Category Archives: Travel

7 Ideas For Awesome Quests

The best thing about going on a quest for me, is all the awesome adventures you have along the way.  When you throw yourself wholeheartedly into your quest, you will come back with so much more than you set out to achieve.

Sometimes, when you finally reach the goal, place or object you were seeking, it is better than you ever could have imagined.  Other times you may be disappointed, or fail on your mission.  But when you look back on a quest, it is often the journey to accomplishing your goal that is the most memorable and satisfying part.

On the road in Bolivia.

Having said that, the feeling of pursuing a grand quest is what makes the journey so exciting.  You can build an epic adventure around any quest, whether it is something extremely silly, or wild and extreme.  Here are some ideas to get us started…

1.  Reach a high point of a city, country, or the world.

I recently travelled to Dubai because it is home to the Burj Khalifa, which was the tallest building in the world when I visited the observation deck at the top.  Someone may have built something taller by the time you are reading this, and I will probably be planning to scale that too!  Although going to the top of the Burj Khalifa was the main goal of my Dubai trip, the other experiences I had in that crazy city far outweighed those few moments of bliss stepping out onto the 1/2 km high viewing platform.

View from the top of the Burj Khalifa, Dubai.

Reaching Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal was another significant moment, which was part of a far more amazing trek through the Himalayas.  But you don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to reach a high point.  Find the tallest building in your city, or make it your mission to climb all the hills in your area.  It can be as simple or elaborate a quest as you desire.

Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal

2.  Go celebrity hunting.

First of all with this one, it doesn’t have to be a celebrity you have any real interest in.  It’s about the thrill of the chase!  When we discovered a certain B-list celebrity lived near our parents houses, my friends and I had a great time climbing trees and running through muddy fields trying to catch a glimpse of him.  None of us were fans (not that I’m aware of anyway!), but we still had fun with our binoculars trying to see into the blacked out windows of his passing car.  Don’t judge me for this until you try it!

Climbing a tree to get a better view of a local celebrity’s house!

It is best done with friends as a purely recreational activity, otherwise you are just a weird stalker.  Don’t take it too far and get arrested, or develop some kind of crazy celebrity obsession.  If this happens, begin a new quest ASAP!

3.  Learn a new skill.

Learning to scuba dive was the main purpose, and BY FAR the best thing about my trip to Indonesia a few years ago.  However, the gorgeous beaches, stunning scenery, amazing temples and beautiful boat trips were a massive bonus!

Ubud, Bali

My quest to learn basic conversational Spanish while in South America was (almost) fulfilled when I found myself chatting to a local in a bar in Cusco, Peru after a few drinks.  Words were just flowing out of my mouth.  The grammar was all wrong, but we managed a semi conversation.

Long bus journeys passed by in the blink of an eye, while my head was buried in my Spanish book.  It was also a great excuse to relax and watch TV with subtitles, picking up many new words and phrases.  If you make learning something new your quest, I guarantee it will bring enjoyable experiences into your life.

3.  Follow a river all the way to another town.

This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while.  Mainly because I have a terrible sense of direction and it’s hard to get lost while walking alongside a river!  There is something so appealing about the idea of arriving in a new or familiar place the same way as the river.  Plus being next to water is always so relaxing.

You could take this to the extreme and follow a river all the way to its source, or all the way out to sea.  Or you could embark upon a quest to walk its entire length.

4.  Find the oldest tree or building in your area, or further afield.

This one may involve a bit of research, but that’s all part of the quest!  I am planning to visit a really old tree with a friend soon, and it got me thinking, I wonder where the top 10 oldest trees in the UK are?  I could find out with a quick google search, but then I would probably end up on a whole new quest that I don’t currently have time for!

Amazing tree in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Going on a quest to find the oldest buildings wherever you are can be fun, even if you’re not into history.  Plus you might learn something!  Once you’ve ticked off the oldest buildings in your home country, you can go on a quest further afield to discover some amazing places.  When you approach it in this way, you may find that you are more interested in history than you first thought!

Bristol, UK

5.  Give yourself a time limit.

Not all quests need to have time limits, but it can make things more exciting!  I remember going on a quest to find an indoor rollercoaster in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  A fellow traveller and I gave ourselves an hour to get there.  We had no idea where it was, and we ended up running through the city like maniacs.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

When we eventually found it, we realised that it was far too expensive to be worth the money for us poor backpackers, and we didn’t even go on!  But we had a really fun time and an epic mini adventure.  We saw parts of the city and spoke to people we never would have otherwise.

