A lot of people wanted to know what a typical day was like for us. It is difficult to describe that because we quickly learned that our family did best when we were ‘adventuring’. ‘Adventuring’ meant finding a new beach, or exploring a new town, or driving in the jungle, or visiting an animal refuge, or just trying something new. But one thing I did every day was get up at 5am to get a little bit of work done before the kids woke up. Our rental was tiny – so that meant working outside on the patio just before dawn. It was so loud! We could hear howler monkeys, cows, birds, and the really loud grasshoppers (I think they are called cicadas). There were ‘condo cats’ – community cats that everyone fed but nobody owned who would keep me company while I worked.
We had to get out of the sun from 11-3pm. It. Was. So. Hot. So hot you would feel your body slow down to compensate for dealing with the heat. During this time, we would either let the kids sleep or drive somewhere for our afternoon adventure. We had a really great pool at the place that we stayed and the kids LOVED swimming in it. It is really impressive to see how much confidence they gained swimming. Mike put Hazen’s life jacket on Brooklyn as a joke once and she LOVED it – seconds later she was peeling my death grip off her so she could swim on her own and the next day she was jumping off the side of the pool and holding her breath underwater. CRAZY.
The sunsets in Costa Rica were absolutely spectacular but we didn’t see many. The sun would drop right around 6 which was when we were in the hustle to get cleaned up from the day, have dinner and get to bed. Bedtime in Costa Rica was a breeze. The kids were e x a u s t e d and were so excited (just like we were) to get in their bed at night. I wish we could have brought a little bit of that home.
My most favorite day was when we went into the rain forest in the Monteverde area. It was so beautiful. It was a lot cooler – a great break from the heat we were experiencing – and I think I just love hiking. We walked across canopy bridges high in the air, stood on the continental divide where we could see the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, listened to the birds, and looked for monkeys. We didn’t see any- I am pretty sure that Hazen cleared out all wildlife within a 4 mile radius of us.
One challenge we faced was the language barrier. We did our best with language and I think next time we travel we will work hard to be even more prepared. When we went to Costa Rica 2 years ago it was for a weeks vacation – and vacation for a week is much different than making a far away land your home for over a month. The kids did much better than us with language and Brooklyn came home with more words in Spanish than English just because she was in the sweet spot of learning new words. Hazen was fearless with his language skills. He would shout ‘Hola Amigos’ (hello friend) to anyone passing by; ‘Gracias’ (thank you) in not always the right circumstances; ‘con gusto’ (with pleasure / your welcome) in even stranger circumstances; and ‘Adios Muchachos’ because it rhymes (bye dude) – we had to look up Muchachos and make sure it wasn’t anything derogatory. Hazen also practiced repeating a string of sounds back to people which was incredibly entertaining for everyone involved. So – someone would say a sentence or two to Hazen in spanish and Hazen would parrot the same sounds back to that person, I am sure in his very Maine, very American accent. It was so fun to see the kids embrace learning the new language with such ease, curiosity, and fearlessness. It gave us more confidence to experiment and try our Spanish/French linguistic skills without being afraid of getting it wrong or embarrassing ourselves.
So that’s the back story.
Then at 4:15am there is a rap rap rap rap rap rap rap on our door. Mike leaps out of bed says ‘stay here’ and I of course was hot on his heels. It is the youngest security guard from the gate and he is getting increasingly panicked that we don’t understand what he is trying to communicate to us. The incredible game of Costa Rican charades begins with him gesturing to the mountains and making flame like motions, then he starts motioning a key, car, steering wheel. OK – got it muchachos – forest fire, evaluate, leave in your car. Si.
The guard goes and knocks on our neighbors door…
What to grab for an evacuation in Costa Rica? Passports, water, elephant blanket, computers, who knows – we stuff a few things into an already packed bag. I wake Hazen up and say: ‘Honey, there is a fire, we are being evacuated, you need to wake up and walk’ and I get the baby out of her crib.
The fear hit me when we were walking down the long path to our car and I hear the bomberos (the Costa Rican fire truck siren). I know there is one road in and out. I know we have the option to either go right to the jungle on the bumpy monkey trail or left to wind around the coast line. I know that we aren’t going to have a team of emergency personnel telling us calmly and in English where to go and what to do. I know this is it. We are on our own. At least we have elephant blanket.
Just as we get to the end of the path we see Roberta, our host of Italian nationality. ‘Buongiorno!!!’ she calls to us – walking towards us slower than she should in an forest fire / evacuation situation. After a few Italian niceties she explains to us that we are not being evacuated we just need to move our rental car. There is a truck in full flames of fire and it is right next to our rental car.
Welp… that was a bit of a misunderstanding – sorry kids – wanna go to the waterslide park? What time do you think they open?
Thank goodness that was the only “emergency” we faced on our trip!
But you know what – I was better than fine and it was absolutely great. Being with our family 24/7 was actually the very best part of the entire experience. I don’t know how to describe it – everyone just did what they were supposed to do. There was no asking the 4almost5yearold to get dressed or brush his teeth 10,000 times – he just did it. Don’t get me wrong, we certainly had our moments but having the kids, knowing what was going on with them start to finish, was SO. MUCH. EASIER. than all of the transitioning and hustle associated with living and working in America.
I am happy to say while aspects of this trip challenged us, it also made us stronger and closer. Travel always give us an incredible sense of perspective and this trip certainly achieved that for me. But more than that, I think it gave our son an incredible sense of perspective as well. I love how he was able to see that we are just a very very small part of a really big and beautiful world, that we are so lucky to live in one of the greatest countries in the world, and that there are all kinds of different people living all kinds of different lifestyles. Being away also taught us to live with and enjoy living with a lot less.
I think we have come together much closer as a family unit. Living in 433 square feet (that’s probably an exaggeration – I have no idea how big our condo was) will do that for you. I have a lot more trust in the children’s ability to listen to me and follow instruction when (read: only when) absolutely necessary. I have gained a lot of confidence in being a Mother.
Since we have been back it was an adjustment getting into the swing of a daily routine and it felt exciting to dive back into work and come into the gym and see all of our clients smiling faces! One questions every asked me was “Are you planning on doing this again?” And my answer is always “Absolutely – 100%.” Our goal is to have one big family adventure per year. Mike and I haven’t figured it out 2020 yet but we are thinking that it may involve an RV and lots of national parks!
We love Costa Rica but we really want to explore the world so we will definitely try a different location. Now taking recommendations!! Leave your travel choices in the comments!!