Things I Learned in Costa Rica.

A sporadic blog entry, mainly for my own personal use.
I was lucky enough to take a trip to Costa Rica last week. My sister's family and I went to Puerto Viejo, where we stayed in a beach bungalow for 9 days. The whole experience was something to revel in. It was my second trip out of the country and of hopefully many more to come. While last years trip to Europe was something I will never forget- this year was different (as expected). One thing I noticed the most was how many people there were imports. I would say most of the people we met were from Canada, Nicaragua, and France. And everyone had the same story: I got tired of living that lifestyle, so I sold everything I had and moved down here to Costa Rica instead. It was such a simple solution (albeit I'm sure well planned and not inexpensive) and it really inspired me to feel like life doesn't have to be such a rat race. I think that it's easy to feel like we have limited options for where our lives will head and it's somehow shocking to discover that our own possibilities are limitless. It was also refreshing to realize that a simple life in a shack on the beach can far surpass one in an L.A. apartment complicated with bills and smog.
I'd like to eventually go into detail about the experience that I had, complete with descriptions of the people I met in the mere week that I was there. But today I want to talk about my lessons I took from my trip. I had a lot of time for self-reflection while I was in Central America, and I spent a portion of it reading Don't Sweat The Small Stuff (And It's All Small Stuff). Between those two contributors- I took more from this trip than any experience that I have had in a long time. Funny how a week can outweigh years of mixed emotions and cloudy thoughts. As in everything else in Costa Rica- time really was NOT of the essence. Here is a portion of what I took from my experience...
 1. Slow Down. When you go out to eat at any restaurant or "Fast Food" locale in Costa Rica, expect to be there a while. At first- it was annoying. You wait a long time for your waiter to take your order and even longer for your food and then your check. And you can probably complain, or become flustered that you're not at your next affair as quickly as you'd like to have teleported (LA/OC natives can relate)... but what's the rush? Things are going to happen when they happen, and most of the time- you're just going to have to accept that. Punctuality is overrated when it's not of the utmost importance.
2. Look Up. It's good to watch your step, but looking down at the ground makes it hard to see the things in the trees. When you least expect it, you might see a wild Three Toed Sloth, or a family of Monkeys. I mean it metaphorically as well as literally when I say: Look up. You don't want to miss the beauty in the trees.
3. Listen. Go to Costa Rica. Drive the 4-5 hour trek through the rainforest from San Jose to Puerto Viejo. As you drive down the main road, you'll pass a building on your left called the Zion Cafe. The owners there are an amazing couple who drove in a Jeep for 21 days from Canada so they could bring their Great Dane. The husband has kind eyes and the wife will talk to you for hours if you let her. Listen to her talk. She will not only be the friendliest woman you've ever met but she will tell you some stories that will make you want to be a better person. Stories about trips to India and building schools in third world countries and catching her husband eating the last of the imported ice cream that was meant to be sold to customers. She will get closer to you than you're used to when she talks, and she'll put her hand on your arm when she leans in and laughs- and you will love her for it. Listen to her because she will make you believe that you belong there, in the peace and in the sunshine of her rooftop cafe in Costa Rica.
4. Prioritize. There are so many times in my life when I've been known to make mountains out of molehills. But it's important to prioritize what you need to react to, and what things in your life are inconsequential for you to worry about. Choose your battles because the more time you spend worrying and stressing out about the things you can't control (or things that don't matter in the grand scheme of it all)- the less time you have to just sit back and enjoy the simple pleasure of a relaxed state of mind.
5.  No one is looking at you. When you don't have access to a mirror for 9 days, you've got two choices. Rock the bikini/short shorts, or don't. Don't worry too much about it or you'll miss the sunshine.
6. REALLY listen. Stop interrupting people when they speak. We all do it. When you interrupt or finish people's sentences what you're really saying is, "What I have to say is more important than what you have to say so I'm going to speed it along back to me." Thinking and speaking for two people is a lot of work, and doesn't negotiate much time for really listening to what the other person is saying in the first place. Take it easy, life isn't such a big rush.
7. Sometimes, there are bugs. Sometimes, there are 32 bug bites. Sometimes all the the mosquito netting, bug spray, bug band bracelets, and calamine lotion in the world can't help you. Sometimes there are just going to be bugs. And you just have to do everything in your power to not scratch and make them worse. Make peace with the bug bites in your life... because life is full of unavoidable annoyances.
8. Learn to sleep. It seems like a given, but sometimes it's not. When you're on a red eye from Denver and your book light is out. When you're cramped in a Hyundai and the only place for your legs is the ceiling of the car. When Howler Monkeys are yelling to you that it's 5am. When your legs itch and your bedsheets have sand in them and you've been awake since who-knows-how long... learn to sleep. Get the earplugs or the wine or the Melatonin. Just figure it out, you've got adventures tomorrow.
9. Indulge. Sometimes you just need a body treatment where they buff your entire body and then rub chocolate and natural oils into your skin. Sometimes you need to take an outdoor shower in the rainforest. You'll smell your arms for the rest of the day because they smell like cocoa and Jasmine, and the next time you're in your office in the stale air conditioning, you'll close your eyes and go back to this place. And no amount of shoes or Eat Chow or new edition iCrap in the world will ever come close to matching this memory. Although I encourage buying the Cold Pressed Coco Oil... it will help bring you back here.
10. THIS is what it's about. It isn't about what happened yesterday- or what you've got coming next week. Stop stressing about deadlines and worry lines and DMV lines. Stop wasting your money on clothes to flatter your waistline and make up to cover your under-eye circles. Who cares what you've done in your past or who you've been until now. Cut mental ties with the junk weighing you down... just sell it all and start fresh somewhere new. Don't have impossible expectations and Do make peace with the imperfections that are a part of life. Forget about wearing shirts and shoes and salon-quality hair products. Just. Be. Here. Now.


Katie said...

Sorry. I just can't agree about the bugs. That's one reason I'm glad we moved to the desert!

Katie said...

...otherwise, this was beautiful, practically poetic!