The end of June marked my one year anniversary of leaving the United States to travel.
I spent a good deal of the day in pretty deep retrospection. A year spent on the road, living in a culture so foreign to my own. It’s cliché to say travel has changed me but the reality is that I, today, am not the same person I was when I almost missed my flight because I couldn’t get my backpack to zip.
When I left, I had few concrete plans and more daydreams than I’ll ever share.
Costa Rica to study Spanish. Honduras to volunteer. And after? Who knows! Maybe finally make it to Mexico.
Did I think it would work out? Yes. Did I have an actual plan? No.
And, honestly, not having a plan turned out to be the best thing.
Did I ever anticipate that one year after haphazardly throwing my life into a backpack that I would be living on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, just minutes from the beach in a long-term rental of my dream house? Hell no.
And yet, here I am.
A few days ago my friend and I got caught in a downpour at the beach in the middle of a photoshoot.
So I did what any normal person would do – ran straight into the ocean and started spinning, arms outstretched.
When I posted the picture on Facebook, my old roommate from Honduras commented, “This is the Skyest photo of all. This is how I picture you, dancing in the rain.”
It made my heart swell. That is exactly how I want to be remembered.
The first time I danced in the rain, there was a rainbow. Two of them, in fact. And a hurricane.
It was my first month volunteering in Honduras. Classes were canceled throughout the entire province for the second day in a row. The hurricane never really hit us but the streets were full of puddles and a few inches of water lay on the ground.
Sitting on our porch, discussing life and watching the rain fall with other volunteers, I was overcome with joy. I slipped off my shoes, ran into our mud puddle of a yard, and spun around.
My last few months in Honduras coincided with rainy season. Often, I would stay up late working online after everyone else went to bed and, as a Virgo, I am often overcome with a desire to connect with nature. Late night sun salutations and warrior poses became a habit, even when the sky was crying.
One night one of my housemates joined and soon the energy – it must’ve been a full moon! – had us holding hands and giggling as we spun in circles like little kids on a playground.
My final night in El Porvenir came months earlier than anticipated. I had decided that it was time for me to chase my freelance life and rather abruptly made the decision to move to Costa Rica (link). It was a tough decision and though my heart broke a bit, it was 100% the right decision.
On my final night, all of the volunteers and our community friends gathered for a homemade “American” feast of chicken fingers and french fries. It was pouring so everyone huddled under the porch until I decided to get super cheesy.
I hopped on Youtube and grabbed my housemate’s hands. “Sing with me!” And sing we did, to “Wannabe”, complete with obnoxious dance moves in the pouring rain.
“Put Let Her Go on!”
And then, before I knew what was happening, the guy I was about to let slip away was standing in front of me, hands on my shoulders.
If I couldn’t have him, at least I could have this song, this first and final dance. The rain only made it more movie-like.
Adjusting to life in Costa Rica wasn’t difficult – things fell into place as I arrived. What was difficult, however, was making it feel like home. A place where I have a routine and connections.
Many of the expats who live in Playas del Coco split their time between the United States or Canada and Costa Rica – winter months here on the beach, summer months “back home”. I attended a going away dinner for one of my snowbird friends with a few other friends. Dinner was spent laughing and drinking, chatting about nothing in particular, with a bittersweet goodbye in the end.
My friends and I were about halfway home when the sky opened up. Within seconds the dirt road was slick with mud and every inch of me was soaked. I took off my flip flops, knowing I would end up falling if I kept them on, and motioned for my friends to go ahead of me, embracing the rain that already had me soaked to the bone.
And then, as I watched them walk ahead, I realized – this is it. This is home. A place where I have friends that are like family and a house that I love and reasons to get out of bed every day.
It was such a freeing, liberating thought.
And so I danced, in the mud, in the rain, and I let myself be free.