6.  Food quests are the best.

I won’t write too much about this one, or I will make myself hungry.  I’m always hungry, and earning enough money to satisfy my gigantic appetite is a constant struggle!  If you love food, food quests are probably something you undertake pretty frequently anyway.  Just make sure you have an emergency snack with you, or the quest could turn into a hangry rampage pretty quickly.

7.  Turn a goal into a quest.

Want to save up money for your next adventure, further your studies, or start a new career path?  Whatever your goal, life is an adventure, so completing your mission should feel like a quest, not a chore.  Think about WHY you want to achieve this goal.  What aspect of it makes you feel excited and alive?

Start to re-frame your goal in a way that makes it feel like an adventure.  Dedicate a notebook to your quest, and jot down any helpful words or images that come to mind.  What will life look like when you succeed on your quest?  Focus on that, and ENJOY THE JOURNEY.  Remember that being on the quest is as much the purpose as reaching the goal.

You can never have too many exciting quest ideas… please share yours with me in the comments below!

 

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Finding Your Adventure Sweet Spot

My adventure sweet spot involves turquoise water and a warm sunny place far away from home.  Or short hikes up to beautiful view points along well marked trails.  Or long days meandering slowly and getting a little bit lost amongst strange landscapes.

Fairy Chimneys, Cappadocia, Turkey

Right now I am snuggled up with 3 cats in someone else’s lovely cosy home next to a warm fire, writing about adventures.  Housesitting, at this time, provides me with the perfect comfort/adventure balance.

It has taken me a while to find the right level of adventure for me, and it constantly changes.  I used to push myself a lot further out of my comfort zone, but often found myself in situations that didn’t make me feel good.

There is a certain exhilaration that comes with surviving being stuck halfway up a cliff face while your climbing partner tells you they can’t find a way up, but this was not an experience I could keep repeating.  There are people that thrive on the epic adventures that trad climbing provides.  I am not one of them.  Give me a sunny hill walk or a scuba dive in crystal clear tropical water any day.

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Travelling to places where I don’t know anyone or speak the language, with no guide book, is fairly within my comfort zone.  But I have to know where to find good vegan food or I fall to pieces!  That is a step too far outside enjoyable limits for me!

I am very comfortable in the water, and love to dive deep under the sea.  Being in water is relaxing for me.  I have no fear of sharks and am a strong swimmer.  However, big waves scare me, and surfing is way outside my comfort zone.  I could be happily lost at sea for hours in a calm warm ocean, but the idea of jumping from a cliff into cold water fills me with dread!

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Sometimes adventure finds me, like the time I lost all of my belongings in a huge fire, and was stranded in southeast Asia with no money or passport.  Or the time we got flung out of our boat on a whitewater rafting trip and I smashed my face on a rock.  Those experiences were far from my sweet spot, but have helped me realise what I want from an adventure.

White water rafting in Peru, seconds before the accident.

Sometimes an adventure for me is as gentle as an idyllic drive through the English countryside to visit a local tourist destination.  But I also love rollercoasters, travelling alone to exotic places, and wild windy days by the sea.  It isn’t so much about the surroundings or activities, as it is about the feeling I get from them.

Gold Hill, Shaftesbury, UK

The point I am trying to make with my disconnected ramblings, is that to find your adventure sweet spot, you have to let go of what you think an adventure should look like.  Adventure comes in infinitely many forms, and I have barely scratched the surface here of things I would consider to be an adventure.  Everyone is different, and our comfort zones can change every day.  What is thrilling for me could be terrifying to someone else, and boring to another person.

Write lists of possible adventures that scare you, or that you would find too stressful, and ones that are well within your comfort zone.  Use these to make a new list of ideas for potential adventures that could provide you with just the right level of excitement.

Getting lost outside San Jose, Costa Rica

Once you have some ideas, now comes the fun part… trying them out!  You may find yourself further outside your comfort zone than you intended, or you may find some experiences less fulfilling than you expected.  But over time you will get better at hitting your adventure sweet spot.

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

The perfect level and type of adventure for you may change all the time, but chasing after it is such a worthwhile activity!  So go camping, climb a mountain, take a leisurely walk in a national park, swim in some freezing cold water, light a fire, or book a holiday somewhere warm and sunny.  Find that adventure sweet spot, or have fun trying!

