The phrase “pura vida” is thrown around in the US like any other trendy saying at the moment. It seems like most people have a bracelet, sticker, or other memorabilia that celebrate having a “pure life”, the saying’s English translation. People use it because it sounds cool, or maybe because it’s a reminder for life. Others simply like the merchandise adorned with the Spanish text. While here it is used in passing, in Costa Rica, “pura vida” isn’t just another saying tossed into the wind; it truly is a way of life. The first time I heard “pura vida” in Costa Rica, I smiled, but I went on with my day. It was as if I had heard it like I do back home. While preparing for my trip, I was told that “pura vida” is used constantly in Costa Rica. It means “Hello!”, “Goodbye!”, “I’m good!”, etc. It extends far beyond the literal “pure life” meaning. I heard my professor say it when we arrived to class in the mornings. I heard our tour guide say it when he thanked us for booking another weekend excursion with his company. I heard the lady at the soda greet us with the saying. The more I began to hear it, the more I began to believe it.
When I say that “pura vida” is a way of life, I mean it. I learned this time and time again throughout the five weeks I traveled throughout Costa Rica. During our first week, we visited nearly every museum in the capital of San José. I learned so much about the history of Costa Rica and its people. I learned how “pura vida” has affected how the people of the country have shaped their lives from the country’s beginnings all the way to present day. We also visited Manuel Antonio, a beautiful national park. Here I learned how “pura vida” has influenced the country to take care of its diverse nature and the creatures that live within. The second week, a few of us visited Puerto Viejo, a small town on the Caribbean coast. Our tour guide, Luis, showed us the “pura vida” life from the moment we left San José until we arrived back home. He gave us fun facts we wouldn’t find on the Internet, showed us all the spots other tours wouldn’t take us, and gave us the best weekend possible. The third week, I learned “pura vida” from my Tica family. This was the week I finally began having long conversations with my Tica momma during dinner. She helped me with homework, cooked the best food in the country, and encouraged me throughout my entire journey. The fourth week, I learned “pura vida” from both of my classes abroad. I took two classes on my trip: Advanced Spanish Conversation and Human Rights in Latin America. In my Spanish class, this was the week we finally all clicked and became a family. Our sweet professor, Ile, taught us “pura vida” throughout her entire class, from the assignments we thought were pointless, to her life lessons during the moments we needed them most. In my human rights class, we visited the court system that handles human rights cases throughout the Americas. The life changing work they have done and continue to do truly display the “pura vida” lifestyle that the Ticos have continuously promoted.
During our last week, I soaked in the “pura vida” lifestyle from every moment I took: from the tradition chifrijo that I finally was able to try, to the tears shed as I told my friends and Tica momma goodbye. I realized that every breath and movement made throughout Costa Rica has been inspired by that simple saying, “pura vida”. In the US we get so busy and strung up with the go-go society that we live in. There is so much stress that breaks us down daily. Before I came to Costa Rica, that’s exactly how I lived my life. But now, I have learned to slow down and enjoy the journey. Life can and should be simple and pure, and we should treat it as such. Slow down, enjoy the journey, take in the small and grand moments, and live each day to the fullest. And of course, Pura Vida, mae.
Kathryn Combs is majoring in Spanish and spent 5-weeks over Summer 2019 studying abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica through a Spanish department faculty-led trip organized by CISabroad. Kathryn had the following to say about studying abroad, “Study abroad should be at the top of the bucket list of every college student. The lessons you will learn, the friends you will make, the food you will eat, and the places you will travel are priceless. In a time where you are growing and trying to figure out who you are in the midst of making life-changing decisions, studying abroad can affirm or change the direction you want to go in life. The benefits of study abroad can only make you a better person, both academically and personally.”
Share this post: