Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Playing Tourist at Home - Atomic Ballroom

Being a tourist is awesome. Every day brings a new adventure. I love playing tourist so much I am committed to exploring Southern California, my off-again-on-again home, with a tourist's eye.

Tucked away in a nondescript office park in Irvine, it is easy to overlook Atomic Ballroom. I walked in and up to the front desk. The helpful woman sitting there asked me to sign in and mark which classes I wished to attend that evening. Then, she asked me to provide my name, email, and phone number on a form, and sign a waiver promising not to sue if I injured myself while in class. I visited on Wednesday evening, which is salsa night. I marked two beginner classes, a 7:00PM class taught by Corey and a 7:45PM class taught by Megan. Then, I walked to their little bar area to wait for class to begin. The bar area leads directly to the dance floor and had bar stools and a few tables with chairs. No one was serving at the bar, but there was a filtered water dispenser, M&Ms, and other candy free for the taking. The dance floor was large and lined with mirrors, like a dance studio. One corner had a DJ booth and there was a disco ball hanging from the ceiling above the middle of the dance floor.

The first class, Corey's class, was three women and six men. I liked Cory's teaching style because he was funny, danced with each leader, and gave each leader constructive advice. He also only covered the basic step, side breaks, and the follower's right turn (outside turn), which seemed about right for a 45 minute beginner lesson. The second class, Megan's class, was five women and five men. Megan covered the basic step, the follower's right turn, the cross body lead, and the cross body lead combined with the follower's right turn. This was a lot of material and several people were confused by the end of her 45 minute lesson. Megan did not dance with the leaders, though doing so would have been useful.

Megan's class and Corey's intermediate level class finished at 8:30PM, and the dance floor opened up to a general admission salsa dance with music provided by the ballroom DJ. The dance is free with a paid lesson. Otherwise, it is $5. I stayed until 9:15PM, long enough for several dances. I noticed people who had not purchased a lesson starting to trickle in around 9:00PM. There were only about twenty people on the dance floor when I left. Perhaps more people show up later.

I had a great time taking two beginning lessons and staying for the dance. The dancers ranged in age from early 20's into the 70's. The atmosphere during the classes and the dances was relaxed, and everyone I talked to or danced with was friendly. I recommend the group lessons and dance at Atomic Ballroom as a fine way to pick up a new hobby, to meet people, to spend an evening, and as a great date idea.

Atomic ballroom has group classes every day of the week and private lessons by appointment. Group lessons are $15 per lesson if you drop in or $10 per lesson for 10 lessons if you buy their "virtual punch card." Visit the website at for class schedules. Atomic Ballroom is located at 17961 Sky Park Circle, Suite C, Irvine, California 92614. You can reach them via email at or via phone at 949-250-3332.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Costa Rica, A Review - Sunday 4-26-2009

Playa Samara, Costa Rica

You should go to Costa Rica.

The country is beautiful. I loved Costa Rica's gorgeous natural environments. The Monteverde and Santa Elena nature preserves house ancient hundred foot (and taller!) trees, which provide shelter to white-faced monkeys, howler monkeys, rainbow colored parrots and toucans, exotic tree-climbing mammals, and rare snakes. One day in Monteverde, I found waterfall and lagoon tucked away in the jungle, hidden down a kilometer-long walk past of vines, ferns and huge trees. I had the entire falls, lagoon and jungle all to myself. It felt like being in a picture in a travel magazine showing places too isolated and spectacular to really exist. The countryside is similarly beautiful, with acre after acre of green, undeveloped rain forest, ranch land, and farmland.

There is plenty of opportunity for water sports. My water sports included only swimming and sitting under palm trees, but that's just me. The surf on the Pacific Coast is reportedly some of the best in the world, especially at Montezuma, Santa Teresa and Mal Pais, but there is ample opportunity to surf at beaches on both coasts. In Playa Tamarindo and Playa Samara, numerous tour operators fishing, snorkeling, or marine-life viewing tours. I understand tour operators in beach communities all around the country offer the same. I also understand that the snorkeling near Playa Hermosa and Cahuita is amazing. In Playa Tamarindo and Monteverde and Santa Elena, I saw brochures for river rafting trips, too.

The country is cheap, especially compared to Western Europe and Australia. I never paid more than $35 per night for a private room with at least a double bed, including pillows, linens, and towels. This fee often included a private bathroom and breakfast. Meals were at least $8 each in Playa Tamarindo and Monteverde and Santa Elena, but those places are tourist traps. I could feed myself with hearty meals for $10-$12 per day in San Jose and Playa Samara. Playa Samara was particularly cheap, and the food was always tasty.

