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.