A Life Made of Great Mistakes

 

I met Deano at the base of a small waterfall in Costa Rica, outside of a small town named Uvita. I had trudged for an hour on a hilly dusty road in punishing heat, the type of humidity that sticks to you in. A thin layer of dust mixing with sweat began cementing itself onto my body I was ready to wash it off. Once I arrived, there were already a few other people in the small, pristine pool at the base of the waterfall. I watched young boys with primate acrobatics climb up the slippery rocks and propel their bodies over the falls. And as I jumped into the cold water, I felt myself become clean again.

As I pulled myself out of the water and onto the dry rocks, and I started packing my bag and dry my hair, this American guy came up to me. He asked if I could take a picture of him in the waterfall and handed me his GoPro, which I did because taking photos for strangers there is a silent understanding in the travel community where everybody asks and everyone does it, and you are always appreciative. Even if you are disappointed with the uninstagramable photo you get back. I gave him his GoPro and started doing a recording, “Hey guys, me again I just wanted to give you guys a quick update. I’m in Uvita, Costa Rica at the base of a tiny waterfall in the middle of the jungle. It’s so magical here.” As he kept talking into the camera, I was like whoooaaaa who is this guy, and I wondered what he was doing this for. As he finished and my body began to prune, he started chatting and I quickly got swept up in his tsunami of words, giving me the details of his trip. He had been bouncing around Central America following his internal compass that changed as quickly as the wind, with no clear direction.  It was one of those interactions were pausing to mention our names would have only slowed us down.

As I started to carry on with the rest of my day he asked,  “ Aren’t you going to jump back in?” in a slight drawl that made me feel welcomed. He had the face of a man who has been through a lot, but still sees each experience like it’s the first time and I felt like I could maybe learn something from him.

I travel out of lonlieness, which is ironic because I am alone most of the time, it is an aspect I have always tried to escape but finds me wherever I am.

“ Well, what are you doing for the rest of the day?” “Well I was going to check out the whale’s tale later” “Can I join you?” He asked. “Sure!” I said. “Ok let me just go to my hostel.” We hitched a ride with a local who brought us higher and deeper into the jungle as we made small talk in our broken American accented Spanish. Once we got out of the car and as I waited for him to retrieve his bags, I walked up to the elevated outside patio, perched up so one could peer into the layers of the jungle. It wasn’t until we were done at his hostel, ready to carry on with our day that I realized we hadn’t even exchanged names yet.

It’s fun to look back at a moment when you meet someone, not knowing the future effect they will have on you, looking at what you know now. Deano and I ended up spending a significant amount of time together, bouncing in and out of each other’s adventures for the next few weeks. I wasn’t able to interview him then, so this is a Skype recording done when we were both back in the states. Here is his story.

Life often tests our resilience- how well can we survive through the unpredictable chaos and unpleasant events we all experience in life? To be able to survive is great,  but that doesn’t always indicate growth. What about those who get broken down and grow even more from those negative experiences?

What would you do if everything you worked for- successful company, healthy body, living in a great city-was suddenly taken away from you? Many survive the setbacks of unpredictable chaos and unpleasant events and are able to return to a normal life. But what about those who not only get back to where they were at but grow even more? Who sees life for the fleeting opportunity that it is and take these setbacks as a challenge to grow? We call those people antifragile. Deano’s story is the quintessential example of being antifragile- living in LA, having a budding tech company, being at physical peak and then all of that was taken away when he got into a horrible accident.

After a year of physical therapy, instead of returning to the grind, he packed his bags and took full advantage of his newfound strength and the opportunity to do what he was never able to before. Deano bought a one-way ticket to Central America, lived abroad, learned Spanish, hiked erupting volcanos, jumped over waterfalls and experienced the robustness life has to offer.

Later that day we ventured out to a corner of the beach where the waves come in at an angle, and the sand juts out into the bay in the shape of a whale’s tail. Seriously, it looks like a giant whale’s tail, it’s so bizarre. It was low tide when we decided to go out to it. An hour passed in what seemed like a few minutes as we walked the line of sand dividing the Pacific shore from the rest of the world.

We walked slowly through the thinning foliage alongside the beach, and the shade from the trees relieved us from the blistering Costa Rican sun. The small talk began to peel away with our clothing. He opened up about how his universe had been thrown into chaos and was taking time to travel and reflect, fulfill some life goals before heading back to the States.

