Envisionary Enlightenment

Attitude of Gratitude:

I’m thankful that I’ve been spending the winter at various beach towns away from snow.

I’m thankful for strangers who lend me their computers so I can blog.

I’m thankful for every single thing that happened to me since leaving the La Fortuna area.

Sometimes in life things happen so fast that they don´t even feel like they´re happening. After three weeks of volunteering at Rancho Margot I left to venture to Envision, a music, arts and movement festival in Bahia, Costa Rica. I didn´t have a ticket and I wasn´t registered to volunteer, but I knew I didn´t have anything to lose. Sometimes all you have to do is show up. I don´t think we give ourselves enough credit for showing up. If one thing doesn´t work out, something else will. As long as we enter situations with an open mind and an open heart, things will be all right.

The day we left the ranch (I tagged along with another ranch volunteer who was set to volunteer at Envision), we spent most of the day traveling to Jaco. When we passed through San Jose I felt like someone picked me up and dropped me onto a spinning top. After weeks of solitude at the ranch, the movement,  litter and concrete of the city was overwhelming to say the least. We arrived in Jaco around sunset, ate, slept and caught the 6 a.m. bus to Uvita. When we arrived to Envision, I lined up with all the volunteers to sign-in. I asked them if they needed any extra help, said I was willing to do anything and they signed me up for the Envision Cafe and Tea Lounge. I was ecstatic with the way things were working out.

As the festival went on it quickly became one of my favorite festivals. Part of Envision’s mission is to elevate people to live a more conscious lifestyle through education, music, art and sacred movement. Throughout the day there were countless yoga and dance classes and all sorts of informative workshops on topics like healing plants, building community and feeling empowered. The music (mostly electronic) started at 5 p.m. and went on until 7:30 in the morning. The crowd was a mix of like-minded travelers, festival lovers, Burners and ticos. It was set deep in the jungle with multiple types of palms outlining the grounds  and the nighttime hum of cicadas.

Envision highlights: showing up without a ticket and being able to volunteer, serving people at the Envision Cafe and Tea Lounge, Random Rab’s sunrise set, seeing Rising Appalachia for the first time, discovering a divine love for jackfruit, taking a contemporary dance workshop with the performers of Quixotic, the question and answer session with Alex and Allyson Grey, randomly running into friends from the States and recieving some of the best hugs I’ve ever had.

After Envision I spent two nights in Bahia then joined the rest of the Envisionaries in Dominical which quickly turned into an Envision after-party. The street along the beach usually has typical beach vendors selling towels, jewerly and art, but after Envision many craftsmen joined the vendor row. People camped right behind the vendors and on various spots along the beach. Post-Envision transformed into Occupy Dominical. At any given moment interesting characters swayed and stumbled along that vendor road.

We arrived just before sunset, found an open room for the two of us that transformed to six in Bahia and went straight to the beach. I’ve never seen so many people on one area of the beach for sunset before. Three of us sat close to the water and meditated as a man played his trumpet and the sun sank below the horizon. Everyone clapped and cheered. People drummed, hooped, spun fire, threw sticks, danced.

Dominical

Sunset

French loves

IMG_9083

I spent the next few days falling in love with everything and everyone around me. I had so many great conversations with people I just met. And the beautiful people were everywhere: on the streets, on the beach, at the supermarket, at the hostel. After the festival it was so nice to still see festival friends. It was a chance to get to know them outside the festival while letting go and sayin nos vemos at the same time. A slow, easy transition back to the “real world.” Even though for most of us traveling the real world is a bit like festival life. The festival just gave us a gathering space to merge together.

After Dominical I went to San Jose to regroup while visiting a friend and now I’m writing this from an island in Panama. Life has been filled with so much sweetness.

Sunrise Sessions and Lessons in Perspective

Attitude of Gratitude:

I´m thankful that my friend at the ranch lent me her computer so I could create this blog post. I´m thankful for the merengue and bachata lessons the ranch workers have been giving me. I´m thankful that my friends just showed me Jamiroquai and now I can´t stop dancing. Read my previous blog post here to learn about my attitude of gratitude.

