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.
This is my mantra, and I’d like to share it with you.
The idea to write an article about these three essential words first came to me over a year ago, when I was living and studying in Seville, Spain. It was a time of great change in my life; I was taking my first tentative steps towards a writing career, and also my first big leaps at becoming the world traveler I envisioned. As it so often is, this period of change was marked by a rollercoaster of emotions, and I’d be lying if I said that my own feelings trended towards the positive.
I was living in lovely, sunny Seville, and yet, I was more than a little bummed out. My year abroad was not panning out as I had imagined; friends were harder to make, culture shock had hit me harder than I had expected, and a missed home a whole lot more than I was prepared. Coupled with some internal conflicts and struggles with self esteem, and I was far from ready to take on the challenges that come with living in a foreign country. Thousands of miles from home, school, family, friends—I was living in an incredible and beautiful city, yes, but mostly I felt unsatisfied and disappointed that my year abroad was not living up to my pre-departure expectations.
If you know me well, then you’ll know that the subject of study abroad is of particular interest to me. I firmly believe that there are a whole bunch of amazing benefits it can bring, but I also believe that there are many not-so-great aspects of study abroad as it exists today.
That’s okay! We don’t live in a perfect world, and I would hardly expect one of life’s great experiences to exist problem free. My personal take on study abroad is a topic for another day. Today, I want to talk about the magic formula I discovered for dealing with life’s curveballs and low points, a mantra to get you out of bed and outside loving today; even and especially when all you feel like doing is binging on Netflix for ten hours straight, and swimming in a vat of ice cream (or wine, or your indulgence of choice).
Read. Write. Run.
Every single day.
Every damn day.
Those three things can turn even the darkest days around. They will unfailing lift your spirits, brighten your mood, and allow you to escape even the shittiest of situations, if only for a little while.
I first found their simplicity to be a bit intimidating. Those three words crossed my mind on a day I felt especially like wallowing, and I remember starting at their brusqueness.
Read write run. It was not a quite a command, and not entirely a criticism.
Read write run. And it was easy. A beautifully, wonderfully easy idea, something I could do from any corner of the globe at any time of day.
Read write run. Perhaps that’s why it terrified me so much. Once I relented, accepted the challenge my own mind had laid before me, how could I ever stop? How could I forgive myself if I did?
Well, on that day long ago I reluctantly laced up my running shoes and went for a jog around the neighborhood. Later that evening, I typed out the rough skeleton of a blog post. It wasn’t great, but I saved it to revisit at a later date. And I read, before I fell asleep that night, a routine I had first adopted as a child but neglected as I grew older and my days grew busier.
The next day I repeated my mantra. I repeated my routine. The day after followed the same, and the day after and the day that followed. Then a day came and I didn’t write, or maybe I skipped a run or fell asleep before I could read my book.
Slipping up was disappointing, though it was something I knew would eventually happen. My mantra became more of a suggestion, and my efforts to read write run came as often as I could and then, as often as I liked. Somedays, I only made it to one or two of my magic challenges. Somedays, I didn’t make it to any. Even so, the idea floated in the back of my mind, a personal goal, a simple challenge, and I knew that a day would come that I could take this mantra and this time, really make it mine.
Fast forward a year and a couple thousand miles. I’ve returned to my college for my final semester. One year and so much has changed. The past few weeks in particular have been a rapid series of changes and happy events; small, serendipitous moments that have me feeling as though I am headed down the right path. My challenge has been echoing in my head again—except this time, I feel ready to fully accept it.
So, as I embrace this challenge, and seek to complete my three tasks each and every day, I invite you to join me.
Read. Something, anything, everyday. Read this blog, if you like it, or something else if you don’t. Reading calms the mind and opens it to new ideas and possibilities. It can allow us to escape from the world and stress at hand, and serves to broaden our minds to be receptive to the changes around us.
Write. Write a letter, a journal entry, a poem, a song, a chapter of a book. Share your words or keep them to yourself. Writing is expression, it is creativity, and it is a safe place for us to release the good and bad, the happy and sorrowful.
