On the Road Again: Costa Rica

On night one, I sat in the sterile-meets-snazzy hotel restaurant, knowing it was entirely too posh and AC’ed and buttoned-up for the country I was about to see, but feeling perfectly OK to hover in that comfortable safety zone before launching into the week ahead. I peered around expectantly (and excitedly!) in the restaurant and lobby, hoping to find someone..anyone..from my group, but alas, I navigated that first night alone (probably just fine, considering the exhaustion headache pressing on my temples).

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So instead I dove into my smartphone’s WiFi, ordered the grilled veggie panini—all in English (cringeworthy, in hindsight)—acutely aware of and nearly embarrassed by how “American” (North American, I should say) I knew I appeared during that first evening of the trip.

But I cut myself slack, easing back into what it means and what it feels like to be alone far from home, in a land that is so foreign (and so not Europe, which practically doesn’t feel foreign to me much of the time). And I gave myself permission to enjoy the cookie-cutter accommodations—removed from the humid buzz of real Costa Rican life outside—tiredly, deliriously, disoriented-ly indulging in the comfy bed, real water pressure, cable TV and properly flushing toilet. Even a slice of (something?) cake greeting me on my desk.

Sometimes it’s OK to hover in that familiar zone, I think, before we take the step out into the unknown. Steadying ourselves for the rich, full, multi-tired, multi-emotional experiences that are to come.

Places change us, thank goodness, and before long we become temporarily immersed in their tapestry, their rhythms, their unique cadences. (As I type this, I hear the accented English of Freddy and Diego swirling in my head.) And we come to realize that we can never get back to those night #1s in which we felt tentative and vulnerable and unsure—which really, looking back, is a very sweet and beautiful place to be.

We returned to this same San Jose hotel on our last night, and it looked entirely different to me after a week of experiencing this land of friendly “ticos,” a week I am still processing, because—like all travel—it had many highs and a couple lows.

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Yet I know for sure that the following are key buzzwords from the cumulative experience:

*COLORS, zip line, crocodile safari, sweat, butterflies, monkeys, clouds, city traffic, beach sunsets, rice and beans, fresh fruit juices, surfer man buns, patience, impatience, WiFi, anxiety, tranquility, car time, motion sickness, potholes, flora, bugs, vultures, language lessons, “mai,” tile floors, open walls, lazy fans, roaming chickens, plastic furniture, scamping iguanas, plantains, brilliantly-hued birds, macaws, dodgy AC units, spitting shower faucets, heavy humidity, “sodas,” cumbia, laughter, “cafecitos,” Paris terrorist attack {fear, horror, sadness, heavy-hearted, gut-punched, surreal}, futbol match, garlic “shrimps,” note-taking, “pipa,” Pilsen, miscommunications, camaraderie, “Ole, ole, ole…ticos, ticos!,”storytelling, community,“muchas gracias,” goodbyes, “Pura Vida!”*

Costa Rica reminded me so much of Kauai, Cambodia and countless other destinations, plus allll my time spent in incredible, alive SudAmerica, an era that sometimes slips from my consciousness as time marches on. I am so grateful for explorations that remind me of long-forgotten journeys and inspire me for adventures to come. It is a vast and wondrous world indeed, and I feel forever fortunate to venture beyond my own little corner.

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Welcome, Grateful November

For whatever reason, I am bursting with heightened emotions today, my senses feeling highly piqued and everything feeling especially vibrant & intense (touch wood, in a good way). I don’t know whether I’m riding a post-trip high or a post-concert high or a pre-OTHER-trip (yes, another one!) high, but I know full well that this ain’t gonna stick around forever (heck, it could have flitted away by the time I press “publish”)… So I’m gonna go ahead and ride it out while I can, acutely thankful when periods like this decide to pass on through.