It is easy to go upscale in Costa Rica. Every town I stopped at had expensive, resort-type hotels. You do not have to spend under $40 per night for a private room at a hostel to enjoy Costa Rica. There are plenty of luxury options.

Costa Ricans are friendly. More than once on my trip, I must have looked terribly confused because a helpful local came up to me and asked me in perfect English if I needed help. In each case, I explained where I was trying to go and the local directed me to my destination or told me exactly where I was. The hotel staff, restaurant staff, and tour staff I dealt with were also universally helpful.

The backpackers are friendly, too. I met so many interesting, friendly, worldly, talkative, and generally cool people at the hostels I stayed at. For the record, I stayed at Costa Rica Backpackers & Guesthouse in San Jose (; phone: 2221 6191), Manakin Lodge in Monteverde (; phone: 2645 5058), Hostel Botella de Leche in Playa Tamarindo (; phone: 2653 0189), Cabinas Marielos in Playa Tamarindo (phone and fax: 2653 0141), and Casa Brian in Playa Samara (; phone: 2656 0315).

I Miss Costa Rica (and Traveling) - Saturday 4-25-2009

I have been home for three days now and I miss Costa Rica. I miss its warm turqouise water and white sandy beaches. I miss its towering green tropical canopies, filled with the calls, chirps and howls of unseen parrots, toucans, and monkeys . I miss its quaint dirt roads and locally-owned businesses reminding me that there are still places in the world safe from chain restaurants, Blockbuster Video, Starbucks Coffee and other hallmarks of "progress." I miss its sugary-sweet pineapples, mangos, and papayas, picked ripe from a local farm a day or even hours before I ate them. I miss its simple, stress-free living without the distraction of television and materialist social conditioning. I miss Casa Brian and the people I met there.

I miss some things about traveling in general, too. I miss the adventure of traveling through a foreign country, of being a stranger in a strange land. I miss the excitement of arriving in a new city, not knowing anyone and having to make friends with other travelers. Sure, saying goodbye to my new friends always made me sad, but few things in life are better than making new friends. I miss discovering new restaurants with exotic foods. Four days after I came home, I miss being abroad.

Is it already time to plan my next trip?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Two Days in San Jose and the Flight Home - Monday 4-20-2009 and Tuesday 4-21-2009

Monday and Tuesday proceed similarly. I have lunch with Nicolas at the Mercado Central (I have the fried chicken with tortillas at Soda San Cristobal for 1,950 colones both days), he tells me he is ready to leave San Jose and return to Quebec, and I do a lot of listening because he has a lot to say about everything. On Monday, he asks our waitress at Soda San Cristobal if she would like to meet him for dinner on Tuesday. She agrees. After this, he talks a lot about how excited he is for his date. When we go back to Soda San Cristobal on Tuesday for lunch, the waitress is there again and Nicolas gets a confirmation that she will meet him later that day for dinner. Monday after lunch, we walk the blocks just to the south and west of the Mercado Central. Every store front facing the avenidas and calles is occupied, the merchants selling everything from fresh produce of every color, to childrens’ toys, to cell phones, to baked goods, to clothing, lingere, and other apparel for both men and women. Crowds are thick on both days. Nicolas and I weave our way through and around groups of pedestrians. Street vendors yell out the name of vegetables to passersby, hoping to attract a buyer. Old women sit at small wooden tables covered with lottery tickets. The destitute approach the slightly better off and beg for money. Taxis and trucks honk warnings to pedestrians as they zoom down the narrow streets. I will miss San Jose and its vibrant, chaotic life. Monday afternoon, I find a souvenir doll for my aunt at a t-shirt shop in a quiet alley in the Mercado Central. Tuesday afternoon, Nicolas and I walk to a park at the Costa Rica Gran Hotel and across the street from the Teatro Nacional and enjoy the early afternoon. Throngs of people walk by – businessmen in suits carrying expensive leather cases, teenagers talking on cell phones, couples walking hand in hand, old men with worn faces wearing threadbare clothes, private school students in their uniforms, tourists with folding maps.

