Waking up to bird songs and insect noises vibrating through the salty, humid air, we begin our day early with a strong pot of French-press coffee. My husband Andy and I sit on the porch of our rustic beach cabin in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, as the rich caffeine kicks in. With our bird book, binoculars and steaming mugs, we greet the glorious day.
The toucans in the trees above us are as bright as the rainbow, with giant beaks and old souls. They fly into the trees in follow-the-leader fashion, one always shadowing another. Just far enough behind to observe, but not close enough to have to make small talk.
They respect each other’s boundaries, as all souls should. Their movements are slow and deliberate, calculated and sloth-like. Their dry croaking call vibrates into the energy of the atmosphere, followed by an eerie silence. One takes off, making room for the next, now replaced by its shadow, and life goes on...
As our mugs run dry and the toucans move on, we get dressed and head to the Farmer’s Market. Numerous stands, overflowing with organic fresh fruits and vegetables, coconuts biscuits and plantain chips, local gourmet chocolate and freshly baked goods, colorfully line the walls. The exotic smells and blinding colors assault our senses with pure delight.
The happy Tico farmers pick the best morsels, handing them to us with an appreciative smile. I appreciate them in return, in a way only a farmer’s daughter can. They have planted these seedlings months ago, nurturing and raising them up to be strong and good beings, then carefully plucking them at their exact moment of perfection. Sending them off to what they hope is a good home, in exchange for a few cents, so they can nourish another as they were nourished. Paying it forward to the circle of life. Rinse, eat and repeat.
Heading home to unpack our overflowing shopping bags, we prepare for the afternoon and head to a surf competition taking place at the famous Salsa Brava wave break in downtown Puerto Viejo. Everyone in town, resident or visitor, lounges on the sand, waiting for the event to begin. We watch the surfers stretch along the beach, preparing their bodies for exertion, exchanging excited words of encouragement and fist bumps amongst each other.
A line of surfers begins to form, just beyond the break. They hurry up and wait, for the perfect delivery. Predicting the wave before it’s born, reading the ocean like a book one surfer paddles furiously to beat his co-workers. He drops into the sweet spot and sails toward shore, his hair trailing a moment behind him. The crowd cheers and laughs, cameras click, someone’s shrill whistle pierces the air. For him it’s just another day at the office, high on life.
After a long, magical day in the Caribbean sun, we have worked up an appetite, so we head over to a local gem called Stashu’s. A funky blend of Thai, Caribbean and Indian food, this infusion restaurant features a unique menu, bursting with flavor. The ambiance is eclectic, luxurious yet humble, and romantic.
The friendly owner, Stash, can be seen wandering among the tables, mingling with patrons and making friends. Every dish on the menu is beautiful, artistic and spectacular. We begin with a light, colorful salad served on a butterfly plate, with a homemade dressing. For appetizers we drool over the spicy red curry mussels as they melt in our mouths. Visions of the flavorful Tandoori coconut chicken that I enjoyed for my dinner will dance across my mind for eternity.
The food on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica truly is as colorful as the culture.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica is a laid-back surfing town. A town where no one is in a hurry, except to catch a wave. A town where your cool factor is determined by the size and curl of your hair and how many Hola’s you receive as you stroll the streets. It’s a town where everyone is all smiles and no worries. A town where Bob Marley rules and the only jerk is a chicken. A town where rasta colors dominate, reggae music fills the salty air, and lazy swirls of smoke line the beach.
When dreaming of an authentic Costa Rican beach vacation, Puerto Viejo is the picture your mind paints, and it is even better in person.
Pura Vida and Audios Bitchachos!
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned or won.
It is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude”.
– Denis Waitley
My husband Andy and I at our favorite "Blue Zone" beach on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica: Playa Carrillo
Blue Zones: where people live the longest.
“Blue Zones” is a concept used to identify a demographic and/or geographic area of the world where people live measurably longer lives, only occurring in a handful of places on Earth. This concept is the result of research by Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain, as they identified 5 areas with the highest longevity they called “Blue Zones”.
