Our last day in Costa Rica arrived too early. The country doesn’t use daylight savings time like in the States so the sun rises and sets very early. This morning as it rose I watched it through the screen of our tent and contemplated the imminent journey home. I want to share some of the things I felt and learned on my first adventure to Central America.
We planned to leave right after breakfast and drive straight through the lower Guanacaste peninsula, over a big river delta and right in to the airport. I was nervous about the drive, having heard terrible things about the roads south of Junquillal.
Observation 1: The eagerness of wanting to go always conflicts with the desire to stay. Choosing one quickly preempts the confusing limbo felt by not making a decision on whether to go or stay. In other words, decide what you want/need/can do and do it. Stick to it.
As we left the beach house I felt a swell of gratitude for my family, the friends that opened their home to us and the new friends we met along the way. Costa Rica becons to an interesting sort of people and even though I didn’t get to explore it deeply I’m hungry to learn more – see more – do more – and definitely eat more.
Observation 2: When given an opportunity to travel with family, stay with friends, eat with people, be shown around by a local, go on an adventure, do it. There is so much to be discovered in exploring a place with like-minded people.
I never spend enough time on the beach when I’m at one, because there is always too much to do. I plan to make a point to take a beach-only vacation with plenty of days full of nothing else to do but sit on the beach, build sand castles, surf, drink beer, read and nap (in that order).
Observation 3: Sometimes it’s WAY more important to put down the camera (or camera phone), leave it behind, and really experience a place in the moment. Because the memories you build when truly experiencing something live within you and live on through you.
We set out for San Jose at the last minute and began our quick trek across the country by way of Nicoya and the Puente la Amistad – the Friendship Bridge built by the government of Taiwan – that crosses the Rio Tempisque and drains into the Colorado Gulf. Ryan pushed the speed limit the whole way, never going over for fear of the Federales, and we closed in on the airport just behind schedule (and behind some very slow tankers on some very small mountain roads). Looking for gas in Alajuela before returning our car proved too challenging for our timeline and temperaments. We got lost on the highway into San Jose, with no exits and no English, and we both nearly freaked out. We finally found a way to turn around and he careened the car back to the rental agency just in time. Their van courteously shuttled us into the airport and despite our feeling of imminent takeoff we ended up having enough time to eat lunch. Which brings me to…
Observation 4: “The road less traveled” isn’t just a euphemism that I want to hear thrown around. The road less traveled is a philosophy of adventure that can be applied at will to any trip by any intrepid traveler. Specifically it entails: an unabashed willingness to go to the unpopular, the hidden, the seldom-discussed, the fringe, the out-of-the-way, the hole-in-the-wall, the local’s joint; true excitement to discover the unknown; being unafraid of getting lost and the ability to get found; the ability to make a great time out of any situation no matter how strange; a positive, communicative, enthusiastic attitude toward adventure; the willingness to share experiences in the moment and after if you desire.
I made a map of our final travel route in part to share where we went but also because the route and plans changed a bunch from planning to execution, and because I’ll remember the trip better this way, and of course because I love maps.
Observation 5: Be flexible. And don’t get bent out of shape when your plans change, because they will.
Oh Costa Rica…I had a wonderful time exploring your hills and forests and mountains and beaches and tiny towns and little roads and your flora and fauna and your people and the food they made for me. It all happened so quickly and so almost-effortlessly, and was over just as fast. Having the time to go through my experience and relive the photographs and consider my trip has been the best gift next to actually being there. I’m sad that it’s done and that I don’t know when I’ll be back. But I will be back, and until then I will have many more adventures to share that will have contributed to my becoming, and coming back may very well be like going for the first time.
Observation 6: Never stop searching, seeing, looking, hearing, feeling. Stay open and you’ll be surprised at what you learn about yourself.
PS: If anyone has an answer to the question I posed, “how do you say goodbye to something so beautiful?” please tell me!