Differences (so far) – Part 1

Differences (so far) – Part 1

Day 50 of our new adventure in Costa Rica. It’s hard to believe it’s only been 50 days. In some ways, it feels like we have been here longer. In some ways, it still feels like a beginning, which it really is.

I’ve been writing down things over the last month or two that are different here compared at least to Seattle. Some are harder or more expensive. Some are easier, cheaper or better. I’m sure I will add more things as we go along but I thought it would be fun to share some of these, especially for those who are thinking about coming here for a trip or longer.

I’ll split the list in two and start with things that are better, easier, cheaper or just more exciting. A few caveats: these are coming from a former Seattleite, Chicagoan, and Californian who is living in a small town on the coast of Costa Rica, and not working. The comparison is clearly not “apples to apples”. And these are mine – I won’t speak here for Aidan, Vie or Debbie.

  • Sun
    I can’t even begin to say how energizing it is to see the sun and feel its warmth every day. Vitamin D is a wonderful thing too. I won’t belabor the point for our Seattle friends going through winter right now. 
  • Auto mechanics
    While cars and parts may be more expensive, auto mechanics are much cheaper. Tomás, our mechanic for Moose, is replacing shocks, engine valves, suspension struts, fixing all the electric windows, repairing the back door handle and adding new tires all for the price of about 3 hours (or less) labor in Seattle terms. It offsets the cost of owning a car a bit.
  • Produce (of the types that are available)
    On the up side, the types of produce you can find in Costa Rica are plentiful and cheap. We have a great local produce stand about 2 blocks away owned by Rafael. He’s such a nice guy and is always giving us a new interesting thing to try. One recent discovery – Peruvian cherries.
  • Futbol (soccer)
    Soccer on a grass field in the warm (OK, hot) sun at sunset playing with Ticos and learning their moves. In contrast, this last week it was 28 degrees at night when we would normally be playing soccer in Seattle. I don’t miss the rainy, cold, windy games (though I do miss our team immensely).
  • Medical professional access
    It is very easy to talk to your medical professionals here. We found great doctors. They gave us their email addresses so we can contact them through email if it was more convenient. What a concept! What is really surprising, though, is that they gave us their personal cell phone numbers as well.
  • No commute
    This one is low hanging fruit, I know, compared to Seattle and the Bay Area. While I loved my MINI Cooper Coupe, I don’t miss the quality time I spent with it every day in commute traffic in Seattle.
  • Beach volleyball
    I love beach volleyball. In Seattle, we had indoor volleyball, which was fun. We also had beach volley ball in a very cold indoor arena on imported sand. What can I say about getting back beach volleyball on a real beach in the sun. Like most activities here, though, you stop between 12 and 3 because the sand and the temperature are way too hot.
  • Speaking Spanish
    There is something very empowering about learning to speak another language. We are still working on fluency right now, but Deb and I have reasonable conversational skills. It’s been challenging at times, but very satisfying.
  • No American fast food
    The nearest American fast food chain is 90 minutes away in the closest big city, Liberia. No McDonalds, Burger King, Jack, KFC, etc. All the places here are local and we eat locally whenever we can. Of course, Vie does mourn the loss of access to Starbucks.
  • Soccer on TV
    It’s so great to see soccer on TV. Every night. And I don’t mean only during the World Cup on cable channels or the final World Cup matches on a major network. Almost every night we can choose from UEFA Champions or Europa league games, European premiere leagues, Mexican, South American, or Central American league games. The latter are usually live.
  • Not having to drive everywhere
    We only got a car to get to good surfing. Everything else – food, bars, grocery stores, the beach, yoga, soccer, haircuts, the doctor, etc. are all within walking or riding distance. We love not needing to burn gas every day.
  • Seeing Deb in her bikini every day
    This one is clearly personal, but I just had to list it. Life is good J
  • Surfing
    I never surfed in Washington. It was cold. More importantly, on northern Washington beaches you see trees thrown up on the shore from the surf, so that means as a surfer you’d be competing with trees! A more realistic comparison is snowboarding though. Surfing and snowboarding are nearly even. If I really had to pick one though, it would be surfing. Warm sun and warm ocean say it all. Oh yeah, and you can walk 10 feet to get a Margarita without having to take your equipment off compared to making it to a lodge on a ski slope.
  • Powdered Gatorade
    We do have powdered Gatorade in Seattle, but we had never tried it. We live by it here. Vie and I go through 6-7 bottles per day. Between the cost difference in powder vs. liquid and the fact that we grocery shop on bicycles, powdered Gatorade has become a necessity. One nice discovery is that you can make it a little sweeter. Sometime in the 2000’s I remember Gatorade tried out an “endurance” formula that was a bit sweeter and thicker. I loved it but they stopped producing it. I’m pretty sure was simply more concentrated and now we can make that ourselves.
  • Knowing a bunch of people in the area
    It is striking how quickly we have gotten to know a lot of people in our community. We walk down the street and see someone we know now and stop to chat. Whenever we go to one of our hangouts, like La Perla, The Shack, or Maxwell’s we know most of the folks there. It is a small community to be sure, but it is wonderful to have a community.
  • Pura Vida
    I’ll end with the most profound I think. Pura vida truly is a way of life here. It is one that we are loving every day. It’s difficult to describe just how completely different attitudes are here and how people approach life. Seattle and Silicon Valley, two places where I’ve lived a long time, tend to be very fast paced and intense. Yes, it can be exciting. It can also be complex, stressful, and overscheduled. I always felt behind no matter how much I got done. Time was a rare commodity and far too much of it seemed to be focused on work (including getting there and back). Going to and from places, we seemed to be focused on getting there; rarely saying “hi” to people and stopping to smell the roses. Even schooling is getting to be stressful and all-consuming.Here, everyone says “hi” to each other on the street (or “pura vida”). You get to know people quickly and easily. There is time to take time and smell the roses. One could argue that my comparison of my current and former lifestyle isn’t exactly fair, and it isn’t. But, I would argue that the “pura vida” attitude is that it is important to slow down and live life. It’s important to take the time. It’s important to enjoy doing things. It might be tough to make this work in a fast-paced, high-tech lifestyle, but I believe it is possible. I know “pura vida” is already having a welcome effect on me. And change is something to embrace.

