Meet Spencer, as he learns the meaning of Pura Vida

Yes, it’s true… My blog is being redesigned into a Vegas blog, to reflect my return “home.” Meanwhile, it just so happens that one of my favorite online travel friends (who I happened to have met twice IRL “in real life”) heads down to Coco. Please support his trip the same way you did mine! Leave comments, share on Facebook, etc. I can’t believe he’s really there!!

From Spencer:

My ever-so-brief nap ended abruptly as my cab came to a screeching halt. “Lo siento,” my driver said, shrugging. Blurry-eyed, not just from the interrupted nap but from my sleepless night of travel, I slowly sat up to see why we were stopped in the middle of the road. I peeked through the window just in time to see the last member of a family of iguanas cross the road. “Welcome to Costa Rica,” I mumbled under my breath.

After months of talking about it, I had finally made it to Coco, Costa Rica, my first stop on my search to find new meaning in life. I’m frequently asked why I chose to call Costa Rica my home base for the next few months, and I really don’t have a satisfactory answer. Last summer, after going through the worst period of my life, I made a decision that I was going to live for at least one season in another country. My only requirements were that it had to be warm and near a beach and be a country I had never been to. Shortly afterwards, as a result of Twitter, I met Abby and started following her Central American adventures, falling in love with Costa Rica.

I could’ve made a preliminary trip down to Costa Rica to scope things out, but instead I left it all in the hands of Abby and Cheryl Grant, who found me a great place in Coco for the winter. Ready to arrive in Costa Rica, I braved what was one of the worst holiday travel weekends and arrived in Coco just after Christmas.

As I was making preparations to come to Costa Rica, and even more so once I got here, a term that continually came up while reading and talking to others was the term “pura vida.” It means “pure life” and is one of the most versatile terms I’ve ever come across in any culture. It can be used as a greeting, parting salutation, expression of gratitude… just about anything.

For me, “pura vida” has come to mean more a way of life than anything. Growing up in the deep south, whether it was ever said out loud or not, there were a lot of pressures that were often driven by a timeframe that was “expected.” You were living the “pure life” only if you graduated college and nailed down a good job, followed by getting married and, of course, having kids. While I tried doing that life for a while, it just wasn’t for me. I see the opposite here in Coco’s fishing village, where life goes at a much slower pace. It suits me.

Each day I’ve made it a point to get out and walk around town and to the beach. There’s nothing flashy here, no high-rise hotels, Beamers or luxurious shopping centers. (Planning a trip? Leave your stilettos, pleated pants and gadgets at home.) Coco is a reminder of the simple things, not only in life, but in travel. Traveling by bus sometimes has to do, it’s OK to walk around with no shoes on, and a glass of rum and a light ocean breeze is often the perfect end to the day – or sometimes to start it.

Last week, I was enjoying a drink with a fellow traveler and was again asked why in the world I had chosen Coco to make a home base for the winter. Without hesitation, I actually responded “pura vida.” I’m not sure how kosher that is, since I’ve only been here for a week, but it just rolled off my tongue. The lifestyle, culture, and people of Coco embody how I feel about life and travel right now. Author Don Williams Jr. once said, “The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” For me, Coco is not about the destination, but the journey along the way.

For more of Spencer’s amazingly thoughtful posts on travel, check out his blog!

The Traveling Philospher

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I'm a life-long travel junkie journalist who works hard to find adventure in everyday life after two years of travel and expat living.

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  1. I love the idea of pura vida and shedding all the expectations that weigh us down.

  2. Pura vida and enjoy the journey!!!

  3. SO excited for him!!!! SO jealous too!! 🙂 Great to see you supporting him Abby, though I’d expect no less since you are so supportive and loving. XOXOXO

  4. Coming from growing up in the South – I completely understand what is “expected” when it comes to life. I’m so glad that you are already taking “pura vida” to heart!

  5. Beautiful! I miss Costa Rica (We “had” to go there every three months to renew our visas when living in Panama).

    Have a fantastic time, Spencer. Really looking forward to hearing more about your time there.

  6. Sounds absolutely perfect! Glad you are fitting right in down there Spencer! 🙂

  7. @Leigh, I love it! I feel the same way about Nicaragua, where I “had” to go for my own visa runs. And I just loved it there!

    I continue to be so happy for Spencer. So glad that everyone else is, too! Keep up the updates, Spence!

  8. Thanks guys for the awesome comments and support. I’m curious to explore the rest of Central America and see how this “feel” and ambiance differs in some of the other countries. It’s certainly a breath of fresh air.

  9. Wow, what a great post. So well written, it feels like the beginning of a travel book. I’m hooked and look forward to following your pure life in Costa Rica.

  10. Pura vida- I love it and it does roll off the tongue so easily! I think you made a good choice for a winter destination!

  11. Awesome! Glad you two will have this experience to share in the future. Online travel buds are the best.

  12. I think that’s my new favorite expression. Spencer, Abby … I want to go to Costa Rica. Now! 🙂

  13. Dave and Deb, That was the best comment ever.

    I do have a sofa with anyone’s name on it who wants to experience Pura Vida. I do find myself saying it more and more. It rolls off the tongue and it’s just refreshing.

  14. Pura Vida Spencer, CR is a total blast. And reading your post just makes me want to go back there as soon as I can. This said I am in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, if you want to drop by!

  15. Hope you’re continuing to enjoy your time… expectations? what, here… in the south? really? 😛

  16. I’m another Spencer so I just had to post a comment! Although I have never been there I have heard nothing but great things about Costa Rica. I will definitely have to go there one day.

  17. Great writing. I love that “pura vida” came so naturally to you, Spencer. That’s how I think of happiness.

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