I would love to hear your ideas about what makes a good adventure.  Do you need an aspect of danger, or do you prefer to feel more at ease while exploring new terrain?  Do you have a particular activity that draws you in and keeps you coming back for more, or do you love to try many different things?  Leave me a comment below 🙂

 

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The Benefit Of An Adventurous Mindset

For me, the benefit of an adventurous mindset is that everything feels lighter.  If we have many mundane tasks to accomplish in a day, they can seem boring at best, and often quite daunting.  If we are too far inside our comfort zone, even the thought of going to the shops can seem like a mammoth task.

Canaima national park, Venezuela

However, if we have a much bigger goal as our focus, the details all fall into place.  Just the other day, I was having a dilemma over what food to buy for dinner.  I found myself procrastinating and not wanting to leave the house.

Then I thought about what I’ll do when I’m away travelling.  I’ll be cooking a lot on my next few trips to save money.  I imagined being in a foreign supermarket, grabbing a few random items off the shelf, and cooking up whatever delicious creation I could manage with limited ingredients and kitchen facilities!  I certainly wouldn’t be wasting valuable time worrying about what to have for dinner, when I could be out exploring!

Monteverde, Costa Rica

I left the house immediately, got the shopping done in record time, and made a very simple delicious new meal with my spontaneously purchased ingredients.  I didn’t even do anything exciting that day, but by remembering and deciding to be that more adventurous version of myself, the jobs I had to get done became a lot easier and more enjoyable.

I have countless other examples of being brought back to life by my adventurous spirit.  Before I went to Costa Rica, I’d become very comfortable at home in the UK, and was starting to get into a bit of a rut with work.  Booking my trip really got me focused, and I achieved far more with my business in those few months than I had the whole of the previous year.

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Planning a huge trip isn’t necessary to feel that excitement though.  If you struggle to get in touch with your adventurous side, I highly recommend going on a mini-adventure.  One of my best days out last year was a completely unplanned trip to the Exmoor coast.  You don’t have to go far, you can just take a few hours out of your day to explore somewhere new, or do something completely random.  Sometimes you’ll get lucky, the weather will be perfect and you’ll see lots of amazing things.  Other times will go less smoothly, but the exhilaration of a spontaneous adventure will be more than worth it.

If we’re feeling weighed down by life, and struggling with the small things, we need to remember that life is one big adventure.  We can get into a comfortable bubble and forget how grand and amazing this world is, but it doesn’t make it any less true.  When we follow our desire to make the most out of life, and start to think and act more adventurously, smaller problems seem to fade into the background.

Bristol, UK

It’s hard to worry about what we look like, how clean our house is, or whether we’re achieving enough at work when we have mountains to climb, forests to get lost in and trips to plan!

Do you naturally have an adventurous mindset, or do you have to work at it like I do?  Whether you struggle to get out of your comfort zone, or are an adrenaline junkie, leave me a comment below.  It’s always nice to know we are not alone!  When we find the right level of adventure for us, I believe we can all thrive.

 

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Blissful Solitude In La Sabana, San Jose

I’d made my first proper friend since leaving the UK, and now that they were gone I felt much more alone than I had at the start of my trip a couple of weeks ago.  We had plans to meet up again, but I was left with a feeling of loneliness that was far more complete than during my initial days of exhilarating isolation.

The thought of a journey with no end date that had brought me so much joy when I set foot on the beach in Miami, now left me feeling empty and lost.  Having no fixed plans and total freedom to follow my heart wherever it took me had been the best feeling in the world.  I would never have to compromise my desires for anyone else’s, and the future was a beautiful mystery.

Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, Costa Rica

Now I was a little way into my amazing adventure, alone for the first time in several days, the dark side of this freedom began to sink in.  Expansive anticipation was replaced by a crushing sadness, and the weeks ahead that had been so full of promise now seemed bleak and daunting.

The thought of calling anyone back home, or socializing with fellow travellers, didn’t appeal to me at all.  Despite not wanting to feel so alone, part of me knew it was exactly what I needed.  La Sabana park in San Jose was the perfect place for some quiet contemplation.

I took out my note book, and as I sat at the picnic table trying to write, I felt the steadiness of the nearby rocks calm me down.  The soothing green lake gently eased my mind, and I started to feel some inner peace trickle through the gaps in my worried thoughts.

