As someone who moved to Costa Rica to get away from the many conveniences of modern society, I am at a loss for what to think about this time of self-isolation. The things that I was having the hardest time with living in North America were the congested roadways, the lack of genuine interpersonal communication, and the lack of true green spaces away from the din of overpopulation. Here, in the small village community I live in in South Pacific Costa Rica, there are generally none of those issues, and now even less so. I love animals, wildlife, and life’s simple pleasures, like walking on a forest path or greeting my neighbors. Costa Rica has been fantastic for accessing these everyday treasures, even during this time of social isolation. What I am having the hardest time with is being away from my social groups.
I think that almost everyone living in my small village of Ojochal misses socializing in their respective preferred venues. It is one of the major reasons why people fall in love with this seemingly sleepy community that is home to a number of lively people who are filled with verve. Some of us typically get together on the beaches, catching waves during sunrise or cracking beers during the glittering sunset in the late afternoon. Some of us gather in the many bars and restaurants that populate our community (there are more than twelve amazing restaurants and more sodas and bars in our small area) where we share stories about our day and rejoice in the thought that we all get to share our lives in this amazing part of the world. Even more of us invite friends over to our homes to share in the bounty of our gardens, cooking together and relaxing poolside with a cocktail.
As with most places in the world, none of the above social gatherings are able to take place at the moment. All of us Ojochalians, and people all over Costa Rica, have been mandated to maintain the typical protocols of social distancing. Driving restrictions have been implemented to keep traffic down, which can only be essential as there are only essential services open until at least the end of April.
Typically, I would be meeting friends and neighbors during my morning exercise routine of jogging up and down the dirt roads in my mountainside neighborhood. Smiling and waving at the same human and dog faces I see every day and the occasional newcomers or visitors and stopping for a chat is an enlivening way to start the day. Driving down the mountain, through the village in Ojochal, and picking up people who are walking to work or the bus station and practicing my Spanish. Going for lunch in a soda around the corner from my office space. Meeting friends at the local cantina after a day of writing and chatting about the weather and anything else that comes up. Spending weekends going on road trips with friends. And, of course, hugging!
But in this time of forced tranquility; of slowing down our movements; and of turning inwards, I have realized that the things I need in life are actually a lot simpler than even I originally thought them to be. Because my work as a travel and real estate writer is related to tourism and investment, it has slowed down significantly. But instead of despairing about earning much less, I have found that spending less of my check equity and more of my sweat equity on tasks around the home to be incredibly rewarding. Things like fixing holes in the grouting, sanding and varnishing wood beams, and building a shade house for my vegetable garden are things that I would have traditionally paid to complete. Instead, I am learning new skills and exercising my body and mind while I save money and spend effort.
It feels great to me to be productive in a time of uncertainty. As someone who has chosen to live in rural Costa Rica — a place that already has less certainty than the predictable 9 to 5 world of North America — I am ready to embrace this time of crisis by making a more self-sufficient life that I can feel proud to cultivate for myself.