Pura vida: the motto of Costa Rica. It is written all over the buildings in San José, said multiple times a day by the locals, and you see it on almost every tourist item you can find. But what does it really mean? In English, it has the direct translation, “pure life.” But there is a more profound meaning to the people of Costa Rica and those who choose to visit. To define pura vida is to misunderstand it as merely a term. Pura vida is a lifestyle, and it is one that has to be experienced to be most completely understood.

I honestly felt the affects of Pura vida from the second I got off the plane in the airport in San José. Our luggage took over an hour to come out and switched carousels multiple times. Naturally, as an American girl who obviously over packed, I was feeling a little nervous that all my things were lost and I would be stranded in a foreign country with nothing but the clothes on my back, which were much too hot for the beautiful 80 degree weather, by the way. But, I was immediately comforted as I looked around to see that no one shared my concern. It took probably two and a half hours to get out of the airport. But, who cared? Pura vida. No rush.

The people of Costa Rica are the most genuinely happy people I have ever met in my life. From my experience in this culture so far, pura vida is a lifestyle choice. It is a choice to be happy as opposed to anything else. It is a choice to be constantly grateful for what you have and to express that gratitude as often as you feel it. It is a choice not to stress the little things like most of us Americans love to do. Life in Costa Rica is pure life. It’s not a gimmick. It wasn’t invented by some tourism industry to make money, and it’s on the lips of every day laborer working 12 hours a day, every street vendor hawking food on the corner, every retail worker, waitress, cop, lawyer and judge.

Pura vida is absolutely refreshing and everything I could ever want of out my study abroad experience. More than any souvenir, I am so excited to bring this lifestyle back with me when I return home. In just a short month, I have become an entirely more relaxed person, and I love it. I cannot wait to see what the next two months has in store and how it will affect my life back home for the absolute best.

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