About marigib

To the world I am a hobbyist blogger, but behind the scenes I am a wife and mother, a loyal coworker, a sympathetic friend and an unrelenting individual. I enjoy laughing until my belly hurts, making lists, riding Jet Skis, jumping on trampolines, completing tasks, swinging in hammocks, singing with reckless abandon, and writing good material. I appreciate efficiency, accountability, hard work, good humor and forgiveness. I mostly admire my husband, my mother and Mary Poppins.

mom and baby

Yesterday was my first day out on the water and the reality of trying to locate humpback whales in their natural habitat became clear early on. Despite the fact that close to 400 are estimated to be around this relatively small collection of islands, the sea is a big place, and I know from my many whale watching excursions in Maui that there are no guarantees. I know this, and yet I couldn’t help having my expectations swept away these last several months seeing the many pictures and videos of sightings online. There was a lot of positive self-talk happening that first hour or so out on the boat – “it’s okay, Marissa, you have 6 full days on the ocean, you cannot allow your anxiety about potentially not having a whale encounter ruin yours and everyone else’s time today, just be present, etc., etc.” After I’d just about talked myself into enjoying an entire day at sea with no whale sightings, we caught up with a mother and her calf. It was all so exhilarating and yet frantic. Noah, our boat captain (yep), was yelling from the top deck – “get ready, get, ready, go, go, go!!!” As we’d all just been standing around at that point, a wild dash for fins and masks ensued. There are 8 of us in our group, but only 4 can get in at one time with a guide. Thankfully I was chosen to go with the first group. We had about 10 seconds to get our gear on and jump into rather rough waters and stay close to our guide who was in full racing mode in the water to get to the whales.

I have to admit, my first underwater sighting was not the breathless, hair-raising, life-changing experience I had imagined. I suppose that’s because whales are wild animals that aren’t simply put on this Earth to make humans feel moved. They do whatever the hell they want. Also, pictures and videos online tend to leave out the less glamorous elements about the experience…the race through rough waters to get to them (they tend to move quite quickly at times, go figure), the endless equipment difficulties that seemed to arise…snorkels full of salt water, masks full of fog, a tangle of fins and arms with the other people who also have no idea what they’re doing or what to expect. The water was a bit murky that first day as well and we were working with a mom and calf who were basically sleeping. They’d come up for air every 10 minutes or so and then drift back to the bottom where they’d settle for a bit. This was great in that it gave all of us numerous opportunities to get in and see them, and also to get used to being near such enormous creatures underwater. It was a blessing, really, since in my head I’d sort of imagined being in the water and then suddenly overtaken by a whale with no preparation. I’m now three days in and I’ve learned that whales don’t really sneak up on you. They can move much faster than any human can swim and yet it appears to be happening in slow motion. When they do leave you, you wonder to yourself how it is that you’re unable to keep up since they appear to simply be drifting off into the darkness.

Due to the incredibly unreliable wifi situation here in Tonga, I’ve been writing this one blog for three days so I’ve had many more encounters than when I initially began. Apparently we were very lucky on our first day to have spent the bulk of our time on the water with the same mom and calf. Also lucky to have been the only boat in the area as occasionally we have to “share” the experience with other groups of swimmers. The Tongan population of humpbacks appears to be quite a bit smaller than the one in Maui. If you’ve ever been to Maui during whale season, it’s as simple as looking out on the ocean on a calm day in order to find countless whale spouts. Here in Tonga we sometimes search for hours for just a single puff. That being said, I seem to have the luck of the Irish here with me on this trip because each day has been better than the last. Despite it being rather uncommon to swim with a mom and calf, that’s exactly what we’ve done all three days. On our second day we found mom and baby in the more protected bay areas within Vava’u so the water was much calmer and clearer. She was a young mother with a beautifully pristine white underbelly and her baby was only a couple of weeks old. She was a very trusting mother with a very curious little one; the more protective mothers come up with baby each time he needs to take a breath (which is much more frequently than the adults), but this mom was content to rest near the bottom and let baby come up to breathe and check us out a little bit. Again, we spent nearly the entire day with them and had one encounter after another. Having had two remarkable days in the books, I was content to have no encounters yesterday, but that luck of mine just wouldn’t quit. After some unsuccessful attempts at getting in with some males who were on the move, we eventually found yet another mom and calf, this time with an escort (usually another female adult whale). There truly are no words for the encounters we had yesterday. We were unfathomably close to these beauties, so close in fact that my guide and I had to dodge a fin at one point! As if that weren’t exhilarating enough, I had two more encounters that lasted for probably 10  minutes each (this is a long time to be in with them) where first mom and baby and then all three whales remained at the surface with us and we were literally swimming with whales. Swimming with them, right alongside them, as if we were old friends out in the ocean for a frolic. We were inside of a National Geographic documentary.

