Adios a la Forma de Tico

Travel

Goodbye to the tico way…


As my time in Costa Rica is coming to a close, it´s hard to believe I´m already saying goodbye to my first country. To quote Robert Frost, ¨But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.¨ and I have been trying to set my sights on my next…well…sites. Bocas del Toro, Boquete, and Lost and Found Hostel in Panama for November. Then Panama City, where I´m chartering a sailboat to take me to Cartagena, Colombia and onto Medellin, Colombia for the month of December.

Punta Uva

But there´s still the matter of reflecting on my time in Costa Rica and what I want to take away from the 6 weeks I´ve spent here in the Carribean. My wonderful soul sister sent me this aptly timed article about the various deaths that occur over our lifetime in the form of our ever-changing identity. It spoke to something I´ll be inevitably dealing with from country to country on my journey – the leaving of one identity in country and the adoption of a new persona in each place.

¨The death of an identity is like the shedding of armor, which exposes the soft, tender, vulnerable places and opens the heart in ways we couldn’t have imagined without the loss.¨

My legs are covered in more bruises and bug bites than I thought possible on one person. My understanding of clean and dirty are completely relative now. The minute differences between needing, wanting, and craving a shower. Sand will most likely accompany me for the remainder of my trip, smuggling its way into the nooks and crannies of my now musty smelling backpack and its ramshackle contents. My patience has grown (in addition to my leg hair) and with it comes a better understanding for the tico way of life, where 10 minutes mean an hour or mañana means a week.

I´ve been able to experience a life that people only dream of. Yesterday, the small family I´ve grown to love here hiked to a gorgeous lookout point at Punta Uva. While sitting along the rocky point, the waves crashing along the sides, the sun setting on the water before us, reflecting back all of its soul pumping sunshine onto us, someone began strumming a ukulele from the ledge above us. I´m not kidding. This was real life. This was my life.

But saying goodbye is part of the life of a traveler. Saying goodbye to paradise and the many forms I´m sure it will manifest itself in throughout my trip will become as second nature to me as throwing toilet paper in the trash can. It´s time to say goodbye to Costa Rica and the woman I was here. Which parts of her do I want to take with me? Which parts do I leave behind for the sea to reclaim like a piece of driftwood?

The oh-so-appropriate water blur on this photo is hilarious to me.

The oh-so-appropriate water blur on this photo is hilarious to me.

The person I was here was timid, believe it or not. I was scared, afraid of sticking out too much or sounding stupid when speaking the broken and littered Spanish I know. I apologized for the space I took up in the world, being a tall and large girl, and I regretfully informed people where that space hailed from – the dreaded America. In moving on, there is little I can do to change how I look and where I come from. These are pieces of me, pieces that make me who I am and I refuse to apologize for them any longer. So let the sea wash away these pieces, but leave the person behind who is able to find comfort in solitude. ¨Cool¨has become such a complicated word – each country having its own understanding of what it means – that it´s impossible for me to embody such a word. So better to focus on expressing who I truly am. With that comes my sense of style, something I abandoned in favor of clothes that were basic and functional. This was an idiotic oversight on my part. A woman whose main form of self-expression has been style cannot have her individually ripped from her hands in a moment where she is clamoring to anything familiar that she can find. I miss my brightly colored clothes, fitted and flirty dresses, and the feeling of feeling pretty. It´s a small thing that becomes magnified as time travels on.

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One of the biggest takeaways is the level of control I have over my own happiness. Happiness is not relative, like cleanliness. Happiness is right there in your backpocket next to your colones and your fuego. There was also a long adjustment period here. It took me a couple weeks to finally let everything sink in, from the language, food, culture, new surroundings, climate, people, and work, everything took some level of understanding to get to place where comfort was at least in relative reach. Moving forward, I know I have control over how long it takes me to feel comfortable, and the longer I take feeling like an outsider, the longer I will remain one.

So much gratitude for my Se Ua family

So much gratitude for my Se Ua family. My time in Costa Rica would not have been the same!

Un Día en La Vida Caribe

Travel

A Day in the Carribean Life


I´m trying to find a way to relay to my loves back home how life works here. Not just what I spend my days doing, but those small, refined details that highlight the different way of living here, pura vida if you will.

More of a yoga girl anyhow

Yoga every damn day. 