One of my favorite things about being at the ranch has been waking up daily to hike a steep, narrow incline for about 30 minutes to watch the sunrise along the volcano. Witnessing the first breaths of morning, the first movements of the day. The newborn light in the sky. The chirps of noise. The way these stretches of light and sound slice into the stillness, while remaining tranquil, harmonious. This beginning always fills me with inspiration, with belief that anything is possible, with gratitude for being alive.

Everyday is a beginning, a clean slate. It´s one thing to say this and realize it when you wake up, but it´s another to witness the beauty of it enfolding right before your eyes. This daily dose of sunrise fueled me with invigoration and joy for the rest of the day.

sunrise

Brad, another volunteer who became my sunshine and dear friend at the ranch, and I made hiking the mirador for sunrise part of our daily routine. Sometimes we´d watch in awe and silence. Sometimes we´d greet the day by dancing and drumming new beginning into life.  Other days we´d just talk about travel, society, open-mindedness, and being in love with life.

sunrise

sunrise

One of our favorite trees to watch the sunrise from,

One of our favorite trees to watch the sunrise from.

At the top of the mirador on a clear day you can see Lago Arenal, Volcano Arenal, Cerro Chato, the volcanoes on the other side of the lake, the town of El Castillo and the ranch, nestled within a valley sheltered by mountains. Most of the buildings at the ranch melt into the landscape, hidden by the natural green roofs. You can see the outline of the ranch, a few cars in the reception´s driveway, the Caño Negro Rio.

Not until I was off the ranch, gazing at it from above, did I realize the significance of its location. As I stood on top of the mountain looking at the place I´d been living for the past two weeks, a deep sense of appreciation warmed me. Here I had been living in the middle of nowhere, in a location undetectable by the untrained eye, with volcanoes, forests and bodies of water as my neighbors. And yet I had gotten so accustomed to the routine of buffet meals, walking the same path to la casona, and weeding in the garden that I forgot to appreciate where I was. Even in a beautiful lush ranch, the mundane details managed to sneak into my life and steer me away from what´s important. Looking at the ranch from above, my perspective totally changed. Sometimes you need to leave a place in order to appreciate it.

The ranch from above

The ranch from above covered in shadow

The first time this perspective shift happened to me was my first semester of college, 3,000 miles from home. All the sudden everything I despised about my hometown in New Jersey came rushing back to me in the form of nostalgia. When living at my childhood home post-college, I drove around neighboring towns and entered antique shops I´d never set foot in, shops that had been there my whole life. Sometimes we need a perspective wake-up call to rise to the beauty of every moment, to stop and look around, and to discover what´s already there, right in front of our eyes.

And just for fun, here are Brad and I´s sunrise photos from a pajama sunrise session:

sunrise jump

Greet each day with a smile. And a jump, if possible!

sunrise jumpsunrise jumpsunrise yoga

To the wonder of every moment

Attitude of Gratitude:

I’m thankful for the opportunity to immerse myself in nature. I’m thankful to live among incredible creatures. I’m thankful that I’m part of the work exchange program at Rancho Margot. (These thanks are part of my attitude of gratitude series I’ll be including on my blog. Find out why by reading this blog post.)

You never know what you’ll see or what you’ll learn here at the ranch.

When I took off my shoes in the garden, Abilio, the ranch’s agricultural engineer who I like to call Abuelo, told me to take off my socks too. He encouraged me to dig my toes into the dirt. He grabbed a handful, smelt it and said, “This is life.” Everyday I’m learning something new about this life, about living in harmony with nature.

One afternoon the other tour guides taught me about pollination. As they explained flower gender and hummingbirds as subconscious matchmakers, I felt overcome with emotion. In this strange way I felt like crying without precisely knowing why. So intensely I felt the connection to all the plants around me, how everything lives inside of us, how deep our roots run, how nature is constantly living this cycle without our help. Learning what seemed like for the first time how flowers function and how we as humans relate to that. It was like I was the only one missing out on a giant secret. I wanted to kiss every single flower, thank every single tree. On any given day here I get wrapped up in the beauty and wonder of it all.

