After an extended break (possibly too long) from my blog and from most electronics in general, I am more than ready to get back into the game and update everyone on the incredible adventures I have had the past 55 days in Costa Rica. So much has changed. My plans for this year, my outlook on life, thoughts on my future, and most importantly, who I am. This of course is the biggest question this year for me, and one I find myself asking at the strangest of times. Now, I am sure at least some of my family, friends, and fellow bloggers and followers have wondered, “Where is Maureen?” (a question that has been asked countless times by those who know me well) or probably most likely, “Where is Maureen and why isn’t she updating her blog??”. All I can really say is: Oops. I thought I would have it in me to travel and discover so many new things and write it all down at the end of the day. It didn’t seem so hard or time consuming. I love to write, I didn’t see how it could be a problem. This is why I have a true and newfound respect for my fellow traveler bloggers. It really does take serious commitment to take time off from taking time off. I didn’t have that commitment in me the past 55 days, I had so much to experience without any interruption. I think most of all, I needed to find a balance. This is the key word for me.
Balance deciding when the time is right to have fun and when it is to be serious. Balance with my life I have developed so much here and the one I have left back home. Balance with getting to know new friends and keeping in touch with the old. Balance with the sense of family I have here, and my family at home who depends on any word I send their way. Balance on my surfboard, balance with my camera’s tripod, balancing after a piña colada or two, and balance with my feelings and thoughts as I am completely alone on this amazing journey.
For anyone who knew my plan from September to December, it was to come home back to the states after five weeks at the beautiful beaches of Jaco, Costa Rica and, after a week, setting off to South Africa. It is October 25th and I am sitting in a humid hostel room with a broken ceiling fan on the very chill Caribbean coast of Costa Rica in the Limon province. Had you told me this was going to happen two months ago, I wouldn’t have believed you. Let’s talk about why I am still here, and a few stories I have too, por supuesto.
Two of the biggest reasons I am still here are for photography and surfing. The former has become a huge part of my day-to-day life, and something I have put a lot of thought into involving in my future. I took photography classes for six full weeks in Jaco and have learned so much more than I could type on the subject. I want it to be a part of me forever, and although I know it will, I just don’t know exactly how much it will be a part of my life yet. Surfing, on the other hand, has become part of me. Those couple years of struggling physically and mentally at the end of my competitive swimming career made me wonder why I did it all. Why I woke up at 5am most of my summer mornings and spent more hours in the water than I did in my bed on some school weeks. Surfing clarified that very quickly for me. I knew that after I saw the look my teacher Carlos gave the other instructor after he showed me how to get up on a board and I caught on quick. I saw it when I paddled out with the advanced surfers on my first day in the water. And I felt it when I got up on a wave the same day, even though it was only for a moment. That feeling has only become more and more a part of me. On the third day I caught a wave by myself. The fifth day I was an independent surfer. The six day I went from a 8’6″ board to a 6’8″. It took a week for me to realize why I had developed these swimmers’ shoulders for 15 years. A friend I’ve made would call what I just said a “humble brag”, my apologies for seeming that way! I guess I feel like I belong in the surfing community, the best compliment I have received since I have been here is “You look like a surfer”. Nothing better than that to me:) But I will admit is understandable, my hair has grown passed my lower back, my skin is the darkest its ever been and my hair is the lightest. I have a leash tan around my ankle, and when I’m not thinking about surfing I usually have a surfboard under my arm. I am just now realizing how lucky I was to have big and amazing waves in Playa Jaco, as they are not good this time of year in Limon.
So, here in Costa Rica, I am the tall Pennsylvanian hippie-looking surfer chick with a camera at her hip and traveling with a bag that is wayyy too big to be traveling with. I have learned my lesson on traveling light, that is for sure! Considering I was not supposed to travel around the country with the 50 pounder in my beginning plans, from now on I’m going to be prepared for the unexpected.
In addition to that mouthful of my persona, let’s add “with a monkey around her neck”. As passionate as I feel about surfing and photography, I am not sure if they can top my forever love for animals. I have been able to volunteer with some of the most beautiful and undescribably gentle, personable, playful, and unique creatures on this planet. Monkeys. I know I absolutely would dedicate my whole life to these animals in a heartbeat if given the chance. But I might just have to create that chance for myself if that is really what I feel I must do. I have said for years I want to be Jane Goodall, now I think that might be my dream I will one day pursue.
Between going from the Pacific to the Caribbean coasts of this marvelous country, I stopped in Monteverde, where the famous cloud forests are located, and the town of Lafortuna below the Arenal Volcano. Both beautiful places and I will be sure to describe them much more soon. I then went to the capital, San Jose, and from there took the long public bus ride to the Caribbean coast. Here I originally resided in a home stay sort of situation, which was not what I wanted but. I trusted the man who set me up here, maybe I should have known the price of the house including all food was a little too good to be true. After spending 8 hours with wild animals in pure humidity covered dirt and who-knows-what, all most people would want is a shower. I am easy-going, or at least I try to be, but after stating “necesita una ducha” I learned what easy-going really was the hard way, when I was handed a bucket of water and a cup to scoop it out. I toughed this out for days along with most likely bed bugs, enough rice and bean meals for at least a year, no running water for toilets 21 out of 24 hours in the day, and the glares I was given by security guards when I stood outside of 5-star hotels stealing their wifi. This was all until I discovered hostels in town down the road I would pay less for per night. I never packed so quickly, but I wouldn’t take that experience back for anything if I could. I have never been more grateful for what I have in this humid hostel room, and especially for what I have back home.
Now the guilt I have felt pressing in the back of my mind can finally be relieved, because wanderingmaureen is back in action and learning how to wander without getting too lost from her ways:)