La Vida es Pura

Playa Uvita, Costa Rica

BIG NEWS: Rhianna and I bought one-way tickets to Costa Rica. I honestly can’t believe I just wrote that sentence. This will be my fourth time visiting that beautiful country, and my second time this year alone. La vida es PURA, baby.

Already, this trip is beginning to look a little different than all the others. For one, it has no set end date. I’ll be there at the very least for a month, and quite possibly longer depending on how things turn out. Things being my finances, mostly, and the very many projects I’m hoping to start & finish before the coffers run dry. On this trip, I’ll also have some new company: my cousin and a friend from school are planning on visiting for a week each on their vacations. I can’t even begin to explain how excited I am to share the magic of one of my favorite places on earth with some of my favorite people. It’s unreal.

Four trips and three years later, I still remember how I felt when I first stepped off the plane in May 2014. I remember stumbling over Spanish introductions with my host family when they met me at the airport, and how tightly I gripped the seats as we sped away on a winding highway in their sedan. I remember learning my way around downtown Heredia, the maze of interlacing one-way streets and the neon signs of Boulevard and how delicious the fresh baked bread smelled every morning in the bakery I walked past on my way to school. It’s not the first time I’ve talked about it and it probably won’t be the last, but Costa Rica is where I learned to be a traveler.

You know how I did it? By making mistakes, constantly. Between disastrous nights of dancing at the discoteca, missed buses, stolen wallets, ill-contrived dates with the locals, and even one particularly terrifying run in with a fer-de-lance, I learned how to be a traveler simply by f-ing up most of my endeavors–and then next time, doing exactly the opposite. Of course, for all the good, bad, and downright ugly moments, it helped that I was in fabulous company. There were only six students in our program that summer, so we didn’t really have much choice about whether or not we’d get along. We dubbed our weird little mismatched group “the breakfast club” and many hijinks ensued. Well… hijinks, and tequila shots.

I learned a whole lot from that first trip. It was my first international journey, my first experience with a truly different language and culture, and the first time I had taken on a challenge of that magnitude completely independently. It’s also true that I learned so much especially because of all the glorious and often cringe-worthy mistakes I made during those weeks. Every time I’ve returned since that first summer, it has been with pride at how much I’ve learned and grown since. They do say that you learn from your mistakes, and if that’s the case then I’m a bona fide Costa Rica travel expert.

So bring it on, Costa Rica 2k17! For the fourth time, I’m ready for you.

Costa Rica Part III

Today is February 10th. A day of no great personal importance, excepting the large X I was just able to draw through that box on my calendar. Well, to be honest, it is a mental calendar. And an imaginary X. A paper organizer would be far too proper for someone with my incredible tendencies of disorder and messiness.

But I’m excited about my imaginary X all the same. Really, super, ecstatically excited, because that X means I am one day closer to my next adventure in beautiful Costa Rica.

COSTA RICA. HELL YEAH. If you know me personally, then you likely already know that this country is very near and dear to my heart. I am tempted to name it my favorite, but I have seen so little of the world I’m not sure I’m quite yet ready to part with that title. Let’s say, favorite country yet, and a lifetime guarantee of a spot in my all-time Top 5. Deal? Deal.

Costa Rica is special to me for many reasons, the foremost being that it was the first foreign country I ever travelled to on my own. It’s strange to think that first trip was almost two years ago, a period of time that feels longer every time I think about it.

So much has changed in two years. Most of it, parts of me; and most of it, arguably for the better. I feel more true, more honest, more me, as though the Devinne of today is infinitely more in tune to her life and the world around her.

To return again to Costa Rica, a place that holds so many of my memories and landmark moments is like seeing an old friend again for the first time in many years. She looks nearly the same as the last time we met. Me, I’ve colored my hair and grew six inches—I’m nearly unrecognizable.

But that’s one of the neatest things about travelling while you’re young: places often change so much slower than you do.

I have a picture from one of my first days in Costa Rica, a picture from two summers ago. I’m smiling, cheesin’ hard for the camera, posing next to one of my fellow machitas and with an army of beer bottles on the table in front of us.

I remember where exactly the picture was taken, at one of our soon-to-be favorite bars, just a few blocks down from the university we were studying at that summer. It couldn’t have been more than our second day in the country, or later than 11:00 that morning, but we were so excited to be in a real bar with real alcoholic drinks that we had ordered ourselves.

It’s a rush I’d wager most American under-21’s experience at least once in their lives, and one we certainly were intoxicated by– even if we were simultaneously aware that spending some money on booze was really not anything to write home about.

Luckily, there was no need to write home, because social media made those moments instantly available to friends back in the States and preserved forever in the great eternal memory we call the internet.

Looking back on that time is something I do both literally and figuratively. I often find myself reflecting on the many wild and crazy adventures we had that summer, or looking back through old Instagrams to see the captured moments I once thought were necessary and worthy to share with the world.

I have plenty of memories from that exciting summer, some of which I am fonder than others. Nearly all of those memories feel old. Stale. Foreign. I honestly can’t quite believe that they are my memories, as they bear little resemblance to the moments I most cherish now.

See, Costa Rica was so much more than just the start of my career as a traveler. For me, it was the beginning of a far more intimate journey, the most important one of all: to find and be true to myself.

Next week I will be embarking on my third (!!) adventure to Costa Rica in two years. With each successive return, I find myself exiting the airport a little happier, a little calmer, and always more excited to show my dear, favorite country the Devinne I am a little closer to becoming.

The new me still knows her way around the old streets. I can walk past the bars where I spent so many nights that one distant summer and be glad for the memories, and also glad that part of my journey is in the past.

I thank serendipity, coincidence, and destiny for leading me back to my Central American paradise—there’s nowhere else I would expect to have my first big break to pursue what I love. I’m grateful for the continuing support of my friends and family, the people who never stop pushing me to pursue my passions. And perhaps most of all, I am grateful for myself. For changing. For accepting change with an open heart, and an open mind. For allowing serendipitous coincidences to take me to Costa Rica and beyond, and with each adventure another step closer to my dreams.