The #1 thing that I am loving about Costa Rica is the simplicity. In the diet, in the lifestyle, in the natural setting, in the pace… North Americans could really learn a lot! We have a different reality up there, but there are a few things we can learn:

The best toys for kids are a natural setting. Children here are running around with each other on the beach, on teeter-totters, playing with the dogs (who are all well-behaved and all run loose in the street, by the way) and playing with nature. This is entertaining and educational for children. We keep shopping and shopping trying to keep them entertained and from screaming their bloody heads off - they really just need to be outside more. Live in the thick of the city? If you are in a city such as Toronto, there are amazing parks and settings. You must make the effort, it's beyond worth it. Outdoors = health, for adults AND children.

Food doesn't need to be complicated to be delicious, filling and keep us feeling good. Only a few days after eating the local diet did I start to feel full of energy, leaner, less bloated and simply WELL. Beans and rice and fruit and salads and fish… Need I say more? Clean, natural foods. And these foods are inexpensive, so no more of those excuses. You can say Twinkies are cheap but they don't count, aren't food, shouldn't even be eaten. Rice and beans include healthy carbs, some protein and tons of vitamins. Cheap and easy!

Finally, when one person is relaxed, friendly and happy, so are the people around him/her. Again, the pace is different down here. You don't see people, even those in sales (fisherman, local artists) manipulating others to benefit financially. There are no suits, pretentious presentations to a big boss, discussions of advertising and marketing - getting inside people's heads in order to make more money. Money comes, money goes… Enjoying life is always at the top of the priority list. And that includes family, activity, and the appreciation of nature - which is left very much as is, and all of it is respected as part of a complete eco-system.

We can't overhaul a culture. But individually, we can begin to eat smarter, be kinder to the environment, spend more time doing activities with our families and less stressing about managing companies and shopping. This improves life, and that principle is the intent of this blog.

Checking email down here over Christmas includes receiving desperate ploys from companies to sell more and more before Christmas so that CEOS meet their quotas and employees get their bonuses. It just looks so silly. Imagine a place where there are no malls and discounts, aggressive salespeople and pretentious suits? The way we lead our lives can lead to a better world, bit by bit.

Chew on this over the holidays. Consider the things on the table that are excess, avoid them. Instead get to eating clean, smiling and laughing. That is what a pure life, "pura vida" is all about.