These places have a high concentration of people over age 100, and there is a substantial disability-free and disease-free life. People live significantly longer happier lives, in these places, than anywhere else in the world. There are five identified "Blue Zones", scattered across the planet.
THE FIVE BLUE ZONES:
- The Italian island of Sardinia
- Ikaria (an isolated Greek island)
- Okinawa, Japan
- Loma Linda, California
- The Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica
Playa Conchal - located in the Blue Zone of the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica.
The sand is made up of millions of crushed conch shells.
My husband Andy and I lived in the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica for over 6 months, and this unique section of Costa Rica truly does contain some of the happiest people on the planet. People living in this area of Costa Rica are more than twice as likely, as other Americans, to reach age 90.
If you've ever spent any time in Costa Rica, the land of rich coasts and pura vida, then you can understand why this special place is known for being one of the happiest countries in the world. Even the animals of Costa Rica display a strong sense of inner peace and can be seen smiling through their endless beach days.
A mother and baby sloth, living the pura vida life and smiling for our camera, in Cahuita, Costa Rica.
Brimming with vibrant colors, pristine beaches, exotic birds, friendly animals, lovely people, flavorful food, and hammocks on every corner, it doesn't take long for the laid-back, slow-paced Costa Rican beach vibe to seep into your soul.
Luckily you don’t have to move to a Blue Zone to live longer. Studies have shown that the people who inhabit these famous Blue Zones seem to share 9 significant life characteristics. If you implement these habits into your daily life, you can create your own "longevity hotspot" wherever you are.
HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN BLUE ZONE:
1) A REASON TO LIVE - plan de viva – have a life purpose.
2) HAVE FAITH – engagement in spirituality or religion is important.
3) FOCUS ON FAMILY & FRIENDS – before other concerns or focuses.
4) WORK HARD – make a strong work ethic and physical activity a regular part of life.
5) DRINK LOTS OF WATER AND EAT YOUR VEGGIES – a majority of food consumed in Blue Zone’s is from plant-based materials, including many nutritious, rich, colorful fruits and numerous fresh vegetables, and always stay hydrated.
6) STRESS REDUCTION - an established healthy support system to reduce stress in your life is crucial. (Even if this simply means purchasing a hammock and scheduling daily "hammock time").
7) GET LOTS OF SLEEP – the inhabitants of Blue Zones are known for rising and falling with the sun, and for getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night. Go to bed early and try to get good quality sleep.
8) GET SOME SUN – a healthy, daily dose of sun is mother nature’s anti-depressant.
9) DON’T SMOKE CIGARETTES – smoking is not common in Blue Zone communities.
A spectacular Blue Zone sunset at Playa Carrillo, Costa Rica.
And, it would be safe to assume, these Blue Zone people don’t forget to stop in their own pursuit of happiness, to just be happy. They realize that being happy or miserable is a choice. The amount of work is the same.
So why not choose happiness? If you want to be happy, then be.
Play your Blue Zone defense, in order to tackle life’s hardships. Change the way you see your world and create your own happy place wherever you go. Choose to live the Blue Zone life every day.
If you still struggle with this concept, try taking some life advice from a baby sloth: slow down, unplug, smile, take lots of naps, and make sure to spend a little time every day doing absolutely nothing. Pura Vida!
“When I travel, people say
‘Yet another place in this world’.
But I see ‘Another world inside every place I go”
-Vivek Thangaswamy -
Do not forget to be in awe of this precious, short life.
- Waylon Lewis -
"Once you realize that the road is the goal, and that you are always on the road, not to reach a goal but to enjoy its beauty and its wisdom, life ceases to be a task and becomes natural and simple.
In itself an ecstasy."
~ Nisargadatta Maharaj ~
"The sun will rise and set regardless. What we choose to do with the light while it's here is up to us.
- Alex Elle -
"As I unclutter my life, I free myself to answer the callings of my soul. "
- Dr. Wayne Dyer -
“Traveling - it gives you a home in thousand strange places, then leaves you a stranger in your own land.”