I always spend a lot of time by myself, and am content with my own company.  However, being so far from home for an unknown amount of time, and no real plan, left me feeling a deep loneliness that I’d not experienced before.  But as I walked around the hazy green park, I began to appreciate the gift of this opportunity to confront one of my biggest fears.

The stillness of the water helped me to find a little stillness in my mind.  From this place I realized I had a choice in how to respond.  I could let my loneliness upset me, or search for a distraction.  Or I could face the feeling, and deal with it in a calm and rational manner.

It is perfectly natural to be afraid of isolation.  As humans we need each other to survive.  The fear of being alone is a very primal one, but at this time my survival did not depend on having friends or family around me.  I had only been away a couple of weeks, and had already made at least one friend that I knew I would stay in touch with.  I had been away for long periods of time before, and my family and friends at home always welcomed me back with open arms.  I was in no immediate danger of becoming isolated in any way that would be detrimental to my life.

The intense feeling of being alone was very real, but the worries were not.  After realizing this, I was slowly able to release these worrying thoughts.  I focused on soaking up the magic of this idyllic haven as I continued my walk around the lake.

My fears gradually dropped away, and I was left with the same sense of being completely alone, but now I perceived it differently.  Instead of fear, the feeling gave me peace.  The aloneness was an opportunity to experience a deeper part of myself that had been afraid for so long.  In accepting this part of myself, I felt more whole, which brought me a feeling of blissful solitude that I hadn’t experienced for a very long time.

Knowing you can feel content without anything external to ground you is an empowering realization.  You feel an unshakeable peace that stays with you wherever you go.  It is so much easier to make friends and be sociable when you’re perfectly happy being alone.

Every time I travel solo, I come back with a little more inner peace.  It’s a wonderful thing to know that we are capable of creating our own happiness from within.  We can use this happiness to bring joy to others, or enjoy it all by ourselves.  It is ours to do whatever we want with.

This wasn’t the end of my struggles with loneliness on my solo travels, but it was an important moment that I wanted to share.  Remembering how I felt at this time, and how I overcame it, helps me reconnect to this feeling of peace with being alone.  Another thing that helps me is knowing that millions of people all over the world experience similar feelings.  If you are able to, I would love for you to share your experiences in the comments below.  We are never really alone.

 

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Merge With Nature

Of course we are already one with nature.  That’s how we got here in the first place.  But we are very good at acting as separate beings.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in fact space and isolation can be amazing for allowing new inspiration and creative ideas to flow.  But feeling our connection with all of life can do wonders for expanding our minds too.

We may experience this connection spontaneously when our surroundings and state of mind are just right.  Perhaps we are visiting an amazing waterfall, or are relaxed at the end of a day spent in a very beautiful and peaceful place.  In these kinds of circumstances we are very open, and are able to feel the external world in a profound way.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

We can also consciously choose to cultivate this connection.  It may be as simple as intentionally creating situations for ourselves that are conducive to experiencing the natural world on a deeper level.  Planning to do something we don’t normally do, such as snorkeling, or visiting a new place can really open us up to a stronger connection with nature.

As always, remembering our intention is the most important thing.  When we are in the water, or up in the mountains we have to remember why we are there.  We are choosing to FEEL our surroundings as part of ourselves.

A calm mind and heart are essential ingredients, so meditating with nature can be the perfect way to deepen our bond.  Find a rock, tree, river or anything you choose to focus on.  You can tune into the object with your hands, whole body or whatever feels right for you.

Stay relaxed, with your eyes open or closed.  Embrace the object with your heart, and feel its subtle qualities wash over you.  It doesn’t matter if you feel nothing whatsoever.  Quieting your mind enough to try, and being out in nature, will bring benefits regardless of the outcome.

With a commitment to this practice, you will inevitably be able to feel more of the world around you.  There is no rush, as it is a beautiful never-ending process of falling in love with the universe, and uncovering its treasures.

Do you find it easier to connect with one aspect of nature more than any other?  Do you already feel a deep bond with your environment, and how do you nurture this bond?  Let me know in the comments below ♡.

 

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Dubai – An Awe Inspiring Mega City

Everything about Dubai made my head spin.  On many occasions I felt like a tiny ant lost in a mechanical world.  More than once I had to abandon journeys on foot because giant buildings and 12 lanes of traffic came between me and my destination.

