Friday, June 29, 2012

Home and Away - 6-30-2012

A few days ago, Dad told me something touching. He and I were talking about my recent travels and my desire to take this year off to travel more, enjoy my life and generally just "be." I told him, perfectly truthfully, that I haven't headed out again since returning from Costa Rica in late May because I've really enjoyed being home. I've also really enjoyed catching up with friends in LA, picking up new interests locally, meeting new people, and visiting San Francisco to reconnect with some of my best friends from business school (and to reconnect with the coolest city in America...sorry LA!).

Playa Samara, Costa Rica
You'll remember that a big insight from Costa Rica was that I should love and honor my friends and family by being with them, not just by thinking about them. Being kind and loving to my parents has remained a part of that, as was visiting my friends in San Francisco...friends who never gave up on our friendship despite me putting off visiting them for over two years as I focused on my finances to the exclusion of all else. I've also just enjoyed the opportunity to relax and savor my every moment at home without the pressure of a job or a commute or the weight of a boss' or staff's...or my own...expectations. Savoring my life daily, "la dolce vita" as it's called in Italy and "pura vida" as a Costa Rican would name it, was an additional purpose behind saving hard, rejecting consumerism, turning my back on television's vapidity, getting my finances in order and taking this extended break. In short, I've been home instead of traveling because being home has felt great, it is what I've wanted to do recently and...because I can.

I told Dad all of this and he said he really liked that I felt that way. He said that he and Mom are happy to have me here and they're both happy to see me so satisfied with my life. Then he told me that he hopes I always feel welcome at home, because indeed, I am welcome here. All the time. Forever.

I thought that was beautiful. Thanks Dad!

Playa Samara, Costa Rica
Still though, the road is whispering to me again and I can feel my restlessness building. I've started thinking of the other trips I intend to take this year and early next year. I'll almost certainly set foot in Panama for an extended trip before this summer is done. I'll be visiting New York in late summer or early autumn to see more friends I ignored for years. I'm going to fly to Vancouver to visit friends I made on the road for a short trip as well. Ecuador, Peru and the Amazon, with its mysterious ayahuasca vine, whisper to me as they have for years now. Chile, and its reputably libertarian politics and burgeoning economy, calls me, as it has for a year or so now. Even Italy whispers to me sweetly across the years, like a lost lover. As much as I have seen of Italy, I never grew tired of her.

I love being home, but the road calls me back to it. So soon, I'll be abroad once more...learning, growing, and forging myself into a stronger and wiser man...fulfilling the purpose of my time away from my career. Indeed, one of the things I'm working on during this break is listening to the universe when it quietly directs me somewhere. Looking back, I've nearly always waited until the whisper was raised to a scream because I've also nearly always tried to ignore this guidance. I'm listening now, though,...and I'm trying to listen better.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review of Hostel Las Mariposas in Playa Samara - 6-21-2012

Hostel Las Mariposas in Playa Samara, Costa Rica

Hostel Las Mariposas in Playa Samara, Costa Rica
Looking for a bright, fun, spacious, clean, airy hostel directly in Playa Samara with a great hostess? Look no further! Hostel Las Mariposas is the only hostel actually inside the town of Playa Samara (Casa Brian is about one mile outside of town -- see review here). The hostel's proximity to the Intercultura Spanish language school makes Las Mariposas a great place to stay if you're going to be studying at the the school, by the way. Leonie, a friendly and outgoing Dutch woman who I befriended on my 2009 trip to Costa Rica before she owned Hostel Las Mariposas, is the owner and your hostess. She knows all the events going on in town, can give you directions to local beaches or other towns, and is an all around delight to talk with. The hostel even has a guidebook available about Samara and its surroundings that will give you information on local restaurants, things to do and tours to take.

The first thing you'll notice about Las Mariposas is how airy it is. The front of the hostel has a large and colorfully painted and tiled covered patio with a communal dining table and three hammocks. The space is breezy, which is important in Costa Rica's heat, and frequently has people hanging out. There is a second communal dining table and another pair of hammocks underneath a roof further back in the hostel past the sink, freezer and garden. All in all, you will find plenty of space and plenty of opportunity to meet other folks, or to find a quiet spot all to yourself.

Free hugs!
Hostel Las Mariposas in Playa Samara, Costa Rica
The second thing you'll notice is how pretty the grounds are. The hostel's countless flowers and private garden give Las Mariposas a homey feel. The reward is endless blooms of pink, red, orange and yellow that add to the hostel's relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. Also be sure to ask about the mango tree that gives hugs. It gives mangoes, too.

The third thing you'll notice is how cool everyone here. Leonie herself is endlessly patient and unremittingly friendly, as are the folks who help out around the hostel. Living in paradise will do that to you, I guess. The hostel's relaxed feel seeps into everyone who stays here. It's easy to spend an extra couple days here lying in the hammocks and chatting with other guests before you notice you were supposed to be in Tamarindo yesterday. I stayed at Las Mariposas for eight days in May 2012 and was impressed by the friendly and interesting people who flowed through. The coolest thing is that me and the other guests barbecued fresh fish and meat together twice. Beat that, Holiday Inn!

Your author on the left with new friends
Hostel Las Mariposas has one private room with a private bathroom (no sink, though) for $38 per night, one room with three beds for $15 per bed per night, and an eight room dorm room with beds for $15 per night. I only stayed in the private room, which gets stuffy at night but does come with a fan. Breakfast is $4; I suggest you go for the pancakes. The hostel accepts volunteers, which means you can stay for free if you help check in guests, change sheets, sweep up and such. I definitely recommend contacting Las Mariposas in advance to work out any volunteer arrangement; don't just show up and expect to stay for free in exchange for working.

Hostel Las Mariposas in Playa Samara, Costa Rica
So, how do you get here? First, there are signs all through Samara and the main road into town directing you to the hostel. I found the following to be the easiest way to find Hostel Las Mariposas. Walk down Samara's main street all the way to the beach. Turn right along the beach and walk until you reach the Intercultura campus; it's on the beach about 200 yards from the main street. You'll know you've found the campus because it's big, grassy and is filled with young North Americans and Western Europeans sitting on the grass or lounging in hammocks "studying" Spanish. Keep walking along the beach until you've reached the end of the campus. You'll see a dirt road that runs from the beach inland next to the school. Take that road and follow it another 100 yards. Hostel Las Mariposas will be right in front of you.

Check out the hostel's website at and its Facebook page at Get in contact directly by