Everyday I see at least one hummingbird. I’ve gotten used to waking up to the mono congos howling, the pigs squealing or the cows moo-ing.

On the way to la casona after work one day I walked past this in the medicinal garden:
boa

It was my first time seeing a boa constrictor in nature and not in a museum. We placed it in a burlap sack and freed it by the river. When it opened its mouth the hiss was phenomenal, like a projection from the depth of a human throat. boa

boaAnother day I looked out the window of my room and saw a lime green anole run up the tree. When I pass them on the trail, they look like miniature Tyrannosaurus rexs, awkwardly hobbling along with arms dangling. It let us watch it for awhile on the tree.

Anole

anole

Then it leapt to a branch and changed color to blend in. It chameleoned right before our eyes.

anoleI’d rather watch that than a television anyday. I’m constantly amazed by what I see in nature everyday.

A family of ants crossing the street while carrying leaves.

If you look close enough you’ll see that those green leaves are being carried across the street by a family of ants.

Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps the singing bird will come

A dirt road has taken me everywhere I’ve been in Costa Rica. The road to Rancho Margot, a mostly self-sufficient eco-resort in the cloud rain forest in the western province of Alajuela, was no different. Except after Rancho Margot there’s only forest and mountains.

The road ends at Rancho Margot where new life begins.

The road ends at Rancho Margot where new life begins.

I’ve committed to a work-exchange program at Rancho Margot for at least one month. I found Rancho Margot by googling ‘yoga retreats and farms in Costa Rica.’ I was torn between what farm to volunteer at first, and then I met someone who had been to the ranch. After a yoga workshop I took in New Jersey, I talked to one of the yoga teachers, Jo Ann Jones. She had a pamphlet in her hand about Costa Rica. Farming came up in conversation and Jo Ann mentioned Rancho Margot. “You have to go. It’s a magical place,” Jo Ann said. My decision was made then and there.

Rancho Margot overlooks Volcano Arenal, which was Costa Rica’s most active volcano up until 2010 and Lago Arenal, Costa Rica’s biggest lake. At the 400-acre ranch we produce our own electricity with hydroturbines; we heat the shower water with compost; we create our own methane gas from animal waste; we grow food without chemicals; we make our own soap and furniture and so much more. Learning about the sustainable steps the ranch implements, makes me wonder why more people and organizations don’t follow suit. There are simple ways to live in symbiosis with nature all while nourishing and preserving the Earth.

The owner of the ranch, Juan Sostheim, opened the first Burger King in Europe and owned a chemical factory in Holland. While vacationing in Costa Rica he stumbled upon a barren horse and cattle pasture. For the past nine years he has been reforesting that land, which is now the ranch, and turning it into a model for sustainability.

At the ranch there’s about 50 workers and a rotating cast of anywhere from 5 to 10 volunteers. I sleep in la casona, in a bunkbed in the voluntarias room. I work a 6-hour day in the vegetable garden and when the tour guides need help, I give tours to guests and visitors. I take daily yoga classes at the outdoor studio on the ranch. I love working in the garden, surrounded by green, being a part of the process of cultivating life. I love giving tours and educating people about our sustainable practices, learning more and more about plants and wildlife all the time.

garden above

View of the garden from above

Part of the vegetable garden

Part of the vegetable garden

path

Part of the path I walk everyday

La Casona

La Casona, where the volunteers and workers stay

Baston del Emperador

Baston del Emperador, the King’s Stick.

Heliconia, we have tons of  species of these on the ranch. I've seen them in other parts of Costa Rica too.

Heliconia. We have tons of species of these on the ranch. I’ve seen them in other parts of Costa Rica too.

So far everywhere I’ve been in Costa Rica has bordered a body of water. I can always hear the vital life force rushing, always moving. At the Nicoya Peninsula it was the ocean. Here it’s the Caño Negro Rio that’s along the ranch. Instead of the rush of traffic, it’s the rush of a river. Instead of the wail of sirens, it’s the wail of birds. Instead of gray concrete buildings, it’s green growing plants. This presence of nature is always something I want to surround myself with, something I always want to keep alive in my heart.

