The simple life isn’t enough…REALLY???


By Kenneth Justice

~ “There’s not enough culture here in Costa Rica, we much prefer Mexico than here” she said

At coffee yesterday morning here in Costa Rica an older Italian couple sat down next to me and we talked for a couple hours. Although they had traveled extensively throughout Central and South America, this was their first visit to Costa Rica,

We really enjoy the beauty of the country, and the people seem to have a really deep seated love of nature….but we had a much better time on our trip to Mexico because there was so much more culture to be found” said the older woman.

It’s not a secret that Costa Rica did not develop a thriving art or music scene over the last couple hundred years because Costa Rican’s were never very influenced by the Spanish conquistador’s and other European conqueror’s of 500 years ago; you see, when the Europeans made it to the Costa Rican coast the Native American’s simply fled to the mountains and the Spanish decided they didn’t feel like roaming through the mountainous country to murder all of the locals (they also heard there was no gold to be found here so they didn’t have much motivation)…..

So in Costa Rica the Pure Life (Pura Vida) involves living a more simple life…….and some visitors to the country don’t like that.

Costa Rica is a coffee house culture. The locals and many of the American and Europeans Ex-Patriots who live here enjoy sitting around at little beach side cafรฉ’s and simply talking about life, their travels, or whatever little conversational topic happens to come up.

A local Tica preparing a typical Costa Rican breakfast of Casados

A local Tica preparing a typical Costa Rican breakfast of Casados

—) Costa Rican’s aren’t too concerned with trying to change the world

—) Costa Rican’s have no desire to rise towards being the most technologically advanced society

—) Costa Rican’s do not spend much of their time thinking, “What should I do with my life”

Costa Rican’s are at peace with growing up in a little community surrounded by all their family and friends, and then one day they hope to meet someone they love and have a family of their own, “Pura Vida” they say. They are not really distracted with trying to ‘figure out their life’….they are simply grateful to be alive and enjoy the beauty of creation.

I can understand why the Italian couple and others have told me they desire the deeper developed culture of places like Mexico, Argentina, and Peru….I too love to drink in the music, the fine art, and those other types of elements when I travel.

Perhaps I am wrong, but I don’t really see anything wrong with the laid back Pura Vida life of Costa Rica. Is there a manual somewhere that says every society must be obsessed with becoming a fast paced culture, develop a thriving art and music scene, and instill within children an obsession with finding some deeper meaning to life?

The Costa Rican’s are a very religious people. The state religion is Roman Catholic, but they are not dogmatic or religiously rigid in any way. They are very laid back about their faith and religion and seem to demonstrate a peace about the whole thing, “We don’t pressure our children to marry a certain type of person” a local told me, “Because there are so many people who live in Costa Rica from all over the world most Costa Rican’s have become okay with their daughters and sons marrying a non-Costa Rican

I explained some of this to the Italian Couple I was talking with and tried to find out if they could accept this different perspective about life…..yet while they understood what I was saying, they still stuck to their philosophy that Costa Rica is simply deficient and void of ‘true culture’.

Perhaps each of us are in different places in life. For some people, going on a journey where they can be surrounded by beautiful massive architecture built thousands of years ago is what they need to find some type of inspiration or joy……

For others, simply visiting a country where you can enjoy the harmony of an almost entirely untouched jungle and wildlife is pretty satisfying enough. That is what has always impressed me the most about Costa Rica; there are few places in the world that have as much unspoiled coast lines and massive amounts of wildlife and biodiversity that can be found in this little Central American country.

Costa Rica is for the person that wants to see the beauty of nature……before humanity stepped in and started building concrete roads, factories…..and everything else.

a monkey on the roof of my hotel room

a monkey on the roof of my hotel room

The country is developed enough that travel from one place to another is extremely easy……yet thankfully, Costa Rican’s are passionate about doing no more than the bare minimum when it comes to harming the environment and nature around them.

Costa Rica is one of the few places in the world where you can see so many different monkey species, sloths, Jaguars, Panthers, Parrots…..and all of the other thousands of animals that are lurking around every corner. The Costa Rican’s have figured out a way for humans to live and enjoy life….without having destroying the world around them.

The pure life is not for everyone. Sitting around at a coffee shop alongside the ocean and talking about life isn’t what everyone wants……but for now, I’m enjoying every moment of it.


