Leaving her Comfort Zone for Costa Rica and 'Pura Vida'

Leaving her Comfort Zone for Costa Rica and 'Pura Vida'

by Satonya McNeal, English Major

Friday, February 20, 2015

Satonya, a graduate of Manchester West High School and UNH Manchester English major, shares her experience while studying away in Costa Rica. 

I had so many ideas and plans for myself of who I was going to be and how I was going to become that person; yet my awareness of how little of the world I would never experience hindered me from fully grasping any of those ideas and plans. I wanted simplicity, and I wanted to be content flowing seamlessly into the perpetuation of days to come.

I always knew that Costa Rica’s optimistic expression towards living was “Pura Vida”. After taking two semesters of Spanish at UNH Manchester I discovered this phrase meant “Pure Life”.

I began to seriously consider what it would mean to embody a lifestyle based on this maxim. I entered an idealistic trance where I lived in quiet mornings drenched in possibility with hope imbued in my movements. I resolved to find some way to free myself from the fond restraint of the comfortable life I had built in New Hampshire and leave my footprints in the hot sand of a tropical beach surrounded by the empty shade of palm trees and absorb the sound of reverberating echoes of an unknown foreign language against the backdrop of an exotic land.

I wanted a life full of unspoken glances with strangers destined to become friends. I wanted to stride along the ideals of a world where vocabulary was freedom and fluently utter my spirited meditations to the promise of Costa Rica's unhurried avenue of living.

My own genuine wonder coupled with a retaliation against conventional pursuits allowed me to begin the process of turning this fantasy into a reality. I went through the motions of applying to the USAC program which proved adequately suited to my endeavors and more importantly, my budget.

As the ambitions I had tucked away for myself became actualized, I was alive in the moment of my newly acquired freedom to wander and I found myself telling the world that I would soon be leaving for the beautiful country of Costa Rica.

As the undertaking of my adventure drew nearer, I began to feel lost. The type of lost that I had to first recognize as a feeling of dissolved inhibitions in order to be found again.

My mind was open and my desire for a change of scenery began to shift my perception to an entirely new side of life. I could feel myself turning the page to something new, something different. I began to realize that the emotions of fear, uncertainty, and excitement swelling up inside of me were the very emotions that would fuel my future. I just had to relax and trust that what I wanted was coming.

My best friend dropped me off at the Boston airport and as we parted at security I watched him cross the invisible boundary I had drawn between myself and my memories; back to the life I was about to remove myself from.


As he receded further into the distance an incessant question lingering in my mind kept asking: So what if you don’t make it to where you wish to be? Yet I had already sacrificed so much to be able to make this journey. I looked around at all the people about to embark on their own journeys and I thought to myself it’s a beautiful thing to learn to be strong and independent on your own; to learn not to always depend on others.

The plane was packed to full capacity and the air smelled sterile. I gazed outside the small capsule window and let my mind run away with daydreams of swaying palm trees and dazzling stars. Hours later the small window had expertly framed the fresh swept blue of the Pacific Ocean whose view finally enticed me to abandon my old life.

When I finally deplaned and patiently waited through endless lines for immigration and customs, I took my first step into the explosive golden afternoon light of Costa Rica. 

The realness of it all was overwhelming and I found myself fading away from the small details of my former life as every sense became further engaged with this new environment. I scanned boisterous crowds of tanned people rapidly spitting out words I couldn’t understand, until finally my eyes recognized my name written in blocky English letters.

A small freckled woman with a soft glint in her eyes and a smile as bright as the Costa Rican sun gathered me in her arms in a warm embrace that I almost got lost in. My chills from the artificial cold air of the plane disappeared and it felt as if everything was exactly as it should be.

Nothing grows in a comfort zone, and I had finally escaped mine.

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