It is quite something to be able to say that I’ve learned so much about whale behavior these last three days from first hand experience. I’ve also learned that I do not have a future in videography. I am going to attempt to include a video below (no promises); there will be a lot of time where you’re wondering what I’m even doing…most likely I’m clearing water from my mask or snorkel, jockeying for position, or both. It’s also highly possible that I simply have no clue how to operate a Go Pro. But just wait for it. This isn’t my best video; my best one somehow recorded upside down so I’ll have to deal with that one at a later date. If this does happen to work, please enjoy.

Update: Not working with shit wifi. Will try separate FB upload.

 

here i go again on my own

It’s that time of year again…time for me to jet away to distant lands in an effort to reclaim my independence and to replenish my sense of wonder. This year is no exception and yet…exceptional. This time I am chasing more than wanderlust and solitude. This time I am turning dreams into reality.

I’ve been in awe of ocean life for as long as I can remember; in fact, the first answer I recall giving when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up is a marine biologist. Many years later in college (and probably many years before that) it became clear that my academic strengths did not lie among the sciences, so the study aspect of marine life went by the wayside. My equal parts fear and fascination of the sea, however, have never waned and I’ve always had a special interest in dolphins and whales. Not until I went on my honeymoon in Maui, however, did I fully understand the connection I would feel toward the humpback whale. For nine days it seemed my eyes never left the ocean, always looking at the countless pulses of water from the blowholes and hoping for that special appearance of a breach or even a tail fin slap. I will never forget the morning I woke up before Sean and, while enjoying a meditative cup of coffee alone on the lanai, witnessed a single adult humpback whale breach not more than 200 feet off the coastline. It was as if she had done it just for me. There were many encounters on that trip and I literally cried as we drove to the airport. I had Sean pull the car over one last time at a scenic lookout so I could say my good-byes. We’ve been to Maui a few more times together since then and I will only book travel during whale season. For our first anniversary (paper), Sean adopted a female mother whale named Malama for me through the Pacific Whale Foundation and presented me with the certificate of adoption. I was pregnant with Kellan at the time, so it was an incredibly perfect and thoughtful gift.  We have retirement plans that will hopefully land us in Hawaii and as far as I am concerned the only acceptable section of real estate is the South side of Maui since that is where the largest population of whales migrate to. Is it sinking in yet how deep my love goes for these majestic creatures?

So a couple of years ago I Googled “swimming with humpback whales.” Hawaii only offers whale watching from onboard a boat, but surely there must be a place on this planet where a closer encounter would be possible? Enter Tonga. Tonga is an island nation in the South Pacific, not too far from Fiji, and the Vava’u group of islands is a haven for whale watching and swimming in August and September. The Hawaiian whales commute from Alaska, but the Tongan variety are visiting from Antarctica. A whole new group of friends to meet! As with the Maui group, the families come up to the warmer waters of Tonga to breed and then return a year or so later to birth their calves.

It’s no surprise then that this has been on my bucket list for some time now. For 7 days I will be, quite literally, swimming with humpback whales. I’ve read all of the reviews and seen all of the pictures that the web has to offer and yet I know these do no justice to the first-hand experience of making eye contact with a 70,000 pound marine mammal in its natural habitat. I feel no fear whatsoever, just utter anticipation of what’s to come. I hope to share a wealth of pictures and knowledge of these beauties over the next week or so on the blog and on social media.

Here we go, fins away!

throw back to now

As I approach the ripe old age of 40, something is occurring to me more and more these days than ever before – there are many more people who are younger than me than ever before. Translation: I’m old…er. One of the reasons this fact becomes more and more obvious the older we get is that our sharpest memories happen in the first 20 years of life – so childhood, highschool and for many of us, 4 (maybe 5) years of college. For this reason one can find oneself in a spinning class where the twenty-something instructor introduces a “throwback” song in the form of Katy Perry’s “Firework” or Temper Trap’s “Sweet Disposition.” To the instructor, these songs remind her of singing at the top of her lungs with her 5 besties in the Prius that one time…or of the first time she was felt up. Either way, it was like, SO long ago. On the other hand, these songs remind me of…I don’t know, fucking yesterday??? Didn’t they just come out? Why is it exactly that when you’re young time seems to take forever and now it just flies by? And, more importantly, how do we slow it the fuck down?