Though at times I felt frustrated by this mad artificial universe, I was also equally amazed and overwhelmed with awe.  More than once I was reduced to tears by the magnificence of this strange metropolis.

Seeing the glittering lights of the city from the top of the tallest building in the world was an undeniably special moment for me.  I’d desperately wanted to visit the Burj Khalifa since I first heard of the plans to build it.  The fairy tale like quality of a tower stretching up nearly a kilometer (830m to be exact) into the sky spoke to my inner child in a powerful way!

The experience was made all the more dramatic by the fact I nearly missed my slot to visit.  I had to run through a seemingly never-ending tunnel of moving walkways to get there, just in time to use my extremely expensive non-refundable ticket.  The relief, combined with a journey to the top in an elevator traveling up to 10 meters per second, left me feeling like I’d been reborn, as I suddenly found myself ejected onto the 148th floor observation deck!

Giant skyscrapers looked like tiny toy buildings beneath me.  Dubai wasn’t dwarfed by the soaring tower though.  My bird’s eye view allowed me to witness its sheer scale, ever-expanding into the surrounding desert.  I was also mesmerized by the most impressive intersection of roads I have ever seen, allowing miniature cars to glide with ease through the city and beyond.  I came back down to earth with even more appreciation for the construction of this unbelievable place.

I’d experienced the Burj Khalifa from the ground for the first time a couple of days before.  Every evening there is the spectacle of the Dubai Fountain, where water, music and light are used to create pure magic in front of the glistening tower.  This show is repeated several times throughout the evening and is free for everyone to enjoy.

Strolling through the Dubai Mall was another of my favourite activities.  Hearing the call to prayer reverberate through the huge shopping centre was an extremely powerful experience.  It was strange to witness this against the backdrop of such large scale consumerism, but the pristine shiny chambers provided the perfect acoustics, and actually enhanced the effect of the beautiful spiritual song.

When the hypnotic waves of melodic perfection had finished penetrating my soul, I was off to see the giant aquarium!  There is something for everyone in the Dubai Mall.  As well as watching the beautiful sea creatures, I loved to watch the people watching them.  There was always a row of people happily pointing and taking pictures of the large section of the aquarium that is free to the general public.

Another relaxing place to while away the hours in the mall is at the waterfall.  I wish we had waterfalls in our shopping centers at home, maybe people would be a little less stressed!

If fake waterfalls aren’t your thing, there’s always the olympic sized ice rink, indoor theme park or cinema.  The possibilities for non-shopping related activities are endless.  I can’t comment on the shopping as I didn’t do any, but I can imagine the joy that over 1200 shops in such lovely surroundings would bring to an avid shopper!

All the air conditioned malls, tunnels and towers left me craving the outside (a place that I frequently forgot existed here!).  It is VERY difficult to walk anywhere in Dubai though, as my disastrous attempt at visiting the Ras Al Khor wildlife sanctuary demonstrated.  After getting within 500 meters of the place on the bus, I was forced to abandon my trip due to a fenced highway between me and my destination that was impossible to cross.

This experience made the successful walks all the more enjoyable.

I managed to navigate my way along tiny pavements, through, under and across vast roads and buildings, out into a space open enough to observe the majestic skyline.

It was the marina that really stole my heart though.  There is magic everywhere we go, but near the water it’s much easier to see it!  All the shades of sunset reflected in the gentle ripples, and combined with the twinkling city lights to create an enticing glow, inviting me to stay.

I longed to jump into the water, buy a boat, or live in a glittering apartment overlooking the beautiful marina.  Anything to be a part of this special place.  But instead, I took a piece of it with me to hold in my imagination and my dreams.

That’s how I cope with leaving places I love all over the world.  They leave impressions on me that I couldn’t leave behind if I wanted to.

 

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La Fortuna – Was It All A Dream?

My time in La Fortuna was far from perfect.  I got very sick, spent way more money than I intended to, and missed a lot of the things I went there for.  However, my overall memory of it is shrouded in a hazy dream-like wonder.

As I stepped off the bus I was welcomed to town by this little guy, whose magical doggie healing properties made carrying my heavy rucksack up the hill to my hostel much more bearable!

I had no plan for La Fortuna, so happily went along with some other backpackers for a whirlwind tour of the region.  I was so lucky to be driven around in a car all day, stopping when we wanted to, exploring the area and checking off some of the major sights.

