Paradise Is My HomeTown

Reflections On 15 Years In Costa Rica


Marley here. I usually do all the writing because I love it and Rick doesn't. I thought, this time, it'd be interesting to hear his story.

He and his family moved to Costa Rica when he was 8 and he stayed there until he was twenty-two. 

Take it away, Rick.

It's crazy to think that about 40% of Americans never move away from their hometown. That number is probably higher in other Countries.

Growing up in Costa Rica, I thought I would never leave. I enjoyed every minute growing up there. But, here I am, almost 3000 miles North trying to figure out how to walk in the snow and deciding where to go next. 

Becoming An Expat At 8

My mother and I were both born in Guam, and I'm grateful that I got more of her genes than my father's, because it allowed me to blend in in Costa Rica without too many questions.

Nevertheless, working in a bar for the last four years meant getting a lot of the same questions from tourists. They would be surprised that my English was so good and wanted to know my history. Many of them assumed that I was an "army brat".

That's not the case.

My parents met in Guam when my father was a sailor. After a few years in Louisiana, he brought me, my mom, and three of my sisters to Playas Del Coco, Costa Rica where his brother was exploring business opportunities.

I was 8 and nervous, but he convinced me with his wild descriptions of monkeys hanging out in town and the giant iguanas that would be lounging in the sun everywhere. 

We packed our bags, got our residency, and I wouldn't leave until 15 years later.

Growing Up "Pura Vida"

Costa Rica is said to be one of the happiest places on Earth, and I truly believe that after spending my childhood and adolescence there.

It took me a while to "perfecto" my Spanish, and those first couple of months in school were very hard. I was thrown into a school where all but one of my classes were exclusively Spanish. I would bide my time in class waiting for recess so I could play soccer.

After a while, I was put into a private school where it became a lot easier and I was speaking fluently in no time. 

While I rarely left my little town, I grew up living "the pure life". "Pura Vida" is a Costa Rican saying and way of life. It emphasizes living simply, appreciating all that you have, and slowing down to enjoy all the beauty around you.

Even though I left, I appreciate growing up in this way and I don't think I'll ever lose the ability to live by this philosophy.

I think it was very valuable being raised in Playas Del Coco, not as a privileged tourist but as a local, and I think it's easy for tourists to lose sight of the real culture behind any given destination.

My Playas Del Coco

Playas Del Coco is a little beach town. It's a tourist destination, a party town, and my hometown. 

It doesn't have the best beach, and to Marley's dismay, you won't find half and half for your coffee, but Coco Beach has everything you could need.

I got a job at Coconutz, the local sports bar (actually a "Packers bar", but open to all football denominations) and worked my way up the ladder there over the course of four years. 

I became popular with many of the tourists that would return year after year and I had really established myself in the tiny town, even after most of my family had left. I became very comfortable and complacent, and I'm glad I got out and am trying to do more with my life. 

Like many of the locals, I didn't grow up experiencing Costa Rica like a tourist does. I still have so much more to see and explore there.

Getting Too Comfortable

Being comfortable is great. To a certain extent. I loved living in Costa Rica. It was paradise. 

But, at the same time, I needed to leave in order to grow as a person or make anything of my life outside of working in restaurants and tourism. 

I became kind of stuck doing the same thing but wanting more. Like Einstein says:

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results"

I had worked my way up to a better position at the bar, sure, but I always daydreamed about being on the other side of the bar, exploring somewhere new. As long as I stayed there, nothing would ever change.

It's really hard to make big changes and decisions in your life when you're so comfortable. It took a big push to get me out of Coco. I am grateful that Marley came into my life when she did because she expanded my perspective and encouraged me to pursue more.

If it weren't for her, I would still be working at the bar. I'd be comfortable, but I'd never progress.

Why You Should Move To (or at least visit) Costa Rica

If you've been to Costa Rica you'll understand why it was hard for me to leave. If you're considering going there, you'll get it soon. 

The people, the lifestyle, and the incredible wildlife and landscape will make you fall in love. The "ticos" will welcome you and make you feel at home. 

If you go to Costa Rica, don't stay in a resort. Go to the small towns and get a real picture of what it's like to live there. I promise you won't regret it. The people will become your friends, you'll live the real pure life, and you might just see the howler monkeys howling above Coconutz while you eat.

If you've never left your hometown, your state, or your country, I can't recommend getting out and exploring enough. 

Costa Rica taught me to live positively, how to be grateful for every little thing, and how to live simply and happily. Costa Rica taught me the importance of friends and family and nature. 

But leaving taught me that there's a lot more to life and to people, that there's a whole world to explore, that I can do anything, and that anywhere can be paradise and paradise is what you make it. 

Coco Beach will always be there and next time I go back to Costa Rica, I'll be on the other side of the bar.

As always, thanks for reading, and don't forget to follow the sloth!

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