Becoming ‘Pura Vida’ en Costa Rica

Click. I hung up the phone with Delta. Thirty-five thousand sky miles, all earned as a management consultant exchanged for a round trip ticket to San Jose, Costa Rica. This time – no assignment; my travel was personal and with purpose.

typical view of the coast...

Turning back was no longer an option. The travel sabbatical I talked about for years was set in motion, and all I needed to do now… tell my boss, girlfriend, friends, and family.  Easy. Yes, all very simple, or so I told myself.

At the time, autumn 2004, the idea was not new. When people asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I told them, “Travel.” Even my laptop login password referenced my next adventure.  A full year off, well, I had dreamed of the trip for years.

I dreamed of touching the soil and sand of new countries and continents.  I had dreamed of surfing distant oceans, and dreamed of all the new colorful cultures I was set to explore on the road.  I dreamed. But then, just over five years ago, that dream became reality. A cool November morning with Bush celebrating a second term, I left the country.

For nearly seven weeks I traveled through Costa Rica. I learned enough Spanish to secure a position in Mexico City years later; I surfed enough sessions to retire my long board and carve waves on a 6’8’’.  I witnessed lava flow down Mount Arenal, soaked in natural hot springs, zip-lined thru the jungle, understood (and enjoyed) eco-tourism, paddled a kayak to a remote waterfall, took on class 5 river rapids and toasted my Imperial (local beer) to amazing sunsets. I truly began to understand the ‘pura vida!’ mantra. Yes Sir, I lived.

Costa Rica catapulted me into an extended sabbatical that covered three continents, fifteen countries and nearly a year of my life. Plus, I recently learned I am not alone with that origin. Nomadic Matt started his life changing journey with a trip to the same Central American country.  And when I read he started a contest to give away a trip to Costa Rica I thought; enter.


the sands of Manuel Antonio...

the sands of Manuel Antonio...

So why return to Costa Rica?

Did you just read how Costa Rica kicked off one of the best years of my life? Did you take note of the potential adventures that await a return visit? Don’t you think I’d want to return? Answer: Yes

OK, why else?

I recently discovered Gap Adventures. Yes, we share ‘adventure’ in our brand, but as I learn more about the company’s mission, tours, and its employees (New York Office), I’d welcome the opportunity to travel with them.  And if you win, your tour is through Gap Adventures.

Any other reason?

Yes, many. But perhaps most importantly – I’d like to spread the word.  Many people, including many of my readers, desire change in their life and for those that seek adventure, this is a great contest to enter, and a great country to visit. A trip such as this might just push you forward to making bigger changes in your life. It did for me and apparently it did for Matt too. Buen Suerte. (That’s good luck in Spanish – you’ll learn)

Stay adventurous, Craig

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  • Sunil


    You never cease to inspire me, just enough though to think about chucking it all up and heading to the place I was the happiest: Asia – the ginza district of Tokyo, the crowded markets of HongKong around the Chungking mansion in Kowloon, the IFC for good dining, the south side of HKG island for bargains, across the main land to LuoHu in China for a GQ look at 1/10th of the cost, the open food market in Singapore, a private island where I honeymooned in the Maldives, the sea washed white powder beaches of South Goa, the ayurvedic massages in Kerala, the back-waters, the Tata tea estates, waking up to hot tea and seeing a herd of elephants go by, the princely streets and forts in Rajasthan, the historical monuments of NDelhi and of course where I grew up in Mumbai, the lanes of the market of thieves for super bargains. As I think of the city which exists cheek by jowl with millionaires and slumdogs, I wonder why o why don’t you inspire me enough to not just think but also act upon it.

    I will always be adventurous mate.

    cheers, sunil

  • Jennifer @ Approach Guides

    Bueno! What a great story! Interestingly, Costa Rica is very important to my development too – it was the first trip that I took solo. I didn’t know the language, the customs, how to get around, etc. – I just grabbed my guidebook and left. I haven’t been back, but the idea of a “homecoming” is truly the hero’s journey. There is a TS Eliot quote we love that I feel fits:
    “We shall not cease from exploration
    And at the end of all our exploring,
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.”
    Hasta luego!

  • Monica

    Yay! I’m so glad you’re kicking things off. I always get excited when I read/hear about other people finally being able to live their dreams and travel around the world. You’d think I’d be envious but I’m not. It’s just a constant reminder to me that one day, that’s going to be me. Until then, I will live vicariously through you. :)

    Happy Travelings Craig!

  • Jody

    terrific story! i hope you win! buena suerte.

  • Erin

    Hi Craig,

    Costa is definitely one of our FAVE destinations, and we have a few to choose from so it says a lot about the country. With a slogan like PURA VIDA how can they go wrong? Thanks for entering our contest. I would enter myself, but think that I’m ineligible as an employee of Gap Adventures 😉

    By the way. I like the quote – “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” It’s in my profile on our site and definitely words to live by.

    Happy wandering.

  • Nuria

    Great post, Craig! :) Congrats!
    It’s so nice to hear you enjoyed Costa Rica that much, and I hope you keep on coming. I am also a dreamer…traveling the world, helping people and learning from different cultures is what I desire the most.
    Let’s make all our dreams come true! 😉

  • Dawn

    Yes, Craig! Costa Rica is the only place I’ve travelled to that made me cry when I had to leave, and I’ve travelled all over the world. There’s just something about that “Pura Vida” experience that speaks to your soul. It’s something primal and comforting. After all, w/ fresh fruits, Costa Rican Coffee, warm white sand beaches and beautiful, kind locals – how could you go wrong? I just adore Costa Rica and would Love to return. Pura Vida, Craig!

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