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3 Simple Pleasures that Change Your Life

Written by Michele Richardson on February 19, 2014

a_fam_on_costa_rica_beach_2011_-_smallAs Old man Winter begins to loosen his frigid grip, the lure of Spring Break begins to take hold. For families with schoolchildren this particular “holiday” is often the biggie. It’s a time for many to leave the road salt and slush back at home and for the first time in months to slip the bathing suit on – and of course hope it still fits! Our family has been blessed with a string of remarkable annual trips and aha moments – from the oceanfront and schools of dolphin near Sea Pines in Hilton Head to the giant red starfish in Turks & Caicos to the “Swiss Alps” feel of Telluride to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii and back to the authentic piñata making class in Los Cabos.

Young children, our Alexis now 11 and Kyle 8, show such joy for the little things. A shell, a Mexican wrestling mask, an Aspen tree, a dolphin, a whale, a monkey, someone who speaks another language, or even an airplane. You know, that airplane that you dread getting on with 94 other families making the pilgrimage to a week-long escape from reality. It’s that childlike joy that you can capture when you set out to gain 3 simple pleasures from your vacation.

So we landed in Liberia. No, not the country in West Africa but the city – in Costa Rica. This was the place where those 3 simple things would manifest themselves. When you bring together people that you care about, and you commit to “being present”, and you’re open to seeing and doing new things, and you leave your heart and mind open to “being helpful” or “contributing”, the magic 3 can come together to shape the most meaningful and memorable vacation you can recall. Of course, you can get accustomed to this approach and the result will shape your answer when someone asks what your best vacation ever was. Your answer will then become – “the last one we took”.

The Guanacaste region of Costa Rica is stunning. Many know, or can Google, that a handful of activities here are otherworldly. You want to learn to surf? Check. Looking for world class fishing? You’re good. Been meaning to try zip lining? Right on brother. Hey isn’t there a famous volcano to check out? Want to shake hands with a monkey? Might not be a great idea but you can get awfully close!  In fact, this tiny Country houses 4% of all species worldwide. There are 500,000 different species of animals and plants in Costa Rica. So one of our most memorable and meaningful family trips was here – with another family, in a 5 bedroom villa, overlooking the sea, and claiming those 3 ingredients we all seek.

You see, one great way to Build Relationships is to be present and spend time with people you care about. Away from your iPhone, iPad, iText, iBook, iSpreadsheet, iPowerpoint, or iBalancesheet. You know a private chef can really help this. Close your eyes and envision a grande sunset coming down over the Pacific, a sprawling pool deck that disappears into the edge of the sea, the children dried off and ready for dinner but no need for the procession of showers to get everyone ready for dinner, and a talented English speaking chef delivering fresh tuna tartar with avocado and mango right to your seat. You have friends, your children, your spouse, and a glass of your favorite vino. There is a hint of sea salt in the air and the din of waves crashing is the only sound outside of your conversation and the Bruno Mars song playing from the outdoor sound system. Relationships are built here. They’re built on the zip line platform. They’re enhanced at the surf lesson. They go further on the river tour when the monkeys hop onto the boat. You grow personally when you side off that platform with the goofy helmet on. You’re zip lining for the first time. So is your 7 year old. When the monkey stops next to you on the boat – you’re growing personally. You are no longer afraid of monkeys and you know one other than Curious George. Your daughter got up on a surf board for the first time. Her fear is gone. She’s grown to believe and trust in herself, at least with a small wave. You’ve met new people. They’re not like you. Their culture is different. You know something and someone new. So we left Costa Rica with a sense of meaning and happiness. We saw animals and people there that need our help. How can we contribute in a meaningful way? Small steps are really great. Support a local family by purchasing goods from them. Be a steward by doing your part to be responsible with the plant and animal life while you’re there. Tip well. Find a local organization that can use your help and give up one half day on your week long getaway to give back. Or better yet, allow a trip planner or concierge who is in the know to help set this up. So don’t miss that important family vacation this year. Go foster Relationships, experience Personal Growth, and find a way to Contribute in a Meaningful way. It will bring more lasting happiness and meaning to your life and to those around you.

Pura Vida. And we bought the shirts to prove it.

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