I have been on many adventures in my life but this last one has certainly been the biggest one yet. No waterfall or mountainside can compare to bringing a child into the world, and I did just that! My beautiful baby was born two months ago on a summery July day and it is by far my most cherished memory of them all. I went on a Hiatus when I got pregnant, focusing on nothing but keeping myself and my baby as healthy and happy as I could. He is here now and I am confident and ready to go on many more excursions bringing my sweet new addition along for the ride.
After 4 and a half long months in the USA I am officially back in Costa Rica. I have lived here well over 2 years and this was my first visit back home to see family. I didn’t know what to expect coming back. It happened pretty quickly, I went to the USA on a one-way ticket with the intention of staying maybe a month or two, but one thing lead to another and there I was 4 months later still living the “American Dream.” I was working odd jobs here and there, bouncing from one family members house to the next. Saving whatever penny I could.
Throughout my whole trip in the states I missed Costa Rica, I think mainly because my whole life has been here for so long. An apartment, a dog, boyfriend, a job, friends, you name it. I felt so out of place being back in the United States. I just spent over 2 years out of the country, but so much was the same. I found myself saying “well in Costa Rica we…” or “in Costa Rica I used to…” I actually annoyed myself by how much I would talk about it so I can’t imagine how other people were starting to feel after hearing all of my CR stories. But how could I stop? I just spent the best almost 3 years of my life traveling and doing incredible things in a beautiful foreign county. That’s all I wanted to talk about.
That is when I realized 100% where my heart belongs and where it doesn’t. It doesn’t belong in some town with rows of the same chain restaurants you can find anywhere or 15 big box stores. It doesn’t belong on the busy roads trying to beat rush hour traffic. It definitely doesn’t belong anywhere cold. It belongs in the jungle, in the rain forest, on the beach. It is meant to roam.
I finally felt ready (financially, mentally, emotionally) to book my tickets back to this paradise. The last bit of my trip was a blur. Packing, buying last minute necessities, saying goodbye to my family. But a 5 hour drive to the airport, two 3 hour flights, a 4 hour a bus ride and here I am! Sitting in the green Costa Rican mountains.
It feels good. And different. A little overwhelming. But it feels like home!
There is no final destination. There is not one magical spot where you will find yourself with all the answers. It is a journey and a process that cannot be sped up.
I have heard many people say “I know this is exactly where I need to be” and I have long wondered when or where I will finally feel that sensation. That the stars have all aligned and I am EXACTLY where I need to be. I love to travel, I love the different places I see, I am thankful that in some places I feel right at home with the culture and the people, in most places I am happy and excited to be there. But I have never had this wave of absolute tranquility wash over me reassuring me that I am EXACTLY where I am supposed to be.
Does this feeling exist? Perhaps for some. Some people may wake every morning with no doubt in their mind that where they are at that moment in time is exactly where they need to be. I do not. Maybe it is true that not all those who wander are lost, but what about those who are? I do believe that there are those, like myself, that don’t know if Africa, or NYC or Central America is exactly where they need to be.
Traveling (or moving) usually takes a lot of justification. To yourself, to your family, to those you are leaving behind. You have to justify why you are traveling to this new destination. You may have to convince your friends of fam to climb on board with your new plan to jet off somewhere. All in hopes of arriving somewhere new and being blessed with the feeling that you made the right choice. That you are where you need to be, when you need to be there.
I have always hoped for the day where I am not questioning if my whereabouts is whats right for my life in that particular moment. I began to think if I searched the mountains and seas that I would eventually find my place. Spoiler alert, I have not found it. I have found a place in the world that I love and feel at home in, but my mind still has not allowed me to feel the sense of security that I am where I NEED to be. I often wonder what my life would be like if I moved back to my hometown, or to India, or even down the street. Do I need to be one of those places? Maybe.
