Words by Matt Hein
Photos by Camille Hein
Some places have a way of creeping into the depths of your soul. I wasn’t necessarily excited when I was asked to go be a missionary in Costa Rica for two years right out of high school. I can’t say I knew anything about the place, to be honest. But I didn’t think Central America had anything to offer me. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I spent two years getting to know and falling in love with the Costa Rican people and culture. I hung out with both the well-off and those who were less fortunate, people living in the bustling city of San Jose and on the coasts of Guanacaste respectively. It was all about the people and after those two years I was a changed person, thanks to the Pura Vida lifestyle and all the Ticos that will never leave my heart.
After that...life happened. I finished school, got married, had four daughters, and didn’t go back until almost 20 years later. But this time changed my life again. I was a “tourist” now. Of course I was a tourist that spoke the language and intimately knew the culture... but I did touristy things with all of my family and it was epic! The jungle... oh man, the jungle! The massive hardwood trees, the silly monkeys, lazy sloths, majestic birds, and all the scary critters transported us to the most vibrant scenes straight out of the Jungle Book. It’s all real, all there, all accessible and all gorgeous.
That was about two years ago and we’ve already been back twice since then. We just feel like we belong there. Those creeping jungle vines are constantly pulling us back. Every decision we make is about whether or not it gets us closer to or further from going back to Costa Rica. The jungles of Costa Rica will consume any plot of land or building you put in it if you’re not careful... turns out it did the same thing me and there’s no use fighting it.