones I’m having, it really seems like there’s no middle ground.

I choose between being the Crazy Gringo and living the Pura Vida.

It seems like a no-brainer. I thought it was a no-brainer. But I’ve realized—and this isn’t the easiest thing to admit—I’ve definitely not been as laid back and adventurous as I thought.

Sure, I thought I was living free, but only if my internet was high-speed and my house was bug-free. Now, here, my peaceful self-image has come against some serious trials, and I’ve been forced to ask myself: do I really need what I think I need to feel comfortable? To be happy? To run a business? To be an Accommodating Gringo instead of a Crazy one?

Do I really need reliable high speed internet for my internet business?

Do I really need to go to bed knowing that my house, my clothes, and my eyelashes aren’t being consumed by insects I don’t even know the names of?

Do I need to know that I’m not doing to catch Dengue fever or parasitic skin worms just from walking on the beach at dusk?

Am I ready for the real tropical paradise, or am I stuck on the paradise I saw in postcards—a version without bugs, internet failure, mold, or theft?

Yesterday, after exerting the last few options left to correct my internet crisis, it seems the answer is—yes. Something within me broke free. Something within me that was about to get stressed out decided, instead, to just surrender.

Whatever, it said. Hakuna Matata. Pura Vida. This gringo is learning to go with flow.

And, you know what? I feel better.

I had a client yesterday, and I coached her, audio-only, sitting on the floor of a closed outdoor restaurant while it was being painted by three Italian-speaking workers listening to loud reggae music.

I didn’t apologize for the music. I didn’t apologize for not having video.

I just told her that was how things were and asked her if it was okay. I thanked her for her patience. And then, I gave her what I’m here to give the world—my compassion, my love, my insight, my total and undivided attention.

We talked. We laughed. We got a little mushy at the end.

It wasn’t the crisis I thought it would be.

It was one of the best, most productive sessions we’ve had so far, actually.

Then, a few hours later, uploading the Self-Love Challenge videos to YouTube, of course the Wifi went “Limited” again. I just left the browser open. Up until then, I’d been closing the browser when the internet went off, assuming it would interrupt the download, especially because the outages could last up to 20 minutes. Turns out—a YouTube upload starts back up when the internet returns, if you don’t close the browser.

Gringo crazy.

Gringo learns.

What’s funnier than my self-induced difficulties (because of a slew of assumptions I made about what was and was not possible) is this: I really thought I was peaceful and wild and free. I thought I was wild with my first-world economy, my paved roads, my 24-hour discount grocery store, my neighborhood Starbucks where I could leave my laptop unattended while I went pee because no one around was poor enough or desperate enough to even think about stealing it.

I realize, with some degree of embarrassment, that I’ve been free like the postcards too. I’ve been wild like the American Eagle ads—neat, nice, contained, Photoshopped. I’ve been the kind of wild that hangs up its claws at the end of the day and puts its fangs in a cup beside the sink before sleeping on its memory foam mattress.

I’ve been telling this story of myself that I realized wasn’t true.

Until now.

Now, I’m sitting here, writing this post, while my Wifi is once again on “Limited” and the video I’m trying to upload says it will take 5967 minutes.

And that’s okay. That means it’s time to go do yoga.

I think, maybe for the first time, I’m problem-free.

And it feels really, really good.


2 thoughts on “Costa Rica Lesson #4: Pura Vida Ain’t No Passin’ Craze (It’s a Problem-Free Philosophy!)

  1. My initial take away from this post, after feeling really sad about your feet, was that ants are stupid; and then, I remembered the movie Ants. Blah, blah ants serve an essential purpose (when they are not busy biting humans, wasting all that energy, I digress…) Then I recalled how I was forever scarred by the Bee Movie, because the moral of the story seemed to be that we can’t live in a world without bees. So now, I feel obliged to nearly THANK THEM even if they bite me. Still, it’s very love/hate. And so back to the ants, same circle of life, and still, I am not really happy they attacked you. The chaos of having been conditioned to one set of expectations, and now having to adapt,that is the chaos of it I think? It’s not like 200 years ago, when nobody EXPECTED you to have internet, or a cell phone. So, you are now an outlier, having to adapt while its other people’s expectations (and your desire to mind them) that are the wedge. You are doing a fine job of sorting it all out, per usual, and thank you for your honesty, per usual. This is you, Mademoiselle Vironika: “Not seeking, not expecting, she is present, and can welcome all things.” ― Lao Tzu — Again, doing a lovely job : )

    1. Your post made me laugh. Yes, I was angry at them at first and then I realized: if someone came stomping into my house, even accidentally, I’d do more than bite them! I’m the kind of person who saves bugs, even the little ones. I escort them outside. I also save bugs from trouble. And I take ones that are dead or dying and put them in the grass if they are on pavement, so they can be part of nature’s cycle in peace. It’s a strange little hobby, but it puts me in touch with that idea that we’re all part of this beautiful cycle.

      Thank you for your kind words. That quote made me smile very dorky. I appreciate that it reminds you of me. <3

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