Montezuma: Be a light unto yourself

Attitude of Gratitude:

I’m thankful for these objects and people that keep coming into my life at exactly the right moment. I’m thankful that I’ve had full days to do nothing but read. I’m thankful to have the power of both no-thingness and alone-ness. I’m thankful for all the lessons I continue to learn along the way.

One of my first days walking the beach in Montezuma I found a semilla ojo de buey, eye of the bull seed, washed along shore.

semillas

These seeds drift all over the world, getting picked up and tossed around by the ocean’s pull, but are native to the tropics. Sometimes they spend years drifting along. They are good luck charms with healing properties that help develop strength to face change. I read somewhere that,  “When we know we have to deal with something that requires great effort, this seed gives us all the energy we need.” I instantly felt like I was meant to find the semilla ojo de buey.

In my previous post about Montezuma, I wrote about mine and Elizabeth’s conversation about the people who are drawn to Montezuma. At the end of our conversation she said, “And then I wonder if people look at me and think these things. I’m lost, but I’m purposefully lost.”

Montezuma is the perfect place to be purposefully lost.

While in Montezuma I spent full days doing nothing but reading. I spent a lot of time alone contemplating what it means to be purposefully lost, and I found out more about myself.

Afterall part of the reason I also came to Costa Rica was to be purposefully lost. I was drained from constant years of schooling, taking 16 to 20 credits every semester while working two jobs and maintaining internships, scheduling hangout dates with friends between lunch breaks, going from one relationship to the next, and feeling like my life was turning into a never-ending to-do-list. Since being in Costa Rica for the past four months, I’ve definitely learned a lot about slowing down, being comfortable with doing nothing, and finding the courage to be alone, sometimes with only the roar of the ocean drifting into my ears.

After revealing a few things about myself to my roommate Nolita, she told me I needed to speak my truth more. “You are a powerful being when you speak your truth.” But what does that mean exactly? She said that the Universe keeps putting certain patterns into my life so I can realize that they are happening and deal with them. She told me to shift perspective and be in gratitude for things that happened instead of picking them apart. There’s that gratitude, once again showing up in some form of my travels.

Speaking your truth means standing your ground, not giving up, not giving in, and sticking up for what you believe in no matter what.

The next day at Devaya Yoga I picked a card from a deck similar to a Tarot card and it said,

“Growth comes not by fighting with what it wrong, but by loving what is right.”

Instead of looking at a situation and thinking about everything that went wrong, remember what went right. What went wrong antagonizes you. While this can act as a driving force of change for you to be better, you need to also focus on what you know is already true in your heart, what is already right for you. If the reason for why things went wrong has been a similar pattern in your life, then be in gratitude that that pattern presented itself once again, and move forward with what is right. This can also be applied to people and relationships. Learn to love what is right about someone instead of picking apart their flaws. Of course all of this is easier said than done, but another lesson in growth is good for all of us.

03

A few days later at the 03 Institute I picked some Osho Zen Tarot cards. Lately anxiety kicked into my brain as I thought about the future and life post-Costa Rica. The present moment slipped away as my mind constantly wandered to the nonexistent, the future. Before I knew what the Osho Zen Tarot cards were, I picked a card from the top of the deck to look at it. It was completely black and said in white type, “No-thingness.” I thought that was a little weird so I put it back and walked away. Later I shuffled the deck and picked the card, “Alone-ness.” I laughed, showed Nolita and she said, “There’s another one in there that seems bad too,” and showed me “No-thingness.” I couldn’t get away from this card.

No-thingness says, “Relax into the nothingness of not knowing. Treasure each empty moment of the experience. Something sacred is about to be born. The nothing is not just nothing, it is all. It is vibrant with all possibilities. It is potential, absolute potential. It is unmanifest yet, but it contains all. Why in the middle become so worried, anxious, why create such despair? Nothingness to nothingness is the whole journey.”

