It's no secret that I love Costa Rica. Over the last 7 years, I've visited Costa Rica many times, and have shared my passion for this little country with students and their friends and families on at least 10 yoga retreats. People often ask me what drew me to Costa Rica in the first place.
There's a saying that sometimes you can be homesick for a place that you've never been to, and for me that was the case with Costa Rica. Even though I knew nothing about it, I had it in my head that I needed to go there. When I turned 39 it became almost urgent, but I was a single mother and couldn't even afford to take my son to nearby Virginia Beach. But then I got a nice tax refund, and while I had plenty of practical needs for that money, I found myself inside a travel agency. It turned out that a trip for two to Costa Rica would cost almost the exact amount of my tax refund. I left with the tickets in hand and my son and I began to plan our exciting adventure.
We had a fabulous time and some great mother-son bonding over zip-lining, horse-back riding, hiking in the rainforest, and relaxing on the beach. We were charmed by the warm, friendly Costa Ricans and the natural beauty that surrounded us wherever we went. We quickly lost our desire for cell phones, internet, and TV -- who needs that when you can see a volcano dramatically appear through the clouds, or watch a Scarlet Macaw fly through the sky like some prehistoric creature? I thought about how much my yoga students would love it, and I started to make plans for a retreat.
I checked out the usual places and methods of yoga retreats, but they didn't appeal to me. I knew my students: yoga was a part of their healthy lifestyle -- they loved it, but most weren't practicing every day and reading the ancient texts. Most of them were not vegetarians, and most of them wanted to be comfortable on a trip. And they were interested in everything and wanted to learn and explore and experience. So sleeping in tent camps with a strict vegetarian and no-caffeine diet and doing several hours of yoga a day were out. I planned a unique yoga vacation, with excellent local guides, and then hoped and prayed that I'd get at least eight people to come with me so I could make it happen. I got 30! . . . We had a fabulous time and people wanted to do it again and again, so we keep doing it. We visit different parts of the country for variety, and I've limited the trips to 16 - 18 people to keep them more intimate, and I've been honored by how many people have been repeat customers. We get couples and singles of all ages, and I've had people tell me that going on these trips has changed their lives. Some have formed close, lasting friendships. Many became much more conscious of the environment and the plants and animals that share the planet with us -- Costa Rica seems to sink into your bones. And I've converted a few husbands to yoga -- they came with their wives just to see Costa Rica and ended up falling in love with yoga too!
Little did I know that my first trip to Costa Rica would lead me down this path -- and lead so many others down a new path as well. We're going again in January, so if you want to join us, click here to read all about it, and sign up soon to reserve a spot.
What are some things I learned in Costa Rica?
1. The rainforest is full of prana. It's palpable, and this special energy seems to affect everyone who is near it in a positive way.
2. Simple is better. I once heard a Tico wondering why anyone would buy a toaster that could only make toast, when you can make delicious toast in a pan that will also cook many other things. (I now make my toast in a cast-iron pan.) Another time I was very impressed with a 6-year-old who was playing with a tiny motor that he found. It looked like it had been a part of a bigger, better toy, but this kid was fascinated by this motor. He kept drawing pictures of wonderfully inventive machines that he imagined the motor could operate. How wonderful for him!
3. Rice and beans makes a good breakfast! Gallo Pinto, a tasty version of rice and beans is the national breakfast. It's delicious, it has lots of protein, and it's filling and satisfying and provides good energy for the day.
4. We should all slow down. Sitting on a porch watching the rain is a very pleasant activity that's good for the soul. If you aren't in a hurry, you might notice a moth with an incredibly intricate pattern. Or you might have a conversation with a stranger that gives you both a lift for the rest of the day. Once we were stuck in a traffic jam. While the Americans grumbled, the Costa Ricans in the van seemed to think it was party time and took it as an opportunity to get to know each other better.
5. We should live in harmony with nature. I've learned so much about plants and animals from the Costa Ricans, and I've visited people who think nothing of the snake that lives in a crack in the wall or a few little bugs around the house. I'm much less of a scaredy-cat and much more respectful of all creatures. (However, I'm still not enlightened enough to be able to knowingly live with a snake in my house!)
6. Parties should have music and dancing! More than one Tico has asked me why we just sit around and talk at parties. Over there, the furniture gets pushed back to make room for dancing.
7. Any country who abolishes their army and spends the money on education and healthcare for its people is a country we can learn from.