The Darker Side of Paradise We Don't Talk About


Words by Chrissy Gruninger // Photo by Gerardo Morales on Unsplash

I thrive on new experiences and exploring new places, choosing to take the road less traveled and to not conform to expectations from society. In 2012 I took the leap, and moved from California to Costa Rica. Yet living in this paradise on earth, I have been forced time and again to face the fact that we live in an imperfect world, and to find ways to come to terms with this in order to live a more sanguine life.

Living abroad, and not just spending a week or two traveling in a paradisiacal setting, has opened me up to many new experiences, some beautiful and others, very dark. And it has, in turn, required me to turn inward and explore myself, my beliefs and my core values.

Prior to moving here, I never really considered what it would be like to live in a male dominated machismo country. Sure, the US has its share of gender issues but I, myself, didn’t have much experience with being seen as “less than” in my work and personal life.

However my newly sun-kissed life of living in Costa Rica was darkened by the challenges I faced, both personally and as an entrepreneur.

In the span of one week, I was propositioned by four different men. One was married, two had girlfriends and one was single.

When I was looking at a new apartment to rent, the property manager asked me to have sex with him. And not just once, but multiple times and even via text message (which I have all the copies of). While I’m now used to this type of behavior and know how to handle it, this was a building that had both long term and short term rentals. In defense of single women who might be travelling and staying at the apartments, I informed the property owner, a man in the US, of what occurred. He told me: “No one else has complained so I don’t believe you.” Sounds like a man in the US in the 1950’s, doesn’t it? But this was 2016. I told him I had all the text messages but he didn’t care. He told me it’s hard to find good managers and this one, while not great, did a better job than others. Unfortunately, in the 5 years I’ve lived in the tropical paradise, this has not been an isolated incident.

Given the number of unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and downright unfathomable things in Costa Rica, I had to find a way to make it work if I was to call this country home.

I’ve had to learn to let go.

I’ve had to let go of my physical property when my house was robbed multiple times. I’ve had to let go of my expectations for people to show up and be on time. I’ve had to let go of many of my ideas of how people should show up in the world and treat each other.

I have had to let go of those things in order to maintain my own inner peace. Sure, I could stomp my feet and keep insisting that things be different and that I'm right, but I'd be miserable.

Instead, I choose to keep moving forward. I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Rather than exasperating myself trying to rely on others who don't share my worldviews, instead I ask myself to show up in ways that feel integrous and respectful.

It's easier said than done, of course, the whole letting go and surrendering thing. The most essential piece of the puzzle is asking: "What no longer serves me in a positive and healthy way?”

With that knowledge, I was armed to create my life with intention, rather than just as a reaction to circumstance or wanting to fit in. Saying no to things, even if I'd previously been all about them, opened new doors and created space in my life for new, fresh things that I wanted to cultivate. Perhaps those doors didn't always open immediately (as the Universe does seem to enjoy testing what I've learned so far) but in hindsight I can see it to have worked perfectly to my benefit each and every time.

By allowing myself to let go - of my need to be right, to have things my way, on my schedule - ease entered my life. While I still had to put forth effort, it involved far less struggle. This is not to say that I don't have my opinions about these things, of course, so much as I’ve learned to relinquish the desire to argue or create drama over being right. By living a life in direct correlation to my values and beliefs, I get to be who I truly am and live a life based on my values, how I want to show up in the world.

I’ve also learned to acknowledge that what might be good for me is terrible for someone else, and vice versa. Every person's life is different. Every person's life needs to be honored. We each have a Divine light in us. I need to remember to foster that light, stoke it, and let it shine through me, to let people see who I am. I also get the opportunity to take a deep breath and to remember to see the Divine light in everyone else.

Chrissy Gruninger is an author, yoga teacher and happiness mentor. She received her Graduate Degree in Integrative Health and Sustainability from Sonoma State University in 2008. She is a multi-passionate entrepreneur and has recently published her tenth book: “Lost and Found in the Land of Mañana, Wildhearted Living in an Imperfect World”. You can find out more about her work at Chrissy currently lives in Costa Rica.

Letting Go | Living Abroad | Costa Rica | Moving