Normally when we vacation, we keep to ourselves. We have an itinerary or we’re just relaxing, and “conversing with strangers” is not on the agenda.
But a journey is different. I find myself much more curious about the people around me, and far more willing to connect.
We felt this way two years ago when we were here in Costa Rica for a month. When I think back on some of the connections we made then, and how they continue to shape this adventure, I begin to think it pays to be an extrovert.
Two years ago, we’d traveled from our tiny jungle village into Nosara for groceries and gas, and stopped to eat at the restaurant Marlin Bill’s. Also dining there that night were Joe and his wife Helena. Joe happened to be wearing a Volcano Brewing Company t-shirt, which piqued Lee’s curiosity.
Normally we’d have just remarked on it to ourselves and moved on, but somehow being here – outside our comfort zone – made us bolder. So Lee approached and started a conversation about craft beer that led to a visit to Joe’s amazing Black Sheep Pub, isolated up in the hills of Nosara.
We saw Joe and Helena a couple of times on that trip, and later kept in touch via Facebook. When Lee and I began hatching our plans to return to Costa Rica, I can’t begin to tell you how many messages and questions I sent to them. About doctors, about insurance, about housing, mail delivery, vet services, car purchases – you name it, I asked about it. For this planner, it was a relief to know we had people “on the ground” who could help us sort out the many details as we prepared for the move.
So of course once we arrived this time, a trip back up to the Black Sheep Pub was one of the first stops we had to make. It was a moment to celebrate spontaneous relationships that had been cultivated and had borne fruit. Lee shared one of the special bottles of craft beer that he brought with him from Georgia, and we toasted to a happy reunion.
Then Joe mentioned a new friend who was renting one of his apartments under the biergarten. She wasn’t around at the moment, but had recently begun volunteering at SIBU Sanctuary, a monkey rehabilitation center in Nosara. My heart skipped a beat, and I immediately wanted to meet this woman and find out more.
So the next day I looked her up on Facebook and sent her a message. One of those, “Hey, I know you don’t know me, but would you like to get together and talk about monkeys?” kind of messages. And she did. This perfect stranger came to my house, sat on my front porch and talked to me about monkeys. And promised an introduction to the sanctuary owners.
She made good on her promise, and within days I had an appointment to visit the sanctuary and talk about volunteering, which is now a regular gig for me (and worthy of its own blog post).
Being with the monkeys is like a dream come true. And if we hadn’t said hello to Joe two years ago, if he hadn’t told us about his new friend, if she hadn’t introduced me to the sanctuary owner, would I even be working there? If we’d kept to ourselves, how much might we have missed?
Not that it’s easy to put yourself out there. Funny story – I mentioned previously about putting a message on the local Facebook page asking about a playdate. One of the moms who responded tells me that her daughter was initially horrified about the idea.
“Mom, you don’t just get together with people you meet on Facebook!” she said, and wisely so. “What if they have knives?”
I see her point. We’re taught from a young age never to talk to strangers, and with good reason.
But in reality, wasn’t every friend a stranger first?