Oh where to begin talking about the Costa Rican love of my life, one of my new homes in this world, Dominical. It’s funny to me to think about how when I started planning to come to Costa Rica, so much of my thinking was centered around finding work and living in Montezuma, an area I had heard so much about and thought was maybe the place for me. Things were coming together nicely in the beginning stages of planning and I was confident I would find work, friends, and a lovely life in Montezuma. Then a couple months prior to my leaving, forward motion with my original plan all but stopped; I wasn’t getting responses to emails, and potential work, volunteer, housing, and friend connections were falling through. I was left feeling stuck and confused about where to go next. I couldn’t understand why I had received so many signs and made so many connections in that area if it wasn’t meant to be. I spent a few weeks wondering if I was headed down the wrong path, before accepting the reality and changing my plans, keeping faith that everything was happening (or not happening) for a reason. I decided that I should spend my time WWOOFing (volunteering on farms) in order to travel within my budget. The more I let go of my attachment to my original plan and allowed space to open up for something new, the more I felt excited about this new direction. By the time I left, I had a plan in place that provided a nice combination of exploration and planting on an amazing farm for at least a month.
Then the farm gig fell through as well. The crumbling of my second plan opened the door to yet another unexpected opportunity; to return to Dominical, a place that I felt a connection to and wasn’t really wanting to leave anyway when we went to the farm. Casey and I returned with the hopes that we could volunteer at the hostel, but found out upon arrival that they didn’t need help anymore. In the next few days we wondered what the hell we were going to do next to survive months on our small savings. Then unexpectedly, the current volunteer decided to leave and we ended up with sweet volunteer jobs. Suddenly I had a new home at my favorite hostel, Piramys, run by the amazing couple, Sri and Celine, who work their asses off and create an environment so inviting and homey that at least a couple times a week I would witness backpackers returning and saying “We had to come back! We love it here!” (something I did as well, twice 🙂 I got to sleep for free, use a surfboard whenever I wanted, and got my laundry done for me (actually a huge money saver as there aren’t really laundromats here and laundry service is expensive).
Once I knew I would be in town for a bit, I decided to work part time at the local yoga studio, the amazing Bamboo Yoga Play where I worked a few hours a week for a small hourly wage and, more importantly, free yoga classes. I took several classes with a few different teachers (shout out to Sofiah, Heidi, and Shaeah), and they were all incredible; full of love, knowledge, and creativity. In a short time I found a ton of inspiration for my own teaching, and new music for my playlist (thanks Shaeah for turning me on to MaMuse!)
I really loved spending my time doing work trades. It feels wonderful to trade energy to live instead of money, and I’m definitely inspired to continue seeking out opportunities for work/energy trade as opposed to paying directly for things. And getting involved in the town offered me a great opportunity to meet local people and feel like I was really becoming part of the community. One of my last days in Dominical I was walking back to the hostel on my lunch break from the yoga studio, and as I walked down the street, exchanging pleasantries with local business owners and friends, I thought to myself, wow I have a little life here! It dawned on me that I had found exactly what I had wanted when I first started planning to come to Costa Rica, just in Dominical instead of Montezuma. Oddly enough, I never even visited Montezuma, and while I would like to on my next visit here, I feel certain that I didn’t miss anything by not living there. Something about Dominical felt instantly like home, and I think I got lucky to fall into this sweet little nook on the Central Pacific coast of the country.
Dominical is incredibly easygoing, the people are super nice, the beaches, while not the most beautiful in the country, are still pretty and offer great surfing and sunsets. The town has escaped overdevelopment thus far and I hope it continues to do so.There’s a charm here that I haven’t found in another beach town in the country. It’s also a really great jumping off point to get to other places in the country like the Osa Peninsula, Chirripo, Uvita, Quepos, Manuel Antonio, Rivas, San Isidro, and even San Jose isn’t so bad to get to. After some quick visits to Samara and Nosara, I really liked those areas as well, though they are decidedly more touristy and more remote. I would definitely want to spend more time in that region if I came back, but I think I’ll always be a bit partial to Dominical. Everything I needed was there; a few small grocery stores and produce markets and even a produce truck a few days a week (my favorite), an atm (finicky with MasterCards), great surf instructors (the ones underneath Piramys are awesome and the most affordable in town for one on one lessons).
