12 things I miss about Costa Rica

It’s just shy of three months since we left Costa Rica. Many people still ask us what it’s like to be back, if we’re happy to be back, and if we’ve acclimatised yet. There’s no quick or easy answer to all of that, as we’re not dealing with something as simple as changing from one temperature to another. As anyone will tell you, moving to an entirely different country (outside of North America) involves more than a physical location. Costa Rica was more than just a place, it was a way of life, and an experience that has changed the way I live now.

Almost right away, we missed some things, though most of that was due to the roughly 40 degree Celsius shift in temperature. Other things soon made themselves known, each time with the all-too-familiar pang of loss and regret.

But like when we moved down to Costa Rica, this is just something we’ll have to get used to.

Now just to be clear, there are two parts to this: things I miss, and things that I should miss but don’t (at least, not yet). I’m splitting it up this way just to avoid some of the obvious questions that are bound to appear. C’mon, I know you guys a little bit, y’know…

Things I Miss

Fresh fruit

As I’d mentioned a few times before, Costa Rica has fresh fruit. I know that sounds like an utterly silly statement, but unless you’ve been to a tropical country, you have no concept what fresh fruit is really like. None. Even the best organic produce you get at your local hippie market doesn’t hold a sniff to the stuff I got at the farmer’s markets in Costa Rica. The “reject” bananas (the “good” ones are all exported) were sweeter and lusher than any banana I’ve ever had here, the strawberries were worth killing over, and the papayas so good that I might never be able to eat them again (seriously).

Unbelievable greenery

I live in Calgary, where it barely rains. We get a nice green spring, but usually by mid-July everything’s starting to dry out. When fall hits, the primary colour is brown. We get white in the winter, at least when the snow is covering the aforementioned brownness.

In Costa Rica, it’s green. Always. Everywhere. Even on the tops of volcanoes, it’s green. There’s no effort for it to be green — that’s just the way it is. It happens naturally. No additives, no preservatives. It’s overwhelmingly green. There’s no comparison for the green. And now that brown has fully set in up here, I find myself missing it more than ever.

Volcanoes (but not earthquakes)

Speaking of volcanoes, I’ve had a thing for geology since I was a kid, and love seeing volcanoes. Especially at a distance (the active ones, any way). I’ve been fortunate to see a few volcanoes, notably in Hawaii, but also in Costa Rica (and went up Poas just a couple of days before a 6.2 earthquake levelled a nearby town). There aren’t any decent volcanoes in Canada, all of them are either dormant or entirely extinct.

Speaking of earthquakes, I rather like Calgary. It’s extremely stable. Not necessary free of tremors, but far enough to avoid anything nasty. I like that.

Price includes taxes

One pet peeve I always had with the North American pricing system was that the price you see is rarely the price you pay. Taxes are thrown on top, and usually service fees on that, too.

In Costa Rica, IVI (the tax) is rolled into everything, including your restaurant menu prices (divided into two columns). There’s no question what something costs, even if the price is in $USD (which it sometimes is, depending on how deep you’ve dived into tourist areas). I miss that kind of transparency.

Sun in the morning

Although it bugged me at the time, I now officially miss sun in the morning. The sun is still rising here, and when my alarm goes off it’s still dark. It’s something I came to appreciate a lot, as it really made things much nicer. That said, I’m going to be very happy for the late evening sun come June…

Not wearing pants

Costa Rica, duh, is warm. So I rarely ever wore pants — shorts were my mainstay for a year and a half. I hate wearing pants. I hate wearing shoes (instead of sandals). And I really, really, really hate wearing socks.

Monkeys (and wildlife in general)

No, I’m not saying I don’t like seeing deer, or moose, or anything else common in our northern tracts. But I do miss seeing wild parakeets, vibrantly colourful birds, and especially the monkeys roaming the treetops. There’s nothing like monkeys up here, save for zoos.

Driving with the window down … all year

I only realised this last weekend, but man I miss driving with the window down! You can’t do that up here when it’s 20 below! (Well, I suppose you could, but then you’re just asking for trouble.) There’s nothing like being able to go down a street at any time of the day or night, with the window down. That kind of fresh air is just amazing.

Dos Piños (and ice cream)

Dos Piños is the major dairy producer in Costa Rica, and makes pretty much everything that you can make from milk. Of particular note were their ice cream products. I don’t know what it is, but Costa Rican ice cream (Dos Piños and Pops, at least that I found) is fantastic. It’s wonderfully creamy, and not filled with a lot of crap (which seems common in North American ice creams). It got to the point where I was having one a day, on walks with Jason and Ed.

Batidos

A “batido” is (more or less) a blended fruit drink. Not with ice — just fruit, mixed with either water or milk. (Milk was my favourite version.) I know I can make them here with whatever fruit I get my hands on, but as you already know (from my first item), it’s just not the same without fresh Costa Rican fruit. I liked batidos for the fact that it was fruit, it was tasty, and often filling. It was a great alternative to syrupy drinks, or even a coffee if I wasn’t in the mood.

You’re from Canada? So am I!!

This one sounds silly, but it’s true — there’s nothing like finding a fellow Canuck (or insert your own nationality, I’m sure the same is true of other countries) when you’re abroad. I’ve been fortunate to have this happen in a few places, and even made some friends that way. It’s not to say that I can’t make friends with my fellow Canucks up here, but meeting someone abroad and sharing your experiences is very different than striking up a conversation while on a bus.

