Squeezed between two strangers I had just met a couple of days beforehand in a packed van in Costa Rica, I suddenly realized that I had absolutely no idea where I was going or who I was going with. I waited for the anxiety to kick in, but after three weeks of quite literally living and working in the rain forest, I had ultimately ended up shaking off a lot of my high strung New York attitude and stress. Easygoing, pshaw. I can do this, I said to myself. No plan, no idea what to expect, strangers…piece of cake.
Puerto Viejo. The Latin Caribbean. The thing about Puerto Viejo is that there aren’t just one or two parties in different locations. The whole entire town is a party. Literally. Just follow a road and there are people everywhere, drinking, dancing, smoking. For such a small place you wouldn’t expect the bars to overflow the way they do, but everyone comes out to enjoy. And you can end up having one hell of a night…
Enter Gigantor. Almost 7 feet tall, surprising considering he practically had no neck thanks to the muscles swallowing it, I was worried I’d be crushed as he tried to dance with me. As my new friends tried to figure out how to save me, a bartender who had served us during dinner came to my rescue, grabbing my hand and pulling me away from the Costa Rican Terminator.
From one source of unwanted attention to another, I thought I could shake this guy off when he offered to bring me a drink, and I slipped outside to watch some guy juggling fire. Unfortunately he found me, with a plastic cup in his hands that he cheerfully told me was made by his uncle. Now I may have been slightly more easy going as the weeks went on, but I knew not to drink anything from a stranger, let alone something that was made in the back of a truck. Ticos really are friendly people and he took no offense when I didn’t accept any. As the night went on, he offered to
meet me and my friends the next day to take us to a snorkeling spot that not many knew about. He took my number, gave me directions to a store where we would meet and we parted ways for the night.
The next morning we rented bikes and headed out. We took our time, riding out in a direction we hadn’t been before. When we made it to the appointed bodega half an hour late, I suddenly realized the error I had made. He wasn’t there and I hadn’t taken his number, so we had no way of getting in touch other than waiting for him at the store. We figured he probably wouldn’t show up considering the hour we had left that night while he was still going strong at the bar. So we took it as a loss, got back on our bikes, and struck out again, the threat of another sporadic Costa Rican storm brewing in the sky.
Still… I wouldn’t have changed a single second about that day.
Seeking shelter from the rain we ended up at an open-air cafe with a super chill foreigner turned Tica. We wiled away there for hours, drinking, talking and watching the rain. Eventually J and I crossed over to the futbol field to try out our rain dance powers to make the rain go away. It worked…like 30 minutes later.
Riding back to our hostel through the light drizzle we pulled over when we saw a nice stretch of empty beach. As a couple of us ran into the ocean like little kids, for the first time in my life, I experienced the beauty of those unexpected moments that comes with not having everything planned. As an obsessive planner and control freak, the biggest lesson I learned in Costa Rica was that once in a while, you just have to let go and enjoy, because if you build walls with a second by second itinerary of your day, week, or life, those moments of pura vida can’t get in.