My advice to those who feel like me, that are on the hunt for this mythical location where they will feel 100% sure that it is where they need to be, is to remember it is okay to not know. To not have all the answers. There is no need to feel guilty or sad that while you are sitting in paradise, you are still pondering if maybe you should be somewhere else. Maybe you should be, but maybe you shouldn’t. The important thing is to count your blessings, open your heart and your mind to the lessons to be learned every step of the way and appreciate the journey that has gotten you to where ever you are right now. It is okay to wonder and speculate, it is part of the adventure.
I am homesick for so many different places, people and things. It is such a unique feeling, one that I have never experienced quite to this degree. It feels as if something is pulling my heart in 100 different directions. I want to be here, there, a little bit of everywhere. I want to be in a million different places at once. I miss my family back in the USA, I miss my dog in Costa Rica. I miss the fun I had on a cross-country road trip this summer, and I miss all of the people I have met along the way.
It feels as if I will never be 100% whole no matter where I am, because I have left little pieces of myself at every stop throughout my journey.
It is not a bad feeling. In fact, it makes me smile thinking about all of the experiences and adventures that have brought about this feeling of nostalgia. Just a new feeling. One of the many that go along with being a perpetual traveler and expat. Something to get used to, I suppose.
This is one of my favorite places ever. A natural waterfall park, Los Campesinos, located about an hour outside the town of Quepos, on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.
This is one of the many waterfalls, with a big swimming hole to play in.
I have been quite a few times, but one of the last times I went, I was fortunate to go with brother, sister and a big group of friends! It was such an adventure and I was so thrilled to show them some hidden treasures that Costa Rica has to offer.
Not only are there beautiful waterfalls to swim and play around in. There is an amazing suspension bridge that takes you right through the middle of the pristine rain forest and rushing falls!
Los Campesinos is most definitely a must-see!
I am currently visiting family in the USA and missing Costa Rica more and more each day. Out of all the things I miss, the thing I miss most is probably…. the food! I thought I’d share with you all what a typical day of Costa Rican cuisine looks like.
Breakfast, probably my favorite meal of the day. Typically begins with:
- Gallo Pinto– White rice and beans cooked together with a combination of yummy spices, salsa and cilantro
- Fried cheese– Typically queso fresco or soft cheese that is pan seared or warmed.
- Tortillas with Natilla– Warm corn tortillas with Costa Rica’s equivalent to sour cream. (I still miss real sour cream though.)
- Chifrijo– A mixture of rice, beans, chimmichurri, tomatoes, lime juice and pork. Usually topped with fried pork, chicharones, that is similar to a pork rine.
- Ceviche with Patacones- Common through Latin American, Ceviche is raw fish “cooked” with lime juice mixed with onion, tomato, and cilantro. Patacones are one of my favorite things ever. Green Plantains that are smooshed to form a round patty and fried with a pinch of salt. Crispy on the outside, soft in the inside. Seriously soo good.
- CASADO aka the best dish to ever grace this Earth!- A Casado is made up of
rice, beans, salad, sweet plantains, picadillo, a tortilla and your choice of meat.
I almost always order chicken in salsa, pollo en salsa, it’s just chicken slow cooked in a really good tomato sauce, (that I have yet to master.) You can also choose from steak, fish, pork or grilled chicken.
Drinks: because what is food without drinks?
- Alcoholic beverages:
- Beer– Imperial and Pilsen are the 2 most popular beer choices in Costa Rica. Imperial is definitely my favorite.
- Guaro Sour – Made with Costa Rican liquor derived from sugar cane mixed with lime juice. Seriously so refreshing.
- Chiliguaro– Usually served as a shot, made from Costa Rican liquor, lime juice
and hot sauce!
- Naturales– Juice from fresh fruit usually blended with ice or milk. Flavors like blackberry, banana, passion fruit, watermelon, and my favorite, guanabana!
- Coconut water– There are so many coconuts here, you can buy them on the beach or from the vendors walking down the streets.
- Coffee– You can never go wrong with Costa Rican coffee.
- Granizados– Basically a snow cone on crack. Shaved ice and a flavored syrup of your choosing (coconut is the best) mixed with evaporated milk then topped with condensed milk. Sounds strange but it is literally the best thing I have ever tried.