- Ibn Battuta -
What if at the end we are asked, "How faithfully did you tend to the dream I sowed in your soul?"
- from the Motivation Manifesto -
Stop creating a life that you need a vacation from. Instead, move to where you want to live, do what you want to do, start where you want to start, and create the life you want today.
This isn't rehearsal people. This is YOUR life.
- Dale Partridge -
“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.”
– Anais Nin –
“If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your shit, then you deserve it.”
- Frank Zappa -
“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.”
– Tim Cahill –
“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”
– Mary Anne Radmacher –
“The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.”
– Anna Quindlen –
“Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.”
– Mark Twain –
“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”
– Aldous Huxley –
“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”
– Bill Bryson –
“He who journeys is not the same as he who left.”
"Don't tell me how educated you are. Tell me how much you have traveled."
- Mohammed -
It feels good to be lost in the right direction...
Congratulations! You are planning a trip to the land of pura vida, and it will be life-changing. There will always be a before and after Costa Rica. My husband Andy, our dog Sophie, and I have spent the last 14 months traveling around this special country and here is a list of everything we have learned along the way, and everything I wish we knew before beginning this journey.
1) PURA VIDA
This popular phrase in Costa Rica literally translates to mean "pure life", and that is the only way of life in this laid-back country. Pura vida means to live a peaceful, simple, uncluttered life with a deep appreciation for nature, family, and friends; a "real living" that reflects happiness, simplicity, well-being, and satisfaction.
It means leaving your watch behind, being present, and surrendering yourself to the pace of Mother Nature. Ticos, as the locals calls themselves, say "pura vida" all the time and it can mean anything from "have a good day" to "isn't life grand" to "I have no idea what you're saying". When you can't understand someone, when you're overwhelmed, when in doubt, simply say "pura vida", and all will be understood.
Your first decision should be which part of the country you want to spend your time exploring. Costa Rica is about the size of West Virginia, but due to road conditions it can take a full day to drive from one end of the country to the other. Ask yourself: Do you want to explore the Caribbean beaches? Or relax on the famous Blue Zone beaches of Guanacaste? Do you want to zipline through the cloud forest in Monteverde? Or hike up the Arenal Volcano? Or explore the rugged Osa Peninsula? Or rappel down a waterfall? Or swim with dolphins?
This will determine which international airport you choose. The larger airport is in San Jose, the Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO). SJO is typically less expensive, but more crowded with longer waits. The smaller option is in Liberia, Daniel Oduber International Airport (LIB). LIB is usually a bit more expensive, but is much less crowded and less stressful, with shorter wait times.
3) CAR RENTAL/AIRPORT TRANSPORTATION/GPS
If you can, I recommend renting a car. Next to every crowded, touristy beach lies a hidden, secluded gem. Having the freedom of a rental car allows you to experience special, unplanned, off-the-grid activities. Otherwise there are affordable airport shuttles you can arrange in advance, and the local bus system is also very affordable. Be careful using taxis in this country, I prefer a rental car, a shuttle, or using the bus, although there are plenty of honest taxi drivers available if you choose that route, just do your research.
If you rent a car I recommend having GPS, as it can be difficult to navigate this country. Typically you can rent a GPS system with your rental car, or you can download the GPS app Waze on your phone for free. Also, be cautious of other drivers. Costa Ricans are very laid-back, until they get behind the wheel. Then all sense of pura vida seems to fly out the window. Be wary of motorcycles, sometimes with a family of five piled on, wildlife in the road, lack of street signs, road conditions and potholes that can swallow your car.
4) CELL PHONES/WHAT'S APP
Contact your service provider before your trip to see if your cell phone will work. (Verizon phones are notorious for not working in Costa Rica. We were told ours would work but we ended up stranded at midnight with no working cell phones, and still had to pay for the international plans that didn't work all month.) Typically you can switch to a temporary international plan. If you have an unlocked phone you can purchase an inexpensive SIM card in Costa Rica. Otherwise wifi is readily available in most parts of the country. I recommend downloading What's App, which is an app you can use for free texts and calls.
