The two and a half weeks in Costa Rica were spent covered in sweat, sand, sunscreen and salt. While the first few days allowed for the long forgotten act of relaxation, they were spent away from a computer and journal. The remaining weeks were spent in school, at the beach or hopping from place to place on the island. There were hours to reflect on the mile long walks to school and back and during yoga classes in Nosara, however, few of the events were recorded on paper.
Costa Rica was a great place to start the trip. It is likely the most Americanized country in Central America and thus was a safe way to ease into the adventure ahead. The country is diverse in landscape and incredibly beautiful, however, it was hard to escape the English language, the American dollar and Minnesotans. Taking a week of Spanish classes in Nosara was a great way to brush up on my limited Spanish in a formal and controlled setting while also combatting my slight disappointment that the town I chose as my base was essentially an ex-pat community with eerie similarities to Edina, Minnesota.
Three moments in Nosara particularly stood out. The first occurred when I decided to try surfing, an activity that I never thought I would pursue given my former fear of the ocean. Though once or twice, the image of a shark popping to the surface of the ocean to eat me for lunch came into my head, I was able to ignore it and stay in the moment. Surfing was surprisingly fun and I was thrilled when I was able to get up on my first time in the water.
The second moment involved losing my debit card in Nosara. The day before I was supposed to depart the town for a cross-country road trip, I realized it was missing from my wallet. If I couldn’t find it then I would essentially be out of cash for the next month as a replacement card wouldn’t arrive before I left for a three week trip to Cuba. There was no point in having it sent to Cuba as it would likely be easier to have mail sent to the moon (especially from a U.S. Bank). I ran across town in 97 degree heat desperately asking the employees of every store and restaurant that I had visited in the last week if they had seen it. None had. In a last attempt, I decided to check at the bank where I had used the ATM days before. My hopes were low as I was sure that I had used the card since then. When I attempted to enter the bank, I was stopped by security. After removing my hat, showing my passport, having my bag searched and being waved down by a metal detecting wand, I was finally allowed to enter the bank. Banks here were clearly nothing like those in the States. From there, I sat for nearly 45 minutes waiting my turn in line. Finally, with little hope, I went up and did my best to explain my situation in Spanish. The man nodded, asked for my passport and disappeared in the back. I heard him talking to other bankers and saw him walk back and forth from teller to teller empty handed. He finally approached me again and held up a card. “Este?” He asked. My heart jumped and senseless Spanish bubbled out of my mouth as I tried, in every way that I could, to explain my gratitude. Walking out of the bank I felt triumphant. I looked out for my self, solved a problem and found my card but most importantly, I did it all in Spanish.
Finally, it was time to leave Nosara and move on to the next adventure. I was picked up at the homestay house by a Tuk Tuk. For those that don’t know a Tuk Tuk is essentially a glorified motor tricycle that is a common form of transportation in the rural parts of Costa Rica. The open aired Tuk Tuk sped down the dirt roads of Nosara frantically avoiding pot holes as I had a strong hold on my various pieces of luggage afraid that either they or I would fall out of the back. I made it to the airport in one piece but on an adrenalin high. Pulling up, though, I realized I was the only one there. Even the airline workers had yet to show up. So much for arriving early for a flight. A security guard, the sole person at the airport, let me in the door. He looked at his watch, laughed and told me to take a seat and wait for the employees to show up so I could be checked in. So I sat for an hour in the hot Costa Rican sun until the gate agent appeared about 10 minutes before the planes slated arrival time. I ‘checked’ my bag and watched as the tiny plane descended onto the small runway. As the plane unloaded, it became increasingly clear to me that no one else was coming. The pilots came and walked me over to the door. I had my choice of 20 open seats. I picked one in the middle of the plane near a window. The two pilots made a joke about my private plane before turning on the engine and taking off moments later.
Couldn’t resist taking a selfie of my ‘private’ plane
Years ago, this would have been my worst nightmare, but that day, it was thrilling. I reveled in this once in a lifetime experience, plugged in my iPod and sang along at the top of my lungs to Taylor Swift. The engine was so loud that the pilots couldn’t hear me, I couldn’t even hear myself, but, even if they could, at that moment, it wouldn’t have mattered. I celebrated my first successful week traveling alone singing and dancing in the back of an empty plane over the beautiful mountains of Costa Rica. First adventure down, countless more to go!