It’s okay to not know what comes next. In Western culture we are taught the opposite. We are pushed into college straight from high school and then pushed into careers and family life. We often have plans far in advance. We have family and friends who nag us about what we’re doing with our lives. The future looms over us. What we forget to realize is that, it’s okay not to know. It’s okay to let the Universe unfold exactly as it should. It’s okay to not be in control of every little thing that happens to you. It’s okay to let go. Everything, even the nothingness, is part of the experience.

Which goes hand in hand with Alone-ness:

“When there is no significant other in our lives we can either be lonely, or enjoy the freedom that solitude brings. We can either feel isolated and bitter, or celebrate the fact that our vision is strong enough even to survive the powerful human need for the approval of family, friends or colleagues. Take responsibility for the choice you have made. The humble figure in this card glows with a light that emanates from within. Gautam Buddha said, ‘Be a light unto yourself.’ Ultimately each of us must develop within ourselves the capacity to make our way through the darkness without any companions, maps or guides. There is a tremendous difference between loneliness and aloneness. Loneliness is absence of the other. Aloneness is the presence of oneself. Aloneness is very positive. It is a presence, overflowing presence. You are so full of presence that you can fill the whole universe with your presence and there is no need for anybody.”

Remember that being alone is okay. Being alone doesn’t necessarily mean being lonely. Remember that each one of us carries a light inside of us. We can access this light, this power, anytime.

Learn to feel joy in solitude. Learn to know the thoughts that flutter through your mind when no one else is there to influence them. Learn to know how you want to spend the day when the choice is completely up to you. Learn to feel comfortable with nothing but your presence and your breath on your skin. Learn to sit in silence and observe. Then you’ll see how beautiful everything can truly be.

anamaya

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Montezuma Attracts

Attitude of Gratitude:

I’m thankful that no matter where I go in Costa Rica I somehow end up seeing a familiar face. I’m thankful for natural tidal pools. I’m thankful for Montezuma.

In my hostel one night my roommate Elizabeth and I started talking about Montezuma. She said, “I’ve been to so many places in the world, and I’ve heard here more than anywhere else people say, ‘That person is so weird. That person is a little off.’ I’ve never heard people say that so many times in one day before. This place definitely attracts people who are a little lost.”

Montezuma

Right after this conversation my Tico friend Andrei picked me up to get dinner. I asked him about his day, and he shook his head as he said, “Oh man I just got stuck in a two hour conversation with this guy. He just got divorced, and he kept talking about burning things. Crazy people here.”

Montezuma attracts lost souls.

One day on the street I overheard a guy say to two women in a stopped car, “There are no rules here. We’re the rulebreakers and the black sheep of our families.” Days later at the Saturday market I saw him with a wheelbarrow full of coconuts. He kept muttering, cursing and pointing fingers at no one in particular. Andrei later told me that that man, Jack of the Jungle, took too much Reina de la Noche and never came back.

Montezuma attracts spiritual-seekers, yogis, health-conscious folks, healers, people who need to be healed, creators, kindred spirits, backpackers and all kinds of alternative types.

A few times a week I took vinyasa flow classes at Montezuma Yoga, a beautiful outdoor terrace studio at Los Mangos hotel. There I met like-minded people who I saw at the community farmers’ market and other events around town. I also took classes at Devaya Yoga, right in town. One day I was the only one who showed up, so Devaya, the owner, gave me a “healing bodywork” session. In between talking fast about her own life, she’d say random things about my life like, “Continue to use your non-dominant hand. You’re not going to be a journalist, but you’re going to write something. Writing and beauty will dominate your life. You’re traveling alone, aren’t you? Brave for a Libra.”

Montezuma Yoga

Montezuma Yoga

Montezuma Yoga

Montezuma Yoga

One of my favorite yoga classes was on the beach for a Full Moon Rise class outside of Ylang Ylang Beach Resort led by Ireni Stamou. It was one of the best yoga classes I’ve ever taken. After Shavasana the full moon hung low in the sky over the ocean illuminating all of us.