When we arrived at the hanging bridges in Arenal, I felt like I’d finally arrived in the Costa Rica of my imagination.  The forest was packed with excited tourists, and it was pouring with rain, but I was high up amongst the tree tops at last.

I paused on the bridge, feeling it bounce slightly beneath my feet.  It was a strange and unforgettable sensation, being suspended in the canopy, enveloped in mist, held in the embrace of the rainforest.

Unfortunately, the mist that made the forest all the more beautiful, hid the famous Arenal volcano from view.  We drove through the trees over winding bumpy roads in an attempt to get closer and perhaps catch a glimpse.  At one point a faint outline began to appear through the cloud, only to disappear again for the next few days!

Whilst waiting for the volcano to show, I passed the time at possibly the best hot springs resort in the world.  I spent an entire evening at Baldi Hot Springs with friends from the hostel, and the next day I went back again alone to soak up more of the blissful magic!

I can’t recommend highly enough visiting hot springs at night.  It’s like a lucid dream that is too perfect to be real, and you’re enjoying far too much to wake up from.  With 25 thermal spring water pools, there was always something new and amazing to discover as we made our way through the dark steamy oasis.

That’s not to say I wasn’t utterly mesmerized in the light of day by the sight of cascades of water filling crystalline pools, surrounded by lush vegetation.  My heart was full to bursting as I explored every corner, feeling all the muscles in my body relax into the hot soothing water.

From floating in paradise, to drifting away in a strange and troubled sleep, I found myself in bed sick for the next couple of days.  So much for the ‘healing’ properties of the spring water!  It was difficult to be annoyed though, as after camping and staying in dorm rooms, a rest in my own private room was just what I needed!

Covered in thick cloud, I’d given up hope of catching sight of the elusive volcano.  I’d almost forgotten it was there, and I certainly didn’t realise I had a view of it from my balcony!  So on my last day in La Fortuna, as I was lazing in bed, I was awestruck when the clouds parted to reveal the mysterious, slightly threatening peak.

What an amazing treat to be lying in bed with such a view.  It was almost worth getting sick for!  However, having spent a small fortune and recovered enough to travel, it was time to leave this popular yet mostly hidden wonderland.  Frustratingly, there was so much more to discover in this area of geological wonders, but I had already spent far longer than I’d planned to there.  The cloud closed over the volcano again, and it disappeared, as though it was all a dream.

Where do you go when you dream?  Have you been somewhere so magical it makes you feel like you are dreaming, even though you are awake?  Leave me a comment below 🙂

 

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Wild And Free In Puerto Viejo

My first week in Puerto Viejo on the caribbean coast of Costa Rica was everything I needed it to be.  After many months of housesitting in the UK, snuggled up with other people’s pets in lovely comfortable surroundings, I found myself the other side of the world living in a tent.

I didn’t know it at the time, but a hurricane was on its way.  Apparently it is very unusual in Costa Rica, but given my countless previous near misses with disasters it didn’t surprise me in the slightest.  Anyway, I was blissfully unaware of the storm that was looming as I optimistically pitched my tent outside Rocking J’s, a popular hostel in Puerto Viejo.

Hurricane Otto was still a few days away, but rain hammered down relentlessly on my previously untested tent.  After the first night I knew I’d made the right purchase, when after 6 hours of non-stop heavier than I’ve ever experienced rain, there was not a single drop inside.  I slept a lot easier the next night.

I’m not a seasoned camper, and there is something immensely satisfying about withstanding such extreme weather in a tent that is small and light enough to carry in your rucksack!  When the rain finally stopped in the morning, I looked around in awe at the airy spacious bubble I was living in.  It gave me the most amazing sense of freedom to know that I could travel anywhere in the world with this miraculous mobile house.

It wasn’t just the rain that was extreme.  When the sky cleared, the blazing heat of the sun made it impossible to do much more than collapse on the beach under the welcome shade of a palm tree, which was fine by me.

I would cool off every so often in the huge crashing waves, trying simultaneously to keep my bikini on, avoid drowning, and watch my bag didn’t get stolen!

The humidity meant nothing dried here, and all my clothes were left smelling of mildew no matter how much I washed them.  I practically gave up washing myself too!  I bathed in the sea and showered in the rain.