I felt comforted being around someone who felt tugged in lots of directions at the same time, never knowing if they will all someday converge. He also had a few years on me which I thought it was brave for him to go out, at a time when establishing your career is so imperative in the States. It’s always affirming when you meet people who have decided to take themselves out of their element to figure stuff out, who are just as lost…. no I don’t want to say lost….. maybe directionless, or wayward, who are just as wayward as you are and are OK with taking time to figure it out.

Once we were at tip of the whale’s tail—at the point farthest from shore—the tide started to rise. Extreme risk takers are rare, but I felt like my conversation with Deano was helping me figure out what I wanted in life. How much further could I travel? How many more risks could I take before burning out? Was I like Deano—someone who needed chaos to survive, like love or water?

Suddenly the bags we had put down were almost under the ocean, at risk of being swept away as the sea rushed in around us. In the distance, what had once looked like boulders in the sand were now floating pebbles. We hurried back to shore, the tide lapping our calves.

Talking to Deano about how life just sweeps you up sometimes, made me feel focused, and connected, like I had just found a tiny piece of my puzzle. Few people bring that feeling out in me the way he did when we walked back to shore along the edge of the world, ready to fall off.
In this episode, we discuss,

  • How he became an entrepreneur
  • How he got into a motorcycle accident
  • Why he chose to travel to Latin America
  • What it was like to hike volcanoes
  • What he learned from his accident
  • How he perceives his body- post accident
  • Why he wanted to learn Spanish
  • What it was like to travel to Latin America
  • What it was like to live in Latin America
  • What his travels taught him
  • Listen to his stories and adventures while traveling through Latin America
  • His perspective on how the universe tests him
  • How he became anti-fragile

 

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How to Weather Long Distance Relationships

I met Gaby while I was volunteering in a hostel in Costa Rica.  Born and raised in San Jose, Gaby thought she was going to go down the traditional path of education right into a career. However, her choice to work in a hostel, just to get some dinero on the side, has unintentionally challenged the way she thinks about her future.

She has formed a new perspective on homeland by seeing it through the eyes of people who are experiencing it for the first time. She has become endlessly inspired by the travelers who wander in and out of her hostel who are far from home and perceive her normal to be vastly different. She strikes up a conversation with everyone, whether it is asking them questions about their explorations or native soil, guiding them to the bus station to their next destination, or cluing them in on where to get the best cup of coffee in San Jose. We would spend hours during the quiet afternoons of the hostel having little music jams while doing the daily chores. She would create a warm and welcoming space for every weary traveler who walked through the doors of Hostel Beku.

This seemingly innocuous job choice has forced her to question everything about what she was doing with her life. She has been given a hidden perspective of the ways travelers live and move on a day to day basis and has inspired her to get out of her comfort zone.   And with the help of her American beau, whom she met through pure random and romantic chance, she now has the motivation and ability to go and reach some of the places that once seemed untouchable.

In this episode, we discuss

  • How she met her American boyfriend
  • How she is able to maintain a long distance relationship
  • The cultural differences between dating someone from America
  • What she went to school for
  • What working at the hostel has taught her
  • Why she wants to travel
  • What it is like to date someone from another country
  • How she gets fly benefits
  • How she learned English
  • What life is like growing up in Costa Rica

The Rewards of Teaching English in Costa Rica

San Jose, Costa Rica

Sara and I also met at the hostel in San Jose, Costa Rica where she was working at a program that teaches English to locals. Sara says exactly what’s on her mind and has a specific pep about her that is emulated by the bounce in her curly red hair.

Although far from Scotland, Costa Rica was not her first rodeo. As a well-traveled woman, she is attuned to the complexities and subtleties of new places and is thrilled by how vastly different locations in the world can share so many similarities, exposing the elegant simplicity of our earth. This love of learning combined with a travel competition she has with her brothers keeps her on the move. She strives for a genuine travel experience and is not interested in seeing a new terrain through a window, she wants to get her feet on the ground, breath the air, and chat up anyone that comes her way. Here is her story.

