After 20 hours on the bus from Guatemala, a gritty night in the back bedroom of a man’s gated in house in Managua, Nicaragua, and another five hours on a bus, I arrived in Liberia, Costa Rica. Bypassing the station in favor of a quicker stop, the bus, which was bound for San Jose, pulled over on the side of Highway 1 and declared that it was Liberia and time for me to alight. “Gracias por nada,” I said under my breath as I heaved my things off the bus and into the 95 degree heat as I started lumbering down the busy road.
But truth be told it didn’t bother me that much. Arriving in Costa Rica I felt like I had made it home. Or about as home as I could be without being home home in Indiana. In mere hours I’d be picked up by my parents and we’d spend the next week in our favorite place: their jungle retreat with the most spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean in Playa Panama. For the past ten years we’ve spent many a happy Thanksgiving, vacation, wedding, etc. here with friends and family. It has become a very special place to us that is the setting of so many memories and traditions.
Here’s what days consist of at our little piece of paradise: Wake between 5:30 and 6am (and not because we set an alarm or force ourselves – the sun is up and your body just naturally comes to life around that time – the way it does in the summer when the sun is up early and streaming into your room). The first one to wake up put on the coffee and then proceeds to the veranda to read and take in the view of the jungle/Pacific ocean, listen to the howler monkeys, and watch the parrots swooping by in pairs of bright green, squawking flashes.
Around 7:30am we take a walk or exercise, followed immediately by jumping in the pool to cool off. Then we fix breakfast and lazily ask each other “Well, what should we do today?” More often than not the answer is “nothing.” We sit by the pool, dunking ourselves every once in a while to cool off, read, chat, listen to music and sip beeritas. Maybe we ride the motorcycle or go to the beach. Maybe we take a nap. When we have company we do more: zip lining, trips to waterfalls, rafting, etc. But when it’s just us, we do a lot of nothing filled in with conversation and storytelling.
Every moment in Costa Rica is perfect, but our favorite time of day is, without question, sunset, which is an event for us. When the ocean starts to look hazy and the heat of the day is burning off, we take one last dunk in the pool. Then mom makes gin and tonics. If you’re new she’ll inevitably ask you, “Do you know how to make a good gin and tonic? You start with lots of ice – that’s important.” It’s just ice, lime juice, “plenty of gin” and then “some” tonic, but for whatever reason her’s always taste a little bit better than anyone else’s.
We toast over a cheers of “Pura Vida,” watch the sun sink into the ocean and wait for the clouds to put on a show (don’t think “sunset” is over once the sun has gone down – sometimes the aftermath is the best part).
Like all true best friends, Mom, Dad and I picked up right where we left off. Sometimes it was as though I was never gone, but then I’d find myself looking at them, thinking, “They’re here. With me.” It was a bit surreal. And the same was true with my friend Sarah who, after a week on my own, came to visit for a week of adventures, shout laughs, girl talks and pep talks. It felt a bit like a friendship retreat and it fed my soul in a way I was needing so, so badly. We pretty much followed the same daily schedule as I did with my parents, but with more cocktails.
My three glorious weeks at my parents home in Costa Rica were relaxing, invigorating and just what I needed to renew my energy for the final leg of my trip through Panama and on to my SIXTH continent, South America. Except for the scorpion that hid in my jean shorts and stung me… I could have done without that.