(P.S. If you havenโ€™t heard Iโ€™m currently on a national and worldwide tour of 100 coffee houses in 2014 check out my link for the news and stay tuned for dates and locations )

Categories: Drinking in the Culture

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84 replies

  1. Costa Rica is on my list of places to go someday – I think I could definitely handle the pura vida.

  2. sounds about as close to heaven as one can get! Thank you for your coffee-house series: I’m traveling vicariously through you!

  3. Sounds exactly like the kind of place I want to be. Thanks for sharing. Maybe I will have to check it out someday

  4. What is so beautiful about this one? Just the simplicity of you having fun in your own way. The sand between your toes kinda blog. Only two hours talking? You are slacking. And so you should. Your year is going to be exhausting. Chill and chill some more. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Paul,

      i keep thinking what you wrote, “my year is going to be exhausting” lol….oh well, such is life; if you want to gain something you have to put in a little effort, or in this case a lot of effort.

    • Sympathy? Nil. Cohojos? Present (take that as a guess on my part). Sand between the toes? A state of mind. Changing the world? One day at a time. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Thanks for the post…it’s amazing that by searching for what one couple defines as “culture” can cause them to lose sight of the beauty that is right in front of them.

  6. nice, nice, nice – thanks for all the photos – from inside at the counter (wight he press pots and Bunn?) to the monkeys on the roof!
    Sounds like a very warm place – and got me thinking about โ€˜true cultureโ€™

    also enjoyed this:
    “Perhaps each of us are in different places in life”

    oh, and this – how CR has
    “much unspoiled coast lines and massive amounts of wildlife and biodiversity” – have a nice day Mr. Monk.

    • Yvette,

      i think a lot of us (especially those of us who have numerous college degrees) have the propensity of getting distracted by the thought that ‘culture’ is limited to art, music, and things HUMANS create….whereas, we forget that the earth, in all its unspoiled beauty is truly the greatest marvel of art ever created….its from the hand of the creator that we see what true artistry is

    • .`..and things HUMANS create’ and hence the cause of the many problems humanity faces in the world today. Technology has succeeded in severing humanity’s `phantom-umbilical’ from its Mother: Earth.

  7. Keep your drinks and money away from those monkeys. You may corrupt them. I have read about alcoholic monkeys at resorts around the world. Just yesterday I saw a shot of a monkey putting stolen change into a snack machine to get chips. Be like Captain Kirk. Leave the natives be.

  8. Note to self: GET YOUR ASS TO COSTA RICA!

    Nice post! ๐Ÿ˜Š

  9. So very lovely, seeing it through your eyes. ๐Ÿ˜€

  10. How more pure can it be when one is living in, on with and off the land they walk on. Breathing it day and night. Culture?. that is culture in it purest form. But we foreigners live to fast to see it.
    Thumbs up on a great post.

  11. Great post as always.

    It reminds me of the famous poem ‘Leisure’ by the Welsh poet William Henry Davies:

    “What is this life if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare.
    No time to stand beneath the boughs
    And stare as long as sheep or cows.
    No time to see, when woods we pass,
    Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
    No time to see, in broad daylight,
    Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
    No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
    And watch her feet, how they can dance.
    No time to wait till her mouth can
    Enrich that smile her eyes began.
    A poor life this if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare.”

    Costa Rican’s seem to live the poem ๐Ÿ™‚

    Take care

  12. The purity you describes sounds totally inviting to me.

  13. Kenneth, what you have just described is my ideal of Heaven on Earth. I think in many ways, technology and advancement have spoiled both mankind and this earth. I like simple. Simple honestly works.

    Thank you for writing this. I really enjoyed it!!

  14. sounds like im FROM Costa Rica

  15. Ahhhhhh, la pura vida. Yo me gusto mucho. Hehehehehe. I speak fluent Portuguese and fluent Portaรฑol.

    “Culture is the characteristics of a particular group of people, defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts.” –
    –I guess some people don’t really understand the true nature of ‘culture’. Or maybe they just want certain aspects of the culture, ie: music, arts, architecture. I would say that you are truly ‘drinking in’ the rich culture of Costa Rica.

    Blessings =)

  16. Welcome to Paradice!
    Simple, natural, original and peaceful place to live. Quality and beauty of Costa Rica sounds marvelous.( I think you should stop bragging about it.๐Ÿ˜ƒ not so pretty in MI)
    I believe that passion people are inspired by beauty of nature.

