Em, Milo, and I took our first overnight trip this past weekend. Friday night we made the 5.5 hour trek to Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast. It was our first trip to the Eastern side of the country and it was spectacular. It truly felt like a different country and I now know where “Pura Vida” comes from. I didn’t want to leave and I can’t wait to go back. The pace, the friendliness, the flavors, the colors – it was heaven on earth.
We are working on keeping these updates a bit on the shorter side (I usually lose about 2 hours whenever I write) so here is my attempt at brevity. A few recaps and reflections from our time away:
One of the big themes so far in our time in Costa Rica is how quickly our perspective and our comfort level can change. It is remarkable how much of a difference 24 hours can make. For example, because it gets dark at 6pm here, we typically arrive to new places in the dark and pulling into Puerto Viejo was no exception. My catastrophizing mind tends to wander when I find myself in dark places. After traveling on a small road for ~50 km and passing very few other cars, I started to get some of these thoughts. Will someone jump out in front of our car and steal it from us? (no, of course not). Will we get a flat tire and be stranded here for the rest of our lives? (no we have cell phones and people are friendly and stop being dramatic). I was excited to get to our hostel, get into bed, and wait for the night to pass. Morning came and we realized that we were in paradise.
This was similar to the first night we arrived in Escazú back at the end of July. That night we had no way of communicating with our family, we had no GPS, we were unable to see the town in the daylight, and somewhere we had read that Escazú was the Southern California of Costa Rica (we both realized later that we were picturing Wellesley – thankfully that is not the case – sorry any Wellesley people out there – love you). That first night in Escazú we thought we had made a serious mistake in moving to Costa Rica. We didn’t feel safe (not for any real reason), we didn’t feel like we would find our people (granted we hadn’t had the chance to interact with anyone yet), and the thought of two years here suddenly felt like a decade. Again, it took about 24 hours for us to realize that this is our place and this was a wonderful decision. I am still shocked that I haven’t had a homesickness meltdown (those usually come 10 days into traveling) but I’ll keep you posted – I know it’s coming. Unknowns can be so scary but can also cause so much healthy stretching. A few times every week we comment on a moment that has stretched us and it is so important and so meaningful. I didn’t realize how little I was stretching until now.
2.) Gut Checks
Another theme of the weekend, and throughout our time here, has been to listen to our guts. When you’re living in your comfort zone it’s so easy to make decisions and do things that you are used to, that never raise a red flag. Being in a new place has made me more aware of the space around me and the situations where I am open for a healthy stretch and situations where trying to stretch is actually more linked to my pride than thinking something is a good idea. Em and I are a good balance for each other. When her red flag is raised because of a stray dog, I take the leash and walk Milo. When my red flag goes up when I am overwhelmed by the power of the waves, Em is there to ground me and encourage me to keep enjoying the water. And then there are times when both of our red flags go up. That happened this weekend hiking in Manzanillo. We turned a corner and the trail took a turn away from the ocean and into the jungle. The trail suddenly narrowed and the vegetation took on a mind of its own. We didn’t really know what lived in there and we didn’t know what to do when we encountered it. We took about five steps in and both knew – this wasn’t a stretching moment, this was a “I’m going to do this because I don’t want to show I’m scared but this is really stupid” moment. For the rest of the weekend we kept commenting on how good of a decision it was to turn around. Further evidence that trusting our guts, when it’s 2-0 Us vs. The Universe, we should always go with our instinct. Here are some highlights from our beach hike:
3.) Animal Adventures
Don’t worry everyone – I saw my first sloth. You may or may not know that for the past 5 years anytime anyone has talked about sloths I start crying. It very closely resembles Kristen Bell’s epic reaction. Basically it goes back to Em and I talking about what we would do if I suddenly turned into a sloth (WTF?). She said that she would get me a nice cage and take care of me and make sure I had water but that she would move on with her life. Obviously this was very upsetting and whenever we talk about sloths I picture watching her through the slats in my little cage. (Anyone who didn’t realize I was crazy before now has evidence). SO I have a soft spot for sloths. We were driving to the beach and I spotted one out of the corner of my eye as I drove. I slammed on the brakes and I swear to God it looked at me and waved.
I had my first moment in Costa Rica where I thought I was going to die (overreaction alert). I was climbing a tree (casual)
and when climbing down accidentally put my hand on this caterpillar:
Needless to say, something that is bright green usually signals poison so I started predicting how the neurotoxins would slowly shut down my nervous system. I had two weird little white dots on my hand for a while, it stung like a bee sting for about ten minutes, and then I was fine. However, in those ten minutes I definitely managed to work myself up to the point where I thought my vision was getting blurry. Fingers crossed me and the Ferdelance never have an encounter. Not sure what I will do if there is actually a dangerous situation.
We also went to Cahuita National Park and hiked with our wonderful guide, Peck. He has lived in the Cahuita area his whole life and knew EVERYTHING. He was awesome.
He was also such a baller that he did the whole hike in bare feet. This was another situation where our guts would have told us to turn around 1/3 of the way through the hike. However, this time we were prepared and with someone who knew what was around us (Eyelash Vipers, Boas, Ferdelance snakes to name a few) so that made us feel better. It poured for a good part of the hike which made it even more badass. This meant that throughout a lot of our hike we were walking on trails full of water up to our ankles – this was how it felt walking there knowing the poisonous creatures that were in our midst.
We made it out safely and, once again after seeing all the cool but somewhat creepy wildlife, we were so happy with our decision to turn around the day before. On our trip we also saw iguanas (they are huge!), monkeys (howler and white faced), Jesus Christ lizards, eyelash vipers, sloths, a toucan, many types of crabs, and a vine snake.
Finally, we stayed at a great hostel at Playa Cocles. A former CDS teacher and her boyfriend are starting a hostel and we were lucky enough to stay before they are officially open. It is a 10 second walk from the beach where we enjoyed an incredible sunset. Check them out and stay if you are ever in the area. It’s in a great location, Hannah and Ariel are super friendly and know the area well, and they have this ADORABLE little puppy with whom Milo couldn’t wait to play (sarcasm).
First Pats game tomorrow night. Thankfully it’s a dress down day at school so you can all rest easy knowing that I will be wearing my Pats jersey to school. Also, special shout out to our Director who is a fellow Pats fan and sent me this goosebump raising clip with the hashtag #goPATS. Pats Nation is everywhere. You will be happy to know that I have located a big sports bar in Escazú and I will be shouting at the TV even though I am thousands of miles from New England.
This weekend we are traveling to the Pacific side of Costa Rica, the Nicoya Peninsula, to spend some time in the waves. Em and I are going to take some surf lessons (fingers crossed) and hopefully see some turtles. Here’s to us coming back with all fingers, toes, and spinal discs in the right place.
Ok – that was under an hour – I’m calling it a win. PS – adding pictures and editing made it 1.5 hours. Not short. Better luck next time.
Til next time. Pura Vida.