By the end of the week I’d completely surrendered to my unpredictable surroundings.  I still didn’t know it, but the hurricane was getting closer.  The rain was getting heavier and longer, shortening my time on the beach, and forcing me into the water, which was where I really wanted to be anyway.

As I played in the crashing waves I reached up my arms to feel the rain that was pouring down and merging with the swirling foam of the ocean.  Again and again I was engulfed by the sea, happily coughing and spluttering as I inhaled salt water.  I became as wild as my surroundings, bursting with joy, and freedom glistening in my eyes.

In that moment I knew the meaning of ‘pura vida’, a popular Costa Rican expression which translates as ‘pure life’.  They say it when things are good, when things go wrong, and basically whenever they feel like it!  A week ago, I felt like I needed calm surroundings in order to relax.  Now I found the opposite to be true.  I was at the mercy of the whirlpool around me and bursting sky above, and was happier than ever.

However, even with my new found oneness with the storm, when I heard about Hurricane Otto rapidly approaching I decided it was time to leave my wild caribbean paradise.  From the reaction of the locals I’m sure it would have been safe to stay, but a Costa Rican friend had said the road to Puerto Viejo may close if the rain continued.  He was right, it did, but we were fortunately back in San Jose by then.

So I hurriedly packed up my tent and left Puerto Viejo, hoping but not knowing if I would come back.  There was so much more of this amazing stretch of coastline to explore, but for now I would have to settle for the volcanoes, hot springs and rainforest of the interior of Costa Rica!

It’s so easy to get stuck in our comfort zones.  When I’m at home I spend most of my time in a lovely safe bubble!  When was the last time you surrendered to the wild forces of nature?  Was it intentional, or did weather / a natural disaster / some unpredictable event catch you off guard?  Leave me a comment below 🙂

 

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Meditation, Magic And Monkeys In Puerto Viejo

After a flight delay of 24 hours, along with spending more time in San Jose than I’d intended, by the time I reached the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica I was desperate to find the perfect beach spot to relax.  Being in a hurry to slow down is never going to work out well though!

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I was exhilarated but exhausted after surviving the first stormy night in my new tent, and was impatient to find some comfort and tranquility by the sea.  Light cloud and a breeze helped cool the oppressive heat in Puerto Viejo that day, ideal conditions for lounging on the beach had I already been feeling relaxed.  There were trees overhanging the water, providing much needed shade, and I could walk for miles without seeing a single person.

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But my tired mind couldn’t perceive the perfection I later discovered to have existed the whole time.  I just wanted to rest, but couldn’t seem to settle at all.  The fallen trees were beautiful, but they were in my way.  The roar of the ocean was hypnotic, but the unpredictable waves and sharp rocks made swimming a less than relaxing challenge.  I wanted to lie down, but couldn’t find a place where my aching body felt safe from all the bugs who made their homes in this rugged paradise.

I soon realised it was me, not my idyllic Caribbean surroundings, that was the problem.  I could either give up on the day and head back to my tent, or I could embrace this amazing place and allow myself to be at peace with it.  I decided to slow down and stop looking for the perfect spot to relax, and instead just take a gentle stroll along the shore.  I allowed myself to walk, with no objective other than absorbing the unique natural beauty of this untamed area.

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With nowhere to be, I enjoyed clambering over the fallen trees.  The sound of waves crashing over rocks no longer represented the danger and difficulty of swimming, but became a constant soundtrack to my meditation.  Instead of being worried by bugs, I marvelled at how the dead logs and leaves provided a home to so many creatures.  Instead of sharp stones and shells bringing me discomfort, they created patterns in the sand, infinitely adding to the beauty of the beach, rather than detracting from it.

I paused to rest in a tree that was hanging over the water.  The branch was low enough that my feet dangled in the waves as they lapped the shore.  The tree bowed under my weight, but effortlessly supported me.  It swayed with the wind and my movements, and debris in the water rushed past my feet.  Pebbles struck at my ankles, but in the comfort of the tree I enjoyed the sensations.

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Satisfied that I had found inner peace again, I made my way back to the spot where I had begun my walk.  The soft sand seemed so much more inviting than before, and I lay down in total comfort to gaze up at the maze of leaves and branches above me.  Finally I could completely relax.  I lay still for quite some time, observing the flickering patterns of light created by the lush green leaves.