The day I left Santa Teresa

It was one of those days where you don´t know whether to laugh or cry at the end of it. So I shook my head and did a little bit of both as I thanked the universe for everything that had been happening to me.

“Lord I´ve got to keep on moving,” Bob Marley sung over the speakers at Casa Zen as I was signing my farewell in the hostel´s guestbook. Even though I´d met some wonderful people and learned a lot, Bob Marley reaffirmed what I already knew, it was time to move on. I hugged my friends goodbye and sadness rushed through me. Goodbye. Why did my friend, Adrian, a yoga instructor at Casa Zen, say goodbye as he hugged me? Goodbye was too definite for me. After he left, I realized I should have said ´see you later´ or ´nos vemos.´

To get to La Fortuna from Santa Teresa, I had another long day of travel ahead of me. Buses and ferries and taxis, oh my. I took the 6 a.m. bus outside of Casa Zen to Cobano. There I transferred to the San Jose bus and told the driver I was getting off at San Ramon. Because they oversold the bus I had to stand the whole ride to Paquera, where the ferry was.

When I got off the bus at the pier, I was shocked to see what was in front of me. Adrian, my friend from Casa Zen, was standing there with a huge smile and open arms. “It´s a coincidence,” he said. He happened to be taking the same ferry.

We sat together and talked the whole ride. We spent the first part of the ride making animal noises and the second part of the ride talking about death.

“Are you afraid of death?” He asked me out of nowhere. He told me that all fears stem from a fear of death. To be aware of death is to be aware of life. To live for each moment with the constant knowledge that death can happen at any moment. From that we started talking about attachments and letting go. He said that we´re like monkeys reaching for vines. We grab on to one, use it to help us on our way and then we let go. So we must be attached for a certain amount of time; we cannot be completely unnattached. We are attached to our bodies, and through our bodies we are able to express our minds. Without our bodies, we would just be floating in consciousness. In this way we cannot become deattached.

As I spoke about letting go, Adrian stopped me. “You are referring to letting go in the past tense. We have to let go in the present too. This moment that we´re having already passed.”

He showed me that letting go means letting go of small moments and not just the big moments. Letting go means being able to release every single moment. We agreed how important it is to try to let go of something everyday and then we had to let go of our shared ferry ride. We each went separate ways, but we didn´t say goodbye. We learned to say see you later.

On the next bus ride my mind was still reeling over my conversation with Adrian. I boarded the same bus after the ferry and then got dropped off in San Ramon. From there I had to take a taxi to the next bus station. While I was on my final bus to La Fortuna, a boy with long dreadlocks sat next to me. We found out that where I was going was down the street from where he was going. At the bus station, my ride wasn´t there so without my knowledge Juan phoned Rancho Margot to arrange a ride for me. I was so grateful for his kindness.

After I ate my first meal of the day at a soda, which I was so pleased to find was 500 colones cheaper than anywhere Id been, I walked back to the bus station. A man with gray-tinted facial hair, green eyes, a cowboy hat with feathers attached and a long, thin braid approached me and asked, “Are you coming or going? Let me help you with your bags.”

He lead me around the corner to Red Lava, an information center. He told me he´s on morphine for bone cancer and mentioned the book that´s being written about his life. At Red Lava, a tico teenager with short dreadlocks and lots of friendship bracelets brought my bags upstairs and hid them in a dark corner as he reassured me in perfect English, “Don´t worry, these are incredibly safe.”

Jesus, the cowboy known to the locals as Tomas, asked me if I wanted anything to drink. When I told him I didn´t have money, he said, “Ah some women never change. Come on sweetheart, I´ll buy you something.”

On the way to the supermarket he mentioned the book again and said, “Maybe you´re too young to know about the revolution in Cuba and my father. Did you look at my name on the card? I glanced at the business card he handed me. Jesus Ernesto Guevara. “Che was my father.”

