A choice between head or heart.
To listen to your head or your heart. It’s a common expression, which portrays the dilemma of choosing between love and emotion, or logic and reason. The decisions we make are motivated by each of these contrasting perspectives. I typically listen to my head, thinking about my decisions logically and tending to avoid making rash decisions in the moment. However, the stronger your heart yearns the more difficult and clouded listening to logic can become.
Costa Rica has been far from what I anticipated or expected back in May. In some ways, it has not gone to plan, a more expensive country than I had planned for (as always), limiting the amount of travel I could do. But in many more ways, it has surpassed any expectations I had. From the hidden tropical paradises, to the openhearted locals and the bustling city life the central valley offers. I did not imagine myself six months down the line working in the city, I was adamant about staying coastal, and whilst that would have been a whole other story, I have appreciated my time here in the city. A place I have come to know and fall in love with. A place which I have built a lifestyle and become very comfortable in.
I have found new things I love which I did not even know existed six months ago. The abundance of reggaetón music being one of them, and Latin Spanish music in general. The delights which traditional Costa Rican food has offered, from the Chicharonerras (traditional restaurants serving a variety of meats) to the small family run Sodas. Each presenting new aspects of life which I will enjoy long after leaving the Latin flair of the San Jose.
There was a brief period during early October when I questioned why I was spending my time in the city, however my trip to the Caribbean coast of Panama helped me to appreciate and realize how much I love Costa Rica. The people are what truly sold it for me, I have met some amazing people, who I hope will be a part of my life wherever I might find myself. Costa Rica is a small but diverse country and its heart lies in the capital. Where the major provinces meet and intertwine creating a bustling breathing Latin American city.
I can see why some people try to avoid spending time in the city. But to those people I would also like to say how the city can be a beautiful place when done properly. Some of the best food in Costa Rica is in the city, and taking time to visit the markets, museums and parks is time well spent in CR.
Just this past week I was lucky enough to be invited by two of my students to Saprissa FC’s final match to retain the championship of the Costa Rican football league. It was an awe-inspiring experience which delivered a roaring atmosphere from the first whistle long into the night. Gestures are an important aspect of Costa Rica’s culture, people express authenticity and often go out of their way to please those they care about. I think the word express is the most important aspect here, as how expressive they are about all things is what I have come to appreciate and respect. I think sometimes we lack expression in England and other westernized countries.
Teaching here and being surrounded by such genuine and fun people has been a pleasure and often, did not feel like work at all. Teaching was never something I had considered a career in long-term but I know I will miss my students greatly and the lifestyle it presented me.
Since making the decision to return home I have spent the best part of the past month focused on cherishing my time here in Costa Rica. Spending my free time with someone who has quickly come to mean a lot to me and I have only admiration for. Visiting many new places in the city and indulging in some of the best food I have found in Costa Rica. Looking back now, it feels like a fantasy. Something which has ended far too abruptly. It felt like the start of something which I would like to see the end of. Timing is everything and I hope with time I will look back on Costa Rica with only fondness and not such distaste with leaving.
Love can be blinding
I have never liked goodbyes, nor have I been very good at them. Too many thoughts and emotions in such a short and unwanted situation. It is times like this, I start to feel like I’m always saying goodbye. This time it was more difficult than usual, I do not feel ready to leave behind an unfinished story. Logic tells me it is time to establish myself, return home and make something of myself. My heart tells me to return in the new year, to appreciate and live for what has made me so happy here. I know what I should do, but that isn’t necessarily what I want to do.
You could argue someone who chooses to travel and seeks experiences is selfishly following their heart, whereas those grinding away in an office are listening to the head, doing whatever necessary to secure a prosperous future. Finding both is what I truly seek, but that doesn’t come easily.
The people we meet, the places we go, and the experiences we have with these people and places are what shape us. They help tell the stories of the lives we each live. They are what make each of us unique, they are what make life. It is important to learn from these experiences, from the good and bad. I am not saying everything happens for a reason, but simply that what does happen, may have important reasoning in your life, and it is important to listen to it, and learn from it.
I’m going to miss the lifestyle. It is easy to see why so many opt to travel for years, or even move to these exotic off-the-grid havens. For me it is a tempting future, one which would bring a simpler life. But simple is not what I desire. At least not forever. But, when do we call it quits? For most it is when the money starts to dwindle. Only to return home and save up again before continuing their adventure. This was never a fate I wanted, or to find myself in.
But what I do next, that is my decision to make. An important one which will be made over the new year. The decisions I make the next couple of weeks will shape a lot. If nothing else Costa Rica has provided an escape, a lifetime of experiences and has been life altering in what feels right now like a somber but positive way. My chapter in Costa Rica is over, but I know there will be a part two.
More photos and my favourite places in Costa Rica will follow in the new year.
Happy new year.