My family and I just got back from a week-long vacation to Costa Rica. We hiked through the rain forest, went white water rafting and swam under a beautiful waterfall, spent lazy days on gorgeous beaches and shrieked with delight each time we saw a sloth, parrot, lizard, crocodile or pelican. But what made the trip so fabulous were the people. Costa Ricans are genuinely kind, easy-going and happy.

In reading up on Costa Rica before the trip, I learned that Costa Rica is rated as one of the happiest countries in the world. What contributes to its high rating are its beautiful landscapes, access for all of its people to good nutrition, health care and education, a deep belief in peace (in fact, they have no army), a commitment to ecological sustainability, and living long lives.

Costa Ricans have and enjoy spare time, strong social networks, and long and healthy lives. “Costa Rica enjoys a privileged position as a mid-income country … that allows most citizens to satisfy their basic needs,” says Costa Rican economics professor Mariano Rojas. “Costa Ricans,” he adds, have not entered the “race for status and conspicuous consumption.”

Coming back from vacation, I have thought about the pace in Costa Rica … not just our pace while on vacation but the pace of the Costa Ricans we met and talked with.  I believe that I am a happy person … and that my happiness comes, like Costa Ricans, from having my basic needs met, not taking on more debt than I can manage, staying healthy, spending time with friends and family, and giving myself regular down time. In addition, I have found, personally, that running my business and doing volunteer work gives me a sense of accomplishment and purpose that adds to my overall well-being.

What about you? What makes you happy? And how is that similar or different from what we can learn from Costa Rica?