Finding Peace in Costa Rica

Twenty five was a transformative age. Seeking a semi inexpensive spiritually cleansing trip a friend and I booked a trip to Costa Rica. There was something raw about the Spanish speaking utopia laced with trails beaches, jungles, and volcanoes, and upon arrival Mother Nature did not disappoint.

When we arrived a friend and I met with our traveling group and ventured out towards the pacific coast. Along the way was a roadside fruit stall offering exotic fruits. Nearby, Caiman crocodiles lounged in the riverbanks where baby caimans can be seized by herons and other birds of prey.

Then, Playa Hermosa a black sand beach that is the product of lava deposits from the volcanoes that divide the country’s pacific and Caribbean slopes. Surrounded by the fragile ecosystem the lackluster sand still couldn’t dim the vibrancy that surrounded it. Dinner was served then back on the bus it was towards a hammock endowed villa where a three fingered sloth rotated its neck 360 degrees comfortably in a tree nearby. The day was done and lying in bed the immense sense of life was dominant.

The morning came. Beans, rice, and fried eggs awaited consumption. Then the hike through Manual Antonio National Park. Amidst the 300 species of birds, the most malicious attraction were the white faced capuchin monkeys. Agile animals, they spend their day searching for food from tree to tree. They eat everything from buds, fruits and nuts to birds’ eggs, insects and small vertebrae. It is the most intelligent of new world monkeys using twigs to hunt for insects and stones to crack open crab shells. It also rubs itself with crushed millipedes to repel mosquitos.

Once sightseeing was complete we made our way to the city center. Scurrying down and around the trees were squirrel monkeys, who were more friendly than capuchin monkeys and are declining in population due to deforestation. Across the street, Playa Espadilla where flamboyant alcoholic beverages were served with psychotria poepigiana or the “hot lips” forest flower that attracts butterflies that are just as vibrant. In the water, a separate kingdom of animal life.

The next day the adventurer inside zip-lined through silk cotton trees before the Costa Rican rain came down creating the ultimate tranquil rainforest experience.

On the last day I got on a bus filled with Tico men, women, and children that made its way through rainbow colored houses towards a small aerial yoga studio with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the ocean on one side and an eventful small street on the other.

Limbs flowed through the soft hammock held by carabineers, support chains and webbing straps. Twisting poses wrung out venous blood from internal organs allowing more oxygenated blood to stream through. Blood flow increased from the legs, to pelvis to heart. The intestine relaxed. Serotonin levels increased. Monoamine oxidase decreased. Asana complete pranayama followed. Senses withdrew, grey matter augmented, the fifth brain wave gamma was reached through meditating while levitated. Cognizance lost motion. Time stopped. Stillness and serenity ruled. Slowly lifting up my eyes opened to the sunset that was being admired by new friends parasailing on the other end of town and by the hundreds of other different species.

Feeling the magnitude of how interconnected everything was I noticed that even in the dead silence the sound of the world is still so loud. It was here that I realized peace isn’t quiet. It roars.

-Tatiana Ristev

A Well-Traveled Woman

“I love traveling” is such a misused statement. I notice that often what people really mean is they like a place with a beach or they want to visit typical well known vacation spots – like the Caribbean. Or they don’t want to go anywhere if it’s cold. Or they do some ten city trip in two weeks or less. Or they travel because they think it makes them sound philosophical in conversation. None of these is what traveling should be about. Traveling is a privilege. It is a chance to stunt ignorance and evolve.

When I say I want to travel the world I mean I want to go to Paris in the winter when there are little to no tourists so I can sense what the city is really like because the winter quiet is just as beautiful as the summer noise. I mean I want to go to all the gritty places in the world like Venezuela despite the fact that they do their local food shopping in prisons and the children of the Piaroa tribe roast goliath spiders like marshmallows until the air escapes from their knees because you can’t be a picky eater in the jungle. I mean I want to swim with jelly fish that don’t sting in the lakes of Palau. I want to climb the mountains of Machu Picchu. As a matter of fact if there is a mountain nearby I want to be on top of it. I want to watch the burnt orange sunset while camping in Morocco. I want to go through the Wisteria Tunnel in Japan, the Tunnel of Love in the Ukraine, Halong Bay and Pongua falls in Vietnam. Then maybe set my feet on the cliffs of Ireland. I want to visit Norway, Namibia, Montenegro, Cambodia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Portugal, Jordan, Madagascar, the stone forest in China and Lake Retba in Senegal.

Before I continue let me explain why these places interest me. It is because I firmly believe that if you travel well – the right way- it is the best form of self- education. That visiting Egypt will teach me about the history of the world. And India. I want to get lost in your vivid southern temples, feel alive during your dazzling elephant festivals, and weave on a traditional loom. When I travel I want to meet happiness and harmony. Therefore take me to Tibet where I can meet a nation in exile whose leader taught them that retaliation by violence is weaker than retaliation by peace. Take me to Indonesia. Take me to Croatia. Take me to the Dead Sea. Take me anywhere because I have the curiosity to experience the world, not travel it.

-Tatiana Ristev