Our last day in the US was spent weighing and re-weighing suitcases. Packing and repacking. We used a luggage scale. We used a bathroom scale. We got vastly different results from each. How do you condense into four suitcases all that you will need for a year, when you are moving to the jungle? With some hand wringing- that’s how.
Once we made our final packing decisions and loaded my car for the ride to Jacksonville, I had a new concern. Would our Costa Rican shuttle driver be able to fit all our stuff in his car? So I sent him this picture, and in Tico “pura vida” fashion he said “we’ll just make it work.”
Early Saturday morning, it took us 45 minutes to check in at the airport thanks to our dog and our lengthy stay, and involved the check-in agent making several calls on the emergency red phone to the gods of Delta to make sure we weren’t violating any visa rules. Then she weighed our bags – hallelujah they weren’t overweight – and handed over our boarding passes.
The flights were blessedly uneventful. Chance didn’t like being confined to his carrier as we made our way through the airports, but once on board he could sit in my lap, which made us all very happy. Flying makes me nervous sometimes, so I had him registered as an emotional support dog, which meant he got to curl up in my lap under a blanket and snooze his way over the ocean at 10,000 feet. It was good for both of us.
Our first hurdle in Costa Rica was border control – would the agent give us the 90 day visa stamp we needed? Or decide randomly on a shorter number? I was relieved when we were summoned to booth number 13. It’s always been my lucky number, and proved lucky again that day.
Getting through customs with the dog was way easier than I imagined, I think because I had checked and double checked the requirements and had all the paperwork in order. I conversed in Spanglish with the agent, who seemed genuinely excited about our year in Nosara, and he stamped the dog’s health certificate and sent us on our way.
We had pre-arranged for a private car service to take us from San Jose to Nosara. Our driver was a nice man, and managed (with the help of some bungee cords) to fit all our stuff in his vehicle. Then he indulged his fantasies of being in the Daytona 500 as he whipped along the Costa Rican highways. I could’ve been terrified – maybe I should’ve been terrified – but all I could think was, “I’m so glad I’m not driving!”
As we wound through the country my thoughts vacillated between “Oh, isn’t that a pretty mountain?” and “What the f@#k are we doing?”
For all its natural beauty, I was reminded that Costa Rica is very different from home as we passed by the small houses with corrugated tin roofs and not much else. Could I really be trading my beloved Savannah and moving here for a year?
In record time, thanks to the fearlessness of our driver, we made it to Nicoya, the nearest town of any size before Nosara. And it’s still pretty small. Just past the city limits, the paved road unceremoniously ends, and the real Costa Rican driving begins. The roads are full of rocks, jarring potholes, and all manner of hazards. You’re as likely to pass someone on a motorcycle or a four-wheeler as you are a bus or a truck. In the 45 minutes between Nicoya and Nosara, we saw two accidents. The bridges are mostly one lane, and while the oncoming traffic was supposed to yield to us (according to our driver anyway), they didn’t always, resulting in some near misses.
About 15 minutes outside of Nosara, we bought some tamales from a roadside vendor and then our driver declared we needed a celebratory drink. I didn’t disagree. So he pulled over at Garza beach where there was a mini-market. Lee got a beer, I got a faux mojito in a can, and Camille got some strawberry milk. We walked across the road to the sand, to the pounding waves, the blue water, and the gorgeous rock outcroppings shimmering in the distance behind the fog, and I felt a fresh peace. “This,” I thought. “This is beautiful. I can do this for a year.”
Then it was back into the car for the final few minutes to our home. As we turned off the main dirt highway in Nosara onto our road, I literally laughed out loud. The road has no name, and its single lane winds steeply up a mountainside. There are deep crevices carved into the road from rain water, and I joked, “Oh this will be fun in the rainy season.”
The driver said, “Oh, you’ll be fine! This road is GREAT!”
Then as we turned into our driveway and our house and the surroundings came into view, he said quietly and very seriously, “You all did good. Real good.”
And he was right. The home’s mountaintop location affords us unobstructed 180 degree views of miles and miles of Costa Rican coastline. Between us and the beach is a lush green jungle, where you can hear the howler monkeys at play. From our back porch, you can watch the sun rise over Las Huacas mountains, and a cool breeze chases away the otherwise sweltering humid air.
The house itself, to be honest, is a little tired. It could use updating, and if it were our forever home we’d certainly change some things about it. BUT, and here’s the big BUT, it has a large porch that wraps around the entire home and all of the exterior walls – every single one – are glass. So I can manage just fine cooking in a tired kitchen when my eyes are constantly drawn to the gorgeous views outside.
So we made it to the jungle. Our driver joked that his family back in the states refers to Nosara as “the end of the world.” It does seem so wild and so remote.
But my hope for us this year is that the pura vida lifestyle seeps into our bones and settles there forever. I’m a person of structure, of timelines and agendas, and that’s not going to work down here. But I’m also a person who loves nature, loves the sand and waves, the mountains and the wildlife. I fully realize that the transition may be painful at times, but I hope this jungle changes me. I hope the wildness of this place becomes my wildness.