Reflections: 61 days of Costa Rica & Panama

Its amazing how fast 61 days passes by. Its incredible how much you can discover about yourself, your partner, and your new surroundings in a mere two months. Its astonishing how much you can fall in love over and over again. And its impossible to forget how remarkable a trip like ours has been.

When Jason & I first brought up the idea of taking time off, I was immediately excited, scared, and completely in love with the thought that we could actually do this. We found that friends, family, and strangers were all astounded that taking two months of your life and dedicating it to a new adventure abroad was something that people did. Mostly the reactions were “that’s so cool– I wish I could do that”. [Well, listen people– you can.] We took 5 or 6 months, saved our money, and made it happen. We needed to get away from the all-consuming hustle & bustle, go-go-go, mentality, and give our minds and bodies a chance to breathe. It was the best decision we could have made.

Now, sitting in the valley outside San Jose, surrounding by coffee plantations and looking like a beach bum who lost her way– tan with eyebrows so bleached out they’re almost invisible– I am overwhelmed by the gratitude and love I have for this country & its people. We have met the most amazing friends along the way. We found the most supportive & creative community when arriving at our first destination in Puerto Viejo– ex-pats & locals alike, all welcoming us in with warmth I didn’t know existed. We were taken care of and given pipas when we first arrived to our new home, home cooked meals on a farm that was so beautiful that it made me want to drop everything and just stay there to raise chicken & plant vegetable gardens. We drank amazing coffee & had so much chocolate that I thought I’d be sick [I didn’t think it was possible!!]. We ran into new friends over & over who stopped to chat, making us feel part of the community, too.

We found an oasis in Bocas del Toro, Panama, and more wonderful hospitality.  We slept over the water on a quiet island, saw more dolphins than I’ve ever seen in my life, and jumped off the best diving board into a sea of jellyfish. We lived sustainably, made new friends, and baked breads & treats until our stomachs couldn’t take anymore. We absorbed the tranquility of that place and its untouched beauty.

After, heading north through Costa Rica, we went white water rafting & laughed until we couldn’t laugh anymore as we flew over rapids. We then took a ferry across to Santa Teresa & Montezuma on the Nicoya Peninsula, where we found untouched beaches & body boarding amongst the surfing locals. We read more than I thought I had patience for and saw so many monkeys that soon they became commonplace. After a while became so beach-ed out that I could hear the mountains calling our names in my sleep.

So, we ventured out towards the forests in Monteverde. We took the bus all day up a winding mountain, finding the most amazing getaway in the clouds. We arrived in pouring rain & high spirits, in search of food and a warm place to lay our heads. We stayed at what turned out to be one of my favorite B&Bs there, eating traditional gallo pinto for breakfast to fuel up for morning hikes & the 6+km treks back to town. It felt good to be active [after bumming around on the beach for a month] and, surprisingly, to wear pants again. We also went on a coffee tour that made us appreciate coffee more than ever. I could have stayed in that beautiful town for the rest of our trip, but alas– we had more places to discover.

We moved on to other natural beauty– volcanoes, lakes, and solitude in a house above the entire Arenal region. After a couple days in the area & we were zip-lining above the forest, with the volcano & lake in clear sight, holding on for dear life, yet ecstatically enjoying every second. Each morning we watched the clouds roll in, burn off, then roll in again, over the Arenal Volcano, with Lake Arenal below us, all from our porch in El Castillo. The young couple who took care of the house gave us access to their food farm across the street– at least two or three acres of vegetables & fruit trees planted along a path leading down to the river. I fell in love with a horse there too that I brought carrots & with whom, thereafter, made a friend. We cooked with the herbs & peppers we picked, and baked cookies, too– something I had been missing since leaving the States.

The beach eventually called us back, so we drove all day, stopping in a small artist community called Guatil, to check out the gorgeous pottery made by local families generation after generation. We ended up in the small town of Tamarindo and stayed there for about 10 days. We swam in the pool daily, and occasionally laid out in the sand & splashed around in the Pacific. We were surprised to have found a few great restaurants in Tamarindo, yet not surprised to find “American” prices in this touristic town. We took an awesome catamaran out snorkeling where we saw puffer fish & octupus and watched the most colorful sunset from its bow. We surfed until our bodies were worn out, and ran on the beach as the sun went down. We also drank possibly the best coffee of our trip, which led to creating a morning routine that began with a latte at Cafe Tico before we did anything else for the day.

By Saturday, we grabbed a few things at the farmer’s market, rented a car, and headed out of town. We had done everything we felt we wanted to do in Tamarindo. We took our time getting lost, and made it by nightfall to a small B&B owned by a super sweet Spanish couple, outside the small town of Grecia. Now, here we are. We lazily spent yesterday reading, napping, and venturing shortly into the tiny artist town of Sarchi nearby. Tonight we’ll stay at another B&B just beyond the airport and have one last celebratory meal in the city before our flight out tomorrow morning.

Throughout these last two months we have been amazingly blessed with safe travels– and ones full of exploration & fun, at that! I have fallen more in love each day with Jason, not knowing that I could even love him more. We have traveled better together than I could have thought possible, and have been able to plan our trip together day by day, seamlessly. We’ve accumulated pictures, memories, and new ideas on how to live responsibly. We’ve realized the beauty of living each day fully, and how we can carry that idea into our new life in DC.

We have so much to look forward to– new jobs, new city, great friends [both old & new]– in DC. Plus, we’ll be surrounded by friends and family who live in neighboring cities & states to visit on the weekends. We are so thankful to have had this opportunity & grateful for the support that we have & will receive before, during, and after our travels. Its also been such a pleasure to have written this blog, not only for ourselves and our memories, but also for our loved ones who have followed along throughout the entire journey & given encouraging words [thank you]!!

We can’t wait for the next part of our journey. Because, after all, its the journey, not the destination.

A few [many!] of our favorite pictures highlighting our trip– enjoy!


Nov 11 2013 Emily Spaeth Category: Musings Travel Updates

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