  17. If I want culture I go to Italy if I want warmer people I go to Spain but once you are visiting a country you cannot compare one to another, as they are different. Why to visit then?Just for moaning? Enjoy your trip Kenneth, it sounds relaxing.

    • Dana,

      I’ve asked a couple locals for you about foreigners worker here and I’m getting the vibe that they don’t hand out Visa’s too easily to foreigners…..the American’s and Europeans I’ve me tall seem to work as bartenders and servers in restaurants and seem to work for tips because the pay scale is pretty low compared to our monetary system

    • Thank you, Kenneth. Doesn’t work so well in this case….

  18. I suddenly want to visit Costa Rica, what you described in this post sounds positively delightful.

  19. Costa Rica is on my list of places that I’d like to live. I, too, lived the ready access to nature, except the iguanas. I have this silly fear of iguanas which even extends to lizards, so my visit to Manuel Antonio National park put me on high alert. I’d take sitting on my bed watching lava flow down a live volcano to any supposed “culture” of other locales.
    I’ve heard it said that Costa Ricans don’t know any better, but I love that a country, a people, with a literacy rate of over 90% embraces “Pura Vida” over “culture.” They know something that most of us don’t know, but should.

    I’m glad that you are having a great start to your year. I am insanely envious. ๐Ÿ™‚ Vaya con Dios. Blessings, Lydia

    • Thank you Lydia,

      and you’re right the National Park in Manuel Antonio is so awesome, I’ve been there a few times and its the only place on earth where I’ve seen as many animals as they have..its really incredible

  20. I have alway entertained the thought of retreating to a small jungle island in the east china sea called Iromote (in 64 I did my jungle training there) but who knows what it is like now . . . . BUT your Costarica is much closer and current . . . I will change my dream destination to Costarica. . .

    How large is the ex pat population and what about the crime rate and the stability of government?

    • JJ,

      virtually no violent crime….lots of petty thievery like anywhere else…..the ex pat population is huge in certain cities…less in others, depends where ya go

  21. Interesting stuff, thanks for sharing.
    A Servant

  22. It sounds amazing there. I definitely love the culture, the art, the music of other places for sure and I’m sure at some point I would need to leave Costa Rica so as to get some of that but certainly, the pura vida sounds amazing. I certainly could handle that for a good while. I’m sure Italians would have a hard time with that given how much culture is in their neck of the woods. I love Italy! It’s an amazing place for sure and so gorgeous (maybe not Costa Rica gorgeous but still). I think why I love culture so much is because there’s so much history to absorb in it. If Costa Rica doesn’t have as much history (so to speak), then yeah I can see why that wouldn’t be as interesting, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a great stay/vacation. It’s just different. Different is good. I’m such a music fiend though, that I must admit it would be hard not to have much of that going on around me. To me music is such an important facet of culture. ๐Ÿ™‚ But that’s just me.

    • Jen,

      yea, I think one merely needs to appreciate and understand the differences between countries. The couple I met had simple come here looking for the wrong thing….because if they had seen this as a place to connect with nature they would have had an entirely different experience

  23. ‘Costa Rica is a coffee house culture. The locals and many of the American and Europeans Ex-Patriots who live here enjoy sitting around at little beach side cafรฉโ€™s and simply talking about life, their travels, or whatever little conversational topic happens to come up.’

    Sounds like my kind of place, Kenneth.
    Did you get the monkey’s name? How awesome is that little visitor!

  24. Tambiรฉn quiero vivir la “pura vida”! Lucky you!!! Thank you so much for sharing. ยกDisfrute lo!

  25. I can relate to the Italian couple quite well. I spent more than 40 years in the San Francisco Bay area and there is so much culture and diversity within an hours drive that I really never tired of living there and if it weren’t so expensive…I’d return in a flash. My husband grew up in Syracuse and was very involved in the music industry and the history…well, that’s everywhere. I have to admit that I was impressed at how much activity they had going on during the nicer months. We have both relocated to Florida and to be quite honest, we both consider it to be culturally lacking. The weather is AWESOME!!!! We will stay because of the weather and we have gotten used to road trips to get our culture fixes.

    We both love the idea of having island time…for us that is our time away from everyone else. In the series LOST, we would be Rose and Bernard…no drama…not interested…But, I wonder how long I would feel comfortable with the simple life.