5) COLON/COLONES/LOCAL CURRENCY
The local currency is called the colon, or colones (pronounced kuh-lone-ace). I would not bother exchanging money ahead of time, and certainly not at the airport due to the high exchange rates. U.S. dollars are accepted most places, as are debit cards. ATM's are readily available and you can withdraw colones from the ATM. You also receive change in colones when paying in dollars. Figuring out the dollars to colones conversion rate can be tricky but we have an easy trick to avoid hard, on-the-spot math, just to figure out the price of cereal.
It is roughly 500 colones to the $1. So a 10,000 colones (diez mil) bill is a very common bill. It is equivalent to roughly $20. To figure out the rough value you take 10,000 and drop the last three 0's. So 10,000 becomes just 10. Then you double the 10, so 10+10=20. So 10,000 is around $20. And 5,000 colones would be $10 because you drop the three 0's, 5,000 becomes 5. You double the number, 5+5=10, so 5,000 colones is roughly $10. This is not exact but helps you to quickly determine the rough price of an item.
COLONES TO DOLLARS CHEATSHEET:
1,000 mil = $2
2,000 mil = $4
5,000 mil = $10
10,000 mil = $20
20,000 mil = $40
P.S. Let your bank know of your trip ahead of time, that way they won't turn off your bank card when charges start being made in a foreign country.
In Costa Rica hammocks are a way of life. They are everywhere. In every house, apartment, on every porch. They are at every beach bar. In every hotel, bed & breakfast, and hostel. At some hostels you can rent just a hammock for the night. Costa Ricans spend much of their free time swinging away life’s worries in a hammock. (No wonder they are known to be some of the happiest people on the planet.)
The only souvenir I recommend, and almost require, is an authentic Costa Rican hammock. They come in a rainbow of bright colors and are inexpensive at the local tourist shops at around $28. You can purchase some rope from a local hardware store (or bring some with you) and then spend as much time as possible swinging in your hammock at the beach. The hammock can fold up nicely to fit in a beach bag, and it is the perfect souvenir to bring home to remind yourself to keep the pura vida spirit alive. Laying in a hammock feels like permission from the universe to do nothing. And a true Costa Rican vacation is all about learning the beautiful art of doing nothing.
How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterwards. - Costa Rican proverb
7) BLUE ZONE/HAPPIEST PEOPLE ON THE PLANET
Costa Rica is known to have some of the happiest people on the planet. “Blue Zones” is a concept used to identify a demographic and/or geographic area of the world where people live measurably longer lives, only occurring in a handful of places on Earth. This concept is the result of research by Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain, as they identified 5 areas with the highest longevity they called “Blue Zones”.
These places have a high concentration of people over age 100, and there is a substantial disability-free and disease-free life. People live significantly longer, happier lives, in these places, than anywhere else in the world. The Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica, is one of these known longevity hotspots. People living in this area of Costa Rica are more than twice as likely, as other Americans, to reach age 90.
So while you're here, don't worry, be happy, keep calm and pura vida your way through life.
8) RAINY/DRY SEASON
Rainy season, or green season, falls between the months of May and November, with September and October being the rainiest months in Costa Rica. Dry season is from December through April. The Caribbean side of the country doesn't experience much of a change and remains wet and green year-round. The Guanacaste region experiences an extreme dry season, becoming very hot and dry as the foliage dies and the trees lose their leaves as they starve for water.
Rainy season is not a bad time to visit Costa Rica however, as most of the days begin with sun. The fascinating, dramatic thunderstorms typically wait until the afternoon, so plan your activities for the morning. I prefer rainy season, as the beaches and bars are deserted and you can find better deals on hotels, B & B's, activities and restaurant specials.