 

In this podcast episode, we discuss

  • What it is like to work abroad
  • What it is like to teach English abroad
  • What it is like to live in Costa Rica
  • What it is like to live abroad  
  • What it is like to live in a different culture
  • What it is like to have a travel competition with her brothers
  • What it is like and what she has learned to have traveled to 40+ countries
  • What are the similarities and differences between humans she has found by traveling to 40+countries
  • What it is like to travel through the Middle East as a solo female traveler
  • What it is like to be a solo female traveler
  • What it is like to travel far from home

 

If you are from the UK and are interested in teaching English abroad so you can live and work anywhere in the world ( #locationindependencegoals) check out the CELTA course program that Sara did!

http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/teaching-english/teaching-qualifications/celta/

How to Be Location Independent with Sarah

 

I was living in San Jose, Costa Rica working at hostel Beku, and my boss wanted to throw a party and I offered to make a cake. However, I had to use his oven in his apartment next door and he mentioned his roommate might be home. I baked alone that afternoon until I heard the door open. Unaware of my presence, Sarah exclaimed, “ Is that cake I smell?!?” I peered out from the kitchen to see who had joined me and go to explain I was not break into her apartment “Oh we don’t shake hands, we hug” as she roped me into her embrace. “Omg I thought as this stranger was squeezed me, I love this girl,.”

We immediately broke into a long conversation, as if it was unfinished from years ago. Like a hummingbird, flying from one flower to the next Sarah gave a scattered synopsis of what brought her to Costa Rica and how she was leaving in a few weeks. Keeping my feelings to myself, I selfishly got upset at that news because we had just met and there was already too much to talk about.

Later at the party, we sat with her other friend, also named Sarah but from Scotland (who was in the previous episode) whose quick tongue kept up with Sara and I go on the 11th hour of our first conversation. As the hours went by and the cake got smaller, I was told the history of their friendship, which is a beautiful thing to witness, when you watch two people who are so appreciative of the other, and experiencing them recount their favorite or silliest memories from the past, while relishing in their tropical future together. “This cake amazing, can you make it for my going away party?” She said.  I twinged, that was a reminder that she would be leaving soon, but our friendship had just begun.

In this episode, we discuss

  • How she chose to live in Costa Rica
  • Why she left London to travel the world
  • Why she abandoned a publishing career to start her own business
  • What friendship is like when you are away
  • How families handle long distance travel
  • Defining moments of friendship
  • How it is like to make friends abroad
  • How to live abroad for years
  • How she got turned onto diving
  • How she finds community abroad
  • What it is like to explore the ocean
  • How it is like to have your own online business
  • What it is like to live out of the conventional life
  • What it is like to live around the world
  • What it is like to work around the world
  • What it is like to be location independent
  • What it is like to teach English abroad
  • What it is like to be a solo female traveler

Since we parted in Costa Rica she has continued to bounce around the world, going from teaching in New Zealand to being a Divemaster on a tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, where she was residing when we had this conversation. It reminds me of the planet the Little Prince lives on, taking only 15 minutes to walk around the entire floating piece of land, gently bobbing in the middle of the sea. She has become enamored with the discoveries of the underwater world, one that mirrors the great depth she finding within herself. Here’s her story.

I Ran Away to Become a Yoga Teacher in Guatemala

This interview chose to stay nameless so we will call him David. I met David while visiting Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. He was working as a yoga instructor at a beautiful hostel overlooking the edge of the lake.

I haggardly arrived late at night after a 3-hour whiplash of a ride through the Guatemalan mountains and then nearly missing the last boat out to the lake. I unexpectedly walked into a rambunctious game of trivia, employees vs guests, which I thought I would skip out of. But I somehow got roped onto the employee team, and David’s kinetic energy picked me right back up as we ruthlessly played against the other teams.

I was immediately taken aback by his next level trivia and memory skills. Ostensibly, David comes off with this bouncy, warm energy, like he’s running on 14 cups of coffee. However, meditation and yoga seem to be the perfect activity to channel and ground his ebullience. David has had quite the journey traveling the world, which is lead by his desire to deepen his yoga practice. 

I think the part that made me feel so comfortable so quickly with David was the fact that he also didn’t really know what he was doing, and I felt comfortable enough to speak very openly about my lack of direction with him.

In our interview, he talks about how he has always had an aversion to office jobs, like entering the conventional work force would be his modern day Sisyphus, it being a means to an end. To push up the proverbial rock would have crushed the creativity inside of him.

He searched for different forms of creativity and expression but began to take a toll on his body

So he said fuck it.