I bid Nicolas goodbye on Tuesday afternoon and walk back to the hostel. Monday night, I arranged for a shuttle to drive me to the airport today. The shuttle driver arrives and I bid goodbye to Juan Carlos at the front desk. On the way out of town, we pass Parque Morazan. Laura and I walked through Parque Morazan the afternoon I showed her around San Jose. Further on, we drive past the hotel where Ricardo and Fernando stayed in San Jose; I remember it from when the shuttle to Monteverde stopped there several weeks ago. The 17 kilometer drive from hostel to airport takes forty-five minutes in San Jose’s heavy afternoon traffic. The driver wishes me good journey and pats me on the arm. Checking in, immigration, and security take all of fifteen minutes together. I spend the next three hours sitting at my gate enjoying the Juan Santamaria International’s free wireless. The plane boards at 6:35PM and takes off at 7:15PM. I bid adios to Costa Rica as the countryside rushes by and the plane lifts off for Los Angeles.

Sunday 4-19-2009 - Back to San Jose

Casa Brian in Playa Samara, Costa Rica

The Interbus shuttle to San Jose is supposed to pick me up at 9:30AM today. I wake up around 7:30AM, shower, and pack. I am about to step out of my room at 8:30AM to eat breakfast when I hear a knock on my door. I open the door and see Brian. Before he can say anything, I laugh and tell him “you must have thought I was going to sleep through everything this morning.” He smiles, says no, and then tells me that the private shuttles sometimes show up early and that he just wanted to make sure I was ready in case they showed up early this morning. I follow Brian into the living area and sit down at the dining table across from Catherine. She and I talk some about the last couple weeks and how I’ll be missed. I tell her that I’ll miss Playa Samara, but especially the homey, relaxing atmosphere at Casa Brian. The time passes quickly, and soon I am done with breakfast, packed, and ready to be picked up. The Interbus shuttle shows up five minutes late, honking to announce its presence. I hug Catherine and then Victoria, telling them both how happy I am to have met them. Brian comes out of his room then. I extend my hand saying, “it was a pleasure, Mr. Pearson.” He gives me a firm handshake and then firm hug, inviting me to come back and stay at Casa Brian again in the future. I’d come back even if he didn’t invite, I loved this place so much. I hug Sandra and tell her that I’ll miss her, Brian, and being here. The Interbus driver takes my luggage. Brian and Sandra drive off somwhere. I hop in the shuttle and wave goodbye to the hostel.
Five very bumpy hours later (Interbus shuttles rides are bumpier than GrayLine shuttle rides), I'm back at the Guesthouse at Costa Rica Backpackers in San Jose. I Skype Nicolas to tell him I have arrived, and he comes to the hostel and hour later. We walk into the city center because he has to run some errands. While we walk, he tells me about his robbery at gunpoint. His assailant only took some cash because Nicolas did not have his cards or passport with him at the time. Nicolas tells me he is completely ready to head back to Quebec and asks if I am interested in joining him. I tell him that I am not; I loved traveling through Costa Rica but I am now ready to be home for a while. He grudgingly accepts my refusal. We go eat dinner and have a few drinks at a restaurant inside a hotel on the Avenida Central. The food is good, but expensive. Nicolas tries to convince me to hit the town with him after dinner. Nicolas has been spending a lot of time alone in his room at the hostel. I can see that he is itching to make it a late night in San Jose and that he wants a sidekick. I'm tired from my ride from Playa Samara, and not in the mood to visit a casino or pound drinks somewhere. Besides, two and a half weeks in Playa Samara left me in a perfectly serene mood. Barhopping just does not appeal to me. We part ways around 7:30PM, agreeing to meet for lunch at the Mercado Central the next day.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Last Day in Playa Samara Until I Come Back - Saturday 4-18-2009

