The (not so) Lonesome Traveler: When Travel is no Accident

In reality, the travel isn’t always solo. The wanderlust isn’t always accidental. Sometimes the adventures are eagerly sought out. They are cultivated, and celebrated, and nourished. 2016 has allowed several trips that are not related to any national conference, mandatory work travel, or special work project. Some trips have involved 2 flights in the same day, there and back to celebrate my Irish heritage in Chicago or seek out cherry blossoms in Washington DC. Longer trips offer a break from the “real world” and a chance to turn off the cell phone and get away for a little bit.
Costa Rica was one of my chances to escape. Costa Rica was an adventure!
Having someone to share my travel experiences with has helped me to open my eyes and see the color all around me, whether it’s in exotic locations that seem like another world, or on my own front stoop, with my loud, happy splash of red, purple and orange flowers, resting in front of the red brick of my “Georgetown” apartment.
I gain a lot from my solo travel, but seeing the world through another person’s eyes reveals as much about me as it does about him. I can only see what I can see. My camera captures only my vision, and my words express only my voice, my experiences. There’s so much more out there! There are experiences I would never have had on my own (see “Steamy in Miami – Next Stop: Key West” from Sept. 2015). Amazing views, chances to party under the stars, and count the “stars” would have slipped through my fingers (see “Celestial Los Angeles: The Sun, the Moon and the Stars”).
Rides on the beaches of Costa Rica take on a different tone. There’s someone to belly laugh with about the surprising things that happen all around you. Surrounded by a whirlwind of sights,  a swarming mix of sounds, and an unexpected blend of flavors, there is someone there to pick up the notes that you miss. It other words:

“We stepped out of the airport into 85 degree heat; a swarm of taxi drivers surrounded us.  There was no “First come first served” basis, as there is back home in the States.  We were rushed into the nearby cab of a driver with whom we did not share a common language.  We were thrust into a city where red lights and stop signs were mere suggestions, and the most common sound was an impatient horn.

High school Spanish did not prepare me for this.

Sometimes it seems that we grow deaf and blind to what surrounds us.  I live near downtown Columbus, on S. Front St., close to the Greenlawn Ave. fire department.  I’m sure the fire trucks, ambulances and other service vehicles go by, with sirens on, several times a day. It has become so ingrained in the background noise of the city that I don’t notice it anymore.

As we walked on Avenida Central, on our first night in San Jose, I was amazed by all of the sounds.  On the city streets there were small tables scattered about, spots where people waited anxiously, most of them yelling “Los chances! Los Chances! Diez y Ocho! Veinte Dos” in long, loud, drawn out voices.  They were selling lottery tickets on the street, for the equivalent of one US dollar.

In the bright sunshine street musicians were performing, and quite well, “Sweet Home Chicago”.  Outside the General Assembly, groups of people chatted in opposition to a new environmental bill. It would remove natives from their land, for development.  Artisans in street markets were willing to make a deal, selling their wares and cheap knock-offs of their wares.  It was good to take it all in, and remind myself why I like to live in the city as much as I do.  The suburbs are done for me!

After spending three days in the city we had an early morning shuttle to ourselves, carrying us and our luggage from the bustling metropolis, towards a crocodile infested river heavily visited by tourists. Hopefully as many tourists left the area as arrived on tour busses.

We talked with our local driver for over 2 hours, including a lunch stop, without any of us knowing each other’s language well enough to have a comfortable conversation in either language. Instead we pieced our thoughts together in Spanglish, sharing stories of soccer tournaments, hometowns and families. Interrupted by occasional phone calls, he answered with a friendly “Hello” before resuming in his native tongue.

The last few days of the trip took us to Jaco, a small beachside town with a big surfing culture.  There are no big waves here, just long consist breaks that are great to learn on.  Just 3 miles to the south is Playa Hermosa, home to many surfing competitions.  In Jaco, the sleepy beachside town, there is always plenty of noise.  It is a bustling place with people from around the world – the French, German and English languages were almost as commonplace as native Spanish.

We joined a zip-line and rappelling excursion in the middle of the jungle. Well, maybe it wasn’t the middle, but definitely the edge. It was a short 10 mile shuttle ride from the tour company’s central meeting point to the outdoor activity ranch, where we would have our adventure for the day.  As we turned off the main highway, and onto the washboard, dirt and gravel road, I was reminded how loud it can be living in rural America.  The road was very similar to the ill-maintained country road where I grew up, in Central Ohio’s Morrow County.  I was sure that the van was going to break apart.

We arrived in one piece at a picnic shelter on the edge of the hills, just on the outskirts of the jungle.  Fitted with repelling harnesses, we were led on a hike deeper into the jungle.  As we marched single file through a gentle mist, foreign sounds echoed, bouncing off the sides of the surrounding hills. It seemed almost deafening at times.  Cicadas were in full force. They were constantly chirping and, it turned out, peeing from the trees above. It wasn’t the mist we’d thought it was.

Scarlet Macaws, elusive Toucans, and Yellow Throated Vireos flew overhead, squawking quite loudly.  After the hike up the hills came the rather quick trip down. There were two methods.  First we rappelled down a waterfall, which was a thrill for both the mind and the ears. Water crashed down from above.

Next came the zip-line. Attached to a steel cable on the side of a cliff, we were treated to a solitary experience. The noise drowned out everything else momentarily.  The whir of the pulley on the cable intensified, and then faded, for nearly half a mile. A long minute or two took us back to the beginning of our adventure.

I will never forget the sounds of Costa Rica, memories that bring back the sights and smells as well.  It has made me open my ears and eyes more back at home.  It is a place that I never will forgot, and long to go back to soon.”

Story and Photo Credit:  Craig Clark

(Guest Blogger, Fellow Traveler, Adventure Seeker and Spark of Inspiration)


Related Links:

Costa Rica Waterfall Tours:

Additional Photo Credit: Deanne Kirillow (Georgetown) and Kat O’Dowd (Beach).

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