I participated in a few of his outside classes, his lesson seemed to absorb the sceneries elements, through motion, we channeled the energy of the volcanos around us, while he simultaneously pushed us to find inner stillness as calm and deep as the lake. As a socially silly person, he takes his yoga classes very seriously.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

E11-How to Find the Pura Vida Life: Interview with Caryn from Minnesota

 

Caryn and I bumped paths while still working in a hostel in Costa Rica. She is hard to miss between her immeasurable height, voice, and personality to match. As boisterous as her presence is, she is attracted to the relaxed, Caribbean sway that is hard to come by in frigid Minnesota. I bring her on initially to tell a regional American joke that I had never heard before. This is a little snapshot of the energy and playfulness that is bouncing out of her and I will let it speak for itself.

In this podcast episode, we discuss

  • What it is like to live in Minnesota
  • Why she travels to Costa Rica
  • What the Pura Vida life provides her
  • Her favorite food in Costa Rica
  • What are Lina and Oli jokes?
  • Where did Lina and Oli jokes originate?

Lena and Ole jokes became popularized around the 1940’s in the Northern Midwestern states of America. They are born from the Norwegian and Swedish immigrants who landed in the US, playfully making fun of their cultural misunderstandings in their new homes and cooling tensions between the immigrants and locals.  I loved that I had to go all the way to Costa Rica to discover these jokes that are coveted by an entire group of people who share my nationality.

By meeting Caryn you can understand how these innocuous, teetering between ranchy and wholesome jokes have molded her springy light on life, I didn’t get to spend too much time with her, yet her laugh is still vibrating within me.

Here’s one for the road.
Ole is on his deathbed. The doctor has told him he has only a few hours to live. He catches the scent of his favorite bars wafting through the air. With all the strength he can muster, he drags himself into the kitchen and sees a fresh pan cooling on the rack. He cuts one out and bites into the scrumptious cookie. Lena comes in, smacks his hand, and says, “Shame on you, Ole! Dese are for after de funeral!”

 

E10-A World Filled with Sun: Interivew with Tiina from Finland

San Jose, Costa Rica

 

 I met Tina, from Finland, while making breakfast for the travelers at hostel Beku in Costa Rica.

My main job while volunteering at the hostel was to make breakfast for all of the guests and other volunteers, which was nice to be creative and cook in the quiet pura vida mornings- alone with my thoughts as I sliced pineapple and mixed generic pancake mix in water.

A slender girl about my age, always wearing tights and a loose fitting prismatic tee shirt would typically be the first to come in and make tea. She was cute with bobbed brown hair and eyelashes that fluttered off of her eyes like that naturally framed and darkened her eyes without mascara. Now I usually hate talking in the mornings, but with her conversations came naturally.

When I’m in the place I live in, I’m typically an introvert and desire silence, but I would force myself to wake up and interact with this girl.

“What are you doing up so early? I hate being up at this hour.”

“ I have started doing yoga here.”

‘Of course you do,’ I thought to myself, ‘every white girl comes to Costa Rica to yoga.

“I had a lot of issues with my back and it really helps.”

Whelp, I’m quick to judge.

But it was nice to have some company as I whipped up the pineapple juice off the counter and added cinnamon to the pancake batter.

“Where are you from?” I asked unable to specifically identify her accent.

“Finland.” She curtly replied

After emerging from my introverted turtle shell I said, “Omg, you are far from home!” and couldn’t stop asking her questions about her home life.

She was the first person I had ever met from Finland, and I was fascinated with why she chose to travel to Costa Rica and what it was like to be in an environment so far the one that completely contradicted her home life.

Tina needed to find a place that was a 180 from her 9 months of snow, before becoming complacent with her beautifully simplistic life above the arctic circle. She decided to go and explore a climate and people on the other end of the world away from her reindeer eating folks men. Flying in with a come what may attitude, Tina has not been disappointed with the challenges she has faced and exposure to new perspectives that have blossomed within her in a warmer world without snow. This trip has generated great reflection and better understanding about who she is fundamentally, and how she wants to construct the scaffolding of her future. Here’s her story.  
In this podcast episode, we discuss

  • What it is like to live above the arctic circle.
  • The psychological and social aspects of being in darkness.
  • What life in Finland is like.
  • What it is like to live in a world dominated by snow.
  • How to socialize with Finnish people.
  • How to cook reindeer.
  • Why she chose to travel to Costa Rica.
  • What she has learned about herself while traveling.
  • The self-growth she has experience from travel.
  • How to tell really bad jokes in Finish- spoiler alert- they hate talking.

