My life changed forever the first time I ventured out on a one-week solo expedition to Costa Rica. I bought the plane ticket pretty impulsively after noticing a sweet deal on one of the many travel deal sites I stalk. I knew I always wanted to travel somewhere alone but at first I thought I might convince a good girlfriend or maybe a group to come with me on this one. Deep down I knew I would go this alone and see if I had what it takes to survive an absolutely out of this world solo adventure.
I didn’t prepare as much as some people might have suggested. I perused tourism sites and trusted the country was more developed than where I lived in Brazil in 2009. I figured I’d know more once I got on the ground. At least it would be nice and warm so I could pack light: bathing suits and shorts every day! One of the first places I looked up was Monteverde, a huge area of forest and mountains settled in the mid section of the country. I know I was researching locales in June because it was then that I set my Facebook cover photo to a picture of Monteverde’s famed hanging rainforest bridges (this post’s headline picture). I knew I had to make it to that exact spot even if I didn’t make a plan for how I’d arrive–there was something waiting for me there.
I could barely sleep the night before I was set to leave. I was far too excited. I packed everything I had into a backpack and woke up when it was still dark out, wide awake with anticipation. All I had planned was my bus trip from the Liberia airport to the Pura Vida Hostel in Tamarindo, where I’d spend my first night. When I arrived at the hostel it finally started to really sink in: I was alone in a foreign country and I could do whatever I wanted with a week to spare. I went to enjoy some lunch at the restaurant next door, amazed at how comfortable I felt as soon as I sat down. My waiter started speaking English and even accepted my US dollars all while an American news broadcast was playing in the background.
Eventually I met a couple character mainstays at my hostel, Eddy and James. Eddy was from Chicago taking a prolonged break from his start-up whereas James was a surfer from New Jersey who was chasing the waves for as long as he could steer clear of returning stateside. After a few adventures with Eddy as well as some other travelers that would join our escapades here and there, he offered to drive me to Monteverde. This was an offer I couldn’t refuse, especially since I didn’t have any other plans and purposefully left my schedule open so I could see what might come up. I didn’t know it then but this was the trip I had been waiting for.
After a bumpy ride through the country side, we made it to Santa Elena where we found an amazing bed and breakfast to call home–Camino Verde. The day we arrived we went zip-lining through the trees and even ventured to try bungee jump ing while we were at it. Eddy would only stay one day, enough to get a feel for the mountains and Santa Elena’s quiet change of pace. My first day waking up alone there I struck up a conversation with the inn keeper and asked if there was one thing I absolutely had to do while in Monteverde–what was it? He said it was my lucky day and if I was game I could hop in a van coming by in 10 minutes to take me on my next adventure.
Trusting my guide’s recommendation, I hopped into the van filled with Spanish tourists eager to explore. We stopped after a 30 minute drive up a big hill into what seemed like an epic expanse of rain forest. It was really a nature preserve filled with canopies, gardens, natural sights, wildlife and trails throughout perfect for self-guided walking tours. I started out on my own while purposefully trying to walk slowly to make sure I would remember every moment. I suddenly felt grateful to be alone to savor this experience.
After walking a bit, snapping pictures of beautiful plants and butterflies along the way, I arrived to a critical stopping point where something suddenly clicked and I was overcome with emotion. There in front of me was the exact same hanging bridge I had come across when first researching Monteverde many months before. Without a concrete plan to reach this place, the symbol of my solo Costa Rican adventure, I made it there–perhaps the universe was guiding me. Before my eyes, my dream became a reality and I continued my tour with a renewed sense of purpose, abundance, and gratitude that I was delivered to the place my imagination had conjured up all this time. Sometimes I get what I want and sometimes I don’t, but no matter what happens, I am always taken care of. Perhaps the same is true for us all. The rest is pura vida.