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Then my heart fluttered as I noticed an unusual movement high up in the tree tops.  I saw the dark outline of what appeared to be several baby monkeys creeping through the interwoven branches.

I have no idea what species they were, but I’ve only ever seen monkeys in busier areas where they cheekily play with and steal things from tourists, providing much amusement.  These monkeys seemed to be much gentler creatures, and they moved carefully and gracefully, without a sound.  I would never have spotted them had I not been in such a tranquil state, looking up at the sky in total stillness and peace.

After a while a friend came to join me and we watched the monkeys together.  We talked quietly while I gazed at the shimmering light on the water as the day drew to a close.  Leaves rustled, and crabs came out to dance on the beach.  At one point it felt like we were surrounded by an army of them, and were they not such amusing creatures I would have been slightly afraid.

The wind picked up and large seeds began dropping from the tree above, almost hitting us on the head.  We looked at the fallen trees all around and decided not to take any chances of being squashed by the extremely overhanging one we were sitting under.  I retreated inside, grateful for my time on this slightly wild and fascinating stretch of coastline.

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It hadn’t been the immaculate, serene environment I’d originally been craving, but what I’d discovered was far more precious than that.  By embracing nature rather than retreating from it, I had received the priceless gifts of peace of mind, and monkeys!

I think we can learn to be a lot more patient and accepting of our circumstances by spending time outdoors in unpredictable environments.  Learning to smile in the rain, sun, wind or when covered in dirt is an awesome life skill to have, and can give us a greater sense of freedom.  It’s so easy to get stuck in our comfort zone though, I do so on a daily basis!  If you have any inspiring experiences you would like to share, or any nuggets of wisdom, please leave me a comment below 🙂

 

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Gliding Through Miami

The adventure I am currently on began 2 weeks ago with a 24 hour stop-over in Miami.  The moment I set foot outside the airport terminal I felt equally at ease with and impressed by my surroundings.  The evening was warm, and I was greeted by palm trees and shiny giant vehicles.

I took 2 buses and a walk with my heavy bags to reach my hostel, but friendly helpful people and the comforting balmy night air made it a smooth transition.  Whenever I’m in the USA it feels a little like being in a movie to me.  I watched the neon motel signs and fast food restaurants fly past the window of the cool air conditioned bus, captivated by the strange yet very familiar surroundings.

After a good much needed sleep, I headed out of my hostel the next morning into the bright blazing sunshine.  The heat and the giant cacti growing next to the road reminded me how far away from home I was.  I found it hard to imagine the cold rainy November days in the UK.

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It wasn’t until I stepped onto the sandy path to the beach that the reality of where I was truly sank in.  I literally cried with joy as the short path opened out onto the vast expanse of white sand.  Stunning clear turquoise ocean in front of me, palm tree lined boulevards behind, I found myself standing on Miami beach at the beginning of a journey with no end date.

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I made my way to the water’s edge and felt that blissful feeling of the first waves lapping over my bare feet.  As I plunged into the water I thought to myself, never before have I been to a city beach that was so peaceful.  It was early, and I was a little out of town, so I shared my slice of paradise with only a few other people.

Gazing back at the gleaming buildings from such a tranquil place gave me a beautiful perspective on the city.  After a long journey it felt amazing to move my body in the perfect blue gentle waves.

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I took a long walk along the beach, dipping in and out of the soothing ocean, floating and smiling, watching happy people enjoying cocktails outside their hotels.  Eventually I tore myself away from the beach and headed downtown to see some more of the city.

As if in preparation for the Latin American part of my adventure, I met a wonderful Colombian man on the bus who insisted on taking me on the Metromover, a free monorail transport system that covers the central neighbourhoods.  I have a slight obsession with monorails, so it doesn’t get much better than a free one for me.

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The train glided through the city, winding around, over and under buildings soundlessly.  My Colombian friend left me to explore alone, and I was free to let my mind soar across the ground that passed beneath me.

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I was left feeling elevated and expansive after a high speed tour of downtown Miami, and with only a few hours before my flight it was time to get some food and head back to the hostel.

My short time in this awesome city had been surprisingly relaxing, and I was ready for the next instalment of the adventure!

I had a wonderful time in Miami, but I’m aware I missed most of the major tourist spots because I chose to focus just on 2 activities that I found most enjoyable.  What are your top recommendations for the city?  Leave me a comment below 🙂

 

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