Why Travel to Quintana Roo

The bedrock of the Yucatán peninsula is unique to the world. The layers of carbonate and soluble rock, mostly limestone, allow cenotes to form. Local to only this region of the world, cenotes are fresh water pools created by collapsed limestone around the land that was once ruled by the Mayans. The intensity of the colors in these freshwater pools are like swimming in a pool of smeared colors on a painter’s palate; turquoise blends with navy blue and forest green. Cenotes were easily my favorite new discovery while traveling through Quintana Roo, Mexico.

With only a small amount of soil on the surface to contain it, rain water filters down through the rock and, through the progression of time, forms underground rivers. As these rivers flow, they erode the soluble rocks around them and carve out tunnels and underground caverns. Eventually, without enough support beneath them, the roofs of these caverns will collapse, exposing the ground water beneath.

Cenote is the Spanish equivalent of the Mayan word “dzontot”, meaning “well.” These wells were the only source of fresh water for the Mayan people occupying the Yucatán. It is easy to see why many of their sites are built around or within close proximity of, these natural structures. There are estimated to be around 7,000 cenotes in the Yucatán, many of which still remain undiscovered.

Some cenotes appear like ponds on the surface, whilst others can look like ponds that lie tens of feet below the surface and have sheer walls: appearing much like a well. Older cenotes, may lie tens of feet below the surface and have caverns or overhangs around or above them.

Cenotes themselves can lead to vast underground caves, many have yet to be mapped. The second largest cave in the world is Sistema Sac Actun and lies in the Municipality of Tulum, inside the Riviera Maya. The two longest underwater cave systems in the world, are located in the state of Quintana Roo. Both have consistently increased in length as they have been explored.

They were the Mayan’s sole source of fresh water, but they also had religious connotations. Water from some cenotes was thought to be holy and collected by priests and used during rituals at temples. In Mayan mythology, there were three entryways into Xibalbá, the underworld, and one of these was believed to be at the bottom of cenotes.

The Maya also believed they could communicate with the Gods by offering sacrifices and gifts into cenotes, including humans. The rain god Chac was thought to live at the bottom of cenotes and this was depicted in murals and artwork. The Water Lilly Serpent has also been depicted in these artworks and it was believed that the presence of lilies in a cenote denoted that the water was pure.

Water from some cenotes was thought to be holy and collected by priests and used during rituals at temples.

In Mayan mythology, there were three entryways into Xibalbá, the underworld, and one of these was believed to be at the bottom of cenotes. The Maya also believed they could communicate with the Gods by offering sacrifices and gifts into cenotes, including humans. The rain god Chac was thought to live at the bottom of cenotes and this was depicted in murals and artwork. The Water Lilly Serpent has also been depicted in these artworks and it was believed that the presence of lilies in a cenote denoted that the water was pure.

On the grounds of Chichen Itza, there is also a sacred cenote also referred to as the Well of Sacrifice, where they would throw relinquished bodies into the waters covered with head dresses and jewelry, weighing them down and thwarting them from swimming or floating.

What To Do When Visiting Cenotes

Cenotes are the perfect location for snorkeling and scuba diving. The filtration of the water through the bedrock into these underground rivers leaves them almost entirely free of floating particles; resulting in crystal clear waters and visibility up to a spectacular 200ft (60meters). Besides awe inspiring underwater landscapes and a variety of aquatic plant life, there is also a quantity of fish that inhabit these subterranean worlds including, but not limited to: tetras, catfish, and wild mollies.

Not a fan of snorkeling or scuba diving? This certainly does not mean that you shouldn’t visit a cenote. Not only are they naturally beautiful wonders but cenotes are natures very own naturally formed swimming pools. Here, shaded by the surrounding jungle you can find spots to sunbath and then cool off inside the water, which year round stays at a blissful 24°C (75°F). You may also see some jungle wildlife swing by whilst you are relaxing here in these jungle oases.

Searching for Self

Episode 9

Lake Atitlan: Guatemala

Have you always resisted the office job? Do you need a life that keeps you moving, questions, and searching for yourself outside of the conventional path? David had those same questions and drives. In this episode he opens up about the struggles and exhaustion of not fitting in and the rewards he has found by stepping off the trail and walking down an unpaved route. Here is his story.