I stand at the threshold of the gate that leads from the patio of our condo in Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste, Costa Rica. I can smell the ocean: the morning fragrance of sea salt air dancing together with the warm tropical breeze and the symphony of birds chitter-chattering “Bienvenidos, Sharon.” It is early in the morning and I arise before the rest of my household. My three ‘kids’ (21, 19 and 16) sleep peacefully in their beds, as does my beloved spouse. I reach down and open the latch on the gate. I am taller than it. Stepping out in my light blue birkenstocks, onto the concrete paved blocks, I begin my path to the beach. It is so close to our condo. I stand in awe and take in the beauty of the still clear blue sky, and the rhythmic undulation of the ocean waves as they call to me, “Aren’t you coming in for a swim?”
It’s 6:30 in the morning and I can already feel the slow warming heat of the morning air, thinking to myself, ‘It’s going to be a hot and sunny day’. I look to my left and right and a few other early morning risers are out and about. The elderly gentleman with his walking cane stops behind me – motioning to me, and catching my attention. He says something to me in Spanish with a big grin on his face; his left arm extending out to the sea, pointing out toward the water.
Did I know what he said to me that morning? No. I got the general gist of it: hello, isn’t it glorious, the sea, the sun… My Spanish is limited, but he was so excited and animated about what he was saying that it was fun to listen to him and engage him with a friendly hello. At least, I could do that.
This was the first time I (along with my family members) have traveled to Costa Rica. It started with an inkling in my gut last year, January 2013. I knew I needed to try something different for Christmas of 2013. After researching, asking my kids and husband for input, and discovering what mileage points I could use to get us all somewhere – Costa Rica was birthed. I tend to travel in a different way than years ago. Some would say with a ‘pilgrims heart’. I love how John O’Donahue writes in his poem, ‘For the Traveler’ from his book ‘To Bless the Space between Us.’
“Every time you leave home,
… When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now to the self you bring along…
When you travel, a new silence goes with you,
And if you listen, you will hear what your heart would love to say….”
This poem accompanied me on the journey. Before leaving I was nervous, apprehensive, and questioning why exactly I had chosen to pack up everyone, skip our traditional/ritual way of doing Christmas, and travel to a country I’d never been to, rent a car, book a condo (which turned out fabulous by the way), go somewhere where my grasp of the language is incredibly limited, and schedule an all day adventure horseback riding, ziplining, mud bathing……all for one day after we arrived. Then, I practiced letting go of my pre travel jitters, my fear based inner critic: ‘Just what do you think you are doing?’ Packed, traveled, and arrived. I’m so thankful that I paid attention to that inkling. Embracing my pilgrim within helped me pay attention to the movements in my soul: what surprised and excited me, what freaked me out, what filled my heart with so much warmth and joy that I laughed out loud…..
I loved being with my family. We laughed, swam, played in the ocean, read books, ate meals, talked about all kinds of things. We explored and drove to different places, tried new activities: surfing, ziplining, horseback riding, mud bathing. After the first week of attempting to practice my limited Spanish ( in grocery stores, at restaurants, on walks), my family cracked up when they discovered that I’d been pronouncing something incorrectly and telling people I spoke Italian! I laughed a lot.
I was reminded again of my need for solitude and quiet. Waking early in the morning to sit on the patio, sip coffee slowly, journal and watch the ocean was absolutely wonderful. Swimming almost daily in the ocean reminded me of the years I spent swimming as a child and teenager and how much I love to move in the water. Taking time to explore a new place, interact with people in the grocery store, cook meals and share them together was also a reminder of the rhythm I love with friends and family. I still haven’t learned to appreciate not knowing exactly where I’m going and feeling ‘lost’ – particularly when driving in the dark, even with a gps and a map. Settling into that unease and knowing that I wasn’t really ‘lost’, just out and about and wandering. We made it to our destination that evening. It was a good adventure.
I carry these ‘noticings and reflections’ with me as I settle into being home. Here in Seattle where it’s not sunny and 95, nor does the beach beckon out my front door: What can I practice? I can drive myself to the local community pool and begin swimming again 🙂 I can choose to slow down, journal, sip my coffee (although now it’s tea since returning home, something unsettled my gut), make meals, enjoy time with my family and friends, write, read, pay attention and listen.
My wonderful friend, Kayce Hughlett, invited me to attend French lessons with her as we prepare for our Urban Paris Pilgrimage: Where Sole greets Soul, this May 10 – 17. (Email me if this sparks your interest, there’s one spot remaining) I love languages and engaging with people and different cultures. I am reminded of my love of travel, writing, and being with people as they experience new places, foods, people, language and culture.
If you’re pondering going to Costa Rica and would like any helpful tips on where we stayed: Playa Hermosa, renting a car, day adventures, surfing classes in Tamarindo or restaurants in Playa Hermosa, feel free to email me.
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.”
To Bless the Space Between Us