Look for the List, part 2, coming soon.

16 thoughts on “Differences (so far) – Part 1

  1. Wow what an adventure huh?!!!II want you guys to know that I looove reading those posts. they are so motivating and i really feel like Im following you guys really close.
    I want to metion some little things. First about the sun. I totally agree with you Andy…how energizing it is! I know what you are talking about because living for 22 years under the sun in Brazil and now getting almost no sun at all feels so different. Now, more and than ever, I really appreciate the sun, the warmth, the heat, the good feeling and power that the sun gives us when I get a chance in here. So…enjoy it there!!!
    As for medical access…isn’t great? I have all my doctor’s cell phone, home phone back in Brazil. I feel safe by the way because in case I need anything, at any time I can just reach them easily. That is something that I haven’t experienced in North America.
    Now…knowing lots of ppl in your area topic…wow, that’s interesting. That’s what I love and miss a lot. I know all my neighbours in Brazil, all!!! We say hi, we yell actually LOL, at least we waive. We know their names, their kids, where they work. I know, I know…people dont’ like it so much because they said that’s when all the gossips start. But I dont care you know? Im like you…I love seeing people, knowing them, they know me and am sure they are there for me anytime in case I need.
    The last but not least that I want to say…I don’t know about Costa Rica, but are you guys allowed to drink on the street? Close to the beach, on you way to the beach? That’s something that my friends from Brazil used to complain about being in North America. When we are at Golden Garden Beach for example, they had to hire the beers and others. In Brazil, it’s totally fine as long as you don’t disturb people. What about CR?
    Well, I gotta go…many kisses to the most special ppl in the world Debbie, Andy, Vie and Aidan!!!


    • There actually are 2 Starbucks Cafes in Costa Rica. We have been to one cafe in the big city – San Jose. This is about a 4-5 hour drive from us so we don’t plan on going very often. This year Starbucks Co purchased it’s first coffee farm (600 acres) in Costa Rica which they intend to use a coffee research facility.

  2. Dude – You should post some of those PICs of Deb in her bikini. It’s bad enough we’re all sitting here dreaming of boat drinks. Share some love for the frozen chosen.

  3. Great writeup – thanks for keeping this blog.

    Pura Vida is fascinating to me in trying to figure out what the source of that feeling is. Is it the people? Is it the culture they share? The weather and landscape? So many books are sold with secrets for calming down and lowering stress but perhaps it’s something in the place and the people around you that provides this and not something you can simply do by yourself.

    • Scott, yes a very interesting question. I was thinking about how many books there are for the stressed as well. From what we have experienced, it is the people and the culture. It is pervasive in the culture, manifested through the people. And by people, I really mean the locals. The expats here pick it up, but I get it more from the locals. “pura vida” is a greeting. It is what you say when you want to say “goodbye”. It’s an explanation (e.g., “what a great day”….”pura vida” OR “long line…” ….”pura vida”). It’s a toast. People here, at least where we are, live very simply and they are happy. So, while climate and landscape may contribute, it is really the people and culture. Where else really do you find a country with no military (nestled among some who do and who like to stir things up) and instead puts the $ toward health and education?

      I, personally, am still trying to embrace it fully. I still have some of the cultural remnants of Seattle – do more, do it faster, better, stronger, etc. but they are slowly slipping away. Our challenging is still, I think, getting to know the Ticos more. We know many of the expats. We are starting to get to know the real Ticos though through things like soccer, doctor visits, hair appointments, grocery stores etc. When my Spanish is good enough, I plan to ask a lot more about “pura vida”. Stay tuned 🙂

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