The first time a country stole my heart was when I studied abroad in Spain. It was my first trip abroad and it liberated me in ways I cannot possibly explain in one entry. I’m sure you can imagine though the kind of a change it must have been; a born and bred New Yorker, nourished by the rat race, spending six weeks in Spain, the land of siestas.
But Costa Rica…Costa Rica has captivated me in an even deeper sense. I have never felt so at home in a foreign land, or hell, even in New York. I adapted as quickly as if I had been there before, as if I spent a large portion of my life there, and I am so much at ease in this country that on multiple occasions, locals thought I was a local.
The first time I left Ticalandia, I thought I could just chalk up the heartache I felt on leaving to having a great time, meeting great people, and stepping out of my comfort zone to discover a new sense of adventure. I sobbed the night prior to leaving, I sobbed at the airport, and I started sobbing as my plane landed back in NY when I realized I officially was no longer in Costa Rica.
Now coming back the second time, I arrive in NY once again having left a piece of my heart there, even though it was only a short two week trip. As I try to understand why this country in particular is having such a profound impact on me, I realize the vast amount of change I have undergone as a person from my trips there.
The number one change definitely being my increased sense of adventure and easing up on my almost compulsive need to control and plan every aspect of my life. There were weekends where a group of strangers (people I had just met a day prior for instance) and I would just pick up and go somewhere for a weekend. I remember one particular weekend, as we were heading to Puerto Viejo on the Carribbean side of the country, I was pushing back a threatening anxiety attack as I realized I was in a van with virtual strangers, without a cellphone, heading to a place I had never heard of. This ended up being by far one of my best trips down there, and is the source of some of my fondest memories.
This time around there was a major internal undertaking as I battled with my beliefs in, or actually lack of belief in, my own capabilities. Having gone down there this time with my mother and best friend, I served for the first time as a translator and felt very responsible for the trip and making sure we got to where we needed to get to. This caused doubts to arise as to whether or not my Spanish level was up to the task (a ridiculous notion as I lived in the country for three months and in Spain for two, on top of studying it for years). In reality, it’s not my Spanish skills that I doubt, it is my capability in general that I doubt. This deep disbelief in my skills, whether it be language, music, or writing, is truly at root here, and it holds me back from accomplishing a lot.
But there I was, conversing with anyone who would talk to me, having full on discussions (sometimes intense, philosophical discussions) in Spanish. Now to carry this new found confidence over to other areas of my life…
I’ve not heard from one person who has been to Costa Rica that they had a terrible time. I truly believe that it is a magical place, with a beautiful environment and beautiful people. And somehow, this country has been able to pierce my heart and soul in such a way that I know I will return as often as I can, whenever I can.