I think the best way to describe David, our couchsurfing host in Puerto Viejo, our southernmost stop in our 12 day cycle through Costa Rica, is a human being. In a spiritual sense, he is a modern forest monk in a journey of discovering, contemplating, experiencing both the noun of ‘being’ as a person but also ‘being’ as a verb –the action of existing. He is a martial artist training from his youth to move in pathways of minimal effort. It is not an expression of laziness but rather of going with the flow of energy in nature. He talked about this as the art of the interrupted punch from a Filapino martial art he knows. If someone is coming in with a punch, instead of moving back to dodge and gain momentum for a counter punch, move in a triangle to the side where you are prepped in a twisting motion for less effort momentum. Instead of moving simple back and forth and side to side, think in triangles and diamonds and twisting energy.
Like these different ways of thinking about movement and energy, we also talked about different ways of living. David lives in the forest by the beach with very little – there is no electricity in his house and running water in a bit of a joke since the pipes back up and leak. He works a little teaching martial arts sometimes and playing music gigs at different restaurants whenever he can get them. In the eyes of most people at home, he doesn’t have a job. He has stepped out of the cash economy and an economy of promised happiness and instead stepped into a life of pure living and realized happiness. He meditates, volunteers, plays music, hangs out with friends frolicking in the jungle climbing trees and swing from vines, and shares his food, his few material possessions (such as his home where we’re staying!), his energy and life with his friends around him. In stepping out of a cash economy, he has become richer in many ways.
We are inspired by him and he tells us he is inspired by our journey. I think we both admire each other for similar reasons – we are making possible a life that many people would think is impossible. It is amazing to think that Bryan and I, both of us who actually did very little cycling at home in Canada, have cycled for the last eight months and now we are in Costa Rica close to the border with Panama.
However, equally amazing and many would think impossible is the generosity and openess of strangers we have met. This includes Damien who invited us into his home when we asked to camp in a huge garage he was building on a busy highway junction in Santa Clara, Leo from Limon who gave us a blank cheque on his help and Erick, our couchsurfing host in Limon, who opened up his family home for us. When we asked about Rigel and Erin also coming with us, Erick said, “the more the merrier!” and the four of us took over two of the three bedrooms of the house that he shared with his parents and his sister who visited from San Jose on the weekends. We asked him after the first night if it was too much for all of us being there and he just looked purplexed at our question, said that of course it was ok and they were happy to have us as guests. Work is important – Erick was very busy with work and was called into work for a few hours the first night we were there – but also important is family, friends and enjoying life. Erick was really excited about his travels to Europe with friends next month.
There is a passion for living life and taking that time to enjoy and laugh with family and friends. This is expressed in thepopular Costa Rican phrase – “Pura vida”, which literally translates to ‘pure life’. Talking about living the impossible, Costa Rica has made preserving and sharing its incredible nature one of the most valued foundations of its economy. The national parks cover a huge part of the country but there are many private reserves as well. Citizens have become invested in nature. There is also something really amazing that the country’s most important historical building is not a cathedral nor a government building nor a war monument but rather a theatre! There are posters all over San Jose that state, “More culture, less violence” talking about arts and cultures government programs. Also thinking of impossibilities, Costa Rica has no standing army and the countryside seems very peaceful and prosperous with sturdy well built homes and incredibly friendly people.
Taking time to enjoy life, to relax and spend time with friends and family, valuing nature and a commitment to peace – it is actually odd that we would consider a life committed to these values an alternative lifestyle. More impossible is a fulfilling lifestyle in the absense of these.