Five Thousand Steps
Travel Journals: Day 2: A Rainy Season in Costa Rica
Every other week during 2023 I will be posting an excerpt from my upcoming book, Five Thousand Steps: A Rainy Season in Costa Rica. It is a travelogue of sorts, my journals and observations from my initial three months in Costa Rica along the Guanacaste Coast. I hope you enjoy following the journey. Please send a request by email if you would like to pre-order your copy of the book which will be self-published and released in 2023. Please also consider supporting the release of the book by become a paid subscriber or a donor.
Travel Journals: Day 2: A Rainy Season in Costa Rica
Arrival into Costa Rica was quite smooth and seamless compared to my recent experiences in Japan where things are done to another level of precision and detail. I quickly and easily collected all three of my bags with no problem whatsoever at customs and no additional questions. From there I was to catch the shuttle with a driver who would be holding a sign for me when I arrived. He introduced himself as “my new amigo.” As we made our way across the dusty parking lot from the airport I was somehow managing three 50 pound bags across the way without any help whatsoever from “my new amigo.” He was singing something in Spanish while I hauled the bags.
We made our way from Liberia to the town of Huacas over dusty gravel roads through villages avoiding potholes and free roaming animals along the way through the lush, green Central American beauty. Chickens crossed the road, goats, cows that seemed happy. There were underfed dogs who even seemed happy.
My friend, Shannon had advised me to instruct the driver to look for Farmacia El Cruce which should have been obvious but was to no avail. The driver searched endlessly until we simply parked and waited only to discover Shannon in her Toyota Tundra making her way toward us. She looked the same as I first remembered her from my first solo adventure to Costa Rica, only eight years older, exuding the same energy and heart, with skin now weathered from a decade of surfing in one of the best areas for waves in Costa Rica. She smiled and eagerly asked if she could hug me. It was one of the first hugs I had been able to receive during the pandemic and so it was warmly welcomed.
We stopped off at a local market for some groceries and supplies. It became immediately apparent that we were no longer in the US. I get easily overwhelmed and unable to decide in an American grocery store I am familiar with due to the paradox of choice. Now I was faced with the confusion of everything in Spanish and money in colones added on, not to mention being met by a barely dressed Latina model on the aisle who was the official Corona Girl now offering me a cerveza in middle the store. I managed to regain enough focus to grab a few items… a bag of apples, two avocado, tortillas, juice, bananas, limes…total $12. I remembered that I almost starved here on my first trip mainly due to the very remote area of beach where I stay.
I can do this for three months solo during the rainy season, I thought to myself.
We finally arrived at Casa Caramela, the name of the casitas where I would be staying for the next three months. There were lots of muddy roads, huge potholes full of water from the rain. This is Costa Rica…simplify, simplify, simplify. Living this simply would be on another level of basic survival from my year living in Japan. Following Japan, my year spent mostly in a 10 x 12 foot room during the pandemic had even further prepared me for this level of simplicity, and yet at least there I had been in the modern world.
This was now Central America, where locals take a bus for an hour from their small village to their jobs in order to make a few dollars to live on.
And yet they seem content and happy.
View from the Road
Costa Rica’s English speaking newspaper, The Tico Times, recently began running a column on my travel journals from my first three months in Costa Rica during the rainy season. The column will be an ongoing series through the eyes of my experiences during my first season here along the Guanacaste coast. I hope you enjoy following along.
The Story of the Costa Rican Fisherman
An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Costa Rican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Tico on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.
The Tico replied, “only a little while. The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Tico said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.
The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Tico fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”
The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The Tico fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”
To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”
“But what then?” Asked the Tico.
The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”
“Millions – then what?”
The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
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Zen and Ink Journals represents hundreds of hours of writing over the past decade, sometimes from a train in remote China or a coffee shop in Kyoto, a hammock in Costa Rica or a simple cabin on a mountaintop in Boquete, Panama.
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