Magic in Costa Rica

There’s something magical about adventures . . . the way they change us and our perspective. It’s so easy to get caught up in our day to day ruts and anxieties. Sometimes, all we need is a little adventure to wake us up again.

Personally, adventure has always been something my spirit craves. From a barefooted child to a backpacked wanderer, my body has always required these treks for sustenance. Yet, somehow, life has a funny way of teaching us how to ignore our cravings.

After a particularly rough year surviving a violent crime, symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, surgery to remove a brain tumor, seizures, and a blood clot in my brain that nearly ended my life, I was left a little hopeless and empty.

I would find bits of happiness on mini-adventures with my three-legged and loyal pup. Although, my mind would often find ways to betray me - provoking anxieties that happiness doesn’t last and sending me back to the safety of my bed. What had happened to the resilient woman that hiked her way to the top of an active volcano? The courageous one that rode her bike right next to an elephant in the wild? That fearless spirit that trekked the mountains to meet a silverback gorilla? I missed that girl; I yearned for her. I wanted to feel what she had felt - to remember strength, bravery, and the unknown. I thought I just needed rest, but what I really needed was to reset.

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Thankfully, my best friend concocted the perfect antidote: a Costa Rican adventure! We ventured out and quickly I began to notice that the comfort of my best friend whom I trusted with my life - after years of laughter, tears, and her even taking care of me the time I was so ill I had to sleep in a diaper - was helping to curb my anxieties.

One particularly difficult morning, we missed our bus, causing us to lose an entire day to explore a new town. We attempted to call half a dozen shuttles for a ride and were denied each time due to them only having one seat available. Looking back, the situation sounds tense and messy, but I remember feeling so at peace. We decided to take the evening bus and spend the day relaxing. I laid down in a hammock and enjoyed doing exactly nothing. Not a single anxious thought could reach me.

Later, we arrived in the beautiful town of La Fortuna. In search of adventure, we took to the streets. We saw an intoxicated man being escorted from a dark path and thought, “Yeah, this looks promising!” This led us to a bar with two men on stage singing in Spanish. The entire crowd swayed, raised their glasses, and cheered. We didn’t quite understand what they were saying, but it didn’t matter - we still danced. After a while, they introduced a song that was a local favorite while speaking directly to us, “Sorry girls, you won’t understand this one, there’s too much slang. You’ll just have to feel it.” We gave them a little shimmy and the whole bar cheered. We were very happy to be lost there.

The next couple of days were spent, just as happily, getting lost in the rainforest, swimming in waterfalls, soaking in hot springs, and not noticing any anxieties. My mind felt free to be curious, courageous, and filled with peace. I was shaking off that day to day rut and waking up again. I just needed to get a little lost to feel found.

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One night, a reservation had fallen through and we had no place to stay. We didn’t panic; we just wandered the streets until we stumbled upon a little backpackers hostel. Luckily, they had a bunk bed available for us. Even luckier, the person staying on the bunk next to ours was the most handsome man I had ever seen. I nervously blurted, “I like your fanny pack!” We then spent the night talking next to a natural spring and soaking up the magic.

The next morning, the three of us ventured through Manuel Antonio National Park to spend the day at the beach swimming and laughing as monkeys tried to snatch our snacks. On the way back, we got caught in an intense storm that flooded the path and could have easily been a stressor, but instead turned into a little dance party. I knew then that I had found that fearless girl again.

Five months later, that fearless girl moved into an adorable apartment that the most handsome man she had ever seen had secured for them in Santiago to start a whole new adventure with him. Life is magical and I hope it brings you an adventure that changes everything for you, for the best.

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Samantha Carlson

Samantha is an adventurer, writer, children's author & illustrator, and founder of the nonprofit SPICE, Inc. She is from Austin, Texas but is currently residing in Santiago, Chile and traveling South America! Follow her journey on Instagram @samicarlson