Pura Vida in English means, “Pure Life”. But these two words have much more meaning throughout the Costa Rican culture. Pura Vita can also be interpreted as “take it easy”, “enjoy life”, “all good”, “purity in life”, “hello”, “goodbye”, “this is life!” and many more. Where did such an odd saying come from and why does it describe the Costa Rica experience perfectly?
Where Does the Phrase Pura Vida Come From?
Pura Vida was first recognized as in dictionaries starting in the 1990’s, probably coinciding with tourism. Costa Rica’s tourist boom began in 1987 and by 1995, tourism was the largest foreign exchange earning segment of the economy. People found amazing adventures, lush jungles, and warm blue seas, but they probably didn’t find that phrase.
Pura Vida is a Mexican film dating back to 1956 about protagonist Melquiades Ledezma. Milqueiades was kicked out of his hometown because he was a considered a source of bad luck. Bad luck followed him with accusations of robbery and arson until he found a winning lottery ticket. In every situation, good or bad, Melquiades expressed optimism with his catchphrase – Pura Vida. Costa Rica’s winning lottery ticket, the tourism boom, might have well brought in another import – the Mexican phrase Pura Vida.
What is Pura Vida?
Pura Vida in Costa Rica is more than just luck. The country made a commitment to the good life that is paying dividends in spades. Over the last 25 years, Costa Rica tripled its gross domestic product while also doubling the amount of forest cover. They are dedicated to renewable energy with a quarter of the nation’s energy being generated by renewable sources. They estimate that they will be completely carbon neutral by 2025. The only greener place in the world is Switzerland.
They are not only green but “friendly” too. They banned recreational hunting in 2012 and are creating massive wildlife protection zones including a marine area larger than Yellowstone Park. Additionally, the people are happy. Costa Rica continues to place at the top of world lists for life expectancy and happiness index measured in a variety of ways. No matter how you slice it, Costa Rica is living la Pura Vida.
What Does Pura Vida Mean to us?
New Mexico is the land of enchantment. Thailand is the land of smiles. For us, Costa Rica is the land of adventure. There is nothing more real than when you come face to face with fear and get outside of your comfort zone.
In Costa Rica, we crawled through caves, jumped off waterfalls, ziplined off a volcano, ran whitewater, and rappelled down canyons. After each adventure, we turned to our friends and shouted Pura Vida as our ubiquitous trip motto. The world comes alive when adrenaline starts pumping. Coming back to an eco-resort or soaking in a hot spring afterwards is simply icing on the cake.
Fritz Perls coined the term Gestalt Therapy as well as one of our favorite phrases – Lose your mind and come to your senses. Nowhere is this truer for us than in the middle of an adventure. Gestalt psychology addresses the ability to acquire and maintain meaningful perceptions in a chaotic world, like bobbing down a rushing river. Chaos, in a true physical sense of non-laminar flow surrounds you but so does Pura Vida. Your world is reduced to the simplicity of following your guide’s instructions to the best of your ability.
The sum of Pura Vida
Gestalt psychology emphasizes that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We found that to be true stringing a series of Costa Rica adventures to together. The experience went way beyond the individual pieces. The same is true for Pura Vida in Costa Rica. It is just adventures and tranquility or ecology and economy. It’s the sum of all the parts coming together in a special kind of magic. It’s the optimism that anything is possible, and the reality that it just might be true.