My body clock is currently upside-down…dealing with a 14-hour time difference is a bit more challenging than I assumed…so what better time to resurrect the blog than writing a late night travel/life entry?

Compared to many other travel bloggers, (I don’t particularly consider myself one) I have not been to, or experienced a lot of places. But in the ones that I have, I like taking away a few lessons to share with my readers.

On a personal note, I signed up several months ago for a Yogic Reset week with Kadri Kurgun and Daniel Scott, scheduled for January 2017. During the run up to that, I experienced quite significant life changes I was never prepared for; and had to make some very difficult decisions (if you’re going through your own ‘stuff’ feel free to talk about it – get in touch!), and was feeling very much on edge about my future.

In the relatively short 34 years of my life, 2016 was probably one of the most unsettling years. It was a mix of deep sorrow and high challenges, freedom and persistence, bouts of happiness and fulfilment…heavy heartbreak and waning inner strength.

When January 2017 came, I did not know if I was ready to make the big trip to Costa Rica – all on my own. I felt delicate, unsure of myself. Planning the 3-week solo trip was tough. I did not know what to expect, so I let go of expectations.

 

Part 1: The Yogic Reset

Fast forward to the 2nd week of January 2017. Waiting at the crazy Terminal 1 of NAIA in Manila, Philippines – I was dreading the long journey. But this feeling was soon dissipated when the guys at the check-in counter kindly offered me exit-row seats for my “long legs”. Suddenly, I got a feeling of reassurance that all was going to be fine.

My friend Christian had invited me to this 7-day ‘reset’ (not a ‘retreat’!). Indigo Yoga Resort looked like the perfect setting for such an event. Not knowing what to expect, I opened myself to the experience, and wow – I am so glad for it. Our group of 25 was composed of teachers and participants from all walks of life, varying yoga experience (I was very likely the most inexperienced one in the group!), and had different reasons for being there.

Just go for it! Wooo!

Each day was organised in such a way that we were able to meditate, do some yoga, outdoor activities, and personal-building exercises linked to acroyoga, team-building, and self-love. Kadri, the ‘father figure’ of the group, opened us up to realise our vulnerabilities, helping us accept ourselves for who we are. Daniel allowed us to “be ourselves” during his guided yoga workshops in between laughing at his very unique yogic terms (such as wobbly cats, nipple drishti, and light coming out of our asses). At the end of the day, we all came together to share our thoughts and experiences, or simply to express gratitude or love.

We fostered a lovely bond between each other, and were able to let go of many things that were weights on our shoulders. The most important thing I took away from that week was that when we love and accept ourselves, we open our hearts for much more love to come in, whether it is in the form of experiences or other people.

F*ck Yeah Yogic Reset 2017 Family photo courtesy of Kadri Kurgun 2017

The Yogic Reset was exactly what it said on the box – a RESET. I felt lighter, prepared for the rest of my journey. I felt grateful to have the new friends and connections that an intense week like that can bring. I truly felt that I was able to let go, and start living the way I wanted to.

 

Part 2: Tengo Sola

I’m not a stranger to solo travel, nor am I a stranger to being single – but it has been a long time. I had forgotten what it was really like to just take care of myself. Refreshed from the Reset week, I was excited to move on to the next adventure.

My rough itinerary consisted of flying back to San Jose, picking up my rental car, and doing a 3.5-hour drive up to higher elevations of Monteverde, where I booked a cabin in the coffee farm of Hermida, La Finca Lluvia de Gloria. There I was, thinking I would find lots of time to read books, reflect, write on my journal – but I found that I fit these things around exploring the area. Renting a car was not cheap, but it allowed me to have some freedom. Steep, rough gravel roads, twisting routes, and occasional crazy lorry drivers sharpened my driving skills.

I took a beautiful 3-hour ride on horseback along the Continental Divide where to the southwest, the province of Puntarenas and the majestic Pacific Ocean can be viewed; and to the northeast, Volcano and Lake Arenal in the distance. My guide and companion was Waldin, a young 21-year-old Nicaraguan who did not speak any English, but we managed to communicate well on a basic level. We spent most of the 3 hours teaching each other Spanish and English words.

Arenal Volcano in the distance

While up in Monteverde, it is definitely worth spending some time (and money) doing a couple of the ‘touristy’ things. Costa Rica is well-known for its ‘eco-tourism’ and this is evident in the quality of the guides that take you around. I signed up for The Original Canopy Tour and the Kinkajou Night Tour. Both were excellent experiences as far as tourist activities go.

The town of Santa Elena has many more hotels and hostels, and has a small buzzing high street, but felt a bit too touristy for my tastes. Instead, I headed up to the outskirts where I found organic food, a panaderia (bakery), and artist studios.

Travelling solo was great because it opened up opportunities to speak to other people and get to know others in a shorter time. Moreover, plans could change in an instant, and the only battle to face is the one within.

