9 Tico solutions to living simply

Many Ticos seem to have so much less than North Americans (by “material standards”), in fact most Ticos do not make a lot of money and live on very little; but yet they seem to be very happy.  “Pura vida” is said a lot here – but it’s also meant a lot.  “Life is good” seems to be everyone’s motto and true outlook on life.

Here are a few examples of how the Ticos live more simply.  These things struck me as very odd at first, but now…  they actually make plenty of sense (well, most of them).

baby changing table

Seriously – who needs a super duper fold-down gourmet baby changing table?  All you really need is an old folding card table with a simple “baby” plastic table cloth over it!  This would never fly in the litigious States – where everyone is out to make a dime on suing someone else…

baby changing table in a local restaurant's restroom.

baby changing table in a local restaurant’s restroom.

solar water heater

Many Tico houses here do not have hot water.  Here is how one house gets hot (or warm) water in their showers:  they leave hoses laying out on the roof with water in them, and let the sun warm the water.  Another note:  we have a 3 gallon water heater at our house which gives us enough hot water for 2 long showers (sometimes more) and washing dishes once or twice a day.  When I think of our Dallas house having a 100 gallon water heater…   wow.


solar clothes dryer

Most Ticos only have a washer, and not a dryer for their clothes (well, they do have a dryer, a SOLAR dyer).  It is VERY common to see clothes hanging outside at all times.  They hang them everywhere and anywhere – on clotheslines, draped over bushes, hung over the edge of the roof, and sometimes even laid out on the lawn.  Whatever gets the job done (or dried, in this case), and is so much cheaper on the electric bill.



solar hair dryer 

I see Ticas all the time, getting on the bus with their long hair freshly washed and still wet.  They brush it and fix it while on the bus…  letting it air dry (and it always seems to look great, after it’s dried, too!).


raised garbage bins 

Ticos do not spend money on garbage bins or trash barrels, instead everyone has a little “stand” such as this near the road (or they share with their neighbors):  This serves the purpose of raising it from the ground, and the cage around it protects it from animals getting to it.  Simple, cost efficient, and again – gets the job done.  Also, Greg & I have noticed how much LESS garbage we produce living here in Costa Rica.  In the states, we would empty our 13 gallon kitchen garbage can every other day.  Here – we empty a 3 gallon recycled grocery bag just twice a week, mainly because we are eating less processed foods with less packaging.


natural fence posts

There’s a type of tree here that the Ticos use ALL the time as a fence post.  It grows, but typically grows straight up – which works perfectly for this purpose!  They plant these trees, and attach the fence or barbed wire, and when the tree grows, it grows around the wire, encompassing it and creating a permanent fence post.

photo 2

natural steps

We see lots of dirt steps, like these, while out on our hikes.  Sometimes leading to coffee fields, sometimes houses.  I guess, if they wash away, they just make them again?  Easy, simple, and serves a purpose.


carry a machete

Wouldn’t life be easier if we all carried a machete around with us?  Well, it is here.  Men and women and boys and girls are seen with them, working with them in the yard or sides of roads, cutting down brush and sometimes even cutting the lawn with them (not kidding!).  They walk down the roads with them, or take them on the buses.  Can you imagine if someone walked on the bus in the states with a machete?  People would freak out and the police would be there in no time.  Odd as it sounds here, it is just their way of life, and is not out of the norm, nor does it seem to be taken advantage of at any time (as far as I have seen, in my own little sheltered world here in Grecia)…


a motorcycle built for 3

I’ve said before that the motorcyclists are crazy here.  They are almost always young boys/men  – who obey no traffic laws at all, weaving in and out of cars WORSE than I’ve ever seen in the states (if you can imagine that).   I’ve heard that 30% of all traffic accidents here involve a motorcycle.  They’re always popping a ‘wheely’ or doing an ‘endo’ (yes, I got these words from my hubby):


And I guess sometimes it’s just simpler and easier to throw a kid on the front or back of your motorcycle!  No one would be caught dead doing this in the states, but I’ve seen a woman walk out of her house carrying her toddler and set him in front of her husband on the motorcycle, and away they go!   No helmets.  I’ve also seen as many as 3 (my friend has seen 4!) people riding on one motorcycle together!  Here’s a woman (pretty much unheard of) with her child:


Mother and child (and yes, I obliterated the faces to protect the innocent).

That’s all for now folks!  Peace! — Jen

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20 Responses to 9 Tico solutions to living simply

  1. Great read as always! We, too, are overwhelmed by all the STUFF needed here in the states. Can’t wait to get back to Pura Vida land where life is simple, rich, and simply rich!
    P.s. (No baby yet!). Today is when his Daddy said he is arriving. We shall see). .


    • Thanks so much Jeanie (for reading, and your comments!).
      PS can’t wait to hear when he comes… I’ll keep looking on facebook for the birth news! 🙂

  2. My favorite is similar to your motorcycle example- tandem bicycling. There’s the full grown adult man and woman combo with the lady’s legs draped across the frame, two kids dressed in their uniforms on their way to school, one standing up on the back, and even the kid toting his baby sibling on the front handlebars. Who needs two bikes when you can just take one!

  3. Such a cool post. And a great glimpse at day to day life in Costa Rica. It’s true DIY culture here. People make due with what they have. And I think anybody who lives here ends up picking up a lot of the same habits. It just makes sense. Myself, I have yet to get proficient with the machete – I’m worried I’m going to chop a finger off. 🙂

  4. Okay, Jen Jen …. Just read your post and I am confused. You didn’t have to move all the way to Costa Rica to see fools on motorcycles, clothes in the trees/yards, trash piled up, and guys walking around with machete’s…..You could have moved to a trailer park in Dallas and seen that!

  5. As someone who dreams of living there in a few years, I really appreciate things like this! It’s the little things that spike my curiosity so much. SO many things that are different that I’d like to be somewhat prepared for!

  6. Wonderful post, Jen! I’ve been here now for 5 years and met my husband of nearly 1 year here. Together we even offer adventures for those who would like to see simply living really up close for a couple of days. But the most important thing is that I’ve found, as you have, that my Tico neighbors have shown me the way. I just love the simplicity, which has made for quieter, much less stressful life for me to enjoy. No junkmail. Few phone calls. Always smiles with shouts of ‘Pura Vida!’ I constantly marvel at their ingenuity and creativity and I especially love seeing one of my recycled old dresses winding up as new dresses for little girls in the neighborhood. I love simple living in Costa Rica! Pura Vida!

    • Hi Jan!! Wow, that’s great you’ve been here for 5 years and met your husband here – congrat’s to you! Ah…. you bring up a good item – JUNK MAIL – oh how I do not miss it either!! Few phone calls too (I hate talking on the phone)! Thanks for reading. 🙂

  7. I agree on the trash. We barely put anything out unlike back in the states. Also, we don’t panic if we miss the trash man because they come 3 times a week! Awesome!!

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