My friends

Last, but probably most importantly, I miss my friends. The people I knew well, who I worked with, the ones who lived near me, the ones who shared in the experience, the people who asked how I was and were a significant part of my life, and especially the ones so kind as to drive me to and from work every day. I feel exceedingly distant from them now, not just in distance, but because I might never see some of them ever again.

Things I Don’t Miss (Yet)

Now you’re probably wondering why some things didn’t appear in that list. Well, there are a few things that I don’t miss, at least not yet.

The heat

I have never liked the heat, at least not for long periods of time. Once in a while, for a couple of hours, I can hack. Even full days are a bit much for me, and dragging that out into weeks? HA! Not a chance. Strange as it sounds, I’ll take the cold over the heat any day.

Just so long as I can visit the heat once in a while…

The constant temperatures in the valley

The Central Valley in Costa Rica is consistent in the way you can’t even imagine. 27 degrees Celsius is the daily high, and 15 degrees is the daily low. Every day. Every. Single. Day. (It does vary a little bit from time to time, but the mode is pretty much 27/15.)

Now, I know what you’re thinking: that sounds heavenly! You never have to stare at weather forecasts! But you also never get to see seasons like we do up here. I missed fall and spring (and especially winter). You can handle only so much perfection before you start to go a little wonky, lemme tell ya.

The beaches

I know, I know, again you’re thinking I’m totally batty (and maybe I am). But I don’t really miss the beaches. That’s not to say I don’t like beaches — I love ’em! But going to the beach was never trivial, and involved far more effort than I care to think about. So much so that, well, now I look back and I think that while I’m glad to have gone, I don’t really have any burning desire to visit another one anytime soon.

The beer

Okay, first off, I loved Imperial. Truly. But Costa Rica has a limited selection of beer, and about half of them are pretty darn close to the same thing with a different label. Up here, I can lose hours staring at a beer menu (yes, there is such a thing as a beer menu), or standing in the refrigerated room at any of the billion-or-so liquor stores in Calgary, trying to decide what to try next. That’s a level of selection I missed dearly while I was in Costa Rica, and am very happy to have it back.

The coffee

Before you freak out, there’s a really simple reason why I don’t miss Costa Rica coffee: we brought a lot of it back home with us. When we run out? Well, that’s another blog post…

5 Replies to “12 things I miss about Costa Rica”

  1. Hmmm – perhaps you should take a trip to Vancouver Island in May or June – that will cover off the greenery part, and the beach that you don’t really miss yet 🙂

  2. We might do a trip in June. I’m planning to take a month off work to spend with the family, so maybe a trip to the west coast would be fun. We’ll see…

  3. Just be careful. Calgary might have a mass immigration from Costa Rica !
    #asks self# Why the hell would anyone move from CR to Calgary…….or anywhere else in Norte America ???

  4. Thanks for this writing this as I found it after I googled, “I miss Costa Rica’ and this is what I found.

    I miss all of the things you’ve listed above and more. I miss the unbelievable ability to live naturally and at a natural pace that’s congruent to my thinking above and beyond the capabilities of my thinking here in the states. I am in Vermont, perhaps one of the most beautiful places, so you might say I am crazy. It is breathtakingly beautiful beyond words and as green as it gets, and although the grass is soft and the sky is lit with stars at night, I have trouble now feeling anything more than nature here. There is a void here and that void is fluidity.. Having lived in Costa Rica for the last 7 months (been back 2 weeks) I cannot feel what I feel there. The passion, the synchronicity, the obvious blessing that no one takes for granted.

    Although I’m in one of the most ‘laid back’ places in the states, I tell you this. People are severed here…severed from themselves and so far such that they don’t even know what is is that’s bothering them. It saddens me to see and is hard my body to experience…it is contagious, so I have been staying out of public places as much as possible. Alone is how I feel, though loved by many. It’s just that CR taught me ho to love in a way I never learned here…a way beyond a telephone call or a chat at the post office…a way that leaves you feeling at one with the World. No one concerned with hurry. No one’s concerned with ‘fitting in’ and of course no one is feeling to badly about their lot in life, whether they are rich or poor as their values are not based on the values one learned in the states.

    Love is so apparent in CR…everywhere….you can watch the children play like you’ve never seen….even the dogs partake in a much closer canine lifestyle, frolicking together having just met on the sanded shores.

    Which makes me think about what is different here….it just came to me. the dogs know that their bone is to be shared with other dogs and that it’s not about ‘my bone’ or ‘your bone’…it’s about OUR bone and togeether WE are BOTH satisfied on more levels than we anticipated…our bellies full, our hearts open and our playtime plenty. The humans there are the same way/ Not so in the states…here it’s about ME and not US…and survival has become a means of seperation and the ego claims 99% of man’s thinking, constant is his judging of himself and others. And this is why we have such extreme in our world and such drama and such need to fill ourselves from the outside inn. When you don’t have much, you value EVERYTHING. The people taught me this and so much more I could not possible write it all now…so I’m just saying….

    the only thing I don’t miss are the abundance of creatures that seem to want to live with me in my home their…the spiders, the Scorpions, etc…even We have developed an understanding between our lives of co-existance .

    I will be going back as planned, but sooner than I had planned…..there’s a feeling in my body that I just cannot deny….a tension that needs to go away…and I know how to get rid of that…..and then, and only then can I sit down, satisfield and indulge in what is the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten, Don Pios….Oh my….is it delicious!

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