Did you miss me last week? I was busy in Costa Rica holding monkeys and practicing archery with an indigenous tribe in the jungle. No, really.
I live a double life as a travel blogger, and the Costa Rican Tourism Board generously sent me there for a week to see an authentic and eco-friendly side of the country. After falling in love with the country when I went for the first time in October, I jumped at the chance.
I spent time on both coasts. One of the highlights was visiting the Jaguar Rescue Center and getting to hold a sweet 1-year-old howler monkey named Frida. I also enjoyed taking a cooking lesson from a sweet old local woman and eating one of the most simple yet delectable dishes of my life. I also loved riding an aerial tram through the jungle canopy and seeing a colorful toucan fly by.
The most memorable experience was visiting a Bribri village, an indigenous community that lives far from modern society. To get there, we took a 45-minute drive (most of it on very rocky, bumpy roads), an hourlong boat ride in a canoe with a small motor, followed by a 30-minute hike. They have minimal plumbing and only have electricity for around an hour a day.
They taught us how to do archery with their handmade bows and arrows (that’s me doing it to the left!) and how they make fresh cocoa butter. They prepared us a delicious fresh lunch of rice, beans, chicken, yucca and vegetables. They raise all of the ingredients themselves, including the chicken! We asked if they ever wished they lived in a city, and one of them replied, “Why would I do that? I would have to go to a grocery store and buy food. Here, I can grow my own food and eat for free.” I never thought of it that way before. We also asked if they wish they had TV, and they said no — they’d seen it before and thought it was boring.
I asked what they did in the evenings. They told me that many people rise and sleep with the sunrise and sunset, but for those who want to stay up, they light a fire and the elders tell stories.
The trip I was awarded was called “The Gift of Happiness” because Costa Rica is always ranked very high, if not at the top, of studies about the world’s happiest countries. They spent $1 million this year awarding these trips to people who could witness the happiness quotient for themselves. As I traveled to various cities, I asked many locals what made them happy. Most of the time, I received this reply: “I have my family, I have a home and I live in this beautiful place — why wouldn’t I be happy?”
Their lives do seem less complicated, and people are poorer in general than in the U.S. But while they have less, they also seem so much happier. They aren’t consumed with technology 24/7. They don’t stress out about work the way we do. They don’t have their heads buried in their smartphones. They aren’t always obsessing over the next latest, greatest thing to buy. They value family, their community and their environment. They cook together and tell stories together. It was a breath of fresh air. The only bummer is that when you’re out in the boonies, you can’t rely on credit cards.
Now that I’m back in the United States, check out my roundup of my 10 favorite personal finance blog posts from the past week!
1. One Frugal Girl displays an infographic that contains invaluable tips on how to avoid spending traps at the grocery store.
2. Finance Fox explains how you can be a financial asset in your marriage and have good communication about money with your spouse.
3. Personal Finance Journey offers great tips on how to avoid spending excess money on clothing.
4. Live Real, Now shares an interesting study that shows that we place greater value on things when we delay gratification.
5. Bucksome Boomer questions whether you want to be wealthy or merely debt-free, and discusses why it’s easy to stop budgeting once you shed your debt.
6. Money Crashers debates the pros and cons of a cashless society that relies on technology, especially biometrics.
7. Beating Broke explains why paying down debt with gazelle intensity can become exhausting, but shares an incredible story of how it can be done.
8. Evolving Personal Finance discusses why stay-at-home parents are protesting the CARD Act and why she disagrees with their premise.
9. I love that my city, Austin, encourages residents to shop local. Prairie Eco-Thrifter lists some of the benefits of buying products locally.
10. My Dollar Plan reveals how she and her husband were able to compromise on how to splurge on a budget.