I never considered myself high maintenance until I moved to Costa Rica. Having lived the first 28 years of my life in the US, I took all of its comforts for granted. If I needed anything, whether it be a bank, an outfit, a new set of tires, it was always at my finger tips, easily attainable. Not necessarily on a Kardashian level of vapid consumerism, but American none-the-less. Here in Santa Teresa, on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, life is different. The closest major city, San Jose, is 5 hours away by land and sea. It involves a bus or car ride to a ferry to another bus or car. The roads are dicey, steep, and not always paved. Because of that, resources are limited and shortages are common. Water is shipped in and often stored in tanks allotted to a certain cluster of homes or a single property. Running out of water is a realistic prospect and if you happen to be in mid-shower when it runs out, have a sink full of dirty dishes, or are in need of a good toilet flushing, you are out of luck! For an undetermined amount of time, I might add. And yes, all three have happened to us.
That was the point though, get out of my comfort zone, embrace a different culture and have some adventure. But understandably and comically so, there were a few hiccups on the road to assimilation.
1. My Shopping Addiction Had To Go
When I lived in Philadelphia, I found any excuse to shop. A rare week would go by when I didn’t pick up a goodie on my way home from work. Every store imaginable was on my route home and I just couldn’t say no to a Gap sale. (Don’t roll your eyes, hipsters, The Gap is an American institution). The floor in my bedroom was always covered with shopping bags and newly snipped clothing tags littered my trash can. Clearly I “needed” out of that habit. Luckily, there are no malls down here, no box stores, and no CVS to squander my money away. Since living here over the past four months I have purchased ONE item, a trucker hat (how very early 2000s of me). There are boutiques and surf shops a plenty, but needing material things becomes so secondary to enjoying everything else. It’s easy not to shop. You quickly learn to count your pennies, to not live in excess and to appreciate what you have. As long as I have a bathing suit, I’m good to go.
2. I Needed A Serious Chill-Pill
Another thing that took some getting used to is the pace of life. With a town full of yogis and surfers, it’s only natural that the laid-back lifestyle and Pura Vida mantra of Costa Rica are fully embraced. It can take some getting used to when coming from the frantic, fast-paced world of the US. Before I left, I was commuting 4 hours a day to my office. It was h-e-double hockey sticks. So going from that to having my only commitment of the day be a sunset yoga class was quite jarring. I felt guilty, like I wasn’t accomplishing enough. Fast forward to now, I finally feel like I’ve been here long enough to see life outside the rat race standards I used to let define me. If I want to spend two hours eating breakfast, so be it. It’s an art form that Tom and I have perfectly mastered. And while I know this pace isn’t sustainable, at least we are living in the present, fully embracing the time we have right now.
3. Tico Time, The Struggle Is Real
Put together a remote location and a laid-back attitude and you can imagine that it takes a while to get stuff done down here. Things that could take an afternoon at home or a minute online, can take hours, days, and weeks. Case in point, we started the purchase of our beloved quad (ATV) on December 21st, 2014 but did not finish paying for it until January 4th, 2015 two weeks later. The payment needed to be in cash, dollars not colones (the local currency) and the only ATM in town that dispensed dollars constantly ran out of money. The seller didn’t mind waiting, though. To him, this is an accepted part of life. Pure Vida, no worries. It didn’t keep Tom and I from feeling like fugitives as we drove around on our half-payed-for quad.
4. Help, I’m Hangry!
There were a few weeks that the town ran out of propane. Most homes in town are equipped with burners instead of real stove/oven combos, which use propane tanks. And wouldn’t you know, our tank just happened to run out during one of these weeks. We were forced to eat every meal out or succumb to microwave cooking. True confessions, I may have resorted to ramen noodles. These were trying times. Rumors that certain grocery stores had just gotten a supply ran rampant through town. Tanks were precariously stacked on the backs of motorbikes and quads as everyone raced around in search of propane. In the end, our lovely Tica landlord brought us a tank from San Jose (remember now, that’s 5 hours away) on her next visit, which happened to be a few days later. From then on, it was clear to us that we just had to sit back and go with the flow.
5. If I Had To Describe My Life In The Form Of A Disney Movie …
… It would be A Bug’s Life. Seeing as we moved to the jungle you’d think I’d be able to handle the creatures that run rampant. But alas, I have zero chill when it comes to critters. Mainly because the creepiest of which always seem to find their way into our bedroom and even *gulp * the bed. Our nighttime visitors consist of geckos, scorpions, centipedes, giant ants, and spiders. Of the bunch, the geckos are my number one arch-nemesis. They find their way in through any crack or crevice, even entering once through the air conditioning unit. One minute you’re happily watching your nightly Netflix and the next, two screeching lizards burst in and speedily zig-zag all over the walls and ceilings. All I can say is, thank God for mozzie nets or I would never sleep.
But so what, right? You laugh about it, you adapt and then you head to the beach because the ocean can wash away all of your problems (it’s science, look it up). That’s the gist of life down here, it’s a little rugged, a little ‘last frontier’, but overall, its beauty and the subsequent feeling you get once surrounded by it can trump everything.