- Arroz con Leche aka Rice Pudding– Rice cooked with water, milk, cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg! (Yes, even their dessert is made with rice.)
Living over 2 years in Costa Rica as an expat has certainly been an adventure. Hectic and stressful at times but definitely something I wouldn’t change for the world. Living in a new country and away from your home, family and friends brings on a whole new set of perspectives I wouldn’t have otherwise seen. Like:
- Home really is where the heart is. Moving so many times in my life and now living in a completely different country, I have realized that I don’t have just 1 home. I have many homes. I have left a little bit of my heart in many different places, and all of those feel like my home in different ways. You have to build your home (and I don’t mean a house) around you, no matter where you are.
- Family isn’t always blood. Your family can be your neighbor, the nice lady that works at the supermarket, your business partner, the boy that rents the surf boards to you at the beach, anyone can become family. When you are so far away from home, it is important to find family in those around you.
- Friends will always be coming and going. Living as an expat usually means you aren’t living near the people you grew u with or your best friends from college. Living in a different country, friends will come and go. Many may move away. You may pack up and move on to the next adventure. You may become friends with people that are just passing through. It is tough sometimes, but comes with the territory.
- Making time to visit your loved ones is absolutely necessary. Getting wrapped up in your life, living with a different culture and new people is so easy to do. We all think “I’ll buy tickets in a few weeks” and then it turns into a few months, and in my case a few years. But if there is one thing I have learned, it is to make time for your loved ones, wherever they are in the world.
- Follow your heart. As cliche and corny as it sounds, it couldn’t be more true. Live your life the way YOU want to. If you want to live in Europe, China or in my case Costa Rica, just do it! Living as an expat is not always sunshine and sandy beaches. It gets lonely and difficult sometimes. But nothing is more satisfying than following your heart.
I had no intention of dating someone, let alone falling in love. I was just trying to travel and see new things, not look for a new relationship. But that’s love. It comes and smacks you in the face when you are least looking for it.
When you are in a relationship with anyone, of course there are ups, downs and all arounds. Being with someone from a different country and culture really brings a unique set of obstacles.
- You won’t have time for awkward silence. You will never run out of questions to ask about your partner and their culture. Trading your favorite music, books and movies is super fun. And can tell a lot about a person.
- Some things WILL be lost in translation. Especially if you speak two different languages some things,without a doubt, will be misinterpreted or just completely lost in translation. Humor often doesn’t translate well. Even if you speak the same language, lots of humor is based on cultural references which you most likely won’t share with your partner. It doesn’t have to be a deal breaker though, make your own inside jokes and don’t take it personally if you are around their friends and can’t always laugh along with them.
- There are no stupid questions. When it comes to really getting to know someone from a different culture, there are really no dumb questions. Ask or tell whatever is on your mind.
- You get lost in love. In the beginning it is so easy to be caught up in a new and foreign romance. Everything else seems less important compared to your new, exotic relationship. You might end up missing more texts and calls from friends than you used to.
- Reality will eventually set in. If you truly fall for someone, you will find yourself thinking about the future. How will this work? Where would we settle down? How could we have a family? It brings a new aspect to the table that you might not have to think about when dating in your home country/state/town. All things can be handled. Communication is key!
- You will feel resentful. In most cases, if you are in your partners home country, they are likely to have their family and friends already there, while your loved ones are thousands of miles away. This can bring on feelings of resentment towards your partner and that is normal! You just have to remember that it is not their fault. They didn’t deliberately rip you away from your family. It is a decision and sacrifice you have to be willing to make. Talk about it together and figure out a way for it to work for both of you.
- You may be judged or questioned more than you would be if you weren’t abroad. “Do you really think this will last?” “Why can’t you just find someone from home?” “He doesn’t even speak English.” “I give it 2 more weeks.” It’s YOUR life. You don’t need to justify yourself.
