Summer 2009, I just graduated and had no clue whatsoever what to do with my life. While most of my friends went off to university, I knew that before going into the grown-up world, I needed to see more of the world itself. And I wanted to improve (or better said – learn) my spanish which limited possible destinations. So I looked for volunteer work I could do, booked a flight and went to Costa Rica for 6 months.
The time I spend in Costa Rica was absolutely amazing. The landscape is just beautiful and everything one would imagine. I have never seen those things before…beaches with crystal clear water, jungle with waterfalls, monkeys running around, coffee plantations, volcanos…and the Ticos y Ticas (that´s what the local people call themselves) are extremly open, friendly and helpful. Costa Rica is one of the more stable and safe countries in latin america. The gap between rich and poor is not as big as in the neighbouring countries. The standart is still not as high as the average european is used too, but after living there for 6 months I can definately say, you don´t need all those things to be happy. I had no phone, no internet, warm water wasn´t always guaranteed and my bed had definately seen better days. But if you are forced to live without all the goodies that define our daily life, you realise that you have a lot more time and you find ways to use that time in a better way.
I stayed in Costa Rica with a local family and worked in a Kindergarten during the week. The weekends I would always be up and about, exploring the country. The country is really not that big, but it can take you up to forever to get from one place to the other. The streets often have big holes in them and the buses are really not that fast. Traffic rules exist, but nobody really cares about them. Bus stops are wherever you are, just wait for the bus and wave. But that is a big part of the Costa Rican lifestyle, just relax and enjoy the time. If the bus doesn´t come now, it´ll be here later. Pura vida!
Even though the country is so small, it has a lot to offer. The pacific and atlantic coast are very distinct, the north is defined by dry forest, while the south is covered in rain forest. The climate is also very different. It´s extremly hot at the coast, pleasently warm in the center of the country, the region around the capital San José and it can get pretty cold and foggy if you get up to the mountains. And since the visa only allows you to stay in the country for 3 months, a trip to Panama is always a good option to get out of the country for a couple days and then re-enter the country.
I never regretted making that trip to Costa Rica. I met amazing people, learned a lot about myself, found out that traveling is what I truly need in my life and got to know a country and a culture that is the complete opposite of the one of Germany.
Cuando viene el bus? – Ya casi, pura vida!