Imagine my surprise and skeptism when I opened an email two weeks ago that I fully expected to delete and mark as spam. "Costa Rica’s Tourism Board would like to give you a free trip to Costa Rica". Whaaaa??? Yeah right - total sham I thought. De-lete. Almost. I sat on it to decide how or if I would reply because I was a teeny bit curious but a lot skeptical. What if it was real. Probably not. It's too good to be true. Yeah, totally not real. Maybe it is. Before I replied another email came in with news that another blogger had accepted the gift and they (ad agency) would be happy to answer any questions or help put my mind at ease in case I was skeptical. Yes, definitely skeptical and definitely had questions...lots.
I spoke with two women at the ad agency (in Atlanta, Georgia) for the Tourism Board of Costa Rica and was happy and comfortable with our conversation but also asked for contact info of the other blogger who already accepted the offer. They gladly and quickly supplied me with info of the woman behind the Marriage Confessions blog who decided to go on the trip. She provided very detailed reasons why she was 100% comfortable with her decision. After we emailed back and forth and I did some more hunting around online (including googling "Costa Rica Gift of Happiness fraud/sham/hoax/evil trick"), I felt confident this was a real deal and I accepted Costa Rica's Gift of Happiness. Wooot! I'm SO excited. It feels unreal.
So what does a trip to Costa Rica have to do with Fig+Sage? A couple things:
1). Costa Rica prides itself on it's sustainability efforts, green initiatives and is an eco-tourism destination. The country's motto is Pura Vida (Pure Life). I'll be flying on Nature Air, Costa Rica's first carbon neutral airline, staying in Certified Sustainable Tourism (CST) hotels, going on guided nature hikes through the rainforest, touring an organic coffee plantation, visiting an active volvano and learning how to surf, amongst other fun things.
2). After much thought, last month I decided to take a blogging sabbatical this January. Gwen Bell and her Digital Sabbaticals have been inspiring me lately and speaking my language. My sister named my sabbatical The Fresh Air Project. Shortly after this decision an old dear friend sent me a message. What is going on girl?? after I indicated I was in a funk. Oh you know, just comtemplating life and the pursuit of happiness (something our high school science teacher used to say all the time). Little did I know that A Gift of Happiness was just around the corner. I believe everything happens for a reason and it's no mistake this trip presented itself soon after I decided I need to step away from a good portion of technology for awhile, re-connect with nature and myself, reassess goals and make decisions about the future. This really could not have come at a better time.
I love Fall but part of me feels a sense of dread before winter as I've learned since moving to the Midwest five years ago that I won't see much sun or plants for the next 4-5 months. You don't realize those two things are so essential to life until they are gone. I never used to believe that S.A.D. was a real thing when I lived in California where it was pretty much always 75 and sunny, give or take. I was spoiled in the weather department. I realize that now. Now I know S.A.D is totally real. In the dead of winter, in the midst of blizzards, ice storms and five layers of clothing, I always forget what it's like to see foliage and start to doubt that I'll ever see the sun or plants again. Yes, I get extreme in extreme elements that last for months. My husband's uncle who lived in Michigan for many years gave us a piece of advice when we moved to The Snowbelt and said that in order to survive these winters, it's essential to travel somewhere warm, sunny and tropical in the middle of them to retain slash regain sanity and get some Vitamin D. Finally, after five winters my husband and I are going to do just that. And that makes heading into this season so much more bearable and exciting.
The logical part of my brain believes that happiness is a state of mind rather than a place but I truly believe being somewhere you love to live or visit most definitely has a big influence on one's mental state. I haven't talked about it here before but life as I knew it was uprooted almost six years ago when I had to move across the country and leave behind my family and friends. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. Talking about it still makes me choke up. I felt like a homesick fish out of water and often still do. Mulling, contemplating and obsessing over whether or not a place can make one happy is something I've put a lot of time and energy into. Probably a little too much. It's something I have to consistently work on. My conclusion is that while happiness comes from within, you can definitely become happier, at least temporarily, by visiting a place that makes you feel good. That is my hope for Costa Rica. Be happy and do things I normally wouldn't do. Breathe fresh air and experience a different culture. Take it all in and live in the moment but take lots of pictures so I can remember the moments after they are over.
I find it ironic that I'm from the Happiest City in America (okay, a couple towns over but close enough) and I'm going to visit the Happiest Country in the World. It will be interesting to compare differences. Did you know Costa Rica is the greenest and happiest country in the world according to the Happy Planet Index? I really can't wait to experience it for myself! Truth be told, I've let out several squeals lately and done a happy dance or two.
I received my official Gift of Happiness Certificate a couple days ago:
|Welcome letter from Mr. Allen Flores, Costa Rica Minister of Tourism|
|Gift of Happiness box wrapped in linen & with a cute (not real) grasshopper |
|Responsibility-sourced wood engraved Gift of Happiness Certificate|
Have you ever been to Costa Rica? Would love to know what you did there, where you stayed, what you'd recommend or what you thought. Everyone I know who has been said it's absolutely amazing. I can't wait for these 8 days and 7 nights!
If you'd like to experience A Gift of Happiness, free trips are offered daily over on the Visit Costa Rica - The Costa Rica Tourist Board Facebook Page. Watch this video for a cute little sloth commercial. Who knew sloths sound like surfers?!
Disclosure: The Gift of Happiness Adventure trip is an all-inclusive (except for lunches, dinners and things we want to do that isn't on their itinerary or any souveniers, obvs) and has been offered to us at no charge courtesy of The Costa Rica Tourism Board. No one's telling me what to write - my personal experience in Costa Rica will be transparent, real and honest as our reviews always are.