For the rest of the afternoon while I waited for my ride, Che´s so-called son took me around town. He pointed out the best foods and wines to buy and ones not to buy. He picked me flowers and named each one.  He waved at everyone on the street, knew them by name and introduced me to them. Throughout the afternoon he kept making vague references to friends of his like John Lennon and Bob Dylan and referencing dirty jobs he had to do to protect people, jobs like the ones in the movie The Dirty Dozen. He said if I ever needed him, show up in town, mention his name to someone and he´d be there within minutes. When I told him my name he smiled like he knew it all along. “I knew I´d seen those eyes before. My first wife´s name was April. She was both an angel and the devil´s wife.” He said he felt like he was back in the ’70s.

Back at Red Lava I swung in a chair hammock as I continued to wait for my ride. Tomas continued to bring me flowers and he even brought me a baby rabbit. When my ride showed up, Eric, the tico teenager who worked at Red Lava, took off his neckalace that I mentioned I liked and handed it to me. “A present for you. Welcome to La Fortuna.”

When I arrived at Rancho Margot, the first volunteer I met was William. Within five minutes we discovered that he lived on the same floor as my best friend did their first semester of college at University of Nevada Reno.

“There are no such things as coincidences,” he said. No such thing as a coincidence.

Traveling Cultivates Gratitude

After a full day of travel, running right into the ocean is the most refreshing thing.

This is exactly what I did as soon as I arrived in Santa Teresa.

The day before I left Guiones a fellow Solo Bueno-er gave me his japas malas beads, Buddhist prayer beads.japas malas A set normally consists of 108 beads, which symbolize impurities and flaws we as people must overcome. 108 also represents a certain formula that involves the senses, conditions of the heart, time and emotional states. As a repetition of mantras, the beads bring focus into your meditation and prayers. I felt like they also brought certain people into my path. It could have been a mixture of the attitude of gratitude I’ve been cultivating and the angels my Mom said she sent with me, but I never took off those beads while I was in Santa Teresa. You could say they were a bit of a good luck charm.

I’d been in Guiones 12 days, and I was ready to explore the next town. Everytime I asked someone how to get to Santa Teresa, I got a different response. So I walked to the bus stop to catch the 7 a.m. or 7:30 a.m. bus. Like all the unclear answers about the route to Santa Teresa, everyone told me different bus times. “Oh the bus comes at 7. Maybe 7:30, maybe 8,” they’d say. Ticos have a different concept of time.

Before the bus arrived, a man drove by, reversed and asked if I needed a ride to Nicoya, where the bus was going. It was Ariel, a Tico I’d met days before when I spent hours playing with his kids and getting to know his wife at the pool. I instantly accepted his generiosity and was incredibly grateful for the ride and his help at the bus station, where barely anyone spoke English. The route to Santa Teresa was more complicado than I thought. Even though Santa Teresa was on the same peninsula and just south, no buses went directly there.

I was in Nosara and I was headed to Santa Teresa, yet I would have to go to San Jose and then take the ferry back to the Peninsula.

I was in Nosara and I was headed to Santa Teresa, yet I would have to go to San Jose and then take the ferry back to the peninsula.

I´d have to take a 4- to 5-hour bus ride to San Jose, change buses, take a ferry back to the Nicoya Peninsula and take more buses. I was about to board the bus and brace the rides when I heard three backpackers say Santa Teresa. They were also confused about the bus system (there isn´t really any specific bus schedule.) and were trying to find an easier route. The bus was boarding so I got in line and prepared for my long day ahead. One of the backpackers approached me and asked if I wanted to share a shuttle with them instead. So I paid $20 to share a ride to Paquera, the next bus station, and gained three German friends.

The first few nights in Santa Teresa I camped at a hostel on the beach, falling asleep and waking up to the roar of the ocean. I ate casados at traditional Costa Rican sodas with my German friends and other Europeans we picked up along the way. I ended my nights at bonfires on the beach, cheersing pura vida with each Imperial we drank and learning bits and pieces of German.

I loved camping on the beach, but because I didn´t have access to a kitchen or the proper camping cooking gear, I felt like I was wasting money at restaurants for three meals a day. I also didn´t feel completely safe storing my belongings in my tent when I wasn’t there.