I decided to stay in Monteverde with Hermida so I could learn more about her farm. She occasionally takes in volunteers to help out with maintenance and harvest, learning her story was also very inspiring. In the evening, Hermida, her granddauther Karina, and her boyfriend Jeffran, lead me to some hot springs where we cooked a simple barbecue of marinated pork and sweet potato. With the stars out, floating around in the pools of warm water, it was easy to miss having that ‘special someone’. They teased me, saying they would find me a faithful, loving Costa Rican man and I jokingly retorted, “No necesito un novio”.

 

Hermida showing me some ‘bananos’

I had not planned my accommodation after Monteverde, but knew that I wanted to head down towards the coast and do more surfing or diving. My original plan was to stop mid-way at Parrita, on the way to Dominical, but looking at the time I had left, I felt a nudge to head straight to Dominical, which was a 4.5-hour drive from where I was.

 

Part 3: A Lesson in Intuition

I did not spend tons of time looking for a bed for the night, but decided that if I was driving 4.5 hours it would be good to know where I was headed. The offer of beds online around Dominical was pretty varied, but one particular place fell into my budget: SomerTime Inn, Tinamastes. I loved the thought of sleeping in a bed on a balcony, covered only by a mosquito net. I loved the thought of sleeping and waking up in a farm, where I could hear the surrounding wildlife and feel slightly vulnerable. Upon my arrival, I was shown my bed and given a small tour around the immediate area. Across from the main building, a smaller cabin was set in the woods, surrounded by banana and bamboo trees. I asked if I could have that one instead of the balcony bed – I liked my privacy, but more than that, I liked the thought of being surrounded by trees, separated only by a wall of nets. It cost a little more, but still just about fit within my budget.

 

The ‘Banana Cabana’ – my home for 4 days

At SomerTime, I had met some people whose company I truly enjoyed. Knowing that it was just for a limited time, we spent the weekend together checking out the Nauyaca Waterfalls and surfing down at Playa Dominical. A couple of them nudged me to stay on by the beach at Dominical, and to spend my last days getting munched by the waves. It did not take much to convince me…who could resist a couple more days on the beach with people you really get along with? I had a hammock, camping bed, and was ready to sleep in my car…nothing beats free accommodation with a great view!

Nauyaca Waterfalls and new friends

 

Playa Dominical is a popular surf spot: the waves are a good size for learning, and the beach has a very gradual slope of fine grey sand, although prone to a strong rip tide. The area behind the beach is peppered with bars, restaurants, and surf shops. Don’t expect speedy delivery – the beach lifestyle happens in slow motion…oh, and be prepared to get peddled some coconut oil – “You can use it for everything…cooking, moisturising, making love…” hahaha!

We were living the beach life – lying in the sand, or between trees, reading books, drinking beer and catching waves. It’s not often I get to meet people with a very similar outlook on life, humour, level of conversation, and comfort in silence…this was a bonus.

I quickly realised that my surfing skills were next to none, and that the image in my head of carving waves into a sunset was pretty much just that: an image in my head.

 

Scott & Kyle on a high after an afternoon’s surfing session (photo Kyle Devitt 2017)

The sunsets we witnessed were beautiful, and the moonless sky revealed a curtain of stars that reflected on the wet sand. Time seemed to both move quickly and stand still. I remembered that I had listened to my gut so that I could be there, at that exact moment. It would have been easy to stick to the plan and not heed to any advice or invitations to stay on, but this again, is the beauty of solo travel…plans can change. I went with what felt right.

Curiosity, more than anything, drove my spirit during this relatively brief trip to Costa Rica. I loved spending a good chunk of time in one place and not jumping from one to the next. I connected with people whom I hope to reconnect with in the future, perhaps back in Costa Rica or somewhere else. Among these people, I really considered a handful of them friends, and not simply fellow travellers. I drove over 820 kilometers, 510 miles…only scratching the surface of the vast country.

I left Manila not even feeling excited about the trip and the reason I was going, but returned with much more clarity and a joyful heart, which hopefully will resonate throughout 2017 and beyond.

 

Part 4: Lessons Learned

  • Speak to locals or local ex-pats about plans – without their input, I would probably have not enjoyed as much as I did!
  • Trust intuition, and act on it.
  • Don’t choose a bird as an object for meditation. IT. EFFING. FLIES. AWAY.
  • Inner questioning is important: “Where am I going? What am I doing? How does it feel?”
  • “Anything is Possible” is better than “Nothing is Impossible”
  • We don’t know we have space in our heart for others until we meet them.
  • Travel with caution, but with arms wide open.
  • Travelling alone is fun, but if you can find some like-minded companions along the way, this makes it sweeter.
  • Travelling heals.
  • Quality, not Quantity.
  • Bottled beer in Costa Rica is pretty much non-alcoholic (unless you pay an arm and a leg for it).
  • You will very likely get tired of tortillas.

 

Here’s a 12-minute video summary of the faces and places that made my Costa Rican holiday one to remember.