I had expected my life to change enormously by moving from the States to Costa Rica. I thought about the exotic scenery we’d be witnessing, the ripe fruits we’d be reaping from our own back yard and the new language we’d be learning. What I didn’t realize was that by moving away from what we were used to, we’d be opening ourselves up to a whole new way of daily living. Someone once mentioned that being in Costa Rica was like living one hundred years ago. Everything is slower in this realm… and yet, it feels like there is more time. Maybe I feel that way because I don’t have much instant gratification here. If I want a delicious loaf of handmade rosemary bread, I have to spend a morning mixing and kneading, leaving and shaping, baking and buttering it myself. The important thing I’m finding is that while things take longer, each task is more rewarding to myself and often better for the planet.
For example, here are the simple changes that have altered in my daily life, to the betterment of Mother Earth:
- I hang-dry my laundry.
Hanging laundry was not something I envisioned myself doing before our move to Costa Rica, but I complete this task every day. Sometimes twice. The funny thing is, I actually enjoy this light exercise. I can remember tossing the wet clothes hurriedly into the dryer months ago–it was always a chore. Now, I have an excuse to sneak in some sunshine out under the clothes line, while my three year old very diligently (and insistently) hands me every item to hang. Often times, during the rainy season (which we’re in currently), the line is hung through my living room. Even though I find this less fun, it is encouraging to know that we are saving electricity and keeping our energy bill down.
- I cook from scratch.
Again, this is not something I expected to do on a regular basis before moving here. Cook from scratch?–I didn’t even know you could make your own, truly from scratch pasta sauce (unless you were an Italian grandmother, in Italy). Well, I’ve joined up with the Italian mamas and make my own bread, sauce, yogurt, pretzels (oh yeah), chocolate and so on. Thanks to the encouragement of friends who have been here longer than us, I’ve learned that if I really want something, I can figure out a way to make it myself. You see, we don’t have easy access to delectable items like sour-dough pretzels or savory cinnamon buns. If we can find these things here, they are ridiculously over priced. Sure, we have prepackaged box-mixes like you’d find in the States, but something in my move here triggered a need for independence from these “non-true food” products. I can make my own brownies, without partially-hydrogenated oils included, thank you very much (which I couldn’t say last year).
- We don’t have a car.
Can you imagine living without a car for eight months? Yikes! Neither could I–until our move. This has been a huge change in our lifestyle and it surely lightens our ecological footprint. The wonderful thing about learning to live vehicle-free (for the most part–we’ve rented/borrowed a car for about 3 weeks total in the last 8 months) is that it has exposed us to so much more exercise! We walk to the bus stop, we hike to the store, we trudge up and down hilly streets with groceries, kids and diaper bags on our backs. I haven’t entered a gym this year, but I have never been lighter.
- I don’t buy crap.
Since things imported here are generally much more expensive than in the States, I don’t waste my money on little trifles. I think it was an outlet for me back in the US, to pick up a few cheap thing-a-ma-bobs here and there… $30 a week perhaps on a new pair of flats or some thoughtless toy purchases for the kids. None of these things were thought through or planned for. Now, if I see a need for something, like a sun hat, I will spend weeks deciding what exact shade, style, size, brand, and so on that I think the perfect hat would be. If I can’t find it here, I will wait until a trip back to the States is planned and order it to be delivered during our stay (or have a visitor bring it). This has taught me to value things more, and not to waste money on meaningless items, which also happens to be better for the environment.
- We recycle even more.
Even though recycling in Costa Rica is not easy, we have been determined to keep up our regular practice. At first, we shook our heads at our new neighbors, who chucked their paper and sometimes burned their plastics. As time has passed, however, I’ve become aware of their manner of true recycling. Now, like them, I reuse my bags from the grocery store over and over again; we use bamboo clippings to guide our tomato plants; we turn cinder blocks and small metal sheets, discarded from the house next door, into a dog house. I know that in the States, we would have just bought a dog house without a second thought. Like most of these changes, our recycling habits have only grown because of our alteration in location.
I look forward to developing even more eco-friendly practices in the road ahead. There is still much more out there to be molded into our daily efforts and general family ethics, I’m sure. How exciting it is to know that we’re evolving through our surroundings to be a better part of this lovely world. In a way, Travel itself is our teacher now… and class is just beginning.