Jane comes by in the morning to move her stuff into Brian’s car so he can drop her off at her new place on the other side of Samara. When her stuff is loaded up, she pulls out her cat carrier and we all meet her cat. She tells me how he found her. Jane was in Nicaragua, sitting at a restaurant her friend owned about six months ago. Jane was telling her friend wanting an animal traveling companion to ease the loneliness of traveling alone. Not five minutes after her friend suggested she get a cat, they both heard a soft meowing from close by. Jane followed the meowing and saw a snow white cat with blue eyes to match her own. Her animal traveling companion had found her. This morning, her traveling companion meows restlessly and paws at the mesh fabric of his carrier. She unzips the bag slightly so Victoria and Catherine can pet him. His coat is now gold and white and his eyes have changed from blue to gold. Jane has to push him back down in the carrier so he does not escape. Minutes later, Brian is ready to drive her across town. Jane gives me a warm hug and wishes me luck as I craft a new, different life.
I enjoy a late morning swim with Catherine. Her ankle is still a bit unsteady so she hangs on to me as we wade through the surf. Back on the beach, we talk about our families and our lives back home. In the afternoon, I Skype Nicolas who I met in Playa Tamarindo to tell him I’ll be in town tomorrow for a couple days. I ask how his new life in San Jose is going and he says he’s leaving for Quebec when his lease is done. He can’t find any work, he is not happy in San Jose, and he got robbed at gunpoint. He asks if I want to accompany him on a road trip through Central America, the US and back home to Quebec. Wow! And here I was in the mind-set to go back home. Now I have the opportunity to drive through Central America, my own country, and Quebec. What to do? I stammer out that I’ll think about it. Then we make arrangements to have dinner together tomorrow evening and I promise to let him know once I’ve settled into Costa Rica Guesthouse tomorrow afternoon.

I want to spend my last day in Playa Samara walking through the town. I walk along the beach to the main street. I hardly pass anyone as I walk; Samara is a beautifully empty beach town, just like when I arrived sixteen days ago. I follow main street away from the beach, then turn left at the Century 21 office. Following this dirt road, I pass the church, the massage school, and the bank. Past the bank on the opposite side of the street is a two story shopping center. Parents and children are celebrating a birthday party on the second floor balcony. I continue past an abandoned lot to my left, thick with grass, a massive tree in the center spreading its long branches across the property. I cross a bridge over a creek and turn left. I walk past several cabinas, Soda Sol y Mar which is deserted, then past the dirt road that runs in front of Ciclo Samara. I pass pasture with six horses quietly eating the grass. I stop a moment to watch them. I look past the horses and see the line of tall green palm trees on the beach. I pass the Alta Vista Condominiums; two people are on a second story balcony talking and a woman is on a third story balcony admiring her view. No one notices me quietly walk by. Just before I reach the beach, I pass a dirt road to my right and see a familiar figure walking down the road towards me. I walk towards Jane and she smiles in surprise. She asks what I’m doing here and I tell her that I wanted to spend my last day in Playa Samara walking through it. I ask her where she is headed. “To the beach,” she tells me. We walk there together. Jane tells me how much better she feels now that she has moved to this part of town. Now, she says, she can hang out with her friends and have a calm two weeks before she leaves to work in Alaska, where she plans to stay until late summer. Like me, she dislikes conflict and negativity and now she can avoid both. I smile when Jane tells me her cat is out exploring their new neighborhood and that she needs to return home before sunset so he does not come back to an empty apartment. We are halfway down the beach when Jane bids me goodbye with a warm hug and a promise to email.
I walk for a few minutes before I realize I don’t have a single picture of her.

Winding Down - Friday 4-17-2009

This post's photo credit goes to Juan.
Today is my second to last day in Playa Samara, until I come back anyway. I’m sad to go, but I also feel ready to leave. I have loved my trip here, but tourist season is done, there are few travelers, my friends have left the hostel, and I am feeling a bit of traveling fatigue. My vacation feels like it is winding down. It will be nice to be home and among familiar things. I’ll change my mind about being home when the boredom sets in. Of course, I can always go traveling again when the boredom sets in.
I don’t do much during the day. Jane comes over in the evening. She had come by in the morning and was quite angry about the events of her morning. I ask how she’s doing now and she tells me that she is better. She tells me about her day when Sandra suggests we head to the beach to watch the sunset. We sit at a bench on the beach not far from Casa Brian. Already, the sky at the east end of the beach is darkening to indigo, and the western sky is orange, the sun minutes away from disappearing behind the hills. The clouds change from light grey to dark grey in the fading evening light. Some clouds show orange highlights where the setting sun strikes them just right. The waves come in strongly and loudly, reaching high on the beach before retreating into the ocean.
The two women speak in Spanish. I only understand the occasional word, but it sounds like the two women talk about energy, life balance, and related things. Jane is quite plugged into metaphysics and Sandra is too, apparently. The conversation strays into an impromptu Spanish lesson for Jane and a bit for me, too. Sandra asks me what day I am flying home. I misinterpret her question and tell her “four days.” She smiles and asks me in Spanish again really slowly while Jane translates. “Ah, Martes noche,” (Tuesday night) I answer after Jane finishes her translation for me. Sandra asks if I will miss Casa Brian and I tell her yes. How could I not miss Casa Brian? Living here for two weeks was amazing. She says I can come back and calls herself my “Costa Rica mami.” Awesome. Sandra also tells me that she will miss me. I'll miss her too. I will miss everything about being here -- the beach, the warm water, the sapphire sky, the turquoise ocean, the sunsets, the atmosphere, and most of all, the people I met including Brian, Sandra, Jane, Leonie, Juan and Tyler. Sandra lightens the mood and tells me how Brian told her that I eat avocados so often Brian is surprised I haven’t turned green. I’m partly surprised, too. I had two yesterday and another two the day before.
I go swimming as the sky darkens. Soon, it will be too dark to swim. I look up at the sky and see the night’s first star. I make a wish as I hit the water. The water is warmer than I expected. It feels good. I dive in, dodging a large wave. I look back and cannot see the bench Jane and Sandra are sitting on anymore because the day’s light is nearly gone. I swim until I can barely see. The stars are out and the daylight is just a wan glow in the west. Brian comes out on the beach looking for Sandra and I walk with him to the bench the women are sitting on. The four of us walk back to Casa Brian where we talk the evening away. Another uniqely beautiful day in a uniquely wonderful place. Before Jane leaves, she promises to come by again tomorrow.