Costa Rica has been a peaceful democracy without a military for more than 60 years, and is often referred to as the Switzerland of Central America. Costa Rica enjoys a high standard of living, a nationally high literacy rate, and a lower level of poverty in comparison to other countries in Central America. But still be cautious when traveling here, as petty thievery is still very common. Don't leave valuables in your car, don't leave electronics in plain sight, and always be aware of your surroundings. I know many people who have had cell phones, backpacks, wallets and passports stolen. But my husband and I have been lucky and have so far only been robbed of our flip flops and a bottle of booze during our travels around Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is home to many exotic animal species and you rarely have to travel far to have an incredible animal encounter. The animals are my favorite part of this country. To see a sloth up close, to have a Scarlet Macaw fly directly over your head, to be surrounded by the roar of a howler monkey as he tries to pee on you, these are all life-changing experiences.
But remember the jungles and oceans of Costa Rica also contain dangerous animals, like venomous snakes, crocodiles, stingrays, jaguars, etc. In the year we have lived here I have been stung by a sting ray and a jellyfish, I've been nearly trampled by an out-of-control psychotic beach horse, and I've been struck at by a 6-foot pit viper, or fer-de-lance, which is Costa Rica's most dangerous snake. You can read about that experience here:
So remember where you are and be cautious because you are surrounded by wild animals. But with that said most of the animals here seem to take the pura vida part of life pretty seriously.
11) WORDS/PHRASES/THINGS TO KNOW
A. "LA CUENTA POR FAVOR"
In Costa Rica you always have to ask for the bill at any restaurant. "La cuenta por favor" means check please. This is very refreshing, and there is never a rush to get you out the door. In America you are treated like a number and they want to turn your table over immediately and often deliver the check with your meal. In Costa Rica they consider that rude. Even if you're only drinking a soda, you have the right to sit at that table all day enjoying it if you like.
In most Latin American countries it is appropriate to use the informal version of you, "tu", when speaking to someone. However, in Costa Rica it is considered incredibly rude to use the casual "tu" form. Costa Ricans prefer to use the formal version of you, "usted", as a sign of respect. I have even heard Ticos addressing their pets with "usted". Always use "usted" in Costa Rica, unless addressing a close friend or family member.
In Costa Rica they use "Buenas" as a general greeting, anytime of day. Forget buenas dias, or buenas tardes, or buenas noches. Just basic "Buenas" can mean from what's up, to good day, to hello, to how are you, to good morning, to have a good night. When in doubt just say Buenas.
D. VASO DE AGUA CON HIELO
Tap water is safe to drink in most of the country, and the water in Costa Rica tastes clean, fresh, and delicious. When ordering water to drink at a restaurant, just saying "agua" can sometimes result in an over-priced bottle of water showing up at your table. If you say "vaso de agua con hielo por favor", that means you are asking for a glass of water with ice, which typically means a glass of tap water you won't be charged for.
E. NO ENTIENDO
No Entiendo means I do not understand.
F. LO SIENTO, PERDON, DISCULPE
These are three ways of saying I'm sorry, pardon me, or excuse me.
G. HASTA LUEGO
This means see you later.
E. MUCHO GUSTO, OR CON GUSTO
This means much pleasure, or with pleasure. You will hear this in place of "de nada", as you're welcome, or when you meet a new person, it is like saying nice to meet you.
F. PIPA FRIA
Pipa Fria is an ice-cold coconut, packed with healthy, refreshing, hydrating, delicious coconut water. You can find a local selling these on most beaches throughout the country for around $1. Pipa Fria tastes like happiness. When we leave this country I already know I will miss drinking Pipa Frias more than anything else.
You will hear this a lot in restaurants, it typically means are you ready to order?
H. GALLO PINTO
This literally translates to mean "spotted rooster", but it is a local, flavorful dish made of rice, beans, herbs and veggies. It can be served with any meal of the day, but typically is eaten with breakfast.
A typical meal in Costa Rica, a casado consists of either fish, chicken, pork, beef, or veggies, alongside rice, beans, salad and sweet plantains.
Not the soft drink, but a small, inexpensive restaurant that serves local food. Eating at sodas is a good way to save money while experiencing the culture.
There are many helpful Spanish phrases to know, but these are at least some basic ones to get you started.
12) WHAT TO BRING
First of all don't over pack, less is more. Less stuff, less stress. Big bulky bags draw negative attention. In Costa Rica we find we end up wearing the same things over and over. Basic and simple wardrobes of flip flops, lightweight shorts and tank tops.