I spent the next day exploring and thinking about a hostel-hop. Dehydrated, sweaty and dusty with a growling in my belly I walked into the next restaurant I saw. I was alone at a table meant for a group. A group came in. I offered them my table. They insisted I had lunch with them. It was the owner of a nearby hostel and a few of her guests. I recognized one woman from the bus who I heard say she was going to Casa Zen. Casa Zen. They were all from Casa Zen. I liked them instantly.

After our meal the woman from the bus, Erin, gave me a tour of the hostel. There weren’t any openings at the hostel, but they said to check daily. The next day I took a yoga class at Casa Zen’s open air balcony studio. The girl who first suggested I join them for lunch invited me to share her room since she reserved a room with two beds. I moved in as soon as I could.

Casa Zen is away from the dusty road and close enough to the beach to catch a glimpse of the water sparkle between the trees. When I arrived I saw a surfboard out front with the words, Casa Zen Yoga Hotel.Casa Zen

A yoga hostel. While I was staying at a surf hostel in Guiones, I kept wondering why there wasn’t a yoga hostel around. I shared this thought with a few other people. Here I was standing in front of a place I had envisioned.

My first night at Casa Zen I was serenaded by a Casa Zen regular, a Canadian with shoulder length curly hair. As he sung and strummed his acoustic guitar, people walked by and sung, ‘Welcome to Casa Zen!’

Right from the start, my experience at Casa Zen was welcoming and filled with wonderful people who each helped me along my way.

The Lounge Area

The Lounge Area

All of the benches at Casa Zen were painted.

All of the benches at Casa Zen were painted.

So many wonderful reminders at Casa Zen.

So many wonderful reminders at Casa Zen.

I had some really fun times at Casa Zen. I went to a pre-full moon party at Ranchos Itaúna, a bar right on the beach, danced and lost track of time until my roommate and I went home and couldn’t believe it was 4 in the morning.

The day after the full moon, Nate, the guitar-playing regular at Casa Zen, gave me my first card reading. They weren´t tarot cards, but they were similar. The cards I choose, or I should say the cards that chose me, resonated with me. One card was the High Lord of Gratitude and Service.

This card has arrived to help you find your true purpose today. Feeling gratitude for each moment you experience, and loving what is and what has been, will remind you that every breath you take holds a deep and profound awareness. The presence of this ally lets you know that you are on the correct path of fulfilling your desires. There are no friends or enemies, just teachers along life´s journey.

Since recieving this card, I´m trying to be as grateful as possible about as much as possible. From now on I will begin my blog posts listing things I´m grateful for.

I spent most nights at Casa Zen cooking with friends, having potlucks, playing jenga and playing card games. My group of friends at Casa Zen quickly and easily transformed into my family. I felt like I could open up to them about everything in my life and they welcomed me with  loving hearts and no judgements. They were shoulders to cry on, people who opened their arms when I needed a hug, friends to practice yoga with. We were all kindred spirits.

Ladies beach day

Potluck

card gamesIf I hadn´t met the people I met at Casa Zen, I probably wouldn´t have stayed in Santa Teresa as long as I did. Santa Teresa is basically one long street lined with eateries, hotels, and shops that parallels the beach. It was more expensive than Guiones. Most people there were vacationing and a lot of people were there to party. There were a lot of eateries with full menus in English, often no menus in Spanish. There was a plaza right before Santa Teresa in Playa Carmen, which I was shocked to see. After being in Guiones, I wasn´t expecting so much development, I guess. A plaza!? I couldn´t believe I was looking at a plaza.

I quickly realized that Santa Teresa wasn´t as underdeveloped or lowkey as Guiones. It wasn´t the typical backpackers´town. I saw shirts hanging in the windows of shops that said, ´What happens in Santa Teresa stays in Santa Teresa.´ There weren´t as many people with smiling faces walking down the street as there were in Guiones. But I learned that you can´t compare one place to another. You have to appreciate things for what they are.

I wore my japas malas beads the whole time I was in Santa Teresa. The one time I took them off, while acroyogaing on the beach, I accidentally left them behind. I only had a couple days left in Santa Teresa anyway.

