Do you believe in Magic?
Have been running an adventure outfitter in Costa Rica for almost 20 years. I’m always trying to figure out the happiness formula it offers to visitors and locals.
Some say the formula has to do with Costa Rica’s decades of conservation, stable government, and peaceful people have made it one of the most pleasant places to visit. If this is true then tourism in Costa Rica should be a pretty fulfilling profession.
It is. Working in tourism I have been lucky enough to see thousands of micro-moments of what makes visitors happy here in Costa Rica. A sloth sighting, learning some Costa Rica slang, hanging with the locals, awe-inspiring scenery, and some epic adventure always seems to be the cure for visitors that come needing a dosage of the Pura Vida.
The Greatest Show in Costa Rica
We all know magicians can captivate an audience and leave us bewildered about how he performed his act. Deep down most of us know it’s not really magic but during the show we allow ourselves to get lost in the moment and enjoy a reality that is beyond one’s understanding.
If Costa Rica had a stage for magicians the Pacuare River would serve many of them well. It allows their audience to be completely consumed at the moment and live in a world that to many is unthinkable.
I have been paddling the Pacuare for 20 years and every single trip the river still leaves me in awe. As somewhat of a skeptic myself I have tried to figure out what it is.
The total immersion in nature which the Japanese refer to as “forest bathing” and its benefits to our busy minds. There is also being surrounded by running water and the book “The Blue Mind” dives deep into how being near water and its psychological benefits to the brain.
Regardless of how many books or articles you read the effect is always the same, a magical transition to the moment. Now more than ever in the digital world it’s a feeling that is becoming harder and harder to find.
The Trip Pacuare River Reminded me of Its Magic
This trip happened towards the end of the pandemic. We had a group of two families from Venezuela. If you are at all familiar with global politics and the situation in Venezuela you probably can figure out they were not just visiting on a family vacation. These two families left behind their businesses, friends, and families to offer their children a safe and better future in Costa Rica.
As the two families arrived at the river several stories were at play that none of our guides had a clue but I am convinced the Pacuare River knows every single persons story that navigates her waters and she knows exactly what she needs to accomplish.
In short, one of the fathers had just returned from his brother’s funeral and was suffering the loss. One of the teenage girls had just left living with her biological parents and was now dealing with the adjustment of leaving her family. A third daughter was in a very toxic relationship and had yet to summon the strength to move on.
Over the next three days, the Pacuare River worked its magic, filling its visitors with the joy, strength, and courage they all needed. It put each one of them in the moment and reminded them that life is fluid and always changing and our best way to live it is going with its flow. For the father that lost his brother, he was able to feel a sense of emotion and happiness that allowed him to remember the good times he had with his brother and not dwell on the loss. The young girl who left her parent’s house conquered her fears of rafting making her realize that she was capable of the tough moments ahead. Finally was the young lady in her toxic relationship it reminded me of the most dangerous parts of the river where nobody wants to be. This area is a hydraulic hole where the water circulates in a circle and boats can get stuck in these holes, like many toxic relationships. In the river, you have to row hard to avoid the holes as it’s not easy but once you find the line you realize the river is always moving forward.
When obstacles are in their way the water simply moves on and the adventure of life is too short to be spending it paddling upstream.
The Happiness Factory
I only learned about these stories because I was able to develop a personal relationship with the families even after their visit to POC. It dawned on me that every raft we send down the Pacuare River and the value it has. Tourism is often referred to as a place to go have “fun”. Many think they are offering just a fun adventure but there will always be those in the group who have the opportunity to heal or grow and this is as important as any profesion.
One of the kiddos on the trip began to call me “Tio” which in Spanish means “Uncle”. She was later asked that week if she planned to work this summer. She replied that she was going to work at her Tio Tom’s. When asked what business Tio Tom had she replied a factory. She was then asked what did they fabricate in Tio Tom’s factory. She replied that her Tio Tom’s factory was at the Pacuare River and the factory produced, HAPPINESS!