So my program ended about a week ago, very sad watching all the friends you’ve made over the course of this semester slowly fade away back into the States. I decided I wanted to stay around for 10 more days to travel and of course get some more beach time in. I packed up all my stuff in my big suitcase, realizing I pretty much have no more space for gifts for family and friends (sorry guys).. Oh well. I was lucky enough to have some of the most kind-hearted host parents that let me leave my luggage at the house while I went on my travels. I decided to head to Santa Teresa- a chill little surf town just above the peninsula. I had heard many great things about this place and was excited to try and catch some good waves and good vibes. This is the first time I’ve ever truly traveled alone, I no longer had the support and connections with my program to back me up, and I definitely realized this when I got there.
After a very long & sweaty 7 hours on a bus, and a ferry trip across a little patch of ocean, I arrived at my destination: Hostel La Posada- a cheap hostile right outside playa Carmen (close to Santa Teresa) with a pool and free coffee (everything I needed to have a good time). Everyone was very welcoming and all of them spoke fluent Spanish. As I started to try and communicate with them I realized I had no idea what they were saying, and they didn’t really know what I was saying either. This was due to the fact that they were all from different countries around the world: Spain, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, none from Costa Rica. This taught me a lot about how different the dialects and language can be throughout the Spanish-speaking countries. There isn’t just one Spanish, there are hundreds of different types, all with different accents, words, and sayings. That first night there I got extremely sick. I laid out on the couch for hours, trying to move myself in the hot 90 degree weather to drink some water and eat, which was an extreme challenge. For that first few days I found myself struggling. Struggling to communicate, struggling to make friends, and just struggling to feel happy. I felt alone. I didn’t know anyone, and I started to miss my friends and family back in Minnesota, who know me so well. Traveling alone can be very difficult, it pushes you out of your comfort zone completely, making you a stranger to the world and the world a stranger to you. People don’t know you, and some don’t want to.
Finding out my friend (who was supposed to meet me on the beach) canceled and had other plans, I really started to freak out. There I sat on my computer lost as to what I should do for these days I was abandoned. It was especially unfortunate because these days were the start of Semana Santa, a week where almost everyone in Costa Rica has off for holiday, meaning a huge swarm of people are about to go to the coasts. At that point I honestly wanted to go back to San Jose and cry. I sent a message to my host mom asking if I could chill there for a few nights before my flight, and she replied with “por supuesto* Amelia.” So I decided I would just go back there for the weekend.
I woke up that next morning so much more determined. I walked down the road, rented a surf board and took to the waves. I bought some food and cooked up a delicious pasta dinner for myself. I walked around town and found a cool spot to do Yoga, got my zen on, found my inner peace and turned my depressed mood around to have a great day. The next day I met Nona, a girl from Belgium that was there to volunteer for a few weeks. She was super nice and actually spoke English which was awesome. I spent the next 4 days spending a lot of time with her. We walked a few miles down the beach one day and found these really cool natural pools, made when it’s low tide and the water lies in holes in the rocks on the beach. We spent hours sharing our travel experience and being able to relate on the struggles of traveling alone.
The next few days 3 Australian guys arrived at the hostile, helping me find out my next destination I need to go to (Australia). They get to see kangaroos in real life. Before this I hadn’t even imagined seeing a kangaroo, like how fricking awesome is that, mind blown. I had one of the best days in my whole 3 months with them, Nona, and other girl from the hostile. I’ve been wanting to ride ATV’s (what most people call a quad), this whole trip and I finally got to do it and dang did it feel liberating. Riding dirty, literally kicking up so much dust from the dirt paths, speeding around the curves of the road. We then scaled the walls of rocks, hiking to the Montezuma waterfall. Jumping from cliffs into the cool refreshing water pool below the waterfall, I swear there couldn’t have been a better feeling.
I had such a great time in Santa Teresa I ended up extending my stay for another night. This trip exposed me to so many different people and I am so glad I decided to stick it out and stay. There I met so many people surprised by how young I was, telling me I seem “wise,” and a lot older than my age. I hadn’t heard this so much in such short of time, and it made me realize that I really had grown up and matured through this process. When it was time to head back to San Jose I didn’t want to leave. I had gotten used to waking up dripping sweat, the hot sand burning my feet, and the strong pull of the Santa Teresa waves ~ as if the current was trying to pull me into the ocean and keep me forever.
I spent the whole day yesterday exploring the last parts of San Jose with my host brother Jose. After maneuvering through 4 different city buses we got to this beautiful botanical garden filled with so much life. Cactus, ferns, orchids, it was beautiful and refreshing. I also wanted to go to the Center Mercado to buy some amazing coffee and salsa lizano before my time here was up. It was a very bittersweet day, reminding myself every few minutes that these were some of my last here in Costa Rica. We stopped at a café and met some German tourists that needed help finding the bus stop. I then found myself walking through the streets of Cartago with my host brother, speaking the Spanish that was once so difficult for me, now coming so naturally from my mouth. The confidence that was once practically invisible now radiating through me. I couldn’t help but look around and think how much I’m going to miss this place. All the struggles I’ve been through, and all the mountain and hills I’ve climbed to overcome them.
Studying abroad has been the best decision of my life. I’ve learned so much about myself, how big the world is, and how small Stout is. I encourage everyone to get out and see the world, make new experiences, try new things, and to just try to have a good time regardless of if things don’t go as planned. My flight is tomorrow and I couldn’t feel weirder about returning to the United States. I’m excited, yet I know how much I will miss the sound of the waves crashing into the shore and the fresh Costa Rican breeze against my skin. Until next semester folks. Pura Vida.
*por supuesto- of course