On Vacationing, Costa Rica, and Balance.

I confess: I’m in Costa Rica for 19 days. I’m not bragging but I’m also not ashamed.

I find it interesting how harshly we judge others on taking time off, away from the stress of work and everyday life. Before I left my home in Florida, as I was getting my business ready to be ran from my laptop, explaining to customers that I would be away, I found myself not being entirely truthful about how long I was going to be away. I was vague with answers like “a couple weeks” and I was also defending that I would be working everyday on my laptop, as though it’s such a shameful thing to actually unplug and take time off.

Even at that, I was getting responses like, “Wow, must be nice. I wish I could do that. I’ll be 65 before I can take a trip like that”. It made me feel sad that others don’t (or can’t) take this kind of time out of life but I also had a fair amount of guilt and shame, which shouldn’t be the case.

I’m fortunate. I’ve made myself fortunate. I have an amazing job that I’ve worked my ass off to make into a lucrative career. It took years to become lucrative despite the stigma of my medical sales job. {Believe it or not, as sales reps, we’re not all swimming in pools of money, working only 25 hours a week.} Some weeks, I work seven days a week, putting in anywhere from 50-65 hours a week or more.

I’m describing most Americans, right? No matter what your economic status, this is the American expectation. This is the way of our country, all work, no life. Why is it that taking time off, anymore than a week, maybe two, is judged so harshly? The American Dream is so confusing to me. Work your ass off until you make yourself sick, tired, and wait until you’re 65 to enjoy the fruits of your labor? There doesn’t seem to be balance in that.

All European countries guarantee their workers 4 weeks of paid time off. One in four Americans aren’t guaranteed any paid time off at all and those that are being paid to take a break usually average about 16 days per year…which very few choose to take. And that’s astounding to me.

I want to live now. Experience things and places now, and it just so happens that I can. I hope to have some retirement, too, of course, but I’m not pinching every penny for when I’m 65. Life is too short. My daughter sees how hard I work at home, hears how many times I say, “I have to just work at my desk for another hour and then I’ll be done”, and feels the stress of my job when I’ve had a bad day. I don’t want those memories to be how she remembers her childhood in her rearview.

I sound as though I’m defending my vacations, and maybe I am a bit, but I’m hoping to also sound a bit motivating. I save for these trips. I save and I save so my daughter can have these experiences. I sacrifice for these trips. It’s why I work so hard and buy my clothes mostly at Target. There’s nothing like the education of travel.

People often ask me why we spend so much time in Costa Rica specifically. If you haven’t explored this country, I don’t know that it will make sense in words. Costa Rica is like stepping into a bit of a time warp in that their value isn’t on things. Kids, even the American transplants, aren’t found sitting on the couch with an iPad or PlayStation. Adults aren’t sitting at the dinner tables with mobile devices in all of their hands. No one is Instagramming their every move. They’re about the environment, the outdoors, water sports. Life is quite simple here. My daughter spends countless hours just playing in the waves with local kids, swimming in the pool and looking for beach treasure. This is so unlike her American life. She’s a different kid here, one that I love see so much.

For me, while I’m here, in between work, I do yoga, go for walks, and take naps, maybe hike to waterfalls. There’s always something to do. Or not do.

We don’t come here to stay at a fancy resort. We have stayed at fancy resorts here but that’s very rare for us. We stay in a beach bungalow where the AC is questionable at best, the shower water is either extremely hot or frigid, and everything smells a bit moldy because nothing ever truly dries from all of the moisture in the air. It isn’t expensive or fancy but it’s a world class experience for us. So much solitude and peace here.

This is our 11th year visiting here, my daughter’s 5th, and we love it more and more each time. It has changed significantly since we started visiting here. There are more conveniences, like WiFi and cell phone service, and although that makes me a little sad, it’s also the reason I can stay as long as we do so I can keep a pulse on my business.

I do want to travel to other places around the world. Italy is on my bucket list when Lily is a bit older, maybe Belize, maybe some other US states out west that I haven’t seen, but my heart is here, in Costa Rica. It makes me feel balanced when I’m here and not so chaotic. Life makes more sense here. The pace, the people, the vibe. It’s how I wish life could be everyday. Which is what the beauty of vacation is, I suppose, but I see it in the locals and the culture, too.

If only we could follow our hearts and spirit and be able to pay our bills at the same time, this would be home for me, no doubt. I feel so fortunate to have found Costa Rica and feel so at home far away from the States. It all began because in 2005 I saved for 2 plane tickets instead of some material birthday present for my boyfriend. It was the best investment in myself I’ve ever made.

My utopia is that everyone finds their Costa Rica. Travel. Now. There’s so much to see and so much to learn. Life passes by too fast.

Pura Vida!

One thought on “On Vacationing, Costa Rica, and Balance.

  1. I’m totally with you! My husband works hard and we’ve saved for a long vacation this year. We are taking a trip from Louisiana to Canada next month – driving – over the course of 16 days. I can’t wait. There’s definitely something to be said for trips longer than a weekend and getting out of the daily routine for a bit.


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