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I love this month leading up to the holidays (with so much talk of “November gratitude” and much-anticipated reunions on the horizon), and I’m currently finding the early-evening, wintry-hued skies cozy and contemplative versus dark and depressing. (Again, we’ll see how long this lasts, so just bear with me please:))

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I’ve started about a bajillion other mini-posts about amazing adventures and epiphanies and assorted thoughts I’ve had over recent months (I can’t keep up!), but for tonight, I’m just gonna post this photo love and soak up some ambient KEXP tunes, as I plug away on several more deadlines that are quickly approaching (a peril of self-employment and my recent self-granted vacation).

I mention this not to complain—it was 1,000% worth it—but rather to say that are often periods of hard work and long hours, and my life is far from an endless session of carefree gallivanting and fun. (I don’t know who I’m justifying this to, and who knew this would sneak out right now, but I admit I’ve bristled the few times I’ve heard comments like, “Your life is one big vacation!”)  Like everything, it’s a balance, and one I’m recently—finally—feeling pretty darn good about.

Happy November, friends. Let’s make it a great one.

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Rags to Riches, Ramen to Royalty

Sometimes being a freelance writer is a string of sleepless nights fretting about money & bills & an uncertain future. (And oh yeah, 401Ks, what’re those again? Eeps.)

And, other times, it’s a frantic call from a PR friend who’s had a last-minute cancellation on a press trip, so she wants to know if you’d pretty, pretty please come stay in one of your favorite downtown hotels and eat dinner with them and then eat brekkie the next day (among other amazing proposals)? Um, yeah, sure, OK. Twist my arm! It’s a funny world, my friends, I tell ya:)

When I began this journey as a green, naive, little writer-wannabe, I had no clue what I was signing up for. But boy am I glad I keep trekking down this winding trail.

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Will the garden grow, will the rivers flow…

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“I Worried”
by Mary Oliver

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well, hopeless.

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism, lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning, and sang.

Happy to Report, WANDERLUST Alive & Well Around These Parts!

I loved our Memphis-Oxford, Miss.-Nashville road trip so, so much.

I have oodles more to say—and a million jumbled words drafted—but, for now….photos!

Feeling emotionally grateful for these experiences, these adventures, these friends, this life I get to lead. Sometimes things feel like they’re moving a million miles an hour as of late, and I’m trying to take moments to pause, process and savor it all. I feel in the midst of big things, and I want to remember to be here—truly here—for every step of this unfolding journey.

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Thanks, South, for your warm hospitality! “Y’all come back now” shouldn’t be a problem for this traveler:)

*connections*

“When connections are real, they simply never die. They can be buried, or ignored or walked away from, but never broken. If you’ve deeply resonated with another person or place, the connection remains despite any distance, time, situation, lack of presence, or circumstances. If you’re doubtful then just try it- go and revisit a person or place and see if there’s any sense at all of the space between now and then. If it was truly real, you’ll be instantly swept back into the moment it was before it left- during the same year and place with the same wonder and hope, comfort and heartbeat. Real connections live on forever.”

{This photo of me was taken by my friend Melissa. Doesn't the filter make it EXTRA amazing?}

{This photo of me was taken by my friend Melissa. Doesn’t the filter make it EXTRA amazing?}

Things I’m Digging Right Now

*Any of Jimmy Fallon’s absurdly hilarious Thank You notes (*and, well, just anything of Jimmy’s—full stop, especially when he cracks himself up, which is pretty much always):

*First Aid Kit’s contribution to the WILD soundtrack:

*The fact that my most favorite performer ever—Langhorne Slim—is coming BACK to Seattle (& to my favorite venue here, AND just a few days before my birthday!)

*Breaking out of routine/comfort zones. For example, last night—on a random Thursday eve— I got to drive a snowmobile through the dark and serene woods of Eastern Washington! A bit scary at first, but overall….just so darn cool. What a (chilly) rush!

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*Rising with the sun for mountain views like THESE. Seriously, that light!! Today’s snow walk was brief, but I won’t soon forget it: traipsing across the magical, crunchy white stuff in a peaceful, still world, just beginning to stir. What a gift.

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