A Lesson in Less
It took a mind-shifting experience in Costa Rica to make me realize just how skewed our priorities are in the States—mine included.
In March my husband and I vacationed in areas surrounding Tamarindo in the provinces of Guanacaste and Alajuela, the canton of San Carlos, and the district of La Fortuna. We encountered stunning landscapes—from pristine beaches bounded by calm, turquoise pools of water to sharp mountains and rolling farmland bordered by lush gardens and hidden waterfalls beneath a rainforest canopy.
But tucked in this foliage paradise are broken-down metal buildings that are the family homes of the poverty-stricken. Each tiny, rickety structure is painted a vibrant hue. Metal bars, sans glass, guard framed-out windows. Tattered garments sway in the tropical breeze as they hang from meters of clotheslines. Stray dogs and chickens roam the streets. Most locals use public transportation or balance their small children and handmade wares in a crate attached to a motorbike or bicycle. Air conditioning doesn’t come standard, and even five-star hotels caution against flushing toilet paper. The few sidewalks are ignored, as are no-passing zones and speed-limit signs on streets.
What looks to an outsider like a hard-knock life isn’t thought of that way by the people who live here. We met kind, welcoming people who are hard-working and eager to share the history and nuances of their culture and environment. A standard greeting is “Pura Vida.” Literally “simple life” or “pure life,” Costa Ricans (Ticos) feel it means more—it’s a way of life.
I began to understand how much we take for granted in our society of surplus and all that gets lost in the acceptance of living that everyday reality. The cliché is a fact: We must learn to live more simply. But unless we make living with less a reality, we may be unable to nurture a true appreciation for quality time, family connections, and natural wonders.
For someone whose closet bursts at the seams and whose home office is festooned with I Love Lucy and Gone With the Wind memorabilia, I’m certainly not without culpability. But I’m now embracing and encouraging a less-is-more mindset, having seen firsthand how such a point of view and existence can improve one’s outlook. There’s a big shift on the horizon as my family and I navigate onward in this blessed voyage God has blessed us with—on this journey we call life. Pura Vida!