My Good Deed For the Month - Thursday 4-16-2009

The entire neighborhood lacks power for much of the day. I try to sleep in my room during the afternoon, but with no fans running the best I can do is lie around and sweat. I go swimming about 2:30PM to cool off. I walk to almost the east end of the beach. The water here is clearer than in front of Casa Brian; I can see to the bottom even right after I enter the water. The water feels a bit cooler, too. It’s low tide so I have to walk far into the water to be even waist deep. The dark blue waves come in gently. A few fish swim past me. There are about ten boats anchored here. The closest is a small, old fishing boat about 100 feet away from me. There is also a small boat with the PADI symbol painted on it, several small fishing boats, and one big yacht. I do not see people on any of the boats. I swim for an hour, then head back. Jane sees me just as I am about to leave the beach and head to Casa Brian. She is caring for an elderly woman in the mornings. The elderly woman’s spirit is strong, but Jane says dealing with her family is draining. Right now, she is off to give a massage. I tell her to come by Casa Brian later tonight if her energy comes back after the massage. She says she will.
I am making dinner several hours later when Jane comes by. She says giving the massage that afternoon did increase her energy level and now she feels better than when I saw her earlier. I offer Jane what I am whipping together, but she declines. She tells me a bit more about the environment surrounding the elderly woman she is caring for and why it is so draining for her. I can relate from past experience. Catherine and a friend arrive. Catherine twisted her ankle several days ago and has been hobbling around on crutches. Sandra calls an order into Sol Azteca for Catherine and I walk over to pick it up for her. When I come back, I tease Catherine by telling her there weren’t any women prettier at the restaurant for me to give her food to so I brought it back. That gets a good laugh from everyone. Jane leaves around 9:00PM, promising to come by again tomorrow. Catherine and her friend Victoria call a taxi and head out into the night around 10:00PM. I write for an hour and call it a night.

Another Bonfire - Wednesday 4-15-2009

Leonie left this morning. I gave her a big hug and wished her good luck when she left to catch her bus. I am now the second longest guest in residence at Casa Brian after Catherine, the 19-year old Norwegian girl who is in town to study at the language school and arrived a couple weeks prior to me.
Tyler Drake Nash
Tyler comes by Casa Brian in the evening. He and I walk around the block to Jimmy’s house to pick him up. Jimmy is the owner of Jesse’s Surf Shop. Jesse started his surf shop a decade ago, Brian told me several days ago. He sold the surf shop to Jimmy several years ago and moved back to the US. Jimmy kept the name Jesse’s Surf Shop and started calling himself Jesse because that was easier than trying to explain to vacationers that no, he wasn’t really Jesse, that Jesse was happily retired in America but he (Jimmy) would be happy to rent you a board or teach you how to surf.