When you think about it for a minute, the why is obvious: the first 20 years of life are full of nothing but firsts. Starting with just the things we remember and skipping over first steps and all that jazz we’ve got our first day of Kindergarten (and our first day of every grade thereafter), our first pet, our first F, our first medal in tennis, our first cheer camp, our first vacation, our first time overseas, our first sexual encounter, our first good sexual encounter, our first heartbreak, our first major loss, our first graduation party, our first wet T-shirt contest, our first time getting drunk or high, our first job. Nothing but firsts, all wrapped in shiny newness and naivete. These 20 or so years are just bursting with high drama and anticipation. Combine all that with the physical advantages of youth and you’ve got yourself a banging couple of decades to refer back to for the rest of your life. For many of us, excusing some relationship and life hiccups along the way, we settle into one career, one sexual partner, one best friend, one house, one internet provider, one cut of steak, one brand of underwear. On one hand we can argue that we spent all that time figuring out who we were and what the best choices were for us and we made them accordingly. On the other hand…BORING.

So how do we make the back three-fourths of our lives interesting (and more memorable) without joining some type of traveling Mormon band of gypsies? It sounds so cliché, but I really think it comes down to trying new things and making a commitment to get unstuck from our routines once in awhile. As you know, travel is a big part of my life and I do think these amazing trips I take each year make the rest of the year more palatable and more enjoyable. Outside of travel, however, I am one of the best nay-sayers around. Sean is the spontaneous one in our household and I would probably do well to emulate his enthusiasm for the unplanned aspects of life more often than I do. The other thing is, the opportunities for firsts in the early phases of life require almost no effort on our parts. We don’t choose whether or not to show up for the first day of school or to get our first job. If the choices aren’t made for us, then they’re at least staring us in the face. Creating an effervescent, thrilling life in your 30’s and 40’s takes real effort and real energy. I definitely do not have all the answers and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter because I want a full lifetime of good old days and throwbacks.  I’d love to be able to hear a song from 2012 and think, “Oh my God, Katie, do you remember this one?? That was, like, SO long ago.”

winds of change

I enjoy the belief that as humans we should aim to be as dynamic as the weather in Colorado: beautifully unpredictable at times, but offering a near constant supply of sunshine. As long as we are breathing love, light and optimism most days, then the evolution of our selves through our relationships, hobbies, careers, etc. is a glorious thing. Laying the groundwork for change by first establishing our commitment to a positive attitude is essential to happiness. Colorado makes a deal with its residents that goes something like this: I’m going to guarantee you 300 days or more of sunshine every year, but I expect you to put your goddamned big girl panties on when I decide to throw out hail, 100 mph winds and thunder snow in a matter of 30 minutes. At that point I will quickly regain your favor with a triple rainbow and a fox sighting. 

Much like my current home state, I find it fairly easy to remain in a sunny state of mind most days. Though while I personally love the violent weather shifts in Colorado, I don’t always embrace changes in myself quite as enthusiastically.  People grow more and more resistant to change as they age, I find. If you didn’t travel before you had kids and responsibilities, what are the chances you’re gonna book a flight to Barcelona with your tax refund when you’re 45 and thinking about college funds? Then there’s that thing called mastery. Are you really going to weigh the effects of your $7 morning coffee on your retirement age when you’ve worked for years to reach the perfection that is a Grande Almond Milk Latte Macchiato with one pump of sugar-free Cinnamon Dolce syrup?? Heavens, no. Then there’s the opposite of mastery, which can also be problematic. Enter my relationship with skiing. 

For nearly a decade I have somewhat desperately tried to match my expert skier husband’s passion for the sport, hoping for just a fraction of his skill. I’ve taken trips “out West” to the best resorts, taken lessons, torn ligaments, spent thousands on gear, rented seasonal ski condos and oh, I fucking moved to Colorado. So much of the sentiment I have surrounding my marriage is tied up in skiing. Sean proposed to me while we were skiing (literally) in Park City and we went back there to get married a year later. We started a life in Colorado in part so we could be in with the ski culture and raise our own little shredders and rippers. The fact that I have acquired neither the skill nor the passion in all that time has continued to haunt me. More than anything, my own obsessive mental pursuit of being better than I am has taken away the joy that skiing used to bring me. My usual unfailing positive attitude has failed me. Until recently. This year I’ve very quietly allowed myself a break from skiing without really talking about it too much. I’m slowly accepting that a goal I once had is no longer a healthy one to keep. With a 6-year old who is now skiing above my level, I knew I needed to embrace this change now before I end up resenting his joy in the years to come. With this in mind, I will go into the 2018 season as the only skier I was ever meant to be – a joyful companion to my husband, children, and a few other dear friends and family members only. My boots and gloves will be heated. The runs and the skies will be blue. 

