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Every time I open my journal I see the flower petals I brought back from Costa Rica. My small constant reminder that I still haven’t blogged about my trip. My life has been so busy the past few months with lots of traveling, working and new experiences. Throughout all the madness I have often thought about the incredible week-long trip I took to Costa Rica with my boyfriend and some good friends. We went in mid February and I ended up having the most special Valentine’s Day to date.

Everyone in the group had been out of the country several times. Jake has a pen that has traveled to Hong Kong, Thailand, Ireland, Nicaragua and beyond. His pen has seen more than most people will see in their lifetime and it’s just a regular ball point. The laughter began on the plane ride to Liberia. Between endless banter, Wes opening and exploding mini bottle on me, and Jake’s attempt at spanish, we were all in tears. I was nervous about going through customs for the first time, but it turned out to be a breeze. Inside the airport we converted US dollars to the local colones, picked up some duty-free items, got our rental car, and set out.

A paper hand drawn map was our guide to our destination, which made me very nervous. For the first time in my adult life I couldn’t rely on a cell phone. No texting. No GPS. No Twitter. No Facebook. The roads were dirt, the signs looked hand drawn, livestock roamed free, and it was incredibly beautiful. With eyes wide open at this foreign land I couldn’t contain my excitement.  I must have taken 200 pictures simply from the car window. We arrived in Nosara after nightfall due to one too many wrong turns (and Jake stalling out a time or three) and met our housekeeper, a woman by the name of Dolores, who showed us the way to our house.

The house was modest, but perfect for our group. It had a hammock on the porch, full kitchen, AC, 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, and not one single TV. The first night we relied on my guitar, an Ipod, and of course each other’s shenanigans for entertainment. The yard had beautiful exotic plants and there was no shortage of wild animals. The night we arrived I got one of the guys to stomp a live scorpion on the kitchen floor. In the mornings and evenings you could hear monkeys growling from the tree tops. We also had a several wild dogs that would wander up and stare through the glass door at any given time. I wanted to let them in, but the poor things were riddled with fleas. Several mornings I awoke to a beautiful hand-picked bouquet of flowers thanks to Wes. There was something about returning to the simplicity of life that was incredibly calming. Getting away from the world as I knew it and being away from social media really cleared my head and made me feel more grounded.

One of the great activities we did was take a fishing trip on Valentines Day. We pulled up to the beach at 6 am, right as the sun was coming up, and waited for our boat. We went fishing for nearly 5 hours and caught several fish that we had cleaned and took home with us. Our boat captains were extremely accommodating and they told us which fish were good to eat. They even took us to a good spot near a reef to go snorkeling. It was exciting to see different kinds of fish and a few huge sting rays. I was the only one who got stung by a jelly fish (in the neck, go figure) but luckily it didn’t hurt for very long. I’m still unsure about exactly what kind of fish we caught because they didn’t know the American name, but it made for some delicious and satisfying meals!

Every morning we woke at the crack of dawn, usually around 5am, and would head out to one of the local surf spots. Several tiki huts lined the shore at Playa Guiones that you could hang out under. I got a lot of great video footage of everyone surfing. Wes took me out several times (as long as it wasn’t overhead) and it was a blast! Everyone would surf until they were too tired or too hungry and we would hit up a local spot for food. The cost of food and groceries in Costa Rica was particularly surprising to everyone. I discovered the hard way how important it is to understand the currency exchange rate when traveling to 3rd world countries. Our first trip to a local “grocery store” was some what an ordeal. The employees didn’t speak english and we ended up spending way more than the amount we had in our pockets and had to put items back. It took me a couple of days to get the hang of understanding exactly how much I was paying for an item and whether or not that was a good deal.

When you think of the word “vacation” you think of relaxing, which we definitely did, but for the most part we were constantly on the go. Between surfing, swimming, snorkeling, hiking, fishing, exploring, playing soccer with locals, shopping, Lindsay and I pulling pranks (sorry guys), eating and drinking, I was exhausted at the end of every day in the best possible way. One afternoon we went hiking at a somewhat dicey unmarked trail at Playa Pleuda. I made the unwise decision to bring my beloved digital camera up the cliff. Wes was nervous about me being up there in the first place, so when my camera fell over the edge to its death we decided to hike back down to safe ground. I would have been super bummed if that was my only camera on the trip, but luckily I brought my 35mm and several rolls of film.

As you might suspect, Costa Rica has stunning sunsets and sunrises. One of my favorite spots to watch the sunset from was at Playa Pleuda. I don’t think I could ever get tired of watching the last bit of light disappear over the horizon and Costa Rica is definitely the most memorable. La Luna at Play Pleuda is a great spot to watch the sunset and have a cold drink. Wes bought me a beautiful hand-made original piece of jewelry that I wear all the time from a woman at La Luna. Many of the restaurants have live music nightly under the stars that will make you want to get up and dance.

It seemed like time flew by and in the same token we took advantage of every hour of each day. I could not imagine sharing my first out of the country experience with anyone else. Traveling can push you to the limit and test you in ways you’ve never before been tested. I am lucky enough to have someone who is a great travel partner and I can’t wait until our next trip abroad.

So I encourage you to travel and to get out of your comfort zone. Ditch your laptop, cell phone and GPS. Order from a menu that is in a foreign language. Explore the beauty of the world in its natural existence. Find a way to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak your natural tongue. Appreciate how different we all are and all the different ways people live.

Learn, explore, love and do not take any of it for granted.

Peace & Love,

Lauren

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