So you all know how I feel about “plans” right? Now, it may be too early to tell, but I think I have definitely turned a corner in my life with my new outlook of living with intention, taking things day by day, and not getting attached to big expectations. Well, during my recent family vacation to Costa Rica, I learned about a new kind of “plan” that really resonated with me.
The Ticos (this is what the Costa Ricans call themselves), particularly in rural areas, have an interesting and very simple outlook on life which they call a Plan de Vida. This literally translates to Life Plan, but really it means so much more than that. Like their daily lives, their language is simple, direct and points to something much bigger and more meaningful than words can express.
A Plan de Vida has nothing at all to do with acquiring “things” and possessions or getting ahead. It is basically what keeps you going, your reason for getting out of bed in the morning…in other words it is your purpose in life or reason for living. This purpose doesn’t have to be anything big like running for President or eradicating poverty. Of course, it can very well be something big like that if you want it to be. What I’m saying is it doesn’t have to be. It could simply be providing for your family or doing something in your community that gives you a sense of purpose. For them, the feeling of being needed contributes to personal lifelong happiness and satisfaction. It really is that simple.
Now I know it sounds all trite and cliché, and perhaps it is. However, the Ticos must be onto something because the specific area of Nicoya, Costa Rica boasts a population that on average, outlives the rest of us on the planet and the people report to be very happy and satisfied with their lives. Yes, the climate definitely has something to do with this, but it’s also their mineral rich water, their plant based diet and of course, a lifestyle that keeps them physically active and within a close-knit community of extended family and friends.
All of these factors support and encourage the Ticos to nurture their Plan de Vida.
I’m not making this stuff up. Go see for yourself at www.bluezone.com where a team of longevity experts identify and study pockets around the world where people live longer, healthier and happier lives. I’ve seen it for myself in Costa Rica. It’s not uncommon for people to live to celebrate their hundredth birthdays, or for eighty year olds to limberly bike along the rural dirt roads. And they are perfectly happy to do so! Keep in mind that I’m talking about people who live very simple lives, who by North American standards would certainly be considered poor. Most of these people don’t even have internet! Imagine that.
Why is it that in industrialized countries such as Canada, where we have access to so many resources, where we can literally get anything we want, are there so many chronically unhappy people? I’m not saying everyone is depressed, but I can certainly attest to the syndrome of working my ass off during the week, desperately trying to catch up with my family on the weekend, rushing back to work the next week to do it all over again and wondering why I don’t feel completely happy or satisfied with my life. Maybe it’s because I live in a large city that I find myself so easily caught up in the rat race. I don’t know. I do know that I don’t want to spend my life running and trying to keep up. I want enjoyment, I want passion, I want pleasure. I want to marvel in the simplicity of daily life and contribute something meaningful…I want a Plan de Vida.
My family and I have been to Costa Rica several times and we even lived there for half a year when my son was born there. We had plans to stay, but life threw us a few curve balls and we had to come back to Canada. That was almost seven years ago and by now we have made it through the hard times that followed. Things are much better now and we still have intentions of one day living in Costa Rica.
I don’t know exactly when this move will occur, but I intend on not getting caught up in the race against time to make it happen. My husband and I are taking things day by day, week by week, and month by month and we’ll see where that takes us. We’ll know when the time is right.
The rural Ticos don’t race against time or strive to acquire all kinds of things and possessions to make themselves happy. They strive to live a simple and enjoyable life – “a life that is not too sad and not too happy, a life that is tranquillo.” – Dan Buetner, Blue Zones
It is cold, damp and rainy on this January day in Toronto as I type this. It’s been two weeks since we got back from the sun and dry heat of the beautiful Nicoya Peninsula. We’ve been there many times before but during this last trip, Costa Rica cast it’s spell on me and made me believe that just maybe, my family really could have a life that looks something like that.
All of the above photos are my own and taken and processed on my iPhone3Gs. Follow me on Instagram: @BearHeartWoman