Because there was a retreat happening I was never able to take a class there, but another yoga attraction in Montezuma is Anamaya. It’s a body, mind and spirit resort on top of the hill with spectacular views. I would love to go to a retreat there someday.

View from Anamaya

View from Anamaya

Almost every day in Montezuma I ran into someone I knew. My first night in Montezuma I saw my manager from the outdoor store I worked at in New Jersey. He just happened to be in the middle of the street, right across from my line of vision. I knew he was going to be in Costa Rica, but I didn’t expect to see him in the middle of the street on my first night in Montezuma.

I ran into three people who also volunteered at Rancho Margot. One of them, Jennifer, told me, “You’re gonna love it here. Happy, healthy people.” She’s studying with Dr. Teodoro, a naturopath, at the 03 Institute in Delicias, which is up the hill a bit from Montezuma on the way to Santa Teresa. The 03 is a spa, wellness and healing center. I did the sauna and cold plunge there and also got a facial. I highly recommend this place for everyone, even if you think you don’t need any kind of treatment. It’s a beautiful, tranquil place just to be.

O3

O3

Montezuma attracts love. 

When I was in Santa Teresa my hostel roommate there said that Montezuma was thee place to fall in love. Her and her boyfriend were having problems, and Montezuma changed everything. A guy I met in Montezuma told me, “Montezuma is special for relationships. There’s something about it that makes you fall in love.”

Some say it’s because of the waterfalls.

I got this picture from google because the day I was there the water was brown from the mud.

I got this picture from google because the day I was there the water was brown from the mud.

Andrei said Montezuma is his favorite place in Costa Rica. “I think it has something to do with the waterfalls. Something about them affects your wellbeing and your spiritually. It releases something in your mind,” Andrei said. “Montezuma just maximizes whatever you’re feeling. Here I just feel things. I stop thinking and start feeling.” Cesar, the co-director of my hostel, told me he originally moved to Montezuma because of the waterfalls.

Others will tell you it’s because Montezuma is one of the Blue Zones of the world. A Blue Zone is an area where scientists have found that people live longer and know how to be happier. The whole Nicoya Peninsula is considered a Blue Zone. In 2004, the man behind the Blue Zone concept, Dan Buettner, teamed up with National Geographic and hired the world’s best longevity researchers to identify places around the world where people lived measurably better.  In these Blue Zones they found that people reach age 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the United States. Find out more information about Blue Zones here.

Montezuma attracted me.

Before I came to Costa Rica everyone that had been to Costa Rica told me that I had to go to Montezuma. They all got the same dreamy look in their eyes and sheepish grin as they talked about it. Before I came, it was one of the only towns in Costa Rica I knew about. I was hoping to go right away, but didn’t make it until April. In Costa Rica different people I met had opinions about Montezuma that went from one side of the spectrum to the complete opposite. While I was in Puerto Viejo, I felt really called to Montezuma. I knew it was time to head there.

The first few days I spent in Montezuma I didn’t see what all the hype was about. For starters the prices of everything from clothing and souvenirs to food were the most expensive I’d seen in the whole country. Most casados cost anywhere from 3500 to 4000. But I did find one for 2500 at El Capitan, a hostel/restaurant in town. There are places in Costa Rica with a similar vibe that have cheaper price tags. But by two weeks in, I too started to develop that dreamy look in my eyes and fell under Montezuma’s spell. I abandoned my ideas to explore other parts of the country and decided to stay in Montezuma longer.

Montezuma is on the eastern side of the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. The sunrise side. The sun rises in Montezuma and sets in Mal Pais/Santa Teresa, about 19 km away. To get to Montezuma you drive down steep hills that never seem to stop winding. Between the trees, azure water sparkles in the distance, but it doesn’t seem like anything else can exist down there.

Is there anything down there?

Is there anything down there?

