central america | costa rica
i recently met two very open and energetic people on their last night visiting guanacaste from canada. we clicked immediately and began sharing experiences and perspectives on everything from travel to careers. i shared the ‘unique circumstances’ of my extended stay in costa rica, and the woman commented that she didn’t think she could have that much trust in strangers. i explained that i actually have very little trust in others.
but i’m getting ahead of myself; now would be a good time to explain my ‘unique circumstances’…
i’ve been in costa rica since mid-october when a friend came to visit from the states. for the week he was here, we stayed with hosts from couchsurfing in san jose and guanacaste. when he left i wasn’t sure where i would be staying or for how long, so i called a friend i’d met a few months earlier and asked to stay for a couple nights while i sorted my next move.
[san jose] noy opened her home to me for a week until things came together for me. during that week we helped each other practice spanish and english, respectively, giving insights and tips for how to “speak like a local.” we bonded over the fact that neither of us were ‘nacieron para cocinar’ [born to cook]. her mother, who lived nearby, sent typical costa rican dishes for us to enjoy, introducing me to some amazing foods.
i decided i wanted to go back to guanacaste and try to find a place to stay and somewhere to contribute during my time there. noy recommended i get in touch with some of her friends who founded and operated an animal sanctuary in portegolpe, a town in guanacaste near where i’d stayed previously in huacas. vane, the owner, offered to let me stay on the property in a volunteer room while i got my bearings in the area. i’d met the two women briefly on my last visit to huacas and looked forward to getting to know them better.
[portegolpe] living at the monkey park was an experience i never saw coming. most people who know me know of my relationship with animals, so this was going to be…interesting. i have to admit i was curious about what animals were native to costa rica. i learned what happens to some animals who have been in captivity and are released into the wild, which is what so many people are calling for from places like sea world [nothing good].
however, the most crucial growth happened a few days into my stay. vane had family come for a surprise visit and, doing my best impersonation of a considerate person, i retreated to give her privacy to enjoy time with her family of 5 that lived so far away. after a day into their visit, she sat me down alone and explained that it was very uncomfortable for everyone that i was not engaging beyond pleasantries throughout the day. they wanted me to join them for meals and evening chats on the porch. i had no idea. i assumed [incorrectly] that they would not want to share their precious, limited time with a stranger who still struggled to understand their language.
she wanted me to know this, not to make me feel guilty or ashamed, but so that during my travels throughout costa rica i would know. know that the family unit extends beyond blood in this country. know that the capacity to understand another only grows when you welcome them fully with open arms into your home.
and so another week passed…and i was still in costa rica. still where i was meant to be. but my time at the monkey park was ending as volunteers were expected any day. orlando, my couchsurfing friend with whom i had stayed in huacas, recommended a friend with a spare room i might be able to rent.
[huacas] when i first met pablo, i knew immediately i wanted to share a living space with him. his energy was vibrant and simultaneously tranquil. it was what i needed at that time, and i only hoped i could provide some connection he was in search of. after an hour or two i left hoping casa de pablo would be my next temporary home. the next day he offered me the room. unfortunately, i couldn’t move in for 5 days. and since he enjoyed his independence, i wasn’t able to stay for long term – we agreed to a week-long trial run.
[potrero] since i was also looking for a place to work, and had a good lead in potrero [a town 15 minutes north of huacas], i continued looking for places to live. i hoped to find something in potrero to make commuting easier, but found it difficult to search from afar, so i took the 5 days as a chance to stay there and look around. what was meant to be 2 nights in potrero with levi [another couchsurfer], turned into 5 days of sharing experiences and perspectives. he was also new to the area, so together we took to the streets and explored the local fare. unfortunately, nothing turned up on the housing front in potrero so i prepared to move in with pablo and continue looking.
[brasilito] on my final night in potrero i was invited to come out to reggae night at what was quickly becoming my favorite pub, la perla. and as i was preparing to head home before last call, i met carolina. there was a strong connection and before i was able to leave she pulled me into the group to do a shot of chiliguaro [my favorite tico beverage].
living in costa rica for a year or so, but originally from italy, carolina was learning spanish just like me [although she clearly had an advantage]. but her english needed work. i discovered through our mutual friend that she lived in brasilito [a town between huacas and potrero] and was looking for a housemate. she also worked in potrero, so she understood the frustrations of having to work in a restaurant til close when the last bus leaves at 10pm and trying to sort out a way home.
with drinking involved we thought it best to sort out details about the possibility of me moving in on another day. after arranging to see the house two days later, and hanging out on the beach for a few hours with her dogs, it was a done deal.
and now you, too, understand my ‘unique circumstances’ – i’ve been living in costa rica nearly two months and the only people i’ve lived with, or know here for that matter, are people i met in the last 6 months. hence the assumption that i’m a trusting person.
but the reality is, as i said earlier, i actually don’t trust most people when i first meet them. even after i’ve known someone for a while – or we’ve known each other for a short time, but shared close-guarded truths with each other – THEY may still be a 3/10 on the trust meter. for me these are not the factors that build trust.
what allows me to stay with people on couchsurfing, or move in with seemingly complete strangers, is my trust in what is meant to be. i’m observant of the energy exchange when i meet new people; and i am aware of what my own energy does [some people call it instincts]. and it is in this that i trust. i’ve learned that i don’t need to trust in others so much as i need to listen and pay attention when positive opportunities are presented.
I just hope wheoevr writes these keeps writing more!