I apologize for the delay in this post and the hiatus on blogs – we were having some technical difficulties but everything is back up and running now!
Two weeks ago I spent 5 days exploring the area in Costa Rica surrounding the beautiful Arenal volcano. I was there visiting my best friend Asia, who as many of you already know, has been traveling through South and Central America for the last six months as a solo backpacker (though she is rarely alone). This trip has been life changing for Asia and I’m so happy that she was able to follow her heart and do it! At this point I believe she has at least a few more months left of her travels and I’m incredibly thankful that I was able to fly down for some quality time with my friend.
The highlights of the trip were a 3 hour uphill, muddy hike to Cerro Chato, an inactive volcano with a great view of the larger, more famous Arenal Volcano nearby, an impromptu visit to undeveloped natural hot springs with fellow travels we met in the hostel bar, a zip lining tour that included a surprise terrifying free fall on the “Tarzan Swing” (check out the video on my Facebook page!) salsa dancing with the locals (which to me is scarier than the swing!), and lots of long, wonderful conversations with my dear friend. This fun was sandwiched between two long travel days, which I actually didn’t mind to much given that it was uninterrupted time to read books, catch up on my thoughts and as counter-intuitive as it may sound, even relax.
On our 5 hour ride on a local bus from Arenal to San Jose on my final day of the trip (the reverse route only took 2 hours by private car the night I arrived in San Jose!), I stared out the window and began to reflect on the feelings and thoughts I’d had swirling around during my trip. We stayed at a backpacker hostel, something I’m very accustomed to as I am fortunate enough to have traveled a lot in my life (around 25 countries in total), including a 4 month study abroad program in Madrid during college, a life changing 4 month backpacking trip through Southeast Asia in 2009 and several shorter trips with classmates, boyfriends, my husband, and friends over the years. In fact, my love of blogging started on that SE Asia trip (check out that blog here) and I’ve shared our trips to Italy, Belize, Dominican Republic, and New Zealand on this blog!
Traveling is one of my true passions and something I have put on the back burner as I took on my new role as a mother. Mike and I took an amazing three week vacation to New Zealand at the end of 2014 and planned (and succeeded) to start a family shortly afterward. That trip was a “last hurrah” – a nice, solid finale to my life as a traveler. I knew that I would travel internationally again at some point – first as a family when our children were a little older and then as a couple when our children were grown, but my travels where I was only concerned about my own health and happiness were over. And I certainly wouldn’t be staying in a hostel again!
Now here I was, staying in a hostel in Costa Rica without my family, a few more winkles around my eyes and my wedding band on my finger as a silent reminders that things weren’t the same as they were 7 years ago when I motorbiked through the hills of Vietnam with a group of strangers, 12 years ago when I danced in nightclubs in Ibiza and weeks later drank beers with German men wearing lederhosen at Oktoberfest, or even 3 years ago when Mike and I climbed the beautiful cliffs of Cinque Terre as newlyweds on our honeymoon. It almost felt like I’d gone back to my high school during school hours after I’d graduated and gone off to college – I was just waiting for someone to notice and say “Hey, you don’t belong here anymore!”
I found myself drinking a beer in the hostel bar, surrounded by young travelers hailing from places such as Israel, Australia, Europe, and Venezuela, I was simulteaneously overcome with both warm familiarity and a sense of being an imposter. What is a 33 year old mom doing partying with 21 year old kids!? Memories of past travels flooded my thoughts throughout our trip – “Remember the time we…..”(Asia traveled with me for the first month of my trip to Southeast Asia and also studied abroad in Madrid at the same time as me). Stories from fellow travelers who were on much longer expeditions than me brought back memories of my own trips. I found myself reminiscing much more than dreaming of future travels.
I let myself wonder if I’d change anything. Should I have been more cautious about spending on my trip in Southeast Asia so I could have extended it? Should I have looked into work-away programs to earn free lodging and meals? Should I come home and convince Mike that we should move abroad and travel with Siena by our sides like those people I follow on Instagram? But on that long bus ride back to San Jose, I decided, no. I did everything the way it was meant be.
I met Mike literally three months after I returned from that trip. There is nothing I would change – he is the best thing that ever happened to me. I’ve been incredibly fortunate (and have made sacrifices in other areas of my life) to see much of the world and I know that I will see much more of it with Mike by my side in the years to come. I missed both Siena and Mike so much during my short time away that it made me cry when I saw them again. The life I have built at home may not always be glamorous, but it’s mine. It fills me up and makes me happy in a way that travel can never compete with. The daily adventures of watching Siena grow and learn are worth the sacrifice of certain freedoms. However, I know that there will always be a special place in my heart for travel and I hope that I can give Siena the opportunity to fall in love with travel on her own.
Have you ever said goodbye to a past life? Where would you travel to today if you could?