Costa Rica

I was recently in trial for seven consecutive weeks. Facing another trial scheduled to begin two weeks after the last one ended, I knew I needed some time to relax and recharge. And so, in the middle of my last trial, I booked a trip to Costa Rica. Originally I booked the trip for two: me and my fiancé. By the time trial ended, there was no fiancé. But I still had the tickets and a room at an incredible resort.

My initial reaction was to cancel the trip entirely. I was admittedly nervous about spending that much time with just me. It’s funny. In my adult life I really had not spent that much time alone with the person I should know best. And so I was scared. But then I reconsidered. The breakup combined with the heavy trial work had me a little beat up. I decided to go after all. All alone. The more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that was exactly what I needed.

And so I drove up to the Los Angeles International Airport Marriott, put my car in long-term parking and checked into my room. In the morning, I took a shuttle to the airport and boarded my flight. The seat next to me was empty. I thought to myself that would be a tough reminder and wondered whether the airline had sold the seat. Thankfully, and eventually, a woman sat there. And off we headed to Costa Rica.

Costa Rica - Ocean View
Ocean view from my room.

The resort itself is gorgeous. My room has a beautiful ocean view and is as comfortable and welcoming as can be. Not having slept much or well for the past 7 weeks, and running hard on adrenaline, the first couple days were all rest and not much else. I spent lots of time at the pool, just listening to music mainly and sipping on cold Imperials. Because I have next to no interactions with people other than hotel staff, I am speaking almost exclusively Spanish. I am feeling a sort of euphoric joy from freedom to do whatever I want to do.

I still get up before the sun for my “hour of power.” Meditation, prayer and reflection are all critically important for me at this transitional time and I have been leaning heavily on those routines. The ease of the day allows me to meditate on the beach in the afternoons too, alone and far from any noise or distraction. The time and ability to do that is awesome. I usually treat myself to a few cocktails around 630 and then enjoy dinner alone before returning to my room to sleep by 9.

Costa Rica - Beach
Meditation time alone on the beach

The gravity of the breakup and resulting sadness hits me pretty hard my second afternoon here. I now have failed both a marriage and an engagement. Maybe that kind of relationship just isn’t in the cards for me. I suppose it’s natural to allow myself to feel those emotions and so I do. They deplete my energy and leave my head hanging down a bit. I had planned to leave the resort for some local activities, but I can’t find the will to move. I am really thankful for prayer and meditation now. I am somewhat embarrassed I haven’t even really moved much yet, but there is no self-blame. The body and mind need what they need and this time alone allows me to be kind to both. I think hard about my life. Mistakes I have made and how God has blessed me. I think about who I am and who I want to be.

That malaise carries into day 3, but by their afternoon, I am feeling better. Day 4 I actually leave the resort for the first time. In the morning, a shuttle picks me up, along with a couple from Minnesota and another from Alabama, for a zip-lining tour. Because I had zip-lined before in Mexico a few times, and am from California, they think I am some kind of zip-line professional. The track of suspension bridges, vertical ladders, and long, fast rides is moderately challenging and super fun. I stay to enjoy a couple Imperials and ride horses alone with our guide Christian. My horse has some energy and requires only a light touch. That’s rare in my experience for these types of rides and so I am happy. We play with a family of Howler Monkeys in the jungle, grunting like chimps to get them to talk to us. I have a super fun morning. The afternoon is just music at the pool, time alone at the beach, and then, an early dinner at the steakhouse down by the golf club.

I suppose the time I feel must aware of being alone is during meals. I have honestly not seen a single person other than me sitting alone eating. I think that is especially so because I am on vacation, in a resort setting. I try to sit at the bar when I can so I can have at least some consistent interaction with the guys working. Again, it’s all Spanish and my Spanish is pretty good. I miss speaking it consistently and so it’s nice to re-discover. I am much more present about all things today than when I was younger. Eating alone allows me to focus on and enjoy each bite and flavor. I eat slower and often linger. I am on no schedule and that feels good.

Day 5, Friday is my big day in town. On the way to the resort, my driver Josue told me about a huge local cultural event, the annual rodeo. There are parades of horses and cattle. People dancing. And “free rodeo.” I have made arrangements for him to drive me over to Liberia to check things out for the day. I have a feeling it will be quite an adventure. I like watching Anthony Bourdain’s show, “Parts Unknown.” I like the deep dive he takes into the local culture. While his perspective and the show is largely food based there is lots of culture and connection involved too. I feel like my day will be like that. Besides, Bourdain is an old jiu-jitsu guy like me and so I like his show for that reason as well.

Coyol wine
Coyol wine

And so, I head out with my awesome guide Martin. He tells me that he used to play soccer professionally and so we talk lots about my kids and soccer. He is now studying architecture at the University of Costa Rica. He asks me lots about law. It turns out that his mom, currently a professor, is studying to be a lawyer. He tells me there are lots of lawyers in Costa Rica and that it is very competitive. I tell him we have the same thing in California.

And so we make it to downtown Liberia and park. There is a parade of beautiful and very well trained horses and so, we watch that. We find a place to eat lunch along their parade route where I can enjoy a couple Imperials while taking in the show. I try some “coyol,” a potent local wine made from palm trees. We walk over to the stadium where we watch both bull riding and a sort of crazy “running of the bulls” inside of the arena. Fortunately, nobody appears to suffer severe injury. We get out of town before all the dancing and craziness begins. It was a great time. 99% locals with very few identifiable “gringos” like me.

Festival civica de Liberia, Costa Rica
Festival civica de Liberia, Costa Rica

And so today is my last entry. I head home later this afternoon, to land at LAX around 9 and then drive home. I am rested and ready for my next trial. What did I learn spending a week with me? First, I learned that being alone isn’t so bad after all. And I’m never really alone. I have people that care about me, awesome kids and a faithful and loving God who always has His eye on me. I learned to pay more attention to the world around me. When you can truly be present, and free from distractions, there are lots to take in and enjoy. I thought lots about who God wants me to be and how to get there. And I thought lots about places to go in the future alone all over again. It was an awesome trip and exactly what I needed. Pura Vida my friends! Thank you for reading my story.