After nearly a month of travel, through five towns and one city, encompassing rainforest, highlands, lowlands, beach, blazing heat and cool sub-tropical mountains, I´m discovering that, while environment is a huge factor in healing, it isn´t everything.
Sure, greenery and clean air matter. But as a smiling local helps me with my luggage, as I share a relaxed meal with Canadian expatriates, as I observe the non-hurried, polite manner of a cashier, contrasting strongly against the demanding abruptness of European and American tourists, I am reminded that quality of air and climate matter less in healing than the way a person lives.
Expatriates and locals alike tell me that most foreigners who come to Costa Rica never leave.
And not just because of the climate, gorgeous greenery and lower cost of living.
They stay because of the ready smiles, the laid-back way of life, and tranquil manner of the locals. They stay because they can arrive at work at eight-fifteen and nobody´s going to scream at them for being late. They stay because they know that if they were to fall and scrape their leg on the sidewalk, half a dozen others would rush to their aid. They stay because life isn´t about me, but about the community. It´s taken for granted that if your neighbor needs help mending his fence, you help him. You don´t think twice about it. And if you were to ask a Costa Rican where the supermarket is, she´ll often walk you there herself, no matter that she´s in the middle of cooking her children breakfast.
And then expats stay because losing a lifetime of material possessions actually gives them one less thing to worry about. They stay because, the philosophy of the people is that while life is hard, it´s okay. In the end, it all works out. Most believe that it is God who owns everything and is in control, nothing matters that much, and so why complain?
Granted, sometimes the local people fake a smile when they´d rather scream. Or so I´ve heard. But if you don´t know that, it doesn´t really matter because the smile is still there all the same.
In reality, my experiences in Costa Rica are just a reminder of what previous jaunts overseas have taught me.
Yes, climate and pure air matter. Pace of life matters. But perhaps what matters more, is a mindset of tranquility, of open generosity, and an attitude that is mindful of the well-being of others. Surely this is part of why folks from overseas find healing here, and why Costa Rica ranks high on the list of the world´s healthiest countries to live in.
Of course, people everywhere have the capacity to give and receive love. In Costa Rica, however, it seems to be built into the cultural norms in such a way that promotes health and attracts others to its shores.
Could I heal of Lyme by thinking more of the man at the church begging for a few colones? Would I recover faster if I let it be no big deal that I just missed the bus and got soaked in the rain? Would my body thank me for lunches that are a bit more leisurely? Perhaps so.
Perhaps I can import these reminders back into my country.