Top Initial Impressions of Costa Rica

Amazing kids with an AMAZING backdropOur family of 7 recently arrived in Costa Rica and we feel like we've already been here for weeks!  Our mid-day Sunday arrival was filled with a flood of Spanish, humidity and pure excitement!

This journey is the culmination of many years of dreaming, months of praying and weeks of preparation.  I was almost in tears as the airplane approached the runway to touch down.  With SO many new things to see, hear, smell and taste, I wanted to share some of my initial impressions of coming to Costa Rica as a wife and mother.

Impression #1: Try to avoid doing much in the hottest part of the day.  When we arrived, it happened to be an especially warm day.  I don't know how hot it was exactly, maybe 85 degrees, but with the humidity and no air conditioning in our rental, we were sweaty and stinky.  Thankfully, with some cooler days, mid-day showers and buying 2 floor oscillating fans, we're doing much better.

Impression #2: We wasted SO much water in the US!  We often thought we conserved water fairly well.  We didn't leave water running, used as little water as possible for washing clothes, etc.  But when our water ran out our first night here, we were in shock!  No water to wash faces, brush teeth, flush toilets.  So the next day, we conserved.  We put water in bottles just in case we ran out again.  We took super short showers, turning water off after rinsing and were extra careful washing dishes.  

And it ran out AGAIN!  Turns out that there was a plumbing and pump issue we weren't aware of and the people that cleaned out the fresh water tank forgot to turn the water from the city lines back ON when they were done.  We're set with water now, but those first few days made us realize just how much water we wasted in the US.

Impression #3:  It can be enjoyable to just sit.  I always felt like there was something to be done when we were in the US.  Dishes to do, laundry, something to check online.  But here, Costa Rican people seem to make an art of just sitting and enjoying people watching.  We get LOTS of looks here…partly because we're Americans and partly because we're a big family, but we took some time today to just sit at a table in the city center and it was, simply put, nice.

Impression #4: It is MUCH harder to do grocery shopping here.  My Spanish is pretty good, not fluent yet, but pretty good.  But going out on what would be a simple trip to Target or Publix to pick up some groceries is hard work!  Part of the struggle is having to read and decipher labels to find out what I'm looking at.  

Another is trying to work out the currency conversions to see if something is worth buying or not.  Then, you have to hit more than one place to find everything you need.  I'm getting better, especially since the farmer's market made buying tons of fresh fruits and veggies easier.  But I still haven't found dishwasher detergent.

Impression #5:  A simpler life with much less stuff doesn't mean less happiness.  I already knew this before coming here, but being here and having just enough dishes for everyone to eat off and forks to use is ok.  We don't need many multiples of everything.  One big pot is sufficient.  A small fridge means I think more about what I buy to make sure it gets eaten.  No big fluffy couch in front of a big tv means less time in front of it.  

We're taking at least one decent walk every day either to explore or get the food we need for the next 24 hours.  The children are getting much more of us, as parents, and we're seeing an almost 3 yr old who is doing very well with the transition because of it.

So far, everyone loves being here.  I'm sure there will be moments when we long for something back in the US, but for now, it's like the big pricey vacation we haven't taken in years…without the big price tag and fast pace that leaves you wanting a vacation from your vacation when you get home.

Have you been to Costa Rica?  What were some of your initial impressions?

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9 Responses to “Top Initial Impressions of Costa Rica”

  1. wandering educators Says:

    love this! those initial impressions mean a lot – and you sure have learned a great deal. looking forward to following your journeys!

  2. Rebeca Says:

    Sounds like things are going well! I really love shopping for groceries when we're in Mexico. I love the simplicity of buying produce day by day or every few days, and the challenge of reading labels in Spanish. 
    hope to see you down there in a few months!

  3. Rachel Denning Says:

    Loved the mercados, with all those locally grown fruits and veggies. What part are you living in? We lived in San Jose for a year and love it, but we would live in a beach town if we went back again.

  4. Claudia Looi Says:

    Susan, So glad for you and your family…finally. I am looking forward to more post about Costa Rica. I love Costa Rica. Did not spend time in San Jose. We were at the Pacific Northeast area.

  5. Lisa Shusterman Says:

    You've already discovered what in my opinion is the best part about life on the road – simplicity!  I loved the simplicity of EVERYTHING!  Yes, sometimes things were more challenging and sometimes you longed for something that could easily be obtained in the US, but overall the lack of stuff, of burdensome obligations, of the need to always be doing something because there was always something that needed to be done – that was happiness.  Hope your travels continue unencumbered.

  6. Mom Says:

    Thanks Lisa! Now the trick will be getting the children to appreciate doing nothing! HA!

  7. Mom Says:

    Thanks Claudia. We hope to see a good bit of the country while we’re here. Just not sure when!

  8. Kim Says:

    I was so happy to come across your blog today.  My girls and I want to do this same thing and I would love to talk to you more about Costa Rica, that is where we would like to go as well.  I am a single mom of two girls 14 & 10 but feel exactly like you have stated in this blog and I feel crazy for having this dream.  I felt like this blog had come right out of my own head from the destination to the friends and family that are less than supportive of our dream,.  
    I would love to talk more.  Its exciting to see that it is possible and there are other like crazies out there.  

  9. Mom Says:

    Hey Kim! There ARE other crazies out here…and we’re loving it! Connect with us on Facebook and fire away with your questions. :o) I can even get you connected with MORE crazy families.

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