On traveling

Costa Rica 2017

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After four flights, a three hour road trip of getting lost beyond belief (even with GPS and paper directions), we made it to the rich coast. The very second we stepped off the plane, we were greeted with vibrant smiles, faces that screamed bon vivant, Spanish accents and that one of a kind attitude that hurt so badly to leave behind.

We traveled on dirt roads through villages that defined minimalism, our only traffic jams arising from the herds of cattle. It was dry season and throughout the mountains, fields were engulfed in flames. Some roads were made impassible by water or fallen trees and power lines.

The locals there didn’t have much, and yet they seemed to have had it all. I find it hard not to think to myself, “wait, people actually live like this?” The question isn’t evoked from a place of disgust, but instead, a place of envy. The impossibly blue sea sweeping in and out of the shore. Waters so cold all you can do is laugh the second you jump in. Sand that comes in every color of the spectrum, softer than powder. I could have stayed forever. Each person you encounter responds to how are you with the same answer: “Bien! Pura Vida!” 

Pura vida translates to to pure life- a motto that couldn’t seem more fitting. There was an air of sacredness there. Our time spent in that country was a gift.

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We stayed in a beautiful home in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. The small town of Playa Negra was only a short ride to the popular Tamarindo, but was far enough away to remain a city consisting solely of locals– or Ticos, as they call them. Our house was situated perfectly in the tropical woods right between a black sand beach and the Pargos River.

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Summarizing this trip isn’t easy. I could swarm this post with all of those beautiful pictures and leave my readers to fill in the blanks, but the trouble with that is that you won’t get the truth. You only see what I want you to see, which is a blessing, but it also isn’t real. Let’s talk about what is.

Throughout this past week, we have relaxed in hammocks underneath palm trees along the most beautiful coast I have ever seen in my life. We have hiked through the jungle to swimming holes, diving cliffs, and waterfalls. I drove a dune buggy through the countryside and the city to a beach called Playa Conchal, where instead of normal sand, the beach floor is filled with whole shells. We showered outside. Some of us got tattoos, went ziplining, horseback riding, and white water rafting. We went to hot springs. We had mud baths. We pet wild horses, fed iguanas and ctenosaurs, fell in love with endless stray dogs, got into a screaming battle with a group of howler monkeys and saw countless insects bigger than our hands. We went out to sea on a catamaran, saw sea turtles swimming beneath and snorkeled with one of the most venomous and deadly snakes in the world. We gambled at a casino. We drank milk straight from the tops of coconuts and ate the freshest fruit our planet has to offer. We spent entire days at the beach, drinking, swimming, and dancing through sunfall. We had some of the best food in existence. Hours passed like years all tangled up and I can’t help but wonder how I am already back at home writing on this computer, when only shortly ago I was completely disconnected from all technology outside of my Nikon.

And though our trip was mostly unbelievable, there were also struggles that you aren’t able to see– we all fought a lot, as we normally do; the endless sweat seeping out of every part of our bodies; the dehydration, because, somehow, no amount of water is ever enough down there; the street vendors that could be extremely pushy and overwhelming; the bug bites that have taken over our bodies; the restless sleep due to howling winds, screaming monkeys, barking dogs and chirping geckos; the constant setback of not having enough money to do whatever we pleased; the lifestyle that we have grown so accustomed to that made any building without air conditioning seem unbearable… it never ends. Every trip I’ve ever taken has it’s downsides. There is always bad with the good. Nothing is perfect, but that is absolutely okay because there is so much beauty in the chaos.

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As our plane took off to head back home I felt the emptiness hit me. My eyes filled up with tears as I watched the land that I had grown to love so much disappear behind the clouds. I turned to Alex and said, “I’m really going to miss this place.” Post-travel depression gets me every time.

Quite often my husband tells me that I can never be satisfied. I could travel to a country I had always dreamed of seeing, just to get home and say, “what’s next?” Though I won’t usually admit it, he’s absolutely right. I won’t ever be satisfied. I will never be finished. The fire that burns inside of me that can only be contained  by travel is impossible to put out. I will never stop wanting to see more. The world is a VAST and amazing place and there are so many more experiences to be had. So many more strangers waiting to become friends. So much more knowledge to gain. The stick that I use to measure success is much different than most others. My accomplishments aren’t shown within my education or what type of belongings I have earned for myself; instead, they can all be found as geographic coordinates on a map or the empathy that swells within my heart as an outcome of all of the things that I have seen throughout my lifetime.

Travel isn’t always pretty, but it is always worth it. It has changed me and it will continue to change me until my very last breath. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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Costa Rica, I love you. Thank you for allowing us to live la pura vida. We will never forget you.

XO,

Nando

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