The Paradise Trade-Off

Do you dream of leaving the rat race behind and moving to an island or another country that has a more laid back lifestyle than ours?

We recently entertained a visitor who lives in Costa Rica. He is an American but has been out of the country for eight years. His observations regarding the lifestyle differences between the two countries provided fodder for countless discussions.

Since Costa Rica is nearly on the equator, the people enjoy twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of darkness. Consequently, instead of waking up in the morning to the usual sounds of the surf and the Howler monkeys at or around sunrise, he managed to adjust to a different schedule rather quickly.

This adjustment meant going to bed at a later hour and waking up much later as well. We live in the country surrounded by a fair amount of acreage. “The house is so quiet,” he remarked as compared to his jungle life. The quiet may be part of the reason he woke up later than he does back home.

“I have more energy here in the States than in Costa Rica,” he remarked with amazement. Perhaps the hot climate of the tropics saps one’s vitality to some extent. Does that mean Type-A personalities would not thrive beyond the normal vacation stay? According to our visitor, by the time people manage to relax in Costa Rica, it is time for them to return home.

On a personal note, Costa Rica is the only place I can immediately relax. Perhaps my Type-A DNA is adaptable rather than set in stone.

During our trips, we, too, awoke and fell asleep to the Howler monkey and surf serenade. But upon our return home, it was difficult to fall asleep because the jungle and ocean sounds were missing. The folks who peddle soundscape music have the right idea.

The concept is similar to falling asleep while watching television. The noise puts you to sleep. However, when you get up and go to bed, the lack of sound keeps you awake. Background noise may be the gentle sledgehammer or dampening mechanism to keep an overactive mind quiet.

One expected difference between the two countries is the fast pace of life in the USA.

For example, if something breaks, you either call a repairman or go to a big box store to purchase the necessary part to make the repairs yourself or a brand new item. Not so, in Costa Rica.

Patience may be a virtue few of us practice, but in Costa Rica patience must be a critical part of your DNA. Otherwise, you will blow a gasket when the world around you moves in slow motion.

The exception in the USA to speedy repair response time, of course, is when your air conditioner gives up the ghost and the temperature is a toasty 100 plus degrees both inside and outside. It is at such critical moments that the tropical repair timetable kicks in.

Have you ever wondered if the weather gods and critical machinery, such as heating and air conditioning units, are in collusion to assert their power over comfort-coddled folks?

In Costa Rica, when our visitor’s car needed repair, he called the mechanic who cheerfully promised to come the next day. After a week of mañanas, our friend called another mechanic who only took two days to show up. The second mechanic must be the Costa Rican version of a real go-getter.

There were a few things our guest missed living in paradise. One was barbecue, and the other was good old Tex-Mex cuisine. He did an eye-popping and belt-loosening job of tucking away considerable amounts of Mexican cuisine, but the first of two barbecue experiences was a gastrointestinal mess.

This particular restaurant kept bottles of barbecue sauce on the tables (for who knows how long) rather than serving the sauce hot along with the food. Every person in our group who partook of the tableside sauce experienced unpleasant after effects. However, the second barbecue restaurant food proved to be delicious and made up for the other one. We hope the sizable meal will tide him over until his next visit.

Funny how we wish for paradise but forget that one man’s paradise can be less than perfect for the natives. Be careful what you wish for.