    • Yea, that was always my beef with florida as well; very little culture….and for me, too much of florida was lacking in the wildlife and nature because its simply so flat….but I do like southern florida and the swamps and down by the Keys ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I don’t know about them alligators…even where I am you might see a gator in your back yard in you live near a retention pond or river. I am a water lover…as in live in the water…alligators and snakes sharing the same water just takes the fun out of it!

      I am more of a historical buff that swamp girl…St Augustine is may favorite town…and the tourists are European, quite different that American tourists.

    • don’t get me wrong I love history and art….for a long time I considered being an art major in college……and I love St. Augustine, went there a few times when I used to live in florida…but I also love being outdoors ๐Ÿ™‚

    • So glad you are doing this while you’re young…wish I had made it a priority when I was younger…age does creep up on you and suddenly things that used to be easy take some effort…hiking and walking long distances are one example…Pura Vida becomes way more attractive then.

  26. Your posts are like a breath of fresh air in a world that hums with noise. ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. Having travelled a lot in the 1970s I’m not sure that you can ever compare countries like the Italian couple obviously did. Each country and culture is different from the next and all have their good and bad points.

    Perhaps Costa Rica is just too laid back for most modern westerners. Seems to me modern society just doesn’t know how to slow down and live the Good Life. They are too busy chasing each other’s tails and acquiring material possessions. I often meet people who envy my simple and slow life and yet…….they still insist of making their own life more complicated (than it needs to be).

  28. We could learn a lot from them. I’ve been enjoying you travels. Thanks for the updates.

  29. We could learn a lot from them about the pure life. Have been enjoying your commentary. Thanks

  30. Do they have fire ants? And are Costa Rican monkeys dangerously aggressive? Since they’re so into nature do they have pet boa constrictors or other presumably dangerous critters for pets? I don’t think I could enjoy a Costa Rican cup of coffee if I had to chase a curious monkey who stole my wallet or cell phone.

  31. Ok I am converted and ready to pack my bags…. oh ya I guess I live in the country here in the US and even though I do not have the ocean view that you have today, I do have the luxury of living a very very simple life and culture is really everywhere. If one looks every environment on earth has some thing important to offer. I just don’t need to get dressed up and travel by train to pay 50 a seat to see a good musician play or pay to eat ethnic food… I can eat a wonderful meal any where on the planet and usually the best food is from some old womans kitchen and the best entertainment is her telling you the stories of her youth and watching her husband play him guitar on the back porch. Again I will now add a trip to Costa Rica to my Bucket list.

  32. Sounds like my kind of heaven… Costa Rica is certainly on my places to travel, when that day comes in my life. ๐Ÿ™‚

  33. It reminds me of trying to explain to more urbanized folk what I enjoy about living where I do. The complaints are similar to those of the Italian couple you met, BUT people also disparage the semi-arid, desert nature of where I live, and the river basin steppe land dotted with sagebrush. The shadow of Hanford looms large, and many people have negative images of that nuclear age legacy. They also say our area is devoid of culture, too, and long to depart for the Seattle area. One person told me even Spokane two and half hours to the north is too “sleepy”.

    I don’t care much. I like sleepy. And the desert-ish sagebrush steppe has its own charms, albeit very different from a tropical paradise. Culture can be found, if you look for it, and the power of agriculture is much stronger east of the Cascades, thanks to irrigation technology.

  34. shame the rest of the world does not have the same outlook on life, I crave for a simple life too

  35. I am moving to Costa Rica tomorrow. Meanwhile I just close my eyes and imagine vividly the Heavenly Paradise you have just described so marvelously before I fall asleep. Love your writing style and your passion for coffee!
    Thank you for this amazing post.

  36. I’d love to go bird-watching there one day. The Ara Project is there.

  37. Wonderful blog post, Kenneth. I have had the pleasure of visiting Costa Rica twice in my life. What a beautiful country and gracious people! A highlight of our last visit was having lunch and drinking coffee at a small restaurant nestled within a coffee plantation on the road to Poas. Lovely setting and delicious fare! Thanks for bringing back the memories. ๐Ÿ™‚

  38. there is this saying: each to his own. Can’t blame someone for liking something different than you. At least they gave it a try.


  1. The simple life isn’t enough…REALLY??? | MadeleineMaya

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