Well, I wanted to go to a touristy part of Costa Rica to get a small taste of America and I certainly picked the right spot. Last night I went out on the town with a fellow traveler, Fred, a Dane who is backpacking around the world, and we had a great time. The highlight of the night for me though was when the bar around the corner from our hostel had American Football on a big screen! Yes! And, even better it was my team, The Chargers, playing Dallas and they stomped them (well, it is only preseason, but hey, I will take what I can get)! After that we even got to see the fight and George St. Pierre defended his title. My two favorite sports in the same night, my favorite Team, and one of my favorite fighters, it was great. It made me miss my friends a lot though as we would always gather to watch the games or the fights.
I also met a lot of really great people last night, Playa del Coco is chock full of expats and I heard far more English than Spanish. I hate to admit it, but it was nice to feel at least a little bit like I was home. I will not have the chance to experience anything even close to home again for a very long time, so I soaked it up.
However, as I had mentioned I met some great people. A group of Costa Ricans have offered to take me to the local beaches so I can get more of a taste of the lifestyle here. Its funny, I came to indulge a bit in tourist land and the culture comes to me! Funny how these things work out. I will definitely take them up on their offer as they were incredibly friendly and have offered to drive me to a few other places around the area. I talked with one girl in particular about life here and how Costa Ricans feel about the expatriate invasion. It is tough for a lot of them because of the increased cost of living in areas like Playa del Coco which drives the locals out. Obviously there are some hard feelings about this, but the Ticas I talked to also had a very mature point of view about it, saying that they knew the tourists bring in a lot of money but at a cost to them and their lifestyles. They felt that it was a good and bad, as most things in life are.
Gentrification is a strange occurrence, outsiders come to a place because they like the atmosphere but by coming they drive out what they had been attracted to in the first place and in turn end up creating an environment similar to what they had left behind. The same thing is happening in other places I visited in Central America, like Granada and Leon in Nicaragua.
I also wanted to address a question a lot of people have asked me over the course of this trip. People always want to know what I think about while riding. It is a good question as that is the biggest part of my average day: riding for 6 to 10 hours by myself with nothing but my thoughts to keep me company. For most Westerners, this kind of down time is intimidating, we are used to either being constantly busy or entertained. Most people never take time to just exercise their minds, and instead are always occupied with work, or family, or are in front of a TV or the computer.
I have always enjoyed being by myself and taking time to think, but the solitude of the road combined with the rhythmic action of riding the bike provides a truly wonderful environment for contemplation. When I am cycling on a road that does not require a great deal of concentration, my mind is able to go on incredible inward journeys. If there is ever a point in your life when you feel lost or out of touch with yourself, I highly recommend jumping on a bike and hitting the road, because after 5 months of this I feel like I know myself better than at any other point in my life. I have had the chance to explore myself, my goals and dreams in life and what it is that really matters to me, free of any outside influence. I have looked at myself honestly and have addressed those qualities about myself I do not like and have either made plans to change them, or just accepted those things that I can not change and forgiven myself for them.
I feel so much better about myself and so much more at ease with who I am, that I really can't quantify it easily with words. This alone has made this trip worth all of the sacrifice involved with getting here. I feel that even if something catastrophic were to happen and I had to go home now, that this trip has already changed my life.
I honestly feel that I now see my future and my goals with crystal clarity. I know what I want form life, and I have given myself permission to fully pursue my dreams without any thoughts as to if I may fail or succeed, or what others may think or say about it. Before this trip I was an extremely goal oriented person, but now I feel even more resolved to live my life on my terms, and to try to push to be the best man I can be. This trip, and the time and tests it has provided for me have truly galvanized me.
Cycling down a good road out in the open air on a beautiful day with the sun shining down on you, is just a wonderful place to be. You feel free of the shackles of modern life and are able to really see yourself, cutting through the pretense and the lies that most people live with.
I hope that answers the question adequately and without being too esoteric, but it is what occupies my mind most of the time while out on the road. Well, there are always the banal fantasies too, like me leading the Chargers to a superbowl victory with a last second perfect spiral to LT with the crowd going wild and the Charger girls carrying me off the field to the cheers and adulation of my friends and family! But those aren't really so life changing =)
Well, I am off to the beach for some snorkeling, much love to everyone back home.