The Happiness that is Costa Rica

Pura Vida or Pure life is a saying that I had hardly heard of before I began considering traveling to Costa Rica to see what the surfing was like. I was looking for a great place to surf with warm water that hopefully wasn’t a tourist trap. Costa Rica has some of the most outstanding surf spots in the world along with the most diverse ecosystem in the western hemisphere. Monkeys, crocodiles, scorpions, parrots, dogs and dolphins all live here.

I traveled to Costa Rica alone for my birthday in order to escape the city life and to surf. I did not know anyone else who had been there, and my family thought it could be dangerous to travel to Central America alone but this was something I needed to do. It is one of the things I think all women need to do once in their lives, travel alone. Dominical, the place I chose, is a small dirt road village of about 200 people. Home of the Costa Rican national surf competitions. Many surfers around the world frequent here as well as the music and yoga culture to make the beach a dance floor during the Envision festival.

My first experience as I got off the plane was being greeted by my driver, a laid-back bleach blonde Costa Rican native, let’s call him Toad. He greeted me to a van that made me a little weary at first, but I decided to trust in the Universe… and the girl on the phone at the hotel who sent him. By one hour in the drive we were both singing Red Hot Chilli Peppers songs cruising down the highway and he asked me to move to Costa Rica to be in his band. I wasn’t going to do that but a lot of girls did move to Costa Rica after the first time they visited. I soon found this out. After all of the singing in the car I made it safely to Dominical and Toad was alright in my book.

I experience so much here that enriched me. I had an iguana who hung out on my front porch. I came home to a group of crabs dancing outside my door. I had a scorpion crawl above my table at lunch. We caught our own fish, swam in crocodile infested rivers and surfed amazing waves.

The locals never really went inside their homes unless it was to sleep, there was really no need to. All of the restaurants were outdoors and the sunsets were the most beautiful I had ever seen, the water was water was a constant 82 degrees.

Here live the happiest dogs in the world. The dogs here do not have owners, but rather the community takes care of them the same. Leaving food out in different places and letting them sleep, well, wherever.

Blankets and hand woven tropical articles of clothing hang from lines connected to palm trees in a maze to give tourists something to spend their money on.

There are many places in the world where we could go and realize that people are so much happier than us with so much less. Most unnecessarily, we go against the grain, stress ourselves out and destroy our bodies to achieve what we think success might be. We end up with bodies that we don’t feel good about, poor health, in a nice car and a big house to show everyone.We are told that this is the definition of successful. We know deep down inside what we love, but we are scared of doing it. Many times we are afraid of going after our calling because it seems unconventional, or it might make less money. That takes away our sense of self and our unique identity?

We can easily fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others, which unfortunately is easy to do now with social media. We compare ourselves with our friends and colleagues’ personal marketing campaigns for their identities.  It resembles a secret competition to check in with each other and see where normal people are supposed to be in life. The humor is, others are going through the same struggle.

What I have learned from those people who live in Costa Rica, who don’t have big houses and give surfing lessons for a living, live in small cottages and have no masters degree is that they are happier than most people I have met with access to all of those things because they have friends that they see every day, they get exercise and they eat good food. Let us not forget that they have dogs running around everywhere. They are surrounded with an appreciation for natures forces and embrace all other people who come from around the world that want to spend time with them. There was no exclusion in this community. These are the things that matter. This is why I beleive that Costa Ricans are so happy.

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The Salt of The Earth – A documentary that takes you across the world evoking emotion and inspiring change

Nothing is more valuable or worth our time than moments that change our prospective on the world and inspire us to grow. Whether it be quality time with  friends or taking the initiative to educate ourselves  on a subject we didn’t know about before. It is something to think about how our world would be if we strived to be the best version of ourselves for the progress of the human race. We are capable of love, compassion, growth and things we might think impossible. We can have the life we want, as soon as we stop thinking only about ourselves.

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Sebastião Selgado is photographer and photo journalist that is known for his intense and captivating photos of the human condition all over the world. His photos can take us back to the beginning of time with his ability to find places in this world today that have been untouched. Salgado would spend decades at a  time in places with no contact with the outside world, immersing himself in environments overcome with starvation, genocides, war violence and famine. Traveling to over 100 countries,  Salgado has been able to rediscover tribes of indigenous peoples and live amongst those who have no records of existence since the Bible. Salgado is the founder of the Institute De Terra in Brasil where he and his wife had replanted an entire rainforest in the Valley of The River Doce as a project after much of the land in the area was devastated by a drought. You can click on the link here and see what has managed to be done within in 15 years with this project.http://www.institutoterra.org

Salgado’s last project Genesis, was devoted to inspiring those to see how important it is to protect the world we live in.

This is a documentary that is inspiring, moving and may inspire one to look at the world through different lenses. The link to the trailer is below.

We can take a picture that communicates, one where we can see the problems and the people from around the world. We show the people of Bangladesh to others so they can understand them. I have tried to bring about better communication between people. I believe that humanitarian photography is like economics. Economy is a kind of sociology, as is documentary photography. – Sebastiao Salgad

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Serra Pelada Mine Worker in Brasil 1986 

Mine Workers- Sebstião Salgado

Zo’é Women in the Amazon Brasil

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Sebastião Salgado, Fallen worker: A fire fighter from the Safety Boss team knocked unconscious by a blast of gas from the wellhead, Kuwait, 1991

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Giant tortoise on the Galapagos Islands

Blinded by Sandstorms and infections, this woman waits for food distribution, Mali 1985.

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Refugees in Korem Camp, Ethiopia

Sources: http://www.icp.org/exhibitions/sebastião-salgado-genesis