home again, home again

Homeward bound. And oh, so ready.

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While saying my goodbyes over the past few days, I repeated the same phrase many times: “I am sad to leave but I am happy to be going home.” I’ve always considered this one of my greatest fortunes. I have such love to come home to.

The fragility of my country at the moment, especially in terms of hate directed at marginalized groups and the unknown of the near future, has left me longing to be home. During the past week, I spoke with several U.S. citizens living in Costa Rica who have avoided their home country and celebrated the fact that they are not there. Each of those conversations made my heart sink. I cannot imagine wanting to leave your country and your family at a time like this.

When I saw the news of demonstrations happening around the country, all I wanted was to be there. When I spoke with my family and friends about their hurt, all I wanted was to hug them. None of me wanted to run away.

With that said, I am thrilled to wrap my parents in a hug when I finally plant my feet back in Upstate New York. I’m excited to wiggle my roots around in the ground. The near future is quite open but I am determined to follow my heart and my gut. They have never before led me astray.

The next time I write I will be back in the homeland. And freezing my butt off. We’ll see how that goes.

I hope you are all spreading the love. And of course, if any of you need to vent or talk, I’m here.

(honest) thoughts on solo travel

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Today is my first full day alone in Costa Rica. Yesterday, leaning against the door frame of the kitchen, cup of coffee in hand, I waved goodbye to Beth as she faded down the road in the passenger seat of a white pickup truck. The final phase of my trip had begun.

While planning to travel with my friends, I knew I wanted to plan a little bit of time to be alone. I am a firm believer in solo travel. My past experience traveling to an unknown place alone made me realize the full capacity of my abilities. My mantra has become, “If I can handle this, I can handle anything.”

Now I am in that place again. Solo, vulnerable, unsure, calm, open, excited. All of these emotions have been swapping places in my brain practically every minute. I have decided to spend these last two weeks on the farm. It is a safe place to continue in my personal growth and to share with these wonderful people. With that said, however, the fourteen days ahead do not come without their own set of anxieties.

At this point, I have been in Costa Rica for just over two months. Nine weeks outside of all that is familiar. Honestly, I miss home. I miss my family and friends more than I ever have. I am facing life in my second language, navigating all of the newness. The discomfort that comes with this is amplified while traveling alone. Alone, another layer of my comfort zone is stripped away. Let me be more specific.

First, let’s talk language barriers. This is certainly on my mind the most, as practicing Spanish was one of the main drivers of this trip. I have been learning Spanish for ten years, actively for about four. I have lived in a Spanish speaking country before, having spent a semester in Spain. Yet, there is still something difficult in navigating the world in your second language. In his TED talk ‘4 reasons to learn a new language‘, linguist John McWhorter  mentions that when someone is speaking in their non-native language, they are “husks of themselves, they’re shadows of themselves.” This illustration could not be more accurate. When traveling with friends, I had the opportunity to be my full self whenever I was speaking my native language, English. My culture, sense of humor and small corners of my personality were all developed in English, so it is more natural to be a more complete being in this language. Now that I am alone, however, I do not have the ease of expressing myself in full. It is a challenge, but also a brilliant opportunity to grow.

Second, there is an increase physical vulnerability. I do not feel as safe being a female traveling alone. Simple.

Third, I have to be ‘on’ all of the time. There is no one there to take over when I need to retreat into myself out of exhaustion. There is no one to take the reins when I am simply having an off day. I am my own support.

But I’m doing this anyway.

That is where the pure empowerment of solo travel comes in. Especially for females, it is important to defy the constant infantilizing messages telling us to not travel alone. My inspiring friend Faith wrote a brilliant piece about adventuring as a solo female on her blog. I encourage you to check it out. She writes about a “culture that supports the underlying assumptions of these questions: women should be scared to travel and be on their own, adventure is for men, and women need more parental protection.”

Despite the anxieties plaguing my brain, I am thrilled for the independence, tranquility, clarity and empowerment of this experience. It is allowing me to explore the many corners of who I am. I have space to think, write and imagine. I hope to land home with a sense of satisfaction and clarity. Cheers to all of the possibilities.

Solo travelers, what are your thoughts? I want to read your stories! All of my love to you all.

 

another sloth

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This post includes zero profound thought, travel updates or insight on anything. What it does include, however, is a sloth. Ten photos of a sloth that was right next to my bedroom to be exact. Of course, I freaked out a little, like the good gringa I am. I hope you find this majestic creature as captivating as I did. Love to you all!

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experiencing deeper

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I mentioned this in a few previous posts, but after some beautiful time relaxing at the beach, Beth and I are back at the first farm. It took very little thinking to decide. We made a snap decision based on our gut feelings and our hearts.

Something I have been thinking about often while traveling is the idea of belonging. Existing outside of my comfort zone for almost two months now, I realize how much I had taken a sense of belonging for granted back home. For me, this farm was the closest I have come to feeling this comfort.

The family that owns the farm is truly wonderful. They took us in with open arms, sharing, teaching and learning with us. Leaving this place in the middle of September felt like tearing myself away from people I was just beginning to know.

This decision goes against many traditional travel trajectories. The little adventurous voice in my head told me to reject this gut feeling. It told me to go and experience more places. To meet more people. I am feeling, however, that it is better to experience deeper than to experience more. I want to spend more time at the dinner table sharing stories with this family, and with the other volunteers. I want to put my hands in the dirt. I want to pour my thoughts into my journal, thoughts of my present situation and my future, as the rain falls in sheets outside of my bedroom window. I want this slow, purposeful life.

Perhaps this will not be my travel style for all of my future trips. For now, however, it is working for me. When I spent a semester studying and living in Seville, Spain, I appreciated being in one place. I wanted to experience the culture for everything it was, and everything it could offer. I am feeling the same here. By immersing myself just a little bit more, I am filling myself with the true Costa Rica.

This thought crossed my mind just the other day when I stood in the back of a pickup truck as it trudged up a hill. I was on my way to a birthday party for the farm owners’ grandson. The afternoon rain had faded into misty clouds stuck to the hillsides. The sun had set an hour ago. Beth was on my left. Another volunteer on my right. We clung to a bar above the rear window for support, parting our feet for balance. I clutched my fist tighter around the bar with each rocky turn.

This is it, I thought. This is Costa Rica. 

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CAN WE JUST TALK ABOUT THIS CHICKEN? I can’t believe it. So funny.

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