Change is inevitable and undeniable, but it can also be healing and beautiful. It all just depends on your attitude. 

how to be a surrogate

What does it mean to you when someone says “I’ve got your back?” In my experience it means they’re about to be confronted with a situation on your behalf, possibly even a conflict, and they’ve committed to standing up for your best interests and “having your back.” Hearing a friend, relative or coworker say that to me is always followed by a feeling of immense relief because usually that impending situation is one that’s causing me a great deal of anxiety. Knowing that the outcome might be positively manipulated or even just softened by a surrogate is a gift. It brings a certain peace of mind, right?

I like to think that filling the surrogate role for others is one of my shiniest features. I would love it if at my funeral party someone close to me said, “Marissa said the things I couldn’t always say for myself.” Since it’s a party, there would be booze and so later in the night other things would be said as well – “She was a real selfish bitch, that one. Always had to run the show. Left me with a thrown out back on the floor of our bedroom with nothing but a TV remote for a TV I couldn’t see.” But, if just one person recognizes that I’ve always striven to be an advocate for those who’ve felt tired, scared or weak, and to speak up when they cannot, that will be a legacy I’ll be proud to own. What would make me even prouder is if, before I leave this planet and my spirit swims for eternity with the humpback whales in Maui (I guess my spirit would also need to migrate to Alaska during the summer months, but that sounds so cold…I think my spirit prefers to stay in Maui year round…), is if I could inspire others (you!) to take on a true surrogate role for their (your!) loved ones. I want to share some examples of things I’ve done or said to step in for people I’ve thought could use it, not because I’m a braggart, but because I genuinely think we are lacking in this area as a society. We are more than happy to defend our favorite political figures all day long on social media, but how often are we defending the people in our lives that we have actual, personal relationships with?

Example 1: Many, many years ago a rumor was going around my very large company that one of my coworkers was sleeping with multiple married men at our company. None of the people sharing this information had received this information first-hand (of course they hadn’t). I could have listened silently, but a rumor like that, true or not, could ruin someone’s career and their personal reputation. I instead said something to the effect of, “No one has any actual idea whether or not that happened and it isn’t appropriate to assume that it did.”

Example 2: I once witnessed a Starbucks customer verbally assault his barista over the amount of foam in his drink and then storm off. I gave the woman a knowing look and then I followed him out and told him what an asshole he was for treating someone that way.

Example 3: Someone very close to me is estranged from her father, mainly because he is a pussy and is married to an evil step-witch, but I’d been hearing about this woman’s suffering since childhood and decided that I couldn’t not say anything any longer. Their relationship was so damaged at this point I felt it couldn’t hurt matters any more and for the record I did ask her permission first. So I wrote him a very long, heartfelt letter about all of the things he was missing out on in his daughter’s (and grandchildren’s) lives, hoping that an outside perspective might help wake him up. It actually did, for a hot minute, until he settled back into his pussy ways again.

You see, the point isn’t to necessarily get the source of the conflict to bend to my way immediately. I am merely letting them know that someone other than their victim is paying attention. So maybe they start to think it’s not just me, maybe everyone else is watching too. Maybe then they start to feel some accountability for their words and actions. If all of you reading this start speaking up in a similar way, then we create a culture of accountability. No one likes to be judged or to have their flaws pointed out, as evidenced by our esteemed POTUS, so it seems reasonable that if enough of us start holding each other accountable for our asshole behavior that eventually the tides will turn.

Maybe for you it doesn’t have to be so flagrantly assertive; perhaps the next time a friend is saying awful things about their wife/boss/mother-in-law, you simply offer another side to the story (in this scenario you’re actually standing up for the other side…still very useful in many ways). Suffering isn’t usually one-sided. How many marriages might be saved if instead of saying “call a lawyer,” the person’s best friend said “call a therapist?” The larger point here is, I don’t see a whole lot of anything other than status quo reactions when people witness other people behaving like assholes. So take a stand! If not for yourself, then for the ones around you who need you to.

 

 

 

 

service ’17

As we approach the end of 2016, a year that many observe as a seemingly never ending string of tragedies and disappointments (at least from a domestic and world view), I look inward with mostly gratitude, contentment and joy. As you may remember, I began recording these ruminations of mine in time with our big move from Chicago to a little hippie town in the mountains of Colorado. Though it was with a great amount of excitement that we arrived, I was still very much unsettled in my roles as a wife and a mother. Looking back on those times, it’s hard to believe our little family is thriving today. And yet, here we are. In those darker times, it was an exploration of both Buddhism and, more deeply, yoga that helped me find my way back to myself. I’ve made it my personal mission these last four years to put self-care at the forefront of my priority list and it has paid off in a big way. I’ve certainly battled my way through some emotional hiccups along the way, but this year in particular has found me feeling more settled and less anxious than I ever remember feeling in my life. 

