Memoirs of a MasseurTodd Pequeen

Happy Face

Happy Face – Todd Pequeen

I was leaving a client’s room last week and she looked at me with an intensity that was alarming at first. She was on her second day of vacation and we had just finished an amazing ninety-minute session. “Is everyone as happy and nice as they seem in this country?” It made me laugh at first, then I actually got a bit tongue tied, then I replied, “Why yes, I think it is genuine!” With a quick nutshell description, I explained to her that in my 22 years of living here I believe it to be one of the happiest places on planet earth. I have read rogue articles on these topics when a major network or magazine does poles and takes statistics and come up with ratings on what makes a country or society happy blah blah blah. Then I thought about what makes my wife and I happy and tried to do the mental math. We are now well into 2023 and the world continues to spin and these are just a few of the reasons why I believe Costa Rica to be one of the happiest places on the earth. As a life-long traveler and having spent over 25 years living in various countries around the world here are my thoughts on the happy train…

We are who we surround ourselves with. Here in Manuel Antonio, there is not a day that goes by that something in nature doesn’t astound me. I sit at my writing desk at 4:30 in the morning and can vibrantly hear the insects in the jungle around me as they sooth my senses as my coffee percolates (some of the best coffee in the world and a shout out to Cafe Milagro). The howler monkeys are roaring and the roosters in my neighborhood awake the restless sleepers. Mother ocean is less than a mile away, but I can also hear the great Pacific waves exploding on our shores of white sand and outcroppings. I await the sunrise as it will crest the mountains to the east and as the nocturnal animals seek refuge our epic variety of birds will sing in a new day. With this amount of nature surrounding the people of Costa Rica it is simply natural as humans are more content in beautiful environments. Beaches, mountains, rivers and jungle…. pick one or all in a day. Nature sooths and reinforces the best in mankind and to have that constant reminder is one of this country’s finest assets. Consistent day and night rhythms (nine degrees north of the equator), comfortable temperatures lacking extremes, and soothing surroundings all add to the happiness and calmness of the people who live amongst it.

Humans need many things to operate at the highest of levels. Primary to a peek performing existence is fuel. For you and me that means proper nutrition and for those of us that enjoy cooking and taking care of our bodies Costa Rica has an extremely diverse choice of natural foods. Everything from the fruits falling from the trees around us to the weekly market filled with seasonal vegetables thus natural and simple eating is easily available. There is no need to eat anything processed. Nobody is starving in Costa Rica. I am an avid carnivore but rarely purchase my protein from the grocery store. I have an amazing German butcher that has delivered directly from his farm to my house. I have a variety of fish caught within 30 miles from my freezer often given to me by my fisherman friends. I’ve caught my own on lucky days dragging a line from my kayak. Lamb and chicken are easy to come by once again from markets or the butchers that one gets to know, similar to the milk man of days past. Food and the process of preparing it as well as sharing it (I’ve been given 3 tamales this week from my neighbors as it is Christmas week at the time of writing) creates a high vibration of happiness. The task of growing food, sharing it, and consuming it is an ancestral must for happiness. If one wants to commit to growing their own food it is certainly as option in certain locations in this abundant environment.

A man must work. Work can have a variety of meanings but simply said it means purpose. Mine is to massage the world’s problems away one body at a time. My wife photographs families and creates memories so they have life-long moments in time that are captured and shared forever. I have friends that give tours of the park and increase the knowledge of the natural world around us. Most of us here in Manuel Antonio are slaves to tourism and we enjoy meeting and greeting visitors from around the world.  Other people’s stories will never get old to me, and we are grateful that you the reader is visiting and sharing your vision of the world in 2023. I have many, many retiree friends and although some work on their drinking every day most also tend to their reading, gardening, art, and sharing their love of animals and good will. All those things are a form of work. Simply keeping one’s body healthy can be work, for me it is play. I’ve been literally moving larger stones down into my jungle garden the last few days…. willfully and happily, one stone at a time. Costa Rica was extremely hard-hit by Covid however the country is booming again and it is possible to live and to work in this jungle paradise. I feel like I am one of the most fortunate of all to get paid to massage and share my love of people through my two decades commitment to the art of bodywork.

Many things create happiness, contentment, and joy for the day to come and I do think Costa Rica is on the forefront of “happy places” on earth. Kindness is a choice and what makes one person happy and content may not for another. Happiness means you can recognize and appreciate the good things. It is easy to let the bad things in a day have precedent over what is truly important. “Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions”, Dalai Lama. When I am happy, I realize I can make others happy, I practice faking it as often as I can when I am in a slump. Positive enforcement of simply deciding to be happy will become contagious. Keeping everything in perspective can be done rather simply—breathe and take in all of Costa Rica as it may just change your life forever.

Todd Pequeen can be reached at 8830-7727 or [email protected]. He is a pioneer of bodywork here in Manuel Antonio and has an awesome home studio. Check out his website at When he’s not massaging the world’s problems away, he spends his free time working in his garden, reading, writing, and creating more happiness in the world.