Riding a bike, for instance, is really a testament to how little effort you can contribute to peddling while still managing to stay in an upright position. (Which if you know my history with bikes, this is proving to be interesting.) Boredom is something completely created – a word to describe the simple act of living and being – so hours are spent just simply being on the beach, being at the bar, being with friends, instead of clamouring to get to our smart phones to tell people how busy we´ve been with being. Meals here are engulfed in silence while everyone gulps down every morsel on their plate with a vigor normally reserved for ravenous animals. Everything takes a bit more patience here and it´s refreshing to look up at the sky from a hammock and simultaneously realize how lucky I am to be right here, how happy I constantly feel, and where I last set down my daiquiri.

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La Playa de Manzanillo

So during my time here, I´ve been living and working at Se Ua B&B and Aventure House.  I´ll try and walk you through a typical day here for me. I wake up around 7 am every day where I venture downstairs to a group of hardworking Costa Rican men and the other token gringo de Francia. Among them, my boss, usually shirtless is cooking breakfast with a joint in hand. The flood of morning Spanish wakes me up, in addition to my cup of coffee, and then I´m immediately bombarded by four dogs and two cats looking to also say buenas dias. We all eat breakfast together and then they begin working on different projects for the building. They´re in the process of redoing the hotel and literally have made, piece by piece, every inch of this beautiful place, almost for free. All the wood is gathered from the woods by taking a chainsaw into the jungle and cutting fallen trees (which I´ve learned are some of the heaviest, most durable, and prized woods in the world) into carryable blocks that weigh outrageous amounts but are effortlessly put onto the barebacks of the hombres. While they are off exerting more force in a day than I ever truly seen a man work, I clean the lounge area, help with laundry or getting rooms ready, or sitting dutifully at my computer helping them to get their social media up and running, sending out email blasts, and helping to create marketing materials for their adventure tours.

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Typical day at the office.

When los muchachos return from working, it´s my unofficial job to get lunch or dinner ready. You would think my feminist nature would be offended by the ultra-traditional gender roles in Costa Rica, but truly the machismo culture is just one more thing I am getting used to. Surprisingly, I find myself not being bothered much by it – in fact I support it. These men work harder than anyone I´ve ever seen and if my responsibility to to provide food for them – then that seems fair at the end of the day – especially since the work is literally too strenuous for a woman to do. At least this woman, anyways.

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Then once I´ve finished for the day, I go to the beach for a couple hours and go through a yoga flow or go to the local bar and have a few beers (some things never change). That´s actually how I was able to pick up a few shifts at Maxi´s – a nice change of pace from the work at Se Ua and another avenue for me to keep learning Spanish and meeting people from around this big beautiful world. It doesn´t hurt that it is set against the backdrop of the sea, with the breeze rolling by as I open beers and pour micheladas por las touristas. I´m reminded of my time working at the winery and I once again appreciate all the steps Ive taken so far in my life, remembering that every decision is taking me in a direction and that´s exactly why I find myself here. Here I am learning, learning about myself, about others, about languages – both from hearing and seeing. I´m also learning that my American idioms do not translate. Whatsoever. Until next time, mais. 

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Behind the bar at Maxi´s

The First Week (No Clever Title Needed)

Travel

So I´m into my first week in Costa Rica and so far….it´s utterly amazing. Truly. Like every single one of my dreams from the last year is coming true. Every moment I sat at my cubicle wishing for a different life, desiring a different daily than the one I had been granted, wishing desperately for change and adventure.

Every moment igniting a passion for the life I´m now chasing. And I can actually taste it because I´m in it, every day now. My daily life consists of waking up at whatever time I choose. I don´t go out very often here because truly I don´t feel very safe yet, being on my own, but that will subside with time, my level of comfort directly proportional to how much Spanish I currently know.

Which is still un poco. Muy pequeno.

But I´m trying to learn and I want to learn, that´s for damn sure. Because it´s not really fun to constantly be out of the loop. And it´s not even just Spanish, the amount of English I hear is minimal, at best. I hear German more than I hear English, truthfully. Spanish will be a challenge to learn, a challenge for my mind that I welcome with open arms. Like the books I´ve been devouring and the journaling I´ve been doing – all of it adding back nutrients to my malnourished soul.

Yes thats a tad dramatic. Yes thats a tad necessary though.

I hope everyone is watching my posts, drooling over my pictures, reading my words with a fervor that inspires them. Because I want everyone to do this. To follow their dream. To make this happen for them. To create the life you want, instead of the one you´ve settled for. I understand that things like marriage, kids, debt, money, time, or careers can all get in the way, but there is no excuse not to take a vacation you´ve dreamed about or quitting a job you can´t stand to do something you actually enjoy. Life is too short, our bodies too fragile, and our mind too powerful to ignore what we truly want.