*camera and/or binoculars
(if you are a bird watcher I recommend bringing a Costa Rica bird watching book, or you can purchase a book here at most tourist shops)
*lap top, kindle, books, games, cards
Remember that it gets dark in Costa Rica around 6pm, year-round. Once the sun goes down it is nice to have something to occupy your evening hours. Bring books, or a kindle or lap top, cards, games, etc.
Mosquitoes can be overwhelming in Costa Rica, particularly during the rainy season which falls between May and November. I prefer to make my own bug spray with essential oils.
Costa Rica is less than 10 degrees North of the Equator, so remember to apply sunscreen as a bad sunburn can ruin most of your trip. Also a hat, or umbrella, are both effective options for sun protection.
*lightweight, light-colored, breathable clothing
In this climate you will want to wear clothing that dries quickly and has good air flow. Black clothing is not recommended.
*insulated water bottle
You lose a lot of water in this humid climate. An insulated water bottle will provide you with cold drinking water and sometimes on a hot beach, a cold sip of water feels like a life-saver.
It is priceless going back to re-live memories you may have forgotten years down the road. I have spent countless hours writing in my journal while swinging in my hammock at the beach.
*a sweat rag
Central America is extremely humid. As soon as you step foot in this country you begin sweating and don't stop again until you leave. A lightweight sweat rag, or even a wash cloth, or two, will come in very handy.
* flashlight or head lamp
As I said earlier, it gets dark early around here and it is not fun to be stuck outside in the dark without a flashlight. A head lamp is even better as it frees your hands.
* poncho or rain jacket
Although these items won't give you much protection if you are caught in an unrelenting jungle storm, they are still nice to have when caught in a drizzle.
* shoes with traction
Either river rock hiking shoes/sandals (I recommend Chacos) or hiking shoes with traction, if you plan to explore. If you plan to simply lounge on the beach then flip flops are all you will need.
* your patience.
The pace is slow in this country and there is a lot of waiting. Just try to enjoy the scenery around you, be up for all adventures and learn to ride the waves of life and laugh off inconvenience.
(Please grant me patience Lord, but hurry!)
Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have about your upcoming Costa Rica trip. Safe Travels, Pura Vida, and Happy Exploring!
If you missed my last blog about my terrifying encounter with a 6-foot pit viper, the fer-de-lance, which is one of Costa Rica's most dangerous and aggressive snakes, you can read it here:
I was joking to someone recently that I have PTSD after the horrific experience. But once I looked up the definition of PTSD, it dawned on me that I really am suffering from some of the symptoms.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - is a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event - either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
The image of the giant snake head striking at me is something I replay over and over in my head. I expect to see a snake coming at me when I open the front door, the car door, the pantry, even the dryer. I am always on edge, on high alert, jumpy and ready to flee in terror at a moments notice. Flee NOW, ask later, has become my new life motto. Every time I open my door I expect the worst, and that is not a fun feeling to live with.
I don't want to be afraid to leave my house…but I think jungle hikes will be put on hold for a while. Instead we decide to spend a relaxing day at the beach, so I can unwind a bit and get back to enjoying the pura vida way of life in Costa Rica, although I know the ocean is also a dangerous place...
Playa Hermosa is known for strong rip currents and powerful waves, but I plan to spend the day safely strolling up and down the shore, enjoying some sun and sand therapy. The day is overcast, the dark blue sky swirls above the turquoise water as the clouds roll through, sprinkling the scene with specks of drama.
Above us a flock of pelicans soar in a V-shape, each birds motion matching the one before, perfecting a game of follow the leader. A mirror image, they are synchronized swimmers, the sky their ocean. Ahead of us a group of five horses lazily trot down the sand, coming in our direction, the humans upon their backs sweating and smiling.
I've been bucked off a few horses in my life. They say if you get bucked off, to get back on…so I did. But then I got bucked off again. After that horses and I made a mutual decision to part ways. With their large, powerful bodies and jumpy personalities, I prefer to keep my distance.
