When I used to come to Costa Rica on vacation, I’d arrive in San Jose, rent an SUV and just travel for 2-3 weeks all over the country. No schedule or agenda, just ending up wherever I ended up at the end of the day. Those were the best vacations of my life. The freedom, the adventure, the never knowing exactly where you may end by day’s end. During those trips, if I knew I really wanted to wake-up in a particular place, I’d leave where ever I was in the late afternoon, driving at night so that I wouldn’t have to waste the precious daylight behind the wheel.
Driving through the countryside of Costa Rica at dusk is magical. The subdued shades of the sky peering out through the vegetation, the hot temps dropping to a comfortable temperature, and one other element that really captivated me. The community. When you drive through the little barrios as the day is ending, you see everyone out and about socializing. There are futbol games in the center of town, kids running around barefoot on lush grass fields with the town folk sitting around the outskirts chatting and cheering. Kids on bikes, stopped on the side of the road, laughing and goofing off. And every house seems to have a rocking chair or two on the porch where there are always people just talking, spending real time together. The porches would be filled old folks with kids on their laps, teenagers sitting on the steps, chatting at passersby. It was the same over and over, town after town. And that struck me as something very special.
Maybe it’s just where I came from, but in LA, we most definitely did not sit out on our front porch everyday, lazily rocking in rocking chairs, chatting with our neighbors. In fact, I rarely even said 3 words to anyone I ever lived by. It wasn’t that we were unfriendly with each other (well, not by city dwelling standards), you just keep so much to yourself in that life. And the sense of family or community is so disconnected – but that’s normal. It’s like you can’t create a sense of family and community out of thin air if it’s never been part of the culture. And I think that’s what really lingered in my mind after returning from these trips. When I’d touch down and step off the plane, that feeling of connectedness was replaced by coldness. Each time I’d return to Costa Rica, I could feel the warmth on my skin again, in my spirit.
Since I’ve moved here, I haven’t done much traveling at all. I’m so content where I am, I’ve sort of come to live in a little bubble. It’s a good bubble though so I’m not at all complaining. But this past week I had some appointments in San Jose (the capital) and made the 4+ hour drive at dusk (I usually drive it early morning when I need to go). In the 7 years I’ve lived here, I don’t think I’ve done any driving at dusk outside of my little neck of the woods. I had actually forgotten these late afternoon, small town scenes and the way the light came through the trees illuminating portions of the highway and peeking through corn fields.
I had forgotten the tranquility that I’d feel, the sense of belonging, even if I belonged only as an observer. It struck me how something that I had such a huge emotional connection with before – had somehow faded into my memory banks.
It was a very pleasant reminder of one of the many reasons I am where I am.