As I get accustomed to being back home in a freezing cold Manchester, England. My friend and travel partner whilst in Playa Samara has taken the time to write a reflection of his adventure. A stroke of misfortune saw Lewis return home a lot sooner than me, but his words show just how much he misses it. I will be posting a short reflection of my own over the next few days.
The saying life can change in the blink of an eye is well-renowned, it’s clichéd and often leaves one rolling their eyes when hearing it. Yet in my case, it is a saying which rings true. To be a little more accurate, the dramatic change in my life has occurred over a series of several blinks throughout the past few months.
Back in July I found myself located in a small coastal village named Samara in Costa Rica. Each morning I would be woken by the endearing rays of the Central American sun warming my face. I would lie there a few moments, basking in the peace and tranquillity which I knew were impossible to replicate back home in the UK. I have never experience such a relaxed vibe, and it was one which I found myself quickly becoming accustomed too. There were no noisy alarms or no hectic traffic, I would simply stretch out and take a deep breath, content in the knowledge that another day in this tropical haven lay in wait before me.
A typical day back in July began with a freshly brew Costa Rican coffee, I mean as if there was any other way right?! I would sit out on my balcony and lose myself in the most spectacular view. A picturesque vision of the ocean lined with palm trees, a sight deserving of a gallery in which to be gazed. It was views such as these that led me to conclude that the belief in a higher power, a creator, must exist. For how could such beauty have happen purely by coincidence…
After regaining focus, and finishing my coffee I would venture down to my local soda, a short two minute cycle from my apartment, to enjoy the traditional Costa Rican breakfast Gallo Pinto; a mixture of eggs, rice and beans. With the beach front only One fifty yards away I would leave my bike each morning at the soda and wander down to the beach for a swim. This was always the highlight of my day. I wouldn’t for one moment say I was ignorant, however looking back now it was hard at the time to truly appreciate how lucky I was in those moments each morning. Something which has become all too evident in recent weeks.
The rest of my day would continue in similar fashion. I would head down to the local language school and spend a few hours preparing for the classes I was due to teach during the afternoon. A short interval down at the beach would separate the morning from the afternoons, during which I would often stroll along the waters front memorising my notes for the afternoon classes. With teaching throughout, the afternoons would always fly by. They were amazing fun and the people I met whilst teaching taught me so much about Costa Rica and it’s culture, something which I will talk about more a little further on…
After finishing teaching I would head back to my new found home and freshen up, a quick cool wash in the outside shower, before heading out to another of the local sodas with a few friends. Here we would be treated to divine homemade cuisine, all for a small price of $3.50!! Always leaving satisfied I would head towards the beach and enjoy a few cervezas and the odd tequila to the accompanying sound of reggae. How I wished this could have been forever!
Each day would conclude with a stroll home along the beach with the stars acting as a GPS to my apartment.
I now often find myself lost, reminiscing back to my time in Costa Rica. Each memory seemingly so detached from the current life I lead that they could easily pass as someone else’s. Since returning to the UK I have begun work at a financial advisory company. My days are spent cooped up in an office, eyes fixated on a computer screen. Whilst the differences couldn’t be greater, a change in daily routine and occupation aren’t the biggest contrasts I have noticed since returning. The cultural differences between the two countries are amazing and it is these differences which I feel compelled to write about further. It is only after you have experienced two cultures can you truly appreciate their differences, and in this instance they are vast.
I was asked only a few weeks back how I felt about my time in Costa Rica. Whilst many adjectives came to the forefront of my mind, the best way I could describe it was that I felt like I was actually living. Spending each day relaxing on the beach, eating out, meeting new people, my life was an adventure. However, when I recall to the feeling of living, it wasn’t just the adventure to which I refer. In Costa Rica life is appreciated. What I mean by this is that Ticos take life at their own pace. Here in the UK everyone goes through life at 100mph, never taking a moment to actually enjoy life the way it is meant to be. Life is a miracle, no doubt about it. Yet the majority of us let it pass by without ever truly experiencing the wonders it has to offer.
For example, I now spend five days a week back here in the UK cooped up in an office. There’s no beach in the morning or eating breakfast sat out in the glorious sunshine. I now wake up to spend forty minutes commuting on busy roads to spend nine hours each day sat behind a computer screen. The reason being? Because here in the UK this is the cultural norm. This is what is expected of us. I’m not for one second suggesting that everyone in Costa Rica sits by and does nothing bar enjoy a relaxing life. Far from it! It’s just that despite having full time jobs and other commitments, they still find the time to appreciate the wonders life has to offer.
The difference in pace is reflected in all aspects of the two cultures. One of the more noticeable aspects is one which I have mentioned briefly previously, the diets.
Here in the UK fast-food is the fashion. fast-food chains, takeaways and three minute microwaves meals populate our lunch and evening meals. Eating is somewhat a chore, a necessity here in the UK. Food is no longer eaten for pleasure during our busy weeks. Going out for a meal is seen as an occasion and more often than not requires a reason for doing so. The number of my colleagues who shove a microwaved ready meal down their throats to simply return to their desk as quickly as possible amazes me! Eating is a massive part of my life. It’s more than just a chore for me, it’s more of a hobby.
When I reflect on my diet in Costa Rica, whilst being extremely delicious, the most memorable facet was how fresh everything was. Ready meals don’t exist, everything is freshly prepared and cooked for your order. Food over there is more than a necessity, there is pride within Costa Rican cuisine. Come the evening meal and you’ll find the whole family sat around a table enjoying a home-cooked meal and one another’s company. The contrast couldn’t be more different to back home! Here we sit in front of a TV with our meals balanced upon our laps, mindlessly filling our mouths whilst silently staring at a moving picture on a box. How the normality of this pains me! Whatever happened to the 1960’s mealtimes where families sat together and discussed their days? It seems they have not managed to keep up with the pace of life in modern Britain.
The final difference I wish to touch upon was one I noticed whilst out in Costa Rica, and relates to the perceived responsibilities of family. In Costa Rica family is central to one’s life. A family functions very similarly to one back here in the UK. However, one noticeable difference is that as one’s children become young adults they aren’t pressured to find jobs and move out of the family home. In Costa Rica many young adults life at home with their parents until they reach their 30s. This isn’t seen as a cultural taboo unlike back here. They are supported by their willing parents until they are comfortable making a living themselves, whether that be in their 20s or 30s.
The absence of retirement complexes was also noticeable. The elderly members of my English classes all lived with their children and their grandchildren out of choice not necessity. It is seen as a responsibility to look after your parents later in life just as they did for you earlier. This couldn’t be more conflicting with the treatment of the elderly in the UK who more often than not find themselves place into care or retirement complexes. The reason for this is because our 100mph life styles don’t allow for the time to care for those more dependent on others and as a result often leaves them isolated from their families. I know if I have the choice out of the two options when I’m older which I’ll prefer!
Overall my time in Costa Rica was an unforgettable experience, and one which has only left me wanting to explore our world further. From the places I visited, to the people I met and the food I ate, Costa Rica is one amazing place! The UK may be classed as more advanced economically, but in terms of culture and lifestyle there is no question who wins… Costa Rica gets my vote all day long!!
Until the next adventure,
Adios mis amigos!