As my countdown to leaving for South America continues to dwindle down (less than 75 days at the time of this post!) my planning is getting kicked into high gear. This week I finalized my first workaway in Costa Rica in the town of Manzanillo, in the Limon region of Costa Rica. It’s on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica and it’s literally the end of the road as it stops at the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge. But actually – the place I’ll be volunteering is literally IN the refuge.
Like…in the jungle. Surrounded by trees. With no hot water.
So it’s hard for me to look at this photo and be scared. It’s hard for me to watch this video and be anything but excited because this place looks like untamed paradise. Secluded, away from civilization, smack in the middle of nature with not much else to do but swim, maybe learn to surf, hike, and lay in a hammock I can’t imagine anything I would really want to do more.
The hostel itself is run by two Costa Rican cousins who have built everything using recycled materials from the land. They have activities and tours they are trying to promote and need help with general maintenance and upkeep of the hostel.
I’m booking my first hostels, arranging travel details, figuring out if a river tour down to Puerto Viejo would be better than taking a van throughout the country, seeing how it’s possible to see surfing towns, volcanos, cloudforests, and mountains all in my first week. My head is swirling with visions of Caribbean rice and beans, drowned with ideas about hiking and kayaking, and completely losing touch with my reality here in Texas.
I fall into deep holes of planning – losing my footing in planning things like Patagonia or hiking the Inca trail, finding myself resurfacing back at bus routes to Bolivia and finally realizing that THIS is about to BE my reality. I begin to wonder if I’m cut out for it all, if I’ll end up killing myself by climbing a tree and then plummeting to my death in the Amazon or if I’ll freeze high in the Andes determined to make it to Torres del Paine.
Again, I resurface, taking a deep breath. Back tracking to Panama. Realizing I’m getting far too ahead of myself as I’ll have several countries and other crossing and obstacles to address before my fears ever get in the way. I think back to my first time camping on a tiny island in the middle of our lake in Wisconsin. I brought open food with me, I left the tent unzipped for lengths at a time, I was eaten alive by bugs, and when I got back to our warm, insulated, dry, and bug-free cottage my family gave me hell. I wasn’t cut out for it. I was a city girl – born and raised – and I wouldn’t be able to ever go camping again.
I didn’t go camping again for almost 15 years until an ex-boyfriend suggested we go. Terrified beyond belief I agreed and the trip comprised of roasting peaches on an open flame, drinking wine and telling stories, and being shown how to pitch a tent and maintain a fire. Fast forward to camping in the Redwoods without anything to spark a flame – except lighting every single piece of paper in car on fire and hoping to hell it works. Now I’ve gone camping in Arkansas, parts of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona and I clearly don’t intend to stop anytime soon. The only thing stopping me before were my own insecurities, bred long ago by an incapable young girl – conquered by the strength of young woman’s determination.
Part of planning is preparation. But I think preparing for what is to come is proving to be the most difficult part. Letting go of all my belongings – selling all my furniture, clothing, and adopting a backpack for the next year. Leaving behind friendships that mean the world to me in favor of the actual world out there. Laying aside doubts. Lightening my load by paring down to bare essentials in every aspect of life. Listening to the voice in my head the keeps telling me how badly I want this . Locking out the voice that tells me I’m not cut out for this.
These are the things that are more difficult to plan for. There’s no vaccination for homesickness or any amount of waterproof wicking to whisk away all my doubts. But as each day closes and another one begins, I’m inching my way to an eventual plane ride away from everything I’ve ever known in my life. That unknown that I’ll be throttling towards can’t be planned for. There is no way to Google it. But it’s something that’s equally alluring because it can’t be understood until I’m right there in it – watching the life I’ve known fall away and the life I’m choosing coming into focus.
I can’t wait.