- There will be a lot of traveling. Whether it be together or apart, there will always be lots of traveling. At least one, if not both, will be living far away from family and friends at any given point. You will both need to be willing to travel a little more and make a point of seeing your loved ones.
Falling in love while traveling is nowhere near the same as falling for someone who lives a couple blocks over from you. It can be challenging and frustrating at times, but it is truly amazing to meet and love someone while abroad.
My trip to Nauyaca Waterfalls:
Started with us hiking a mile or 2 through the jungle.
The directions I was given to get to the falls consisted of “turn left at the bamboo, follow the dried up creek until you hit the hibiscus plants and then right at the mango tree.” Needless to say, we got lost quite a bit.
We finally get there and are in complete awe. Now wonder I have heard so much talk of these falls. What do you do when you see something so out of this world beautiful? You pose for a pic in front of it, clearly.
Then you climb up and jump off. The jump here is at about 100 ft (30 meters.) Not shown is the jump from the top which is 201 feet!
Another breathtaking waterfall sitting just above the main falls and swimming hole.
Anyone planning a trip to Costa Rica, this is really a trip worth taking. There are guided tours that will get you here, or you can also get to them with any 4WD SUV. I highly recommend adding this to your list of sights to see in CR. It is truly incredible.
Deciding to travel is a big and exciting decision. Booking a trip (or a move) somewhere knowing you will get to meet new people and see new places is thrilling. I find that when traveling, it is easy to sometimes become sucked into what you are doing and to in turn forget about what you would be doing or who you would be with if you were home. Though staying in the present moment is not always that easy. Often the feeling of nostalgia comes on hard and quick. Missing home, your family, friends, pets or routine is never an easy thing to deal with, especially when you are miles and miles away. Whether you start to feel that way 6 months into your trip or as soon as you get on the airplane, being homesick is a very real and at times overwhelming feeling.
Traveling is such a brave, enlightening and eye-opening thing to do. But it can also leave you feeling wistful or downright sad. Knowing that this is usually a feeling I get when I travel, I like to prepare for it and remember these tips to help me find some familiarity in what is foreign.
- Carry something sentimental- Bring something near and dear to your heart from home. When I travel I always bring a key chain with me that my mom gave me when I was young. As silly as it sounds, it makes me feel like I have even a little piece of home with me.
- Take special pictures – To help you feel more connected to the people in your life back home, take some special photos. If it is a specific person or group of people (girlfriend, boyfriend, mom, dad, whoever) that you miss, take some photos just for them. Some custom photos that they get to see before the hundreds of your Facebook friends. You could take a picture on a mountain top with a handmade sign that says there name on it, or in front of a big landmark with your special someones shirt on. You could take something random of theirs, like a hat or sock (because what is more romantic than a sock) and hold it in every cool picture you take.
- Find familiar food – Find some good, cozy, comfort food. Whatever that may be for you. I know traveling is about experiencing the new and not about eating what you always eat back home, but a good ole hamburger and fries tastes pretty darn good when you are feeling homesick.
- Bring the smell of home with you – Bring a small pillow or blanket with you that you sleep with at home. I have a tiny pillow that smells like lavender that I like to bring with me. It smells good, and if I wake up in the middle of the night in a foreign hostel, it helps me get back to sleep.
- Stick to your routine – Take an hour, or a full day to do something that makes you feel good. If you usually go to yoga once a week, try and find a local studio wherever you are. Or if you like to go running in the evenings, take some time for yourself to do just that. While traveling, routines pretty much go out the window which is why it is nice and comforting to do something you usually do back home.
- Talk to family–or don’t – For some, spending time calling or facetiming with their loved ones helps them get over feeling blue. Keeping up with what your friends and family are doing may comfort you while being so far. For me on the other hand, talking to my friends or family every day makes me feel worse. I want to hear about and talk about the big stuff, some days there is just not that many cool things going on. Sounds bad, but only talking to them every few days (or weeks) really makes it that much more special!
Anybody else have any tips that help them when feeling homesick or dealing with unfamiliarity? Would love to hear!