Las Catalinas, Costa Rica

Over the past few months, I’ve been living in Potrero, Costa Rica, a coastal fishing village with about 500 residents. Life in Potrero has been fairly routine, especially compared to the first few months of my trip. Every day, I walk the same dirt road to the bus stop and see the same people (and animals). I know when the woman on the bicycle will pass me, the father taking his son to school, the stray dog looking for scraps. I almost know when the rooster on the soccer field is going to crow. It’s like clockwork. The simplicity of life and the friendliness of the people in Potrero have offered a refreshing perspective on necessities versus luxuries.

I board the bus en route to Las Catalinas – a new, master-planned beach town development that has drawn inspiration from Carmel, California; Charleston, South Carolina; Seaside, Florida; Cinque Terra, Italy; and many other Mediterranean hill towns. It’s a bold, master-planned community development that emphasizes walkability, livability, and connection to nature and the people around you. In many ways, it’s a reaction to the sprawl of society and the disconnectedness that results from many cities/suburbs in the United States. Not surprisingly, the town’s visionary resides in Atlanta, and knows a thing or two about urban sprawl and traffic.

Despite Las Catalinas’ genuine focus on being an inclusive member of the community (public beaches and access to trails; no literal or figurative walls up like many of its competitors), there’s an evident gap between the costly homes and the modesty of the surrounding communities. My bus passes hundreds of Nicaraguan workers marching up the road from their living area to begin work on the several homes under construction. After mentioning to my Costa Rican colleague Jaime that I needed a haircut, he recommended a Nicaraguan construction worker who doubles as a barber, specializing in designs on the side of the head. I told Jaime I’d track him down and ask him to shave my initials on each side. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I couldn’t find him and opted for a more traditional cut.

I’ve been working at Las Catalinas as a short-term intern of sorts, helping out with various tasks related to real estate finance and economics. The company culture and location are great and stand in direct contrast to the 18th floor of the skyscraper that I worked at in Atlanta. For one, I’m a stone’s throw away from the ocean and a short walk from over 40 kilometers of hiking and mountain biking trails at Las Catalinas. Each morning before work I go for a hike or workout at the outdoor yoga studio, followed by a refreshing swim in the Pacific Ocean. I wear shorts, a polo shirt, and Chacos to work every day.

On weekends, I volunteer as an assistant soccer and lacrosse coach with a great non-profit called Lacrosse the Nations. The organization serves local youth in Potrero and the neighboring town of Brasilito. I’ve had a blast coaching, playing sports with, and getting to know the awesome and hilarious local kids. My stay in Costa Rica has also afforded me the opportunity to explore other parts of the beautiful country on weekends. Though I don’t have access to a car or bike, a few generous friends have included me on various weekend excursions, including surfing, caving, exploring waterfalls, and hiking in national parks.

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My time at Las Catalinas has been a great professional and cultural learning experience, as well as a welcome change from day-to-day travel during the first few months of my trip. I’ll miss the great people I’ve gotten to know both at Las Catalinas and in Potrero. Nonetheless, I am ready to move on. I will be flying to Peru in two weeks to continue my travels in South America!

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Jack

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