How To Be “Pura Vida”
Ticos & Ticas From Our Herd Share Their Wisdom. By Maya Silver
Maybe you’ve seen it on a t-shirt, wondered if it was akin to hakuna matata, or experienced it come to life in Costa Rica. For some, pura vida is a way of life. To others, it’s the secret to happiness.
At a time when the work-life balance in the U.S. feels out of control with 24/7 work messages, WFH days that defy the 9-to-5, and tenuous childcare, the idea of pura vida feels more useful than ever. But what is it exactly?
We turned to the 50-some members of our own Herd based in Costa Rica for answers. Our Costa Rica office is located in Santa Ana, San José, and specializes in web engineering and photo editing. Here’s what this national philosophy is, and how you can live that pura vida life, according to the Ticos & Ticas of Backcountry.
What Is Pura Vida?
“5.5 million souls, 19,700 sq mi of land, 221,189 sq mi of ocean, 6% of world biodiversity, one country … it is Costa Rica’s spirit.”
That’s how Juan Pablo Cordero Solano, a Software Engineer Manager at Backcountry, defines pura vida. One way he lives a pura vida life is by getting outside, which is easy for him with two volcanoes, two coasts, deep rainforests, and the highest peak in the country just 30-70 miles from his front door.
Pura vida may be grounded in this Central American country, but it’s a concept that transcends borders. “It is a way of behaving, a state of mind, a philosophy of life,” Senior Engineer Jose Paulo Yock explains. He feels most aligned with that pura vida feeling when he’s biking, swimming, surfing, or hiking through national parks.
So what exactly is the pura vida state of mind? “You are happy and grateful for what you have,” explains Susanah Zomer, our Image Editor Team Manager. She does that by trying to live in and really enjoy the moment, whether she’s at the beach, going for a run, or doing yoga with her daughter.
Beyond being core to Costa Rica and a state of mind that many Ticas and Ticos adopt, pura vida is also a greeting. Hello, goodbye, thank you—instead, just say “pura vida.” Using the phrase in conversation is a way to constantly reflect positivity. This isn’t just performative. Backcountry Software Engineer Geovanny Lopez explains that the phrase helps him focus on the good, rather than fixating on the negative.
Dial In Your Work-Life Balance
In Juan Pablo Cordero Solano’s 11 years at Backcountry, he says he’s balanced an “intense” performance environment at work by “keeping the pura vida spirit” strong among his coworkers. While getting out in nature is a key part of living pura vida, so is connecting with others and not being afraid to show emotions. “Be part of our society, include everyone, love everything,” Juan advises.
There is a sense of camaraderie among Tico and Tica colleagues, rooted in the shared understanding that everyone around you is also committed to positivity and feels grateful to be able to do the work. When challenges do arise, Nicolas Jimenez-Garcia says he uses the pura vida approach to avoid entering a downward spiral, and focus instead on collaborative solutions.
Disconnecting from work is also key. Our Costa Rican Herd recommends taking time away from work to dive into the richness of nature or test yourself with an outdoor sport so you can reboot your energy. Nature plays a big role in this Costa Rican approach to life. “Being close to nature and, most importantly caring for it, is a great part of the meaning of pura vida,“ explains Software Engineer Nicolas Jimenez-Garcia.
Geovanny Lopez agrees: “It is easier to relax listening to the birds, the trees moving with the wind, or just listening to the rain. This helps us escape our problems and think how lucky we are for what we have in our lives.”
Escaping the stressors of work might also mean dedicated time with family and friends. “It is as important to be a mom, spouse, daughter, sister, and friend as well as a good manager and employee,” Susanah Zomer says. It helps that she feels Backcountry is a “pura vida company” that values nature and adventures just like she does.
How To Live Pura Vida
Costa Rica is often ranked as one of (if not the) happiest countries in the world. Juan chalks that up to the national mantra. We know that pura vida works, but do you have to actually live there to embody the philosophy?
While the pura vida vibes are strongest in Costa Rica, you can still channel them anywhere. Here’s some advice from the Backcountry Ticos & Ticas on how to do just that:
- Choose positivity. If you find yourself thinking about the “bad” or wallowing in self-pity, stop, say “pura vida,” and redirect your focus toward things you’re feeling good about. Ticos and Ticas believe happiness can be a choice, and one we make daily.
- Practice gratitude. Even on days when nothing is going right, you can find things you’re grateful for. Family, friends, your health, your dog, having a job, that local trail you love, the sound of birds singing in the morning—what’s on your gratitude list?
- Find perspective in nature. Especially if you’re bogged down with a problem or feeling burnt out at work, get out there. Adventures big and small, perfect and imperfect all count. Catching a wave or riding a trail can put you in a flow state that yields deep appreciation for life—but so can a walk through the woods on a rainy day.
- Be in the moment. Instead of thinking about a decision you regret or feeling anxious about something ahead, try to be present in the moment. Slow the “hustle and bustle” and find time to live in the now—feel the warmth of the sun and savor that first sip of coffee.
- Spread the positive vibes. Ticos and Ticas say “pura vida” as a greeting. If you’re visiting Costa Rica do the same, and in your day to day, make an effort to exude positivity in the pura vida spirit.
One more way to channel Costa Rica’s official outlook? Score some Goat gear featuring artwork from Amelia Mayorga, a talented Backcountry Tica. Her designs are featured on both a five-panel hat and a straw sun hat, as well as a top (available in women’s and men’s).
With that, there’s only one thing left to say: Pura vida.
Maya Silver is a writer based in Utah who has gotten very lost in the Costa Rican rainforest. Follow along on IG @silverismaya