But the horses in Costa Rica do seem to be pretty pura vida'd out. I have never felt intimidated by them as they stroll up and down the sand. The wild horses that roam the beaches freely do not appear scary in any way, and we have even managed to take a few horse selfies.
So when this group of horses slowly and calmly surrounds us, I don't panic. I had enough of a warning to their approach that my PTSD from "snakegate" hasn't been awakened just yet. We all greet each other and they lazily continue on their way. No big deal. Look at me, all grown up. Mature and functioning in society again, like a real adult.
I'm lost in the beach, soaking in the colors and the sounds, truly feeling relaxed and safe for the first time in a while. Up ahead we notice a clearing and head toward it. The howler monkeys call to each other and their voices boom through the stormy atmosphere. The thunder begins to rumble over the ocean, and the waves ferociously answer.
As we approach the clearing we observe a lady standing in the shade. Suddenly there is a whirlwind of commotion behind her. A powerful, muscular horse, tied up to a tree, is stomping the ground agitatedly, creating a swirling dust storm. He bucks his body in convulsions, his mane flying wildly around him as his hind legs lash out viciously.
The woman cautiously approaches him to grab his rope, and her movement panics him more and he continues to flail around dramatically. His seizure-like movements eventually break his rope free. Alive with the scent of freedom he turns and peels out, taking off down the beach in our direction, at a full run. The whites of his eyes grow large and crazed, his mane resembles a majestic lions as it swirls in the speed of his labored, calculated sprint. Snorting, slobbering, a bumbling, hot mess, he moves faster than a category 4 hurricane violently approaching shore.
For a moment I wonder if this is what I looked like running from the pit viper, and I briefly feel bad for those who never get to go crazy in life. But then he focuses on me and aims in my exact direction, like a horse missile, continuing at his terrifying speed, with me as his target. With the snake memory now on my brain, taking over all reason and common sense, I can only do what I do best at this point, and that is to go completely nuts, screaming bloody murder like a crazed madwoman, while fleeing another possible scene of death.
"CRAZY HORSE ON THE LOOSE!!" I scream in Andy's direction, at the top of my lungs, as I beeline straight into the ocean, at full speed. My survival instinct has taken over, once again, and I put all my energy into immediately escaping the imposing danger of those deadly hooves pounding toward me on the sand.
As I reach the water and continue to scream at Andy, I look back to see the horse veering away from him at the last minute. I breathe a major sigh of relief. Death avoided, once again. After the horse sprints past him Andy turns to see where I fled to. We make eye contact and he gives me a dirty look.
I slowly return to the scene of the almost crime and as I come within speaking distance he says, "That was so cool, an out of control horse came running right at us and you had to ruin it with your suicide screaming! What is wrong with you?" The only appropriate response I can give, that doesn't involve foul words or obscene gestures, is "Whatever".
The woman who was with the horse approaches us. She apologizes and explains she hates horses and didn't want to go horseback riding today, but her family made her. (Just say no people!) She shows us cuts and scrapes from where the horse violently ran through trees and bushes, with her on his back. Hearing about him kicking and bullying the other horses in the group, I realize he was a trouble maker and maybe I didn't totally overreact by screaming and booking it straight into the ocean.
We all got a good laugh out of my reaction. I wanted to explain my pit viper PTSD to the crazy horse lady, so she wouldn't think I was just a drama queen…but since she was only a tourist I didn't want to traumatize her anymore than the horse ride from hell already had.
Looking back I don't know why I thought the ocean would be a safer choice…rip tides, powerful waves, sharks, venomous sea snakes, stingrays, jellyfish…or one crazy horse on an empty 5-mile beach. Once the panic mode, PTSD, fight or flight instinct kicks in, I can't really control where my feet take me.
I am who I am I, and sometimes I just can't help getting Kari'd away…
Kari Pinkerton Silcox
It would be a tragedy to die, having never really lived. Which is why my husband Andy and I quit our jobs, sold our house and decided to chase our dreams. We moved to Costa Rica without a plan, and this is the story of our adventure.