I’ll miss going to Chapy’s for sandwiches; Maracatu for good, healthy (largely vegetarian) food; the sushi place –the first sushi I’ve ever liked! – Antorcha’s has the BEST casados, hands down; Domilocos next door to Piramys has a good all you can eat breakfast buffet for $6 and San Clemente has Taco Tuesdays with $1.20 tacos and $2.00 STRONG margaritas. Anytime I needed to go out I could always count on dancing and drinks at Maracatu on Wednesdays, Que Nivel on Tuesdays, and Tortilla Flats pretty much any day at sunset to have 2 for 1 beers and watch the surfers catch waves in front of the setting sun. Even if I didn’t have anyone to go somewhere with, the town is small enough that I could guarantee I’d run into somebody while I was out, or find someone new and friendly to strike up a conversation with.
And on the days when I didn’t want to spend money (which were many), I could always find some people to chill with and make some food with at the hostel, have a fogata (bonfire), watch the sunset from a hammock on the beach, or hitch a few miles to an awesome waterfall to chill for the day (in Dominicalito – a must visit for anyone in the area, ask around people will know where you mean).
Just a stones throw from Dominical is Uvita, another town that, while I didn’t spend much time exploring it, holds some really wonderful memories for me between a weekend spent with incredible people at Selva Armonia Retreat Center, and a life-changing five days spent at Envision Festival (check out an upcoming blog post for details on that). The downtown of Uvita isn’t anything to write home about, but Marino Ballena National Park has one of the nicest beaches I’ve been to in the country. If you’re looking for an expansive white sand beach with perfect waves and an almost desert-like quality, Bahia Ballena is the place. It’s also home to the Whale’s Tail, a section of the bay that, at low tide, has an uncanny resemblance to a whale’s tail.
Every time I went somewhere and came back to Dominical, it felt like coming home. I didn’t think it was possible to make a life somewhere in six weeks that felt so solid and would be so difficult to leave. There’s something that happens every time I make a new home in the world. Everything feels at once bigger and smaller, with more opportunity and connection. It gets easier every time, and makes me remember that homes aren’t confined to the areas where we are born, or where our houses are, or where our families live. Homes are the places and people we find that hold pieces of ourselves we didn’t even know we were without; pieces we’ve always loved without even knowing. Time spent in these places and with these people is filled with reassuring coincidences and magical moments of self-discovery; little blips in time that serve as reminders that we are following our path as we were meant to follow it. I found so many of these moments, places, and people in this little corner of Costa Rica, that I’m leaving with no doubt that the reason I was called there was because it is one of my homes in this world. And homes never fail to call to us, always waiting to be found if we are awake enough to hear the call. As subtle as it may sometimes be, it’s a call that’s always audible because it’s coming from our hearts, which are inextricably connected to each of our homes. We simply have to choose to release our doubt and really listen.
I am leaving for my Massachusetts home with the knowledge that I will return to my new Dominical home, of that I have no doubt. But I found on this journey something I didn’t expect. When I left I thought that I would be searching Costa Rica to see if I could find a home to which I could always return. While I did find that, I also found a desire to see what other homes might be out there waiting for me. Like so many other people, I’m on a hunt for my place and purpose in this world, and I feel like each home I find holds pieces of the puzzle. Most importantly I want to feel fully at home in the world, every moment of every day, and I know that my ability to do so lies in my ability to feel at home in myself. Each time I go to a new little corner of the world and simultaneously lose and find myself in a new way, it leads me closer to the home within. And that’s the home that is really worth returning to again and again.