Here is a synopsis of what I´ve done so far in my week: I´ve gone hiking along Volcano Brava, I´ve gone swimming in a waterfall, I´ve biked over 20 miles in a day, I´ve done yoga on the beach and in hostel gardens and alongside mountains, I´ve made friends with Costa Ricans, Frenchmen, and Argentines. I´ve slept in a hammock against the shoreline of the ocean, I´ve swam in waves with such force that it literally knocked me over, I´ve made strangers into unforgettable friends, I´ve driven miles over gorgeous hillsides covered in so much green I´ve actually forgotten what the brown flatlands of Texas look like. I´ve been happy, lonely, sad, ecstatic, and fulfilled in a way I haven´t felt in too long.

And that´s just one week.

ONE. WEEK.

There have been hardships already as well. Struggles, stress, nervousness, anxiety, cash issues, bus confusion, disastrous laundry mishaps and all the other annoyances that accompany travel as well. And there is fear (¨Which is born to an extent of a story we tell ourselves¨) but all of that is taken in stride and in comparison to what I have. Solitude, freedom, and a better attitude than I´ve had in the past year – possibly ever. So I suppose it´s a trade worth making. I can´t wait to see what other swaps are in my future. Stay tuned, maes (dudes).

Gringa Goals

Travel

I’m now less than a week away from my departure date and time is creeping while simultaneously flying. Every day feels like an inch towards the eventual mile-long leap I’m about to take. When I get on my flight I’ll be leaving everything I know in search of something spectacularly new – but what exactly am I looking for?

Every person has asked me why I’m going to South America and why I’m going alone. Truth be told I find traveling alone to be less stressful and more fulfilling. Although loneliness is something I’ll have to deal with regularly – it forces you to branch out of your comfort zone and pushes you to interact with those around you. I also don’t have to compromise my plans for someone else’s, be on anyone’s time schedule but my own, and will be able to fully immerse myself in a moment without wondering how my travel partner is faring.

However I do have several goals for my trip that I hope to accomplish. Being alone will give me the time, solstice, solitude, and sheer boredom to hopefully address these throughout my journey.

  1. Reset my habits: As I mature into an adult there are certain childhood habits that have followed me around for some time now. I want to break cycles of chaotic clutter and try to maintain neatness and tidiness. I want to spend less time on unnecessary things like worrying. I want to choose to always be good to people, regardless of how my day may be going or who they may be. Focusing on the present moment, wherever it may be, is difficult for me as well. Simplify, simplify, simplify – use less, waste less. These and more are all things I hope to change and reestablish habits to return home with.
  2. Treat my body right: As I reset habits, I want to create new ones. I understand the importance of keeping a form of exercise in my daily routine and want to establish a stable yoga practice every day. I want to eat healthy and eat when I need to – as opposed to eating when I’m bored or because I have nothing better to do than stuff my face with pizza-flavored Goldfish and ice cream.
  3. Challenge myself mentally and physically: Ever since I’ve left school I feel like the workforce, specifically sitting in front of a computer, has slowly dumbed down my intelligence and made me extremely sedentary. A huge reason for this trip in general is escaping (what I feel to be) corporate prison and the dangerous side effects of that lifestyle. I want to spend my days learning to surf, climbing mountains, learning Spanish, learning new histories I’ve never read about in a textbook before, and exchanging ideas with new people in new places. Honestly, I’d never thought of myself as capable of any of the aforementioned things and the challenge to simply try them is enticing.
  4. Recharge my soul: While working I spent hours sitting behind a computer, isolated, alone, and stifled. I then commuted for an additional 3 hours (in total) of agonizing solitude in traffic that made me want to scream. On most days I did scream, actually, from the desire to just hear my voice. Every day. Every week. It seemed never-ending. I’m still shaking off the remnants of that lifestyle. I watch myself watching people instead of engaging with them. I have become introspective and critical almost to a fault. I see myself trying to reach for happiness but settling with mundane content for life – which for me is unacceptable. I still don’t feel like myself or like the person I want to strive to be.
  5. Disconnecting: Like most people in my generation – I’m far too guilty of spending far too much time on the internet, on Facebook, watching TV, and texting. I feel like I stare at a screen more than at a person’s face. Yet all this hyper-connectivity makes me equally hyper-aware. I’m stressed about Donald Trump becoming president. I’m scared for the refugees in Syria. I can’t believe that girl from my high school is preggers. I want that cute guy to think my profile picture is bangin’. I want everyone to think I’m cool based on my social media persona. By removing myself from the ability to be hyper-connected to every facet of society and my circles of influence I hope to truly find myself again. Not the self I want to portray to others – but that deep down, unfiltered soul that is being brushed to the side in favor of a filtered Instagram post.
  6. Reevaluate my skills and career path: Contrary to popular belief – I love working and genuinely enjoy spending my time efforts towards something that I value. This is a biggie because I’ve realized that graphic design (and the desk life that accompanies it) isn’t for me anymore. I love people and moving too much to spend my life being stagnant at work. Since I’m doing Workaway  throughout my trip I hope to experience a multitude of different jobs – from the mundane to the extraordinary. Farming to financials, scrubbing toilets, mushing grapes, greeting strangers, anything and everything in between – somewhere amongst these jobs I hope to find something that rings true to what I actually want to do – instead of what I had been told to do.
  7. Fall in love with words again: For along time I was journaling every morning, but as I became further and further removed from myself I stopped wanting to write because all I would spew was negativity and angst. Writing became something I approached with reluctance. Starting with this blog, clearly, but more importantly I want to journal again. I miss writing slam poetry. Being alone with my thoughts, a pen, and piece of paper are absolutely a priority.

