Category: Health and Medical Care

Costa Rica Syndrome: define this malady

Looking out from San Lucas Island towards the Nicoya Peninsula. Photo: Erin Van Rheenen

Did you know that there are at least three recognized travel-related maladies associated with well-known cities?

All can be grouped under the heading of Voyager Syndrome, the wonderfully poetic term for (mostly psychological) illnesses related to travel.

Paris Syndrome occurs when the reality of the modern French capital clashes with a visitor’s idealized expectations (Japanese female tourists in their 30s are at the highest risk). Jerusalem Syndrome is characterized by a sudden flaring up of extreme religious feeling, and can affect Jews, Christians, and Muslims, or even travelers who consider themselves irreligious. Florence Syndrome (also known as Hyperkulturemia, or Stendahl Syndrome, for the author who first described it) can strike travelers exposed to beautiful art, especially a lot of it in one place, like at Florence’s Uffizi Gallery; symptoms include dizziness, faintness, palpitations, and hallucinations.

As I contemplated these various syndromes, I wondered: what would a “Costa Rica Syndrome” look like?

Having interviewed a fair number of foreign residents, I can think of at least one possibility: a sudden and profound belief that you can communicate with monkeys, or turtles, or (this one’s trickier) crocodiles. Many of us in pavement-heavy realms live with Nature Deficit Disorder. Coming to Costa Rica, where nature is very much front and center, can be almost overwhelming. The drippy tropical tangle of the rainforest. The cacophony of a forest full of birds. Beaches where the only sound is the salty slam of wave on sand.

What’s your idea for the Costa Rica Syndrome?

More on the various Voyager Syndromes

More on what a San Francisco Syndrome might look like