For this reason, I’m determined it’s time to nourish others with some of the same passion I’ve been nourishing myself. Parts of me that were broken have healed in these last four years, and I’m ready to give. For starters, I’m finally giving in to my family. Instead of seeing my children as burdensome, freedom-killers, I now see them for who they really are: my purpose and my legacy. In addition, while they say there’s no love like a mother’s, I can tell you there’s no love like the love I feel from my little ones. Maybe it took getting to the ages (5 and 6) we’re at now, but I’ve gone from being needed by my children to being truly loved by them and it feels. so. good. So good, in fact, that I really want to grow our little community. We are going to try for a third baby for a short while, but it’s alright if it doesn’t happen. We can start a dog rescue! Because I’ve mastered the art of making time just for me outside the home, why not fill our home with as much chaos and love as possible?!

I’d also like to start giving more to the larger community. Giving time will be an option in the future, but it just isn’t right now. Instead we are setting up a “kindness account” that both Sean and I will use as we see fit to make donations of money or gifts to people and causes that humble us. I’m personally interested in helping other busy mothers enjoy time with themselves the way that I’ve been able to. It would also be wonderful to help fund someone else’s creative plans for community improvement. In Kauai, the Humane Society allows visitors to take out a dog for the day so you have a companion on the trails and on the beach. I wonder if they have that here????More research required. 

Of course I have the same idealistic goals as I do every year- cut back on sugar, exercise more, purge my closets and drawers. But this year I’m really focusing on service to others, while still working in a healthy amount of self-care. Self-care in the form of subscription boxes!!! Did you know there are monthly boxes with everything from Korean beauty products to craft cocktail ingredients? Have I been living under a rock??? 

Here’s to all of my nearest and dearest as you kick off 2017 in your own special or not-so-special ways. 

xoxo,

M

the most wonderful time of the year

It’s been quite a bit since I’ve put fingers to keyboard and it’s probably for the best. Over a month ago my fellow Americans elected a new President, a man who I fundamentally opposed. I was sad to learn that so many people in this country are so disenchanted with their current lives and their future prospects that they were willing to put their own inner kindness and compassion toward others aside in support of something (hopefully) new, something (hopefully) better. A month ago I was blinded by the confusion, frustration and anger I felt toward so many who made that choice. So I asked around a little to friends and family members I care for to (hopefully) understand. Turns out it’s pretty easy to vote your conscience when everything else in your life is pretty much awesome – when your healthcare is affordable, when fighting for your country isn’t your best option at an opportunity or an education, when you aren’t living paycheck to paycheck, when your hourly job isn’t at risk of moving overseas or to an illegal immigrant, when you don’t live in a neighborhood where not having a gun isn’t even an option.

Now, that all being said, there are a lot of Trump voters out there who are just as bigoted and ignorant as Trump often presents and Tweets himself to be. A lot. And to them I say, fuck you. But even more importantly, to those of you on the other side who refuse to stand by idly and watch as our civil and social liberties grow more and more at risk, I support you. There are many like me, who, for the sake of their sanity and their children, aren’t going to fight as strongly as their hearts feel, but I know there are those of you who are out actually fighting every day for equal rights and opportunities for all of humankind – not just for white, straight, male, Christian, American citizens. And to you I say, thank you for doing the work that I am just too selfish and scared to do myself. I offer you my encouragement and my money. Keep fighting the good fight.

Perhaps, as some have suggested, we needed our liberal bubble to burst. The sheer awe of what has happened with this election cycle should require every last one of us to do some real soul-searching and ask ourselves if we are really as open-minded as we thought we were. Are we willing to turn toward our Trump-supporting neighbors (and oh yes, they are in fact on every fucking block) and try to see through the lens of their lives for a moment? Is there a better time than now? It is, after all, the most wonderful time of the year – the most wonderful time for a kind word, for a $20 drop into the red Salvation Army collection bucket, for donating a few hours at the local homeless shelter, for welcoming family into your home, for creating new traditions with your lovers and children, for putting up a real Christmas tree (or two), for saying a prayer for the Syrian refugees, and certainly for remembering that we are all human. One election does not change that simple fact, nor does it change the fact that every day every one of us has a choice to help or to hurt another. Regardless of how you voted (or didn’t), that is really the only choice that matters.