So there you have it – this gringa’s goals before she goes! 

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Thrifty Dating

Dating, Shopping

*Disclaimer: I apologize in advance for all the selfies in this post.

Since taking my unplanned hiatus from blogging, I’ve had a lot of time to do other things. Take away a 21st century kid’s WiFi connection and she’s forced to do things like read books, interact with humans outside of Facebook, and be outside. Go figure. I’ve also had time to do a lot of thrift shopping around the Fort Worth area. In addition to finding some great jumpsuits, belts, and the occasion denim poncho, a thought occurred to me today: the way I go thrifting is similar to the way I have been viewing dating, as of late.

A few thrift store finds.

Allow me to further explain. When I go to a thrift store I don’t go to find the latest trends or to have some item that every other girl is wearing around town. I could have bought that shit at Forever 21 if I wanted that chevron striped blouse or neon pink mini dress. 

No. I’m at a thrift store to find that one item that is buried underneath racks of clothes I would never consider. That one item that’s worn in, that’s old news, that has character, that has a history behind it’s seams, and most importantly – one of a kind in a sea of worthless crap.

My dating parameters reflect the same notion. I’ve realized that I can’t date a cookie cutter guy who loves Coors Light, goes to the gym or plays video games in his free time, works at some sort of business that involves finance or real estate, and wishes for nothing more than for the Texas Rangers or the Dallas Cowboys to get to the playoffs this year. That just isn’t right for me. Neither is the guy who wears Buddy Holly style glasses, wears plaid in the middle of the summer, rides a bike because he’s ‘saving the environment’ and can’t afford a car, and spews the same hipster bullshit I hear all the time.

There’s a guy for me somewhere who can make me smile as much as a floral printed jumpsuit. He’ll also fit me just as perfectly.

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Ignore the awkward pose, in reality this thing looks bitchin’ on me.

Looking over the racks of discarded clothing, I also realized how many loved things end up going back into a sea of unwanted items. How many lovers will I end up discarding over the years? Will it be comparable to the amount of unwanted plaid pant suits with shoulder pads? Maybe. But that’s life. We use and consume until something becomes undesirable to us. Whether it’s because it’s last season or because it forgets your birthday, somehow and some way, clothes and people start to become nonessential to our lives over time.

But the cliches still remain tired and true: one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. There’s plenty of fish overalls people in the sea. There’s got to be someone out there for each of us. Someone who fits into our lives as perfectly as a blazer fits into my wardrobe. Someone equally as fabulous, outrageous, original, but definitely worth more that $2.99. Someone like a shirt with a shark on it. You just have to dig to find something truly unique.

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“The essence of the writer’s occupation was made clear to me. We write books because our children aren’t interested in us. We address ourselves to an anonymous world because our wives plug their ears when we speak to them. In the era of universal graphomania, the writing of books has an opposite meaning: everyone surrounded by his own words as by a wall of mirrors, which allows no voice to filter through from outside.”

