I remember Costa Rica as if it were yesterday. The heat of the sun on my bare skin. The smell of clean, fresh air. The streets alive and vibrant with singing and dancing. The country itself has an infectious feeling of happiness. The kind of happiness that seeps deep into the soul and lights up our recesses that may have grown dark and cold from our routine lives.
I remember waking up to bowls of fresh, juicy fruit that tasted as if it had just been picked from the trees. I ate pineapple — bright, yellow and perfect in sweetness. I savored the sweetness of mango as I popped pieces of the yellow-orange fruit into my mouth. I would close my eyes and feel the soft, cool wind kiss my skin from the open windows and doors of the hotel breakfast area.
I went exploring in the streets of San Jose where locals sold goods under tents and on the streets for miles. I would walk into one of the tent and be mesmerized by intricate wood carvings. Some items contained vibrant paintings of toucans, flora, and fauna of all sorts. I walked by, speaking clumsy Spanish to purchase beautifully woven scarves soft to the touch. I spent blue, red, and green colored slips of paper on trinkets, coffee mugs, and souvenirs of all sorts.
I zip-lined my way through trees in the cloud forests of Monteverde. Zip-lining through the cloud forests in Monteverde liberated me. As I hung on for dear life, one hand on the cable above, the other white knuckling the harness in front, I rode atop thousands of trees and my breath was caught in my throat at the sights. I hiked through the forest and found trees with branches that extended down forming a regal canopy. I saw insects, and I could see and hear birds near and far, flittering and whistling about.
There is a special place hidden within the cloud forest called the continental divide. This area is named as such because it’s the imagined line between the Atlantic side of Costa Rica and the Pacific side. Standing in the middle one would not feel much change in the atmosphere. Take a step to the left and you become instantly engulfed in a whirlwind of cool air. The power of the wind carries you and wraps your body in a blanket of mountain like atmosphere-Atlantic. Take a step over to the right and your skin is enthroned in the sun’s rays. The blood in your veins begins to flow just a little hotter and there is no wind. The element of the sun is at work and your entire body begins to heat – Pacific.
We reached Arenal, a place I climbed several feet of black rocks to reach an end point at a warning sign “Zona Peligrosa”. There I sat atop an obsidian-colored rock and stared out at the Volcano. It was amazing to think that this force of nature was actually alive, active and at any minute it could erupt. To know that something in nature had that much potential and yet here it was, quiet and calm.
All the exploration called for bouts of relaxation and hot springs provided perfect areas of rejuvenation. My body would delve into bright blue pools filled with heated water that seemed to suck the poison from a troubled soul. I would pop my head up and ask a nearby waitress, “Puedes tener café con leche?” Then I would calmly float about, admiring the mountains in the distance while sipping on coffee that was euphoric to not only the nose, but also the taste buds.
As much as my soul aches to return to the vivacious streets of Costa Rican cities, I want to explore other parts of the world. I want to clumsily get lost and be “that tourist” that has to ask for directions. I want to find myself immersed in a crowd of cultures. I want to taste food that makes me question the existence of anything better. Basically, I want to travel because it helps me answer the question: Am I living? Or am I merely existing?