Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pop Up But Do Less

I don't always make New Year's resolutions, but this year I decided to live bolder. Kind of vague, I know, but it's something I've thought about a lot lately. I used to have a lot more self-confidence but moving to Minnesota and attempting to make a go of this writing thing has made me question myself a lot. I guess we artists really are a fragile breed. So when my friend, Sara, asked me to go to Costa Rica with her, I hesitated a little. I thought about the money and the time I'd have to take off of work. But then I remembered my resolution and said yes.

Sara found the trip on LivingSocial, and if you get a chance to take an all-inclusive trip to Costa Rica (or even a non-all-inclusive trip), I recommend it. The ease of travel impressed me the most: the trip included all of our accommodations, breakfast, and transportation; most of the people spoke English, we didn't need to exchange money and conversions were a breeze, plus it is only one time zone over (they're on Mountain Time...although I'm guessing they don't call it that...) so no jet lag.  We ended up going during the rainy season, which lived up to its name, but despite the daily downpour we managed to pack a lot in.

The trip itself gave me the chance to live boldly, as well as cross off a number of my "30 by 30" list (things I want to do before I turn 30). The first day of our trip we went whitewater rafting in the jungle in the only area where there is a high risk of malaria--oops! I didn't realize that when I went for my pre-trip check-up so fingers crossed I don't have the disease because I didn't take any anti-malaria pills. The next day we hiked an active volcano (much tamer than it sounds) and went ziplining (much scarier than it sounds). Sara conquered her fear of heights and we both dodged a viper and some poisonous spiders.

Our third day of the week-long trip we transferred to the coast, which I thought would consist of lying on the beach. But then Sara wanted to try surfing and we had a sea kayaking trip planned. And we added sailing. I've included a video of our experience of surfing. But seriously, surfing is no joke. It felt like someone punched me in the gut and then held my head underwater. Repeatedly. Did you know you basically do a pushup every time you get up? I did not. I got hit in the head (and chest and arm and hip and...) with the surfboard, and one time I came up underneath the board. The term that comes to mind is "waterlogged." I found sand in my suit two days later.

Before we went out, Sara and I surveyed the water, which appeared much choppier than it had been the days prior. Clouds overcast the sky, and the sea roiled.

Sara: He's not going to let us go out in that, is he?
Me: Oh no. The waves are way too high.
Sara: Okay, good.
Me: I'm much more worried about sharks. I've heard they attack more when it's overcast. And when the water is that.
Surf guy approaching with boards: Ready to surf?
Sara: Is the water safe?  It seems pretty choppy.
Surf guy: Nah, this is normal.
Me: What about sharks?
Surf guy (laughs): There are no sharks around here.

After we got back from being pummeled into the beach (I got up more times, but Sara stayed up longer) we decided to take an evening stroll to the end of the beach. The sun sets in Costa Rica much faster than it does here: as soon as the sun disappears the sky becomes dark. We passed four large, black dogs at the end of the beach where the ocean goes into an inlet. Initially they didn't pay any attention to us, but when we headed back to our resort one ran up toward us, barking and growling. Sara, who had a bad experience with a dog when she was little, froze. I picked up a stick and threw it near the dog as a diversion. When my mom was training our dog she told me that the dog trainer said dogs operate on a hierarchy. You need to make sure the dog knows you are in charge: if you show fear it will see you as lower on the chain and will try to dominate you. But if you show it that you have control, the dog will acknowledge your power. So I started yelling and charging towards the dog, asserting my dominance. Being bold.  It worked. Much better than the stick.  We made it back to our resort without any more trouble.

They postponed our seakayaking adventure two times before they cancelled it and offered us a sunset ATV tour or estuary kayaking tour instead. Since we've both ridden ATVs, we took the river kayaking tour. We met on Saturday morning in the same location as the almost-dog-attack from the night before. I told our guide about it and he said they're not really wild dogs, just guard dogs that roam the beach in a pack. I laughingly told him that I had similarly been worried about sharks the day before when we were surfing (silly me) and he looked at me very seriously and said, "It's the ocean...of course there are sharks." Then he told us that a few days earlier (maybe three days before we went surfing) a bull shark bit a boy who was surfing less than a mile from where we had taken our lesson. The boy died the day before we went kayaking.  I'm really glad I didn't know that beforehand.

The kayaking trip took us up an estuary to an area that appeared to be a natural crab farm. Blue bodied crabs with orange legs scuttled in and out of holes in the dirt as we brought our kayaks up on shore. We walked the path to an area where howler monkeys hung in trees. They are easy to spot because of their, or "eggs" as the guy referred to them. As we paddled (seriously, more paddling?) back the way we came the guide called us over to look at something. A large white bird perched in the tree. Which was cool, but, you know, my arms were tired. Then the guide told us to look on shore. There, not ten feet from us, was a crocodile. Gulp. Luckily it was a young one, only five feet long. Which, if it's in the water near you while you're sitting in a kayak, is about four feet longer than you want it to be.

Sailing made the perfect end to our trip. We took a catamaran (a party boat) out to a less populated part of the isthmus and went snorkeling. A giant storm rolled up as we sailed back to the beach, and as we walked back to our resort, Sara and I took a dip in the bathwater warm ocean before getting dolled up for our last night on the town. Unfortunately, it poured so we turned in early. I think I got more sleep on that trip than I have all year, but every part of my body (and I do mean every part) hurt at some point, so I needed the rest.

Thinking about this trip, and writing about it, made me think about how writing is like Costa Rica. Indulge me for a minute. When you're writing, a lot of the time you don't know where you'll end up, which is like whitewater rafting. Outside forces, like rain, can dampen your creative spirit. There is danger--okay, maybe not in the form of vipers or crocodiles or menacing dogs, but it's the ocean and of course there are sharks. The sharks being those who would love to see you fail or who seem to do everything in their power to stop you from writing (intentionally or unintentionally). Whether it's the critics, your responsibilities, life, or just that internal voice that says you can't. You have to write like there are no sharks. If I had known someone had been bitten within a week of our going on this trip, I wouldn't have set foot in the ocean. Or gone kayaking up an estuary, which I've since learned is common breeding ground for bull sharks. But then I would have missed out on the adventure of a lifetime.

1 comment:

  1. The photo is a sloth we saw on the way to hike the volcano. So cool.