I hear every day about how Costa Rica is paradise, how it is a great place to retire, and how it is the happiest country in the world. As I sat down and thought about my journey to Costa Rica and everything that it had entailed, the biggest question came across my mind…….is it possible for someone like me to find happiness in Costa Rica?
I could see how someone that had worked their entire life and had decided to retire in Costa Rica either living completely off a pension or not really having to work for a living could find peace in this country. I could see how people that had a lot of money and did not have to really work could find happiness in their day to day life. But the same question kept resonating, “What about someone like me?”
I will describe the person I am talking about in the most general terms possible. This person is a college graduate wanting to excel professionally. This person has a strong and ethical drive for conducting business, not willing to be involved with scams. A person that has the desire to be rewarded both financially and professionally for hard work and success. This person is between the age of 30 and 50 and is over the party scene and would like to meet a nice person with whom they can enjoy life.
In Costa Rica it is easy to be happy if you do not really have to work or truly be involved with the frustrations that make up the daily business life in Costa Rica. Not getting paid on time or at all, dealing with people not showing up at meetings or arriving an hour late…..the list goes on and on. You can work for a sportsbook or work for another job which requires half a brain, showing up each day to receive enough money to get by each month. In most of these jobs you are surrounded by people that go out drinking or use drugs daily. I went to college once and enjoyed it the first few years I was down here but what about a sober, responsible happy life in Costa Rica…..is it possible for someone in my age bracket?
The answer is yes but there are some keys to finding this inner peace that allows anyone to find true happiness in Costa Rica.
Infinite Patience – If you are a person that wants everything done right here and right now, you are going to find it difficult to live in Costa Rica. Everything takes longer. Going to the bank can take close to 2 hours. Getting your building permits for a project or business can take upwards of a year. Renewing your cedula is another all day task…..if you have every single piece of required paperwork, which in most cases you will not. The best way to get through these situations is to breathe in and bring entertainment with you; a book, music, or whatever else you might enjoy doing while killing the time while waiting in line for your turn.
Internalize a Little Pessimism – For the first few years I lived in Costa Rica I used to get very excited when there was a possibility of business success, an increase in pay, or anything where I saw a glimpse of hope for advancement or financial success. Most of these things never came to fruition and left me disappointed. I realized over time that most times there was that pot of gold in front of me in Costa Rica it would not happen more than happen. I then changed my outlook and decided that I would think from the start that the opportunity was not going to happen and if it didn’t I did not really feel let down. If it did happen then I was all the more filled with graciousness.
Set Realistic Goals – This is not saying that you should not aim for the stars but success comes slow in Costa Rica. Things that are supposed to take a day take a week; things that are supposed to take a month take six. Each step you take in the direction of your goal is a positive step. There are many times that it is 2 steps forward and 1 step back, but you have to realize that one step in the right direction is an accomplishment and you should be proud of it. There are many hindrances that will make your path to your ultimate goal seem too long, but with the right drive you can accomplish them. Remember there will be a time that you may have to cut your losses and move on…..you will know if this is the case.
Be Happy With What You Have – Most people that come to Costa Rica will never make a ton of money and become astronomically wealthy and if you base your happiness on these materialistic things you will most likely be unhappy not only in Costa Rica but anywhere you live. Every time I was pushed over the line when it comes to Costa Rica’s daily frustrations, I thought of heading back to the USA, but after sitting down and meditating for about an hour and thinking about life I realized there are frustrations everywhere. You have to be happy with the simple things in life…..getting up throwing on shorts and walking 10 feet to work; spending the weekend at the beach listening to the waves roll in; watching one of Costa Rica’s active volcanoes…..being able to realize that the most important things in life cannot be bought and that inner peace is being happy with what you have and where you are.
Conquer Your Demons – Many people come to Costa Rica running from a past that they do not want to talk about. Those demons you are trying to outrun are going to follow you on every road you take. If you come to Costa Rica with a drinking or drug problem, expect that to continue in the land of Pura Vida. You can find a new you, but it requires you to confront and defeat demons. Once you overcome that inner pain you can come out on the other side. Do not expect Costa Rica to have a magic solution to your past problems.
No matter where you do in life there is only one way to find happiness, and that is to internalize a feeling of inner peace. There are going to be battles each day in Costa Rica that will make you feel like you are losing your sanity. There are two things that can result from these daily frustrations; they will either defeat you or you will realize that they are not really a big deal in the big picture.
“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.” ― Abraham Lincoln