Happy holidays, with love.

we are one

Today’s post might come across as being less thematic or organized than they typically are, but only because I have a lot of seemingly disconnected thoughts running through my head these last couple of days. So where do I begin? For starters, I’m no less in love with this place than I was four days ago. I’m actually on a bit of a mission now to meet as many locals (both natives and expats) as I can and ask them as many questions as possible to get a genuine feel for what living here might be like. Sean and I have for the past year or so been trying to wrap our heads around our retirement plan. Neither of us plans to work within the confines of corporate America much longer than getting our kids into college and out into the world; if we end up keeping our family the same size it is now, this plan will conveniently time itself with the payoff of our house as well. In order to execute this plan successfully from a financial perspective, we know that a relocation to another country may be necessary. And in many ways, welcomed. If I could make it happen in my current remote sales position, I wouldn’t be opposed to moving our family down here sooner than later. Giving them unique international exposure at such a young age, and at a qualified Montessori or Waldorf school here in Costa Rica wouldn’t be the worst thing we could do for them. At this point, however, I’m already pushing the boundaries of my company’s comfort zone as it relates to my location. To one of my bosses who I know will be reading this, though, I offer you these facts: the internet quality is high, the time zone is the same, and you’d have free lodging any time you wish in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Esta bien? 🙂

So, back to my investigative research on living here. Two of the tours I’ve been on so far were guided by a local Tico named Alan (natively, Rio). He runs one of the primary tour companies here in Nosara and because it’s the low season here, both of my tours were near-private opportunities for me to ask a million questions about the area and its culture. Alan was an absolute wealth of information on everything from the medicinal properties of the local flora (his grand-father is one of the community elders and nearly shamanic in reputation), to the governmental corruption (a factor to some degree in all countries) affecting things like road conditions, to the pros and cons of owning real estate in the various sections of Nosara. Surprisingly when I asked him if the natives felt overrun and resentful of the expat growth in this area, he said no. In addition to bringing the wealth of tourism to this small community, Westerners, he said, have also added incredible value in teaching them about environmentally friendly practices, thereby helping them protect and preserve the land they hold dear. Alan, along with all of the other locals I have met so far, have engaged me with nothing but warmth and kindness. He encouraged me to seriously consider relocating our life here, saying, “You just bring your beautiful family down here and I’ll show you everything you need to know.”

While I certainly appreciate his confidence, I know that as an American I’m used to certain amenities. I may be more adventurous than some, but I still take things like security and an endless supply of hot water for granted. So that’s why I needed to and still need to spend a significant amount of time talking to the Americans who’ve actually up and left their nice cars, paved roads and health insurance for a life here. For that reason I was compelled to say yes when a fellow Coloradan on my waterfall hike tour invited me to a kirtan chanting session (If you’re from Colorado and you practice yoga, you’ve probably done it or have heard of it; if you’re from the Midwest and just Googled it, you’re definitely rolling your eyes right now) with some local expats. In the zen state I’ve found myself on since I got here, I thought nothing of climbing into a stranger’s truck last night with three other strangers, only to head straight up a mountain in the remote jungle to yet another  stranger’s house to chant. Did anyone else see the movie Turistas and is now wondering how I made it back with all of my organs in tact and properly stored inside of my own body? As if I’m not painting enough of a horror movie-worthy picture just in time for Halloween, now imagine the part where the car full of me and the strangers blows a tire…at dusk, in the rain. How do I appropriately convey that this all happened without any sense of fear or worry on my part? The sense of peace and calm in this community is difficult to put into words. It took all of three minutes for a local man to pull over (with his kids waiting in the truck) and help us out. We had a tire, but no tire jack. This man had a tire jack and an air compressor. And sure, as our driver suggested, he probably knew she’d give him some cash for his time, but who really cares? People here earn money doing just about everything and anything, and I for one was more than supportive of helping to boost the local economy in this way! Not to mention being in any undeveloped country has always made me realize how much excess (and expectation of excess) we have in the United States. My tendency is always to over-tip and to avoid bartering, even when it’s not what the culture dictates. It just feels like the right thing for someone in my position to do. In the end, we made it up the mountain, we ate, we chanted, and I opened myself up to new people and new experiences.

If ever a place existed where people from all different cultures, religions, continents and lifestyles existed, this would be it. All of them, minus the assholes.

a spiritual experience

Today was my second full day in Nosara, where, despite all manner of round-the-clock bird and monkey calls, it’s impossible for me not to sleep like the dead. I assumed like any other vacation away from the kids that I’d maintain the same 6am internal alarm clock my son has cursed me with for the last six years (notice how I specifically reference Kellan here – if it were up to Kathryn we’d all be sleeping until 9am every day…very soon I sense we’ll be taking many mother/daughter trips to all corners of the world and sleeping our faces off in every last damn one of them). But not here, not in this place that feels to me as if it’s producing actual joy from every leaf, wave and creature I encounter.