Tyler, Jimmy, and I get out to the beach and the pile of branches and palm fronds we are going to light is nearly taller than I am. Jimmy pulls out some cotton balls soaked in gasoline and some flint. Like an expert surfer turned jungle survivalist, he strikes the flint, lighting a cotton ball. Then he places the lit ball on the pile of fuel, setting a palm frond on fire. The flame quickly spreads and soon the pile is aflame. He also lights a smaller pile and soon two bonfires light the night. Flames from the big pile jump ten feet into the air. I am nearly ten feet from the fire and I am sweating from its heat. We all talk and watch the flames. Three twenty-something women and a twenty-something man come up. They took surf lessons from Jimmy today and also met Tyler today. They are all from New York City and still have jobs. Good for them. The bonfires die down and we all get to talking. Somehow, Jimmy and Tyler talk two of the women into going skinny dipping with them. In a flash, they all run off into the black water. I talk a bit with the pair left on shore before calling it a night, dry and clothed.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Leonie's Last Night - Tuesday 4-14-2009

Leonie told me a couple nights ago that she’s going to leave for Nicaragua on Wednesday. She’s been in Samara since January and has been at Casa Brian for the past two and a half months. She’s looking for a change. She says she was apprehensive about traveling alone again especially since she has settled into Playa Samara, but she has to move on and live for herself again. So, today is her last day here.
I hit the beach twice today. I love living temporarily in paradise. Oh, and Leonie bought me a chocolate ice cream bar before we had lunch together. I love vacation friends. Over lunch, she talks a bit about her upcoming trip, living at Casa Brian the last couple weeks, and Juan who had left the day before.
Leonie and your author
Later, Leonie and I have dinner at Las Palmitas where we talk at length about our lives back home. After a bit of silence, I complain that the hostel might be depressing without her around. She suggests I leave Playa Samara and give Montezuma a try. I had considered seeing Montezuma, Cahuita, or Manuel Antonio before leaving for home but I tell her that no place besides Playa Samara is really calling me right now. It's true, too. I have not been in Playa Samara long enough to get tired of it. I still feel at home here. When I read my guidebook, I knew I had to come to Playa Samara. Also, some part of knew that I would happily spend most of my vacation here, once I arrived. I can imagine that even this slice of paradise would get old after a while, but I have not yet reached that point. Manuel Antonio, with its rainforest and reportedly gorgeous beaches intrigued me yesterday, but the feeling passed. I tell Leonie I will probably stay in Playa Samara and visit those other places on my next trip to Costa Rica. And yes, there will be next trip to Costa Rica.
The evening passes quickly, the way evenings to when two old friends meet. We walk back to Casa Brian. Several of her friends in the neighborhood are coming over around 10:00PM and the plan is for all of us to head downtown to a few beach bars. Her friends are late and I'm aslep with my head down on the dining table by the time they arrive. I ask Leonie if she'd be offended if I just saw her off tomorrow. She tells me that's perfectly fine and to get some sleep. Leonie and her friends disappear into the warm, humid night.

Thoughts on Traveling Alone - Monday 4-13-2009

Juan left this morning. I talk a lot this evening with Leonie and Tyler over dinner and drinks at Sol Azteca, a Mexican restaurant up a hill from Casa Brian. Some of the conversation strays into traveling alone. Tyler has been in Playa Samara since January attending the local massage therapy school. He tells me it has been emotionally difficult to meet people in the hostels or in the bars, click with them, hang out with them for awhile, and then say goodbye to them when they move on. He says that doing something for himself is key to making it through the incessant goodbyes. Just hanging out somewhere isn’t enough, he tells me. Trying to find validation through socializing just leads to disappointment as a solo traveler. The key is to do something because you want to do it, not for the sake of meeting people – go to school, seek out new experiences, visit new places.

Leonie echoes Tyler’s sentiments. Leonie has been in Playa Samara since January as well (Tyler and her met on the bus from San Jose). She has been living at Casa Brian since early February and so has watched a parade of people come and go, some of whom she because very close to. Part of the reason she is moving on, she tell us, is because she had stopped experiencing life for herself and instead stuck around to hang out with people who just went on to leave. She needs a change. She needs to travel and live for herself again.

I disagree with both of them at first since meeting people was a primary reason I booked my Costa Rica trip. Later, I understand what Tyler and Leonie mean. I met the people I met on this trip while I was doing something I wanted to do for myself – traveling abroad for my own reasons. These private motivations helped cushion the sense of loss when my new friends moved on because I knew that my journey was an end unto itself and that I didn’t need to get attached to other travelers to have life validating experiences. In fact, this constant turnover of traveling companions has taught me to appreciate every moment I spend with them without regard for the future because I know that distance and circumstance will largely prevent them from being a part of my future. I have spent much of my life ignoring my present in favor of my future. That’s changing now, thanks to this trip.