Day 13 (Jun. 16):
Cartaga, Costa Rica
Father’s Day. Damn it! It slipped my mind that holidays throw a wrench in the schedules of most Central American travel companies. Bus schedules shift- or disappear altogether- causing the times of arrival/departure to be a bit unpredictable…especially when traveling across international borders. I could take the gamble and leave for Managua today, but I really don’t feel like crossing into Nicaragua only to be stuck without transportation. So, here I am. One more day in San Jose. Basically, I can mark this up as a bonus day because I’m caught up with all of my work and today was initially dedicated to the mercy of torturous bus rides. Today officially marks my third visit to San Jose and there is one activity that has continued to slip out of my reach: a day trip to the Irazu Volcano in Cartaga. With a free day on hand I refuse to let the opportunity pass by this time.
The anticipation of the day trip forces me to anxiously hop out of bed a few minutes before my alarm was set to go off at 7am. I scarf down the hotel’s complimentary “typical breakfast”, knock back a much needed cup of coffee, and run to the bus station to catch the 8am to the volcano. While standing in line for the bus, I faintly hear a familiar noise. It’s that rough sound of the English language. This gives me a nice feeling of comfort. Not the “safety” type of comfort, but that comfort spawned by the idea that I might actually have the opportunity to engage in a casual conversation without the exhaustion of comprehending a second language. Back in David, a German traveler that I shared a few beers with aptly explained this feeling. As he bashfully gazed into the near empty abyss of his beer mug he sadly explained that he doesn’t feel like himself while engaged in a conversation in a second- or third- language; he feels like there is a missing piece. True, it’s one thing to understand the flow of the conversation and to add to the discussion, but sometimes you just can’t express yourself in the same way that you would in your native tongue. The occasional quip or sly remark that establishes your sense of humor is often lost in translation, leaving you looking like some boring oak of a traveler.
As it turns out, the bus to Irazu was filled with a warm group of backpackers from the States who happened to be on a mission trip and were more than willing to engage in a conversation with a lonely traveler. During the sluggish 2 hour bus ride I managed to release all of those emotions that could only be expressed using my first language- all of the "holy shits" and "can you believe its". There is something about the joviality of the group that is emotionally refreshing and much needed. As soon as we entered the park the conversation came to a halt and my eyes were overwhelmed by the glamorous sight of the milky white clouds rising quickly from the valleys below. Standing with my arms spread wide, the clouds rolled through the plains of the volcano and rush over my body leaving on my face the glistening residue of the precipitation trapped inside. I hiked to the highest point of the volcano where I managed to catch a few minutes to myself before the parade of the other travelers made their way to the lofty lookout. There, I found myself peering off into an endless sea of clouds that contained the enchanting power of self-reflection. It’s these moments of serenity that provide me with the power to think with the most clarity. The ability to reach into my deepest thoughts for some quality introspection.
Staring off into the sea of nothingness I realized that this trip has served far more than simple data collection. It has forced me to really reconnect with my inner self… pushed me to find myself. In the past, I would have been quick to say that I had already accomplished this, but somewhere along my life long journey that connection slipped from my grasp. I often feel as if I move throughout my days afraid to experience anything resembling real emotion. I have a loving fiancée and great support system, but I never just let my feelings flow freely. This trip has provided with the opportunity to let it all fly loose knowing that I am completely alone. At times I’ve found myself to be homesick…scared…even broken down. But, staring into these clouds I understand that it’s okay to let these feeling course through my veins. It’s through these hard emotions that I can eventually find true joy. However, I’ve also come to appreciate the hard emotions in their own right. There is unique beauty hidden within all of these feelings. So, I stand here clutching the railing of the steel balcony hypnotized by the constant flow of the clouds rushing through the opening of the Irazu Volcano. The road has been good to me thus far. The people that I’ve encountered along the way, they have been even better. Staring out into the sea of nothingness, I can feel it. Pure joy.