Not only do I sleep better than I can remember ever sleeping before, but I have none of my usual fear of all tropical creatures – remember the gecko in my room in Bali that caused me days of anxiety, albeit one of my more entertaining blog posts? That experience, along with last year’s girls’ trip to Tulum fraught with scorpions, snakes, lizards, behemoth moths and a bat in our room have taught me well.

Upon check-in:

Me: “Okay, Adrian, let’s have a serious conversation about what sort of things might scare me around here.”

Adrian: “Um, okay….”

Me: “What do you got? Snakes? Lizards?”

Adrian: “No, we don’t really have anything like that here. You know what a gecko is?”

Me: (fuuuuuuuuuck) “Mmmmmhmmmm”

Adrian: “They’re super tiny (makes hand gesture to show me something that is maybe 2 inches long).”

Me: (large wave of relief washes over) “Oh, okay, no problem”

Adrian: “Yeah, that’s about it.”

Well guess what? Adrian is a motherfucking liar. Yes, there are tiny geckos. There are also giant lizards, bright red poisonous crabs and an unnaturally fast-moving snake that nearly slithered right over my feet on my way to get a massage today. But here’s the crazy thing – I’ve barely flinched at the sight of any of them. My massage therapist nearly came out of her skin today (no pun intended) when I said, “oh, there’s a snake”, as casually as if I’d just noted the color of the sidewalk. For those of you who’ve been witness to my irrational fear of anything that lacks fur (exception: mice) and moves with what I would call reckless abandon, you know what a big deal this is. I have no explanation for this phenomenon other than to tell you that I feel like this is my other home. Every new sight is incredible, yes, but also strangely familiar. I cannot stop smiling. I am by no means fluent in Spanish, but I seem to have retained considerably more vocabulary and grammar than my peers who took the same number of classes in highschool and I’ve been told in multiple Spanish-speaking countries now that my accent sounds legit. Is this all just coincidence or is there really something more spiritual happening here for me in Costa Rica?

For now, I’m just going with the flow. I acknowledge that my experience here is very limited at this point and that I’m far from living the local life and the lack of Western amenities that must entail, but another thing I’ve learned is this: the extensive expat community that I read so much about when I was researching Nosara consists not just of Americans, which I originally assumed, but of people from all over the world – Europe, Australia, Canada, India, South America. Again, is this really a coincidence, or is there a more powerful force at work here – a unique gathering of seekers, perhaps?  I did learn that this particular area of Costa Rica is one of the world’s rare Blue Zones where people live considerably longer than in other parts of the world. If the spirit and joy I feel at the cellular level here isn’t fleeting after all, then I can’t say I’m surprised.

nosara, costa rica

Nosara. Also now known as my own personal slice of heaven. I arrived just over 24 hours ago and I am already seeking out realtors. You might be wondering how I even chose this place out of the infinite options available to me, seeing as most people who’ve been to Costa Rica on vacation have never even heard of it. It is not a resort town by any stretch of the imagination – it is essentially a coastal wildlife preserve on the western coast of the Nicoya Peninsula with a bunch of surf shops and a few high-end hippie bungalows. It’s where jungle meets pristine beach. It’s an area where hundreds of thousands of Olive Ridley sea turtles come to nest. It’s a place where, in part due to the turtle migration, commercial development is banned within so many meters of the beach. Though I can’t quite recall my Google search terms, I discovered Nosara some year or so ago on the web. All I remember is reading about its focus on ecosystem preservation, its plethora of yoga schools and studios and its well-established expat community. It basically sounded like Boulder, Colorado with a Latin tropical flair, so after biting off more than I could chew with my poorly planned trip to Vietnam, it sounded just perfect.

