Choosing International Travel; Beautiful Solitude
When I was 19 I spent a summer in Costa Rica.
I went alone and focused my energy on giving back and volunteering in a soup kitchen (see photo below, grinding corn for tortillas), teaching English in a small school and with sea turtles at their beach refuge in a tiny village on the Pacific Coast, Ostional.
I am so glad I went. It was a puts ‘hair on your chest’ type-experience. An experience that I feel was instrumental to my growth.
My close friend (and once roommate), Erica just spent five weeks traveling around South America.
She’s in her mid-twenties and has been abroad, but on a backpacking trip to Europe (she went with someone else). She’s changing careers completely and going back to school – so in finding an almost free ticket because of miles and visiting the girl she has been sponsoring for the last few years, she went (against the wishes of her family and many friends due to safety).
Before she left I thought about saying the, “You really need to be safe,” and typical International travel speech (especially as a woman) but I realized that it was already implied. What she did is take a risk and walked to the edge in life.
When you walk to the edge like that, when you put yourself in undoubtedly uncomfortable situations you expand. You’re pushing it and feel it (life) in every crevice. I think more people should embrace that edge – wherever or whatever it is for you.
In her blog posts, photos and stories, along her trip, it reminded me of my time in Costa Rica. Also spent alone.
Serendipity of Travel:
Travelers luck: After standing on a bus for five hours, packed like sardines (no sense of space in Costa Rica) with people breathing down your neck, I missed the only bus that went once a day to the tiny village I was going to be living in for the rest of the Summer. I didn’t have a number of who I was meeting and I had nowhere to go.
I was caught in the middle of a fight at a festival, I was trying to speak Spanish to get a hotel room while I blubbered in confusion, experienced complete isolation, felt the joy of simplicity while living with my host family, lived in tin houses with no roof, slept underneath a mosquito net, lived on the beach in a village of 100 people where I was the only American and you had to walk into the village since the river water was so high most cars couldn’t make it in, I saw thousands of sea turtles at 2:00 AM arriving (arribada) onto the beach to lay their eggs and by serendipitous luck, I was even put up with an American family at the end of my trip, because I had accidentally switched up the wrong number and ended up calling them by accident, so they welcomed me to stay when I had nowhere to go.
That’s just a synopsis.
I gave back. I learned another culture. I listened to the stillness; my heart and my mind. Learned another form of communication, that which doesn’t use words. The kind where you look into each others’ eyes with intention, you laugh uncomfortably because neither of you understand the other, lots of hands, smiles and nodding heads.
I feel so strongly about travel. I don’t suggest that picking up everything and leaving for the other side of the world is for you, or for everyone. It isn’t the solution, but if it is for you, damn, do it up.
But I will just say this: there is something to be said, to find yourself in a foreign land. To hear your breath, to listen, to smell, to lose your ego and to strive to understand, that which is not your own.