I feel like their presence in my life signified a few things. The japas malas beads were another gift along the way, another act of kindness, another reminder to give, a reminder to be free of things. More importantly the japas malas beads were another reminder to not be afraid to leave pieces of ourselves behind and to share pieces of the journey as much as possible.

Do what you will, while you’re able. Find what it is that you seek. Only I’ll fly, fly, fly above the ocean. I will fly so high above the sea

I’ll admit, I was nervous booking a hostel and a shuttle service from the airport in another country via email for my first time traveling to another country alone.

Right after I arrived in Costa Rica and went through customs, I still had butterflies as I searched for my driver among the crowd of taxi drivers holding signs for different hotels, resorts and hostels. But as soon as my driver greeted me, “April, hi, nice to meet you,” in a slow, relaxed tone, my nerves slightly sunk away. He said, “First time here and you picked Solo Bueno Hostel? You picked a good place. Only the crazy people go there.” (Sidenote: Sometimes I see him in town. He remembers my name and always greets me with a hug and kiss on the cheek.) He led me to a different driver who drove me all the way to my hostel.

Once I got in the shuttle, Marvin, the driver, handed me a map of Nosara and said, “Your first present in Costa Rica.” As we passed sugar cane fields and mango trees throughout Nosara, Marvin kept saying how beautiful everything in Costa Rica was and especially how beautiful Guanacaste was. “Guanacaste es que lindas,” Marvin would say and bring his fingers to his mouth to blow a kiss in the air.

Guanacaste is a province (similar to a state) located in the northwestern part of Costa Rica.  Nicoya is a canton (similar to a county) in Guanacaste. Nosara is a city in Nicoya. Guiones is a beach town that’s part of Nosara. So Playa Guiones is in Nosara, which is in Nicoya, which is in Guanacaste. And that’s where I started my Costa Rican journey.

About 22 miles from Playa Guiones (pronounced ge-oh-nays) we turned down an unpaved rocky road that led to the town. All the street signs were covered in dust and there were no street lines painted on the streets. There were no street lights either.

I arrived at the hostel minutes before sunset. I walked right into the common room of the hostel. There wasn’t a front desk or sign-in area. Kimberly, the the woman-in-charge of the hostel spoke to me from the kitchen,

“These are the rules: No smoking tobacco in the house. I don’t care about pot. And we’re having a feast tonight.”

I jumped on Kimberly’s golf cart, and she drove us to the beach where we watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. When I woke up in the morning, Kimberly handed me a cup of the best coffee I’ve ever had. It came from her friend’s farm in the mountains. Everything still felt like a dream.

***

I’ve been in Guiones for 12 days now. As I walked around town on my first full day here, excitement ran through me as I giggled like a schoolgirl with a new crush. I still feel this giddiness when I look around me and realize that I’m living in Paradise. It’s like being at a music festival or Burning Man; it’s like falling in love.

As ticos, (nickname for Costa Ricans) would say, it’s Pura Vida, which translates to pure life, and means any variety of: this is living, all is good, life is amazing. Ticos often greet each other with this saying or slip it into casual conversation.

In Guiones I wake up when I hear the birds chatting or when the sun comes up. I spend the majority of my days outside. I spend each moment doing what it is I want to do at that moment. I take yoga classes everyday. I explore. I ride my rented bicycle. I walk through the jungle. I swim in the ocean. I drink fresh coconuts from the beach stand. The only time I follow time is to make sure I make the yoga class on time. Other than that there’s no need to. I eat when I’m hungry and go to sleep when I’m tired.

I’ve had some really incredible days here. I’ve met people, been in certain situations and had certain conversations that I wouldn’t have had if I wasn’t alone. I’ve met people on the street just by smiling and waving. I’ve done things I wouldn’t have time to do at home. Each day I’m learning to quiet the voice in my head that wants to constantly be busy, that feels compelled to always be in motion. With each moment that passes I’ve been falling into a tranquilo state of doing what comes naturally and not worrying too much about anything else.