And so far, it is. My problem with most beach destinations that Americans generally flock to is that they are flat. Think Florida, parts of Mexico and the majority of the islands in the Caribbean. Sure I love a nice clear, turquoise surf as much as the next person, but I also need terrain – rolling hills, mountains and valleys. That’s why for me Hawaii has always been the cat’s pajamas – lush, green volcanic mountains with dramatic cliffs overlooking the deep blue sea that is at times filled with what I believe is the animal kingdom’s most impressive member – the Humpback whale. There’s a reason they filmed Jurassic Park there. That’s exactly what Hawaii looks like and it is, without a doubt, nature perfected. On the other hand, it’s also one of the United States and in the middle of nowhere, making it one of the most expensive places on Earth. Looking over the Costa Rican landscape from my plane filled me with the same feeling I get flying into Maui except with the very real thought that, “this could be my home one day.” I landed at the relatively small Liberia airport and because this is the low tourist season, flew right through customs and quickly found my way to the Hertz rental location. My perma-grin took a temporary hiatus during the car rental process as I was firmly informed that my estimated $300 weekly rental was in fact going to cost me $600 due to vaguely-disclosed, mandatory insurance coverage, but it quickly returned on the 2+ hour drive to Nosara. Another reason Hawaii is so appealing when you compare it to other islands and 3rd world tropical destinations is that, because it is one of the 50 states, its standards for things like garbage collection and road maintenance are the same as they are in any of the other 49. Bali, on the other hand, while uniquely beautiful in so many ways, has poorly maintained roads, the sides of which you often find piled with trash. There are of course monkeys picking through it instead of rats and mice, but it’s still a mostly unpleasant scene. For the first hour of my drive through Costa Rica, I kept thinking to myself how beautiful the landscape is as I drove around one winding road after another, similar to at least a few places I’ve traveled to, but I couldn’t put my finger on what decidedly made this one different. Then it dawned on me – Costa Rica is clean. Not only are the ditches free of the trash you see in so many 3rd world countries, but even when you drive through the poorest of towns and villages with mostly aging buildings and infrastructure, the area around them is well-maintained. The homes, no matter how humble in stature, are extremely tidy and well-manicured. Of course I’m speaking only of the small portion of Costa Rica I’ve driven through so far, but I believe it’s enough to know that most “Ticos” take a great deal of pride in their own environment as well as the environment as a whole.

90% of the kilometers from Liberia to Nosara is newly paved two-lane highway. Ah, but there’s that last 10% – about 24km of gravel and potholes that takes about an hour to navigate. Once you get here, you don’t leave, unless it’s on a motorbike or a quad and it’s only a mile or two. But why would you want to? I am staying at the Harmony Hotel – one of the upscale, jars-of-local-organic-toasted-cashews-in-the-room places. I have a private outdoor shower and hammock. For when it rains (it definitely rains in October), I have a covered outdoor chaise lounge with its own ceiling fan in case I get a little too warm while reading my latest feminist memoir. There is a lovely pool and a yoga studio – excuse me, a “healing center” – and a juice bar. A real bar serving up blended homemade ginger-infused vodka concoctions (I’m on my third as I type this) and a sandy, jungle-y pathway to what is seriously the best beach I have ever seen. Which explains why two months ago you’d have found as many as 300 surfers in the water at any given time. But now that it’s low season, it belongs only to me and the 11 other people staying at the Harmony Hotel this week. I took my first surfing lesson today. It went about as expected – I fell and I fell and I fell and I fell. And I got up a few times. I’ll say this – there’s a reason you don’t see any overweight surfers. Runners, yes. Cyclists, yes. Baseball players, yes. Football players, yes (yeah, I’m talking to you Ben Roethlisberger). Surfers, no. In order to create the muscle memory needed to even get up on the board, you need a strict workout diet of burpees and chaturangas. That’s even before the art of balance and navigation of the board come into play. Because Playa Guiones (that’s the incredible beach I currently own) is so perfectly free of rocks, shells and coral, I still had a ton of fun. The water is warm and the waves are inviting.

I then took my first nap in years. Years.

Shortly after I woke up I was picked up by my tour guide, Alan (real name, Rio), to go see this whole turtle nesting process that everyone talks about down here. The arribada, it’s called in Spanish, or “the arrival.” Once a month on average, usually in line with the lunar cycle, hundreds upon hundreds of sea turtles come on shore here to nest and lay their eggs. Tonight I was witness to this incredible natural phenomenon. The beach where all of this hoopla takes place is maybe 5-10km north of where I’m at – it’s a black sand beach, which the turtles prefer because it makes it that much darker (they come onshore at night). Since white or bright light scares the mama turtles, the guides carry around special red lights so that we can see what’s going on without freaking them out. The female turtle comes onshore at high tide, usually at night, and digs and digs and digs with her back fins (fins?) until she has a hole that’s about a foot deep. She then props herself over the hole and starts dropping eggs that look like ping-pong balls. About 100 of them. As I watched one mama finish up this mass birthing ritual, I said to the all-male group, “Wow, she must feel SO GOOD now.” Especially since those eggs have been inside of her growing and growing for the last 4-5 months. About 100 of them. By the time we left, it had gotten considerably darker and the tide considerably higher so there were turtles everywhere- so many that it was important to stay very close to my guide with the red light so as not to step on one or, more importantly, get in the way of her getting 100 eggs out of her body.

Well, it’s late here and I don’t want to miss a minute of my second night’s sleep. All 10 blissful hours of it. Ah, la pura vida.