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera (who I am absolutely enthralled with right now)

The Essence of Writing

Inspiration

Don’t Send That Text

Dating

Things to do with your hands instead of texting ‘that guy’:

1. Eat some fruit. Certain fruit is actually quite labor intensive and requires intricate thinking and focus. Your mind needs to be focused on spitting out that seed when you’re eating a cherry or pulling a grape off a vine. You could lose a finger while you’re peeling the skin off that kiwi or mango.

2. Rearrange your apartment. Moving around your cabinets so that your wine glasses are in closer proximity to the bottles of wine will remind you why you live alone and why it’s nice to not have your priorities judged.

3. Make a list. Write a list of all the things you need to do that you’ve been putting off. I mean that Greek yogurt you ran out of this morning isn’t going to buy itself. You could also take this time to make a list of all the reasons why ‘that guy’ sucks at life. Or make a list of all the excuses you’re giving him for not texting you.

4. Facebook stalk your exes. Remember what it felt like to be loved? Those hands are going to have to free to hold the spoon for the ice cream and grab another tissue for your crying eyes.

5. Make a sandwich. It’s good practice for when you eventually get into a relationship and your man is hungry.

6. Brush your teeth and floss. Pearly whites, fresh breath, and a lack of gum disease are going to help you land the next guy who is going to infuriate you.

7. Pick up a new hobby. Photography requires your eyes to look at something else besides your phone screen and you need your fingers to click the button. Make some of the stuff you’ve seen on Pinterest (you only have like 923 DIYs pinned). Whatever you do, don’t pick up knitting, you’re still young. I’m training to compete in the next Olympics. They’ll be held in New Orleans this fall. My sport is drinking and I’m going for the gold…tequila.

This is the Pinterest project I’ll be working on.

8. Write a blog post. Using those quick nibbled fingers to type something other than that lame excuse for a text message. Preferably something that’s thought-provoking and relevant to today’s society.

9. But seriously, focus on yourself instead of him. Your time is better spent on what you need, want, hope, and dream than wasting time wishing for a guy to text you. I finished reading the hilarious book, My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me, and she writes in the end that you can’t keep trying to find someone else to complete you – you have to realize that you are complete just as you are, on your own.

10. Oh that’s another thing you could do, read a book (I’m starting On the Road by Jack  Kerouac) instead of re-reading your previous texts hoping that you’re sarcasm, wittiness, and sexiness all came across in just 10 words.

Cheers to a new week and the hope that my cynicism is confined only to Monday.

Don’t Let Your Dreams Be Dreams

Inspiration, Personal, Travel

I’m really fearful of letting go of my aspirations.

I’m scared of the judgement I hear in people’s voices when I tell them I’m going to move home when I graduate. I’m even more scared by their disdained faces when I tell them I’m saving up because I’m going to travel instead of getting a ‘real’ job.But what’s more terrifying is not following my dreams.

Okay, it may be unorthodox to backpack instead of going straight into the employment cycle without any real plan for afterwards, but what dictates employment as the norm? I understand I may be making a mistake by putting my career on hold for two years, but for me it doesn’t feel like a mistake. I have my whole life to work 40+ hours a week at the same desk in the same city doing the same job. I’m scared of monotony. I’m worried I won’t live an unforgettable life.

“The days are long but the years are short.” – Gretchen Rubin

The intoxicating idea of traveling anonymously through Europe. Following my heart instead of my head. Following feelings instead of a calendar. Meeting people instead of answering emails and phones. I’m anxious to explore and grow. I’m daunted by the idea of living an ordinary life instead of literally pushing the boundaries of my experience.

“Don’t let your dreams be dreams.” – Jack Johnson

I can’t let this go, no matter how many people advise me against it, no matter how many shitty jobs I’ll do, and no matter how many terrible customers I’ll deal with along the way, it’s going to be worth it to me.

“It’s not about how to achieve your dreams, it’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the dreams will come to you.” – Randy Pausch

My friends and my parents tell me if there’s one person who they know who could do this – move abroad and get out of America, lead a life they would be jealous of – it’s me. I just need to be strong enough to remind myself to do it in the face of adversity.

I also want to thank all the bloggers who are inspiring me to do this with my life. The writers who are brave enough to venture outside of their comfort zone and explain the terrors and the joys that come along with traveling. The photographers who capture the beauty in the ordinary that you find while you discover a new city. The few who stand up and choose to do something exceptionally inconceivable by so many. You are giving me the courage to live my life remarkably. Thank you.