I’ll admit I was scared. Working in the news business, I have read about quite a few planes crashes this past year. So getting on a 12-seat propeller plane to fly from San Jose to the Osa Peninsula made my legs quiver. I sat in front of A., and reached back with my right hand to get a handful of hiking pants and squeezed, white knuckled, as we took off. I envisioned crashes and flames — and, oh I know, it sounds so dramatic. When I expressed my fears to A., he gave me one of his teasing smiles and said: “There’s no one I’d rather die with” (what a sweet way to… make me more fearful.)
When we landed safely, we walked into the type of heat that feels like you’re walking into an exhaust cloud, without the fumes. We found a toothless cab driver from Puerto Jimenez who drove us to our little spot in paradise: Ojo del Mar. Nico, our German hostess (A. and I had a bet going – he thought she was a man, I thought she was a woman, guess who won!), greeted us as we walked into the main open-air cabin with a stacked bookshelf, huge kitchen with hanging pots and pans, long picnic table and hammocks. It was quiet. It was hot. And it was exactly what I needed.
We swam in the gulf that afternoon (it was wayyyy too rocky and we both scraped our legs) and gawked at the crabs in the sand. That evening, we had our first organic, communal dinner and met families from Switzerland and Atlanta, a woman traveling by herself from San Francisco and recently-married couple who live in Denver. The father of the family from Atlanta spoke slowly. “What do you hope to get out of this experience?” he asked A., who had no idea how to answer that kind of hippie drivel. But P. turned out to be super cool. “Did you hear how quietly and slowly P. talked?” A. asked me later that night. By the end of the week, we were just as relaxed and speaking just as quietly and slowly and asking the same question (okay, this isn’t true, but we at least were giving off the same vibe). We had pushed the city energy out of ourselves and immersed ourselves in the jungle.
The next four days included long hikes where we came across families of spider and capuchin monkeys playing with each other and chasing each other through the tall trees. We swam in the gulf as the sun set and the pelicans dramatically dove near us and gulped down fish (we didn’t see any fish). We kayaked and paddled directly past a massive sea turtle (which made me shudder a bit, I was startled — and A. laughed and said, “Are you really afraid of a turtle? They have tiny legs. They can’t swim very fast.” Those are mighty fine points). We climbed a tree house and up a waterfall. We hiked into Corcovado National Park with our guide, Jason, and drank from a coconut and saw sleeping bats, an anteater and caotis. We juggled a soccer ball with P.’s 7-year-old son. We played game after game of chess as we drank red wine (Imperial beer for A.) and waited for our healthy, tasty dinners — Mahi Mahi, beet salad, chicken with Gorgonzola and pineapple. We took showers outdoors with a cold-water hose (it wasn’t too cold, but with no water pressure, the conditioner build up was out of control). We spent hours reading in hammocks.
And we slept in a mosquito-net covered bed and listened to the howler monkeys and the birds and the raccoons and whatever-the-hell-animal-is-out-there-and-could-eat-me (read: jaguar) in the middle of the night (it was really cool, I exaggerate, but I did make A. come with me to the bathroom in the middle of the night one night. And a jaguar did kill a cow in the nearby pastures the night before New Years Eve).
And after five days and nights at Ojo without phones or email or communication with the outside world, I felt truly rejuvenated. (Not to mention A. is a fantastic travel partner.) The last morning I took a 7:30 a.m. yoga class while looking at the ocean. And when we had to wait in line for three hours at the airport just to check in (we got there 2.5 hours ahead of time) and then run for our connecting flight in Charlotte, N.C. (through customs and security and across the airport in 15 minutes), it didn’t affect the buzz. A couple on our short flight from Charlotte to D.C. even gave us an Uno pizza they had bought — they must have sensed we hadn’t eaten since 9 a.m.
Last Wednesday, I returned to work and my body felt tingly and I didn’t feel like I had to run to get anything done. And my coworker C. pointed at me and said, “She looks so relaxed, I want to look like that.” I’m still trying to hold on to my buzz, but it’s slowly wearing off. I think I’ll join the ranks of millions of Americans who have said it — and thousands who have followed through: I could live in Costa Rica. Or, at least, go back to visit regularly.