September 10, 2020
So my family has definitely gotten into the HGTV channel and watching the transformations and construction processes. Last night, the family was watching some show and I both my girls and my wife began commenting on just how amazed they were with the fact that 90% of the homes we see being built and remodeled in the USA are wood frame, light wood or drywall separations. The speed and flexibility this provides is amazing and we began to talk about how BEAUTIFUL these homes were completed, the finishes, textures and aesthetics of both the exterior and interior of the homes are inspiring and certainly create a sense of longing to be able to live and share in such amazing spaces.
In Costa Rica, due to the seismic codes and climate, virtually all of the homes are built of steel reinforced concrete block or slabs. The process to build is slower and making renovations, especially when required to access piping, electrical lines, etc. can be much more complex. While the availability of luxury finishes and the quality of many of the details of construction have evolved exponentially in the past 20 years, much of this highly polished finished marketplace remains isolated the the luxury condos, homes and villas in the country. Meanwhile the vast majority of Costa Rica citizens live in SOLID yet simply finished homes.
As the family and I debated about the pros and cons of each, something surfaced in our dialogue which made me reflect on yet another reason I love living in Costa Rica and perhaps one of the reasons more and more US citizens are itching to experience a new lifestyle. In many ways, and this is certainly a generalization, life in the USA has been about the external façade and less about the strength and integrity of what is BELOW or HIDDEN beneath the surface. What kind of finishes does your home have, what kind of appliances or stone is installed, what kind of clothes do you wear, car do you drive, country club, phone, etc. etc. Our collective obsession with working ourselves, sometimes to death, to build this appearance of beauty externally to share with the world has not been balanced with a focus on the importance of the strength and foundation behind this external façade.
The age of the internet, digital photos, TikTok, Instagram only exacerbates this phenomenon. How many photos do you take before you find that perfect angle and light? Our collective focus on IMAGE, how the world sees us vs how we FEEL and the integrity of what is behind that image is an enormous challenge for our society as a whole. As my family and I reflected on the construction of many of the homes in the USA, a realization regarding our lives in Costa Rica surfaced as my family discussed what was more important, the quality of the finish or the integrity of what’s below.
Costa Rica and its magic is more than just the stunning natural beauty, climate, investment potential and stable democracy. It allure is ingrained in the STRENGTH of its foundations in family, education, social security and happiness. I always found it enigmatic to finding friends and neighbors who live WELL below what many US citizens might think are poverty levels of income, whose homes have more joy, smiles, love and sharing that the mansions in which many of us in the USA are surrounded by. Ultimately I think we are going to see a lot more investment and relocation to Costa Rica as more and more people realize with the lessons of this pandemic the importance of the strength of the fabrics of their homes and happiness vs the quality of the external finishes of their lives. While I am certainly NOT one to aspire to live in a “tent full of love” I am taking the lessons from Costa Rica to work as much on the strength of the “unseen” elements of my home and life as I am on those finishes with the external world can see.