My Costa Rica blog, De La Pura Vida, recently turned one year old, so I decided to celebrate by giving it a makeover. It was long overdue, and it was a great project to do in lieu of my taxes. Let me know what you think — Love it? Hate it? Didn’t notice?

dog crate being loaded on to an airplane

I was expecting Mocha to be loaded on the VIP ramp, but no, that’s her in the crate being loaded inside the plane like a piece of luggage.

Of course, this also means that I have been living in Costa Rica for one year now. Most people pack up and move out at this point in time, especially those on gap year adventures, but I’m sticking around. My one-year plan is taking a lot longer than I initially thought it would. Plus, it’s kind of nice here.

In honor of this anniversary, I have decided to look back and review a few of the highlights, good and bad, of my year in Costa Rica.

First stop is definitely the move from the United States to Costa Rica with my dog, Mocha. My departure date was initially delayed due to the fact that I couldn’t get my house rented out, and then my flight was rebooked 3 or 4 times due to Continental airlines changing their laws about dogs on flights or irresponsibly booking us on flights that didn’t allow dogs. The whole situation was wrought with stress, but I found some peace when I finally made it on to the plane and looked out my window to see Mocha being loaded into the cargo hold. At least she wasn’t a piece of lost luggage.

fruit and vegetable

This is about 1/10 of the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables we bring home from the farmer’s market every week. Our total bill has never exceeded $24 USD.

Mocha settled in immediately upon arriving to Costa Rica, after all this is dog heaven. For me, though, it took a little while. The biggest issue was our house being in a constant state of construction for the first three months. There were other smaller issues that added up, too. For example, the quality of food being sold in grocery stores — goodbye organic, exotic, and additive-free foods. Most of the food in supermarkets in Costa Rica is loaded with MSG, corn syrup, transfats, aspartame, extra sugar, extra salt on top of the MSG, etc. And it is common to find foods made in the US with special labels on them, marking them for export only since the ingredients are not permitted or not popular in the States, because they are POISON.

On the upside, Costa Rica does have a wealth of inexpensive fruits and vegetables. Once I adapted my diet and cooking style to the types of good foods available here, I actually grew to like this diet better. When I finally do move back to the States, I don’t know how I’m going to live without a fresh fruit smoothie everyday. Rice and beans are at least cheap in the States, too — I’m a total addict now!

blue morpho butterflyI’m also quite spoiled with the beautiful biodiversity of Costa Rica and being able to travel 30 minutes in any direction for a completely different type of landscape. Hang out on the black sand beaches of the Caribbean, the white sand beaches of the Pacific, pink sand beaches, waterfalls, the desert in Guanacaste, rose gardens in Cartago, butterfly gardens everywhere, the moon-like terrain of Volcan Irazú, the hot springs in Arenal, a yellow river, a turquoise river — this is why everyone calls Costa Rica paradise.

irazu volcano costa rica

Looking out on the cold, moon-like landscape of Irazú Volcano.

Some cultural traditions that I have absolutely fallen head over heels in love with are Costa Rican bullfighting and horse parades. I now have my own cowgirl outfits, complete with authentic cowgirl boots, and you can catch me at any of the nearby festivals, sitting ringside watching Ticos being trampled by bulls, or sitting street side with an Imperial, watching all the horses dance by, trying not to get trampled myself. (tip: the smaller horse parades encourage crowd participation and you can dance in the streets with the horses!)

horse parade in costa rica

Julio, in the middle of the horse parade, dancing with his toy horse alongside this fancy-pants singing Costa Rican cowboy

Moving forward, for the next year, my goal is to explore more of Costa Rica and also the rest of Central America. It would be a shame not to while I’m here. My goal is also to write more about these adventures – past, present, and future – so stay tuned for updates!