Small Town Costa Rican Life

I made my escape to Costa Rica in May 2010, to teach English in San Jose. I recently discovered a beautiful little mountain town (where a friend lives) that’s an easy day trip from the capital.

Urasca is a small town in the province of Cartago, at about 3,000 feet above sea level. It has a climate quite different to San Jose—Costa Rica is marked by its micro-climates.

When we were looking for my friend’s home, a man walking by the side of the road offered to take me and my wife to the right house. It’s that kind of place. People sleep with their windows open at night, and neighbors drop by for an evening chat.

When I woke that first morning, I filled my lungs with what might be the freshest air I’ve ever breathed. Everywhere was breathtaking mountain views, a variety of bird song, and many different butterflies.

A guide took us hiking to a cool, stream-fed pond. The stream had cut a gully in the mountains, and we lodged ourselves there to enjoy the water as it splashed hard against our backs. We held hands and tried not to slip into the cold pond below, although we failed several times.

Now, thoroughly wet, we dried off as we walked back toward Urasca. We came across a family restaurant where you can catch the beefy tilapia fish, and the restaurant cooks it for you. We caught five or six fish. While we waited for them to cook, we had a few beers and played the restaurant’s domino and chess sets.

At night, when you are listening to the sounds of cicadas and birds, you realize that you are taking a rest that is far more profound than a solely physical rest.

It is very common for Costa Ricans to say pura vida (pure life) to one another. Well, when you are fighting for a spot on a bus in downtown San Jose, you won’t find a lot of pura vida. But there is a lot of it among the friendly, humble, kind people of Urasca, who like to smile a lot.

To be in Urasca is to feel as if time has stopped, and the larger world has fallen away. Some people felt honored that they were being visited by an actual North American!

We can’t wait to return—buying a home here will be the next step in our overseas adventure. You can buy property on the mountains of Urasca for about $30,000 to $35,000 per lot.

Editor’s note: Come to International Living’s Ultimate Event next month and get a complete soup-to-nuts action plan for every country on our radar—including Costa Rica. Learn more about the Ultimate Event here.

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