Most of the restaurants, travel agencies and souvenir shops run along the two perpendicular streets along the beach. The Nicoya Peninsula’s information website says, “Montezuma’s town center, with charming old wood houses, itinerant artists, and vivid street life has an almost Caribbean flair and feels like the open-air living room of the community where a continuous mellow party takes place.” There is no post office or bank, but there’s an ATM. There are plenty of vegetarian eateries in town and quite a few places to get vegan food as well. The party night in town is Thursday when Chico’s Bar hosts Reggae Night. The street is blocked off for performers and firedancers.

One street in town

One street in town

The  other street in town

The other street in town

In Montezuma I was instantly greeted with kindness and remembered how friendly the locals on the Nicoya Peninsula are. A huge part of that is thanks to Kerri Bowers and Cesar Benavides, the founders of Proyecto Montezuma, a nonprofit organization which provides free English classes for locals, TEFL training, a tour agency, a hostel, and more, all in one. I ended up staying at Proyecto Montezuma for 16 days when I originally thought I’d spend a week at the most.

The hostel, on a ledge overlooking the ocean with two accesible beaches and natural tidal pools, is the perfect place to relax. It’s about a seven minute walk from downtown and a two minute walk from the waterfalls. It’s perfect for people who want a quieter stay, away from the hustle and bustle of town.

The side of Proyecto Lodge that faces the water

The side of Proyecto Lodge that faces the water

The view on the right of the hostel with the tidal pools.

The view on the right of the hostel with the tidal pools.

The left side of Proyecto

The view on the left side of the hostel.

That is what I had right at my fingertips day in and day out. Life just continues to get better.

Smile You’re in the Caribbean

That was the first rule at my hostel on the Caribbean side. As I explored the town, I continued to see this mantra everywhere.

Attitude of Gratitude:

I’m thankful that despite what everyone said, I explored the Carribbean side. I’m thankful for the wonderful community of people I met in Playa Chiquita and that community exists. I’m thankful for spiders.

The first night I arrived on the Caribbean side calypso music breezed through the windows of the cultural center in downtown Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. (The locals drop the de Talamanca and refer to it as Puerto Viejo. There’s another Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica, Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí.) Musicians wearing brightly colored sarongs swayed in the front of the room as people served traditional Caribbean food in the back. I arrived just in time for Gran Feria Cultural: Casa De La Cultura,  an Afro-Caribbean culture festival. As I danced to the calypso rhythms at the free event, I knew I was going to like it in Puerto Viejo. Back at my hostel they were hosting mud wrestling. There was already plenty to smile about.

I started my Costa Rican journey on the Pacific side and most people I met said the Caribbean side was nothing much, to put it nicely. I feel like some people in the States are also like that, always thinking their side of the coast is better. When I got to the Caribbean side and explored Puerto Viejo and every beach south, I realized that no one knew what they were talking about. Regardless of what people say about a place, you can never judge it until you’ve been there yourself. Until you experience something yourself, you never really know. Each day in the Caribbean side I found something new to love.

The Caribbean side pulses with life.

So many of these beauties everywhere

So many of these beauties everywhere

Bright blue morpho butterflies flutter right past your face sometimes. Neon orb-weaver spiders weave webs all through the jungle and between the power lines of the road.  Some say that the Caribbean side lacks a dry season. It rained most days I was there, but most of the rain poured during the night. In turn, lush green vegetation swallows you up. Leaves of trees seem to reach out and cling to you.

Caribbean trees

The Caribbean side is a mixture of all different types of people and cultures that includes indigenous tribes like Cabecar and Bribri Indians. Artisans sell jewerly and clothing all along the road, which adds to the vibrant colors you see everywhere.

Bob Marley music can always be heard somewhere. The jungle path pushes right up to the beach in Puerto Viejo and Cocles. There are restaurants in Puerto Viejo for every price range with a wide list of options from typical sodas to Thai and Italian.

In Puerto Viejo, there’s always something to do. There’s a farmers market on Saturday mornings. Lazy Mon hosts an open mic night on Sundays. Tasty Waves has trivia nights on Tuesdays. OM Yoga has a community class on Wednesdays. Jessy Chick performs at EZ Times on Wednesdays. There are tons of shops with really cute clothing and great souviners.