Run. Move. For five minutes or for an hour, there is no better stress reliever than physical activity. Do it because it feels good, because your body deserves it, because you can.
Read, write, run, and find the balance in your life.
Mess up, skip a day, and start again.
Humans are amazingly resilient creatures; we were made for the bumps and bruises that accompany any fall off the bandwagon. There is so much we can learn from our stumbles, and even more to be gained when we choose to get back up. Keep going.
Read. Write. Run.
And always, always choose to try again.
See this post on Elephant Journal
Last night I woke up to rain; big, fat drops of rain blowing sideways in through the old– and, unfortunately open– window. It was the middle of the night, the stormy sky was sullenly trudging towards dawn, and I was damp and thoroughly disoriented.
I’m truly a mess at four a.m. I sleep like a log and can’t see inches in front of me without my contacts in. I tangle the sheets around my legs as if I wished never to walk again, and should the rare occasion arise where I do somehow manage to wake up at that ungodly hour, it has always been nearly impossible for me to slip back into a restful slumber.
Even so, last night the rain was insistent. A particularly strong gust of wind rattled the window and blew a smattering of droplets across my face, and I fought off the bedsheets and lurched to my feet… only to splash down in a rapidly spreading puddle that led from the window to the corner of my bed.
Two screws from the window lock had come loose, and with the wind blowing so wildly it had forced the window open wide enough to drench my sneakers (left to dry by the window earlier that day), drown my map (placed neatly on the floor next to my bed), and disrupt a peculiar dream I was having about fighting a sea monster alongside the cast of Arrested Development (the meaning of which, I have yet to divine).
So, that being only the most recent in a series of mishaps that have made the past few days so frazzlingly fun, I would like to share a few tips for other travelers that I have appropriately dubbed: How Best to Avoid Being Rained On, in Bed, at Four A.M. (and Other Nuggets of Wisdom from the Azores.)
1. Shut the Windows
Durrr, I know, but as an individual who enjoys nothing more than falling asleep listening to the breeze rustle the trees outside, or the waves on the beach rolling just down the block, I often leave the windows wide open when I get into bed. Weather can be incredibly unpredictable, and it’s more difficult to decipher a forecast when it’s given in a different language. Shut the windows, or just be reeeeeeeally certain that you know what tempestade and chuva mean before you leave them open.
2. Let the employees know when screws are missing from your window,
or when any other small repair needs fixin’ in your room. People at hostels are super cool and it’s their job to be informed about these kinds of things. Make their job a little easier, pass on knowledge of anything amiss and then hopefully they can help you resolve this issue before you have to go and sheepishly ask the night receptionist for a mop at four in the morning.
3.Talk to your roomies or bunkmates,
even if you don’t speak the same language. Communication is universal, and absolutely critical when you find your shared room flooding in the middle of the night. It can sometimes be difficult to get to know the people who you’re sharing a room with; everyone’s schedule is different in a hostel and half the time you won’t even be in the room at the same time as your new roomies. Even just for a second, smile and say hi. It makes the mop-action team work much more rewarding.
4. Talk to other people! All of them.
People are great, and you ones you meet on the road are people with whom you are always guaranteed something in common. Travel mishaps are great story material, and as a broke, solo student adventurer, meeting people on the go is one of the best ways to find unique and cheap opportunities. The past two days alone I’ve found myself on an impromtu road trip and a volcano tour for ZERO DOLLARS, just because of nice people who like hearing stories. And I guarantee you’ll find that there’s more than enough willing ears out there.
5. Trust yourself.
Trust your feet to carry you where you need to be, your mind to make good decisions and think your way around problems; trust your instincts when trying new things or meeting new people, and trust your ability to improvise! Even the most exotic locations will increase their opportunities tenfold when you have a little trust in the road, yourself, and the people you meet. Don’t let a night of rain-soaked sleep dictate your mood– just trust yourself to make tomorrow an even better story.