The small plane is aimed at the Pacific Ocean before its course is casually adjusted at an angle over the miles of parallel palm plantations below, as though it were an experienced swimmer caught in a rip tide headed back to shore. The altitude drop and final arc of the aircraft signals everyone that we are about to land. The sight of the small landing strip must be a new experience for some of the passengers and their surprise hums throughout the plane, audible above the loud prop engines. As the wheels grip the runway, I clap my hands; a moment later everyone is clapping, the air charged with exuberance. It is just as it was when I first arrived in Costa Rica 16 years ago, the entire plane clapping their hands.
My heart is finally home.
My other home is California, where most of my immediate family lives. They all have high doses of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) running rampant in their veins, while I seem to be the lone heir bequeathed with a large measure of Il Bel Far Niente (the beauty of doing nothing) and a shot of Pura Vida (pure life) all combined with the crippling traveler’s tale of having fallen hopelessly in love with a place.
My brother made a comment some months ago about all of the other wonderful places to see in the world, not seeming to comprehend why I continually go back to Costa Rica. “Sure,” I said, trying to explain how beautifully amazing Australia and recent travels to Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, or Bogota were, yet none compared with Costa Rica for the simple reason that I loved them but wasn’t IN LOVE with them. His lack of understanding led me to believe that either I had failed miserably at expressing myself or he has never fallen in love.
Imagine telling someone who has been happily in love for 16 years, “Maybe you should try being with all the other wonderful people in the world?”
To my brother’s credit, long ago he imparted the saying, “If there’s no plan, there’s no problem.” I have employed this mindset as often as I have ironically made countless lists of what I want to do and who I want to see in Costa Rica with whatever time I have available. Some of these items are those of a traveler passing through; some are of a person hopelessly in love with the heartfelt desire to spend every last breath with their lover.
It is because of this I have zip-lined and ridden horses through the jungle, hiked through National Parks and to waterfalls, kayaked through mangroves, and enjoyed numerous sailing tours. I have soaked for hours in luxurious hot springs and watched lava flow down a volcano. I have been scared by spiders, snakes, skunks, and unseen creatures in the night. On occasion I have done crazy things like bungee jumped off of a bridge, taken to the skies in a flying boat, and wandered through the jungle on a night tour in the obliterating darkness of a new moon wielding only a walking stick, an uncertain flashlight, and a diminished sense of direction. I love a good “Aventura”.
It is also because of this that I am perfectly content spending hours relaxing on the porch working on things I love to do, dining out with my friends, watching every sunset with the rapt attention it deserves, and walking down to my favorite beach in the world in Manuel Antonio. There is no amount of time doing that which I love in the place I love that will ever be enough. And when such things are true, solving the equation for no regrets is simple and satisfaction is found in every moment you are there.
So if you want to be inspired by a place without any regrets, I recommend whole-heartedly to you, dear reader and traveler, FALL MADLY, HOPELESSLY, UNEQUIVOCALLY IN LOVE WITH A PLACE. It doesn’t matter whether you identify more with FOMO, Il Bel Far Niente, or Pura Vida, because however you spend your time will be worth every moment. The only caveat here is that your heart might break should you leave – even temporarily.
Just as everyone clapped on the plane the first time I went to Costa Rica 16 years ago and this recent time just 3 weeks prior, I also cried when it was time to depart. The plane lifted to the sky ripping me away from the land while my heart stayed behind, keeping diligent and vigilant watch for my return.
About the Author: Naomi Fino currently resides in California, loves to travel, write, sew and design, fire dance, and has a healthy appetite for a good “Adventura”.
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