My favorite store in town is Luluberlu. It’s on one of the side roads and is a must-go-to if you’re in town. Just look at all these colorful things:

Luluberlu

Luluberlu

Luluberlu

When you talk to most backpackers about Puerto Viejo, they’ll suggest the hostel Rocking J’s. Most people I talked to didn’t really know anything else. But there are plenty more options. I knew Rocking J’s was a party hostel, primarily targeted at the 16- to 21-year-old crowd. I don’t mind partying every once in awhile, but I didn’t want to be living in the party. Rocking J’s is a great place to visit though. They have tons of beautiful mosaics.

Good VibesLife's so good

A guy I met at the bus station in Nicoya told me to go to a place called La Ruka instead. The name stuck with me as I traveled throughout Costa Rica. I ended up spending 16 days at La Ruka, my longest stay since volunteering at the ranch. When driving from the center of town, La Ruka is on the right, just before Rocking J’s. The couple that runs the hostel were extremely welcoming and accommodating. It’s one of those hostels where the other guests become your family. By foot, it’s around 5- to 10- minutes from the center of town.

One of the main differences of Puerto Viejo than most of the other places I’ve visited in Costa Rica is the paved road. The paved road added a whole new dimension to things. For one, people drove much faster than on the rocky, dusty roads.

Puerto Viejo is a bit seedier and rougher than most places I’ve been in Costa Rica. There are many places where you don’t want to walk or ride your bike at night regardless if you’re alone or not. Danni, the co-runner of La Ruka, told me, “When you walk at night be confident, and shine your light out.” I think this roughness is part of the reason Puerto Viejo gets a bad reputation. It’s not like people are murdering people in the streets. It’s mainly petty crime like people stealing your belongings. I’ve heard of worse things happening in Santa Teresa.

Like when traveling anywhere else, if you go out at night, be sensible. Don’t walk alone in the dark. Don’t carry anything valuable on you. And most importantly, shine your light out.

In Puerto Viejo people will openly offer you marijuana. More people ask, “Do you smoke?” in Puerto Viejo than any other place I’ve been in Costa Rica. I can see people being put off by that, but it’s as simple as saying, “No, gracias,” and walking away. The locals also have a favorite go-to line, “Hey girl, where you from?” It’s like they memorized that English question and nothing else.

While Puerto Viejo is nice for going out, the true gems of the Caribbean lie south of Puerto Viejo. I think another reason people dismiss the Caribbean side is because they get to Puerto Viejo and stop there. Keep going. Always keep exploring. The small beach towns past the main town are the heart of the Caribbean side.

After Puerto Viejo there’s Cocles, Playa Chiquita, Punta Uva and Manzanillo. I loved the jungle feel of the places along the main road.

A cafe along the road

A cafe

The town's welcome sign

The town’s welcome sign

You never know when you'll need a little jungle love.

You never know when you’ll need a little jungle love.

cafe

Outdoor dining in the Caribbean

My suggestions as always: rent a bicycle and explore. The day I rode south of PV, I really started to fall in love. I felt like each passing sight and sign was written for me, especially in Playa Chiquita. I’m pretty sure I could stay there forever.

“Chocolate tours, vegan and vegetarian food, kundalini yoga, save the forest, and plant trees,” are just a few of the signs  I rode past.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, we pulled into the beach Punta Uva.

Punta Uva Punta Uva

This instantly became my favorite beach in Costa Rica.

And this ledge on Punta Uva’s beach instantly became my favorite place to practice yoga and one of my favorite places in the world.

Yoga Punta Uva

In Playa Chiquita my favorite place is La Botantica Organica, a vegetarian, vegan and raw foods cafe with a store that offers all kinds of sustainable, eco-friendly, and local products. While I was in Puerto Viejo they hosted a community movie night and community art showcase night.

At La Botantica Organica I met happy, healthy people who were facilitaing community in every sense of the word. I was so tempted to never leave so I could grow in community with them. But now I know I have a Puerto Viejo family I can always go back to.

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.

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.