It’s fairly obvious to the critical thinker that a land this green and full of natural resources will attract the types of people who are considerate of their personal health and wellbeing, and that of their families, too. What may be a little less known or anticipated is how welcoming this friendly nation is to a wide-variety of traditions and alternative lifestyles. There is likely an existing community for every theory on how best to live in this land of plenty. And if you are ready to put down the cake and pick up the cacao nibs, you will easily find friends with which to skip along this colorful jungle path.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of the many daily practices that are abundantly adopted by Costa Rica expats and locals alike. Have a read though, see where you fit, and find your way to a healthier today in good company in Costa Rica.
Growing your own food
I have heard it quipped about many times that Costa Rica is a land where you can throw a toothpick on the ground and it will grow roots. As funny as it is, it’s very near to the truth.
As a novice gardener for many years in a variety of climates, I liked to laugh that I have a black thumb, mainly to hide my sadness at having killed nearly every plant I’ve tried to cultivate. After moving to Ojochal, Costa Rica and having planted from seed, grown, and harvested many dozens of species, I am proud to say that this writer’s thumb is now almost fully green.
The many benefits of growing your own food include: having to shop less for meal ingredients, knowing what chemicals have (or hopefully have not) been used on your food, and having the pleasure of the de-stressing and harmonizing activities that surround food cultivation. It is a beautiful ritual to be able to dig your hands into the earth, feeling the pulse of our planet; and to meditate on the needs of the lifeforms that we have helped bring into existence. Permaculture is as hot here as the weather!
Eating less meat
The easy ability to grow your own produce, coupled with the ease of location and abundance of farmer’s markets and road-side stalls means that fresh fruits and veggies are everywhere!
This land is a vegetarian paradise, and the meat-less expats who have moved here have brought with them the traditions and culinary delights that vegan and vegetarian eaters need to fill out their diets (i.e. you can find all of the same foods like tofu, tempeh, nutritional yeast, pulses and delicious, live, probiotic cheeses). Supplements are far from necessary where superfoods grow like wildfire. Coconuts, bananas, guanabana, acai palms, cacao, moringa, cashews, almonds, etc., are all naturally present and abundant for those who want to source their protein from non-meats.
Eating more meat
For those on the paleo-kick: how great is the idea that you can buy meat from a butcher in your village, who recently killed and butchered the animal that he raised on his organic, free-range pasture just down the road from where you live? Costa Rica is a bacon-lover’s dream come true, especially once you detoxify from the additives that you have come to know and crave in your meat back home. From one meat lover to another, I promise that you won’t look back (except maybe in anger)!
Being more active
It’s a challenge not to be inspired by the dynamic landscape that living in Costa Rica affords us all. The dusty mountain trails that we traverse on our morning walks are filled with electric-blue Morpho butterflies, and the beaches are varyingly caressed with gentle and strong waves that invite us board-lovers in to play. Even a casual stroll along the soft, golden sands of our 10+ beaches in the Costa Ballena can easily work up a sweat, detoxifying our bodies and getting in that good cardio, giving us the longevity to enjoy this remarkable landscape for longer.
There are a multitude of classes for all modalities of physical exercise: yoga, pilates, martial arts, surfing, acrobatics, hand gliding, kick boxing – the sky is the limit in our diverse south pacific Costa Rican communities. And when the sky is as blue as it is here, you may begin to feel like there is no limit to your freedom to express your best self.
Skipping the stress
Kicking back in my hammock with a great book is my most favorite way to relax. As a writer who still works long hours every day of the week, I hardly ever feel over-extended because as soon as I begin to feel the pressure building, I look up from my desk and see the bright colored flowers dotted amidst a sea of green and I am lost in wonder, far far away from the cycle of stress that was beginning to unfold.
Fresh breezes and flowing water are everywhere in this mountainous region where the hillsides meet the sea. If you can’t hear the din of the waves crashing along the coast, you can always hear the symphony of nature playing just outside your window. Birds singing, crickets humming, wind rustling the leaves and the fall of water in the many rivers soothes us into a deep relax. For anyone who is aware of the power of meditation, the sensory experience of listening to these sounds is an immensely helpful tool for de-stressing and focusing in on the present.
Raising our kids in a simpler way
Studies have shown that digital screens affect a child’s brains in the exact way that cocaine does. This means that the “normal”, traditional North American children’s past time of playing Minecraft causes similar neural reactions to the effects of a psychoactive drug. The brain’s frontal cortex is affected, which is responsible for things like motor function, problem solving, memory and judgement, while also raising dopamine levels, which makes them feel good. This becomes dangerous when the levels of usage are upwards of 8 hours per day for 8-10 year olds and more for teens.
Children need social interaction and real-world play or healthy development. Smart technology prevents this ability in our children, who will prefer the easy hit of feel-good chemicals when given the choice. Even Steve Jobs kept his children away from smart-technology, and many other tech-execs send their kids to no-tech Waldorf schools.
We may not have Waldorf schools all over Costa Rica, but we do have an excellent education system with one of the highest literacy rates in the world. There is hardly any of the new-tech of North American or European standards found in the classroom, but this doesn’t seem to impede their standing on the global scale for post-secondary admissions.
Kids here spend their time playing outdoors, learning a new culture and language, and have the opportunity to engage in plenty of social activities within our rapidly-growing young family expat communities. Theater, sports teams, surf lessons, dance, yoga, martial arts and so much more are at every parent’s disposal for their child’s engagement. And once the focus is taken off of addictive substances like smart-tech and sugar, these expat children revive their childish wonder and thrive. Many expats who moved here as children remain in Costa Rica, proving that there is not much to be missed outside of this wonderland.
There are many more ways to access your healthy place in the magic of the Costa Rican landscape. I will continue with this topic in a future article, so stay tuned to find your path to freedom in becoming the you who you’ve always wanted to be. Help us help you find your tribe in the south pacific communities of the Costa Ballena by signing up for our weekly newsletter below, or getting in touch with one of our agents today.
By Alex Swift