We drove up to Colonia Blanca with hopes of seeing and hiking some of the volcanoes up there. Unfortunately the weather was pretty crappy and we didn’t even catch a glimpse of a volcano let alone clamber up one. The lodge we stayed at was kind of the same too and a bit damp and chilly. We had a room with four bunk beds and a teeny bathroom. Cold showers made the experience feel even chillier and damper.However, the food at this little lodge was outstanding, perhaps the best we had in Costa Rica. Each day there is a set menu of traditional Costa Rican dishes, their Gallo Pinto – beans, rice and eggs was delish but the whole fried fish we had on our last night was the winner. Milk comes fresh from the cow each morning and I was having at least 3 cups of coffee each day because of that milk. I think this little spot would be a hell of a lot more charming if the weather had been better but it was worth the trip for the food alone!
The Monteverde Cloud forest is home to a community of Quakers that has flourished since they settled there almost 30-odd years ago. Before meeting this amazing group of people I had no idea what being a ‘Quaker’ meant. I just thought it was another division of Christianity. However, Quakers are far less about God and religion and far more about love, acceptance and community.
This episode is all about Benito, the son of the one of the community’s founders. This dairy-farming, basket weaving, stilt-walking dude has an incredible story, particularly about his community and their support when he ‘came out’ later in life.
The past two weeks in Costa Rica have felt like the longest two weeks of my life. Traveling with a baby has turned me on my head. I’ve realized that this trip is going to be very different to the journey I’d romanticized about and a galaxy away from all the traveling I’ve done in the past.
I spent a large part of my twenties living in foreign countries, gallivanting all over the place. I always felt empowered and independent on the road. It was where I felt at home; spontaneity, my middle name.
Spontaneity. I feel like that word has disappeared out of my vocabulary in the past nine months. Relatively speaking, of course. I realize that I am halfway around the world right now in the jungle with my baby, so to some, that might seem pretty out there, but compared to the cool shit I used to do, this trip hasn’t had quite the same edge.
I’ve been emotional, grumpy and to be perfectly frank, miserable to be around at times. I’ve been anxious and stressed, obsessing over Jack’s naps and completely oblivious to a lot of the beauty around me.
Then a couple of days ago, in our damp and chilly cabin in the depths of the Monteverde Cloud Forest I had an epiphany. It was at the moment just before you wake up. That moment when thoughts are crystal clear and you get an answer to a question you didn’t know you’ve been asking.
I have been going through a kind of withdrawal. Withdrawal from all of the things and people I am familiar with and the activities I do to distract myself on a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute basis. The list is long:
I’m addicted to warm showers and clean clothes. To cozy duvets and the perfect pillow; I am addicted to my friends, my Mum, their voices and the endless laughs. I need regular exercise and pricey lattes with pretty designs in the foam. I am hooked on electricity and entertaining conversation. I’m addicted to a semblance of a routine and a to-do-list that makes me feel like I am accomplishing something. I shop for things I really don’t need, I manipulate my surroundings and my schedule to make myself feel like I’m in control. I’m addicted to feeling busy and planning my week so that it feels like I just don’t have enough time in the day.
Take all this away and it becomes blatantly obvious that I have addictions. I’ve had substance withdrawal before (from morphine after a knee operation) and it feels remarkably similar. Agitation, extreme discomfort, lashing out and blaming others when things don’t feel right or aren’t exactly as I want them to be.
All my addictions are simply distractions. Distraction and sedation from being still and being with uncomfortable sensations. We humans will do almost anything to avoid being still and feeling uncomfortable. We are never present but perpetually in the past or jumping ahead into the future.
I’ve never been good at being still and for the old me, traveling was just another gigantic distraction. It was about moving, doing, planning, new sights, new cultures, exotic locations and shiny new people. It’s about saying yes to everything, getting tipsy with strangers in rooftop bars, catching overnight ferries to God-knows-where and sleeping on the beach when you felt like it.
But this trip is different.
Even though I’m traveling with two others, the boys enjoy each other’s company and enjoy doing similar things with their time. So on this trip so far I have spent more time alone than I have since I lived in Japan and China by myself. Traveling with a baby means someone has to stay behind with Jack and I want to be there – a familiar face in another new room.
So it’s meant lots of reflective time listening to Jack’s white noise app mixing with the sounds of single, baby-less people enjoying themselves; solitary time up in misty, damp lodges with no connection to the comforts and voices of home. It’s me and my perpetual sidekick taking meditative walks with along a river or the beach early in the morning, through vibrant markets and thick Costa Rican jungle.
I have always been most content outside, walking, watching, absorbing. These have been the most special moments of the trip. Me and my son, out in the world together. I’ve seen the delight on his face as he spots another friendly dog, I get to listen to his new baby sounds as he talks to me as we walk and sings along with me when I sing to him. We’ve seen colorful birds in tall trees and sat in cool rivers picking up stones. I will treasure this forever.
Sometimes it’s the solitary moments that mean the most. The sunsets from a surfboard, a jog along a beach, that first coffee before anyone wakes up. I’m reminded that alone-ness isn’t something to be avoided but to embrace, I used to embrace it. It was when I felt whole and connected.
Traveling is different now. Just like life is different now. And while the ‘before’ may seem more exotic and more exciting at times, this new adventure has a depth and quality to it that will be my greatest teacher.
We did it! Here’s our first episode from the road. Costa Rica was an adventure to say the least and this episode captures exactly what we’re trying to do with our series Million Ways to Live.
Our MWTL family; Jack Jozef, Luke Sniewski, Bensen Fan and I went off the beaten track and into the depths of the Costa Rican jungle to see how Jose Arias is working towards making his dream of self-reliance and sustainable farming, a reality. I got to experience my dream of living off-the-grid for a bit and Jack fell in love with Canela.