What do we hope to gain from this experience?
Several folks have mentioned to me that they fantasize about getting “off the grid” or wish they had our “wanderlust”. Yet neither one really applies to us. In order to pull this off, we took an extremely methodical approach that involved a vast amount of research, Excel spreadsheets, and tedious financial calculations. If you’re considering doing a sabbatical, it’s wise to engage in a similar process. In a future post, I’ll dig down into the details of the process we recommend. Needless to say, we didn’t just randomly decide to up and leave without an intense amount of planning. I want to put that caveat out there, lest anyone think we’re advocating marching into your boss’s office and telling him/her you’re going to take a year off. That’s probably not going to turn out well for you.
Part of that planning process involved Heather and me each creating both a sight-seeing list and a personal objectives list. As has been written elsewhere, the geographic area that Costa Rica encompasses represents only .03% of the Earth’s surface, but houses 5% of the world’s biodiversity. To my knowledge, there is nowhere on the planet which has a higher ratio. As a result, there is almost more to see and do here than one could accomplish even in a year. One of my next entries will discuss why we chose Costa Rica over other places and what particular sites we intend to visit throughout the year.
Back to the topic of what we hope to gain through this experience. Aside from awe-inspiring sight-seeing, some of the items on our combined list include the following personal objectives: becoming conversant in Spanish, reading and writing more, eating healthily, swimming/surfing regularly, hiking/walking daily, getting proper sleep, beginning the process of publishing an Abay cookbook, and working on the next business venture. I’ll keep you apprised as to how we’re coming along with those goals.
I would tell you in Spanish how badly my Spanish sucks, but I can’t even do that without using Google Translate. Heather took Spanish in middle school and in high school. I had Latin both in high school and in college. Needless to say, her Spanish is better than mine. We used Rosetta Stone software and the Duolingo app in preparation for this sabbatical. As anyone knows, however, the best way to learn is by being immersed in a culture that speaks the language. Because there are so many expats in Costa Rica, one could conceivably get by without speaking any Spanish. Not only would that potentially put us in a vulnerable situation, but it would separate us from the culture we are trying to enjoy. It’s frustrating to have the vocabulary of a 2 year old, but the only way to get better is to keep trying. Heather is a better sport about that than I am. In fact, when we were in Portugal and she asked a guy to give her a bath when she meant to ask him where the bathroom was, it didn’t bother her one bit.
There are certain items in Costa Rica that are not costly, but, by and large, this isn’t a cheap place to live. Luckily, herbs, fruits, vegetables, and spices are reasonably priced. Heather likes to cook and is good at it. Not only are we already checking the “eat well” box, but we’re doing so by dining on meals that are delectable and nutritious, while saving money at the same time. Even though we’re focused on eating well and it’s easy to do here, don’t think that U.S. brands haven’t made inroads. Subway, KFC, Quiznos, and Pizza Hut are just down the street. So if we’re looking for a surefire path to Type 2 diabetes, we can enjoy a pizza with a hot dog stuffed inside of it.
As for the “daily hike/walk” item, we’ve been walking or running on the beach regularly, and we trudged up Miro’s Mountain yesterday. What feels like a remote jungle is just a 5 minute drive from where we’re staying on the beach. We enjoyed this hike more than anything we’ve done so far, in part because it was an organic experience. There was no entrance fee, map, or personal guide. We just walked up a mountain and observed the wildlife. We’re living near where the Pacific Dry Forest and the Pacific Rain Forest meet. So there is a lot to see. During our hike, we viewed monkeys, poison dart frogs, toucans, a crested guan (a bird that looks too big to be in a tree), a black ctenosaur (essentially a black iguana), a sloth, and numerous butterflies.
It was hot and we were pretty spent. But once we reached the lookout point, the wonderful view made the climb worth it. Atticus was a trooper. He pretty much walked the whole time.
Here’s a little background on Atticus. He’s not what one would call “compliant”. In fact, he’s not really a fan of listening much at all. I wasn’t sure if Atticus was a tougher child to raise than most other kids until my sister babysat him. After spending a night with him, she called her own kids just to tell them how much she loved them and how thankful she was to have them in her life. She also pointed out to me that I got the “I hope you get one just like you” curse that every parent of a stubborn child says (or yells) at some point.
Maddie, my 13 year old stepdaughter, is not a risk-taker and she listens. I thought this might have had to do with good parenting, but now that Atticus has come along, I realize it was complete luck. When Maddie was 3, if you told her not to touch something because it was hot and therefore she would get burned, she would stay as far away from that object as possible. If you tell Atticus the same thing, his approach is, “I have a definition of hot. Let me see if your definition matches mine.” So, as we’re walking through a forest surrounded by things that can maim or kill us, we’re having to tell him to stop sticking his hand into random holes. Moreover, because a slip off the edge could have led to a plummeting death, we also had to keep telling him to stop running ahead of us. His unsurprisingly confident response was a mere shrug and an, “I’m not going to fall.”
You might be thinking, “let him get burned, then he’ll learn his lesson.” Wrong. Just the other day, he was playing around on his bed, launched himself off of it, and went face first into the tile floor. Then, we went to the playground where he proceeded to get kicked in the head by a girl on a swing. He’s been told repeatedly to (a) not jump on the bed and (b) pay attention when someone is swinging. Since both events he’d previously been warned about actually happened within minutes of each other no less, I was ready to hear him admit he should listen. Instead, he surmised that we get mad when he gets hurt, so the next time he jumps on a bed, he’ll make sure not to fall off. And the next time he walks into the path of someone on a swing, he’ll just move fast enough to get out of the way. In other words, he doesn’t intend to comply. He intends to engage in the same behavior, and just be more adept at not getting injured.
The world needs people like this. They are trailblazers, leaders, and entrepreneurs. I’m thinking there aren’t more of them, however, because their genes don’t get passed on since they’re more likely to die in some type of horrendous, totally foreseeable, accident.
Thus, I’ve just added to my personal objectives list for the year “preventing Atticus from being bitten by a serpiente or eaten by a cocodrilo.” I’m taking baby steps with the Spanish.