Costa Rica was a learning experience for my friend Jamie and me. We took a week-long surf and Spanish trip to Montezuma, Costa Rica. Although it wasn’t the trip we would’ve imagined, we left feeling grateful and full of new experiences.
The Journey There
Arriving to Montezuma was a journey. Jamie and I flew into San Jose in the late afternoon, took a ferry to another small town where we met a taxi driver who would take us to our home for the next week.
Once he picked us up, he didn’t hesitate to take the scenic route by the banana fields to show us one of Costa Rica’s proud economical treasures. We were starving, so he we stopped at his favorite restaurant where we immediately felt welcomed by the smiling faces who were familiar to our new friend, Luis. The sun began to set as we made our way towards Montezuma, through the thick jungle. Our van brushed against trees and swerved a few times on the slick dirt roads. We held hands most of the time as we sped through the darkness, but we eventually made it and as we stumbled out of the van, Luis looked as relaxed as ever.
Immersion or Bust
When we arrived to our Spanish school, we were greeted by a family who ran the school. Kids in tow, they gave us a quick tour which included the warning of leaving food on the table in the outdoor kitchen because the monkeys would steal it. They handed us our schedules, and we happily plopped into our dorm style beds, excited about the day to come.
On the first day of “school”, we found a delicious breakfast place across the street that served huge pancakes and fresh fruit. We ate this meal every single day. We later realized that we would need a huge breakfast to get us through our adventures to come. We headed to our first class which was beginner’s Spanish. There were only a few of us in the class, and our teacher was a laid-back local who refused to speak to us in English. We simply talked, went to restaurants, played scrabble and enjoyed each other’s company in Spanish. This method worked because by the end of the trip, I felt much more confident in my skills.
The Surf Struggle
At our Spanish school, you could choose between yoga, fire dancing or surfing in addition to your classes. We thought surfing would be fun and fairly easy to learn. It was not. Actually, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Every day we had to hike through the woods to the “perfect waves” located about two miles away from our dorm. After the hike, we had to wax our boards (which were so heavy) and prepare for our lessons. The simultaneous movements of catching a wave, popping up on the board and staying on the board were much more difficult than it looks on television. At first, we felt like failures. We were wobbling and crashing constantly which left us with a ton of bruises everywhere. It wasn’t until the third day that I could even get up on the boards. Eventually, I got the hang of it, and I felt like a champ. Luckily, we had very patient teachers.
The Authentic Experience
Every night we walked into the main square where we sat on steps and watched fire dancing competitions while chatting with locals. The best part about going to Montezuma was that we were forced to step outside of our comfort zone.
One day, our surf instructor offered to take us to the waterfall. Halfway up the mountain, he told us someone died a few days earlier due to the slippery surface after the rain. Thanks to this new info, we were even more nervous and we even slipped a few times, but we made it to the top.
We stripped down to our bathing suits and jumped into the fresh water, playing in it like kids. Our trip was full of surprises like walking to a beach bar and realizing that to get back we had to create a makeshift lantern out of a paper cup because it was too dark to see. We left crumbs for monkeys who lingered nearby while we ate lunch at the cafe. We rode ATVs for an hour to a nearby beach town with no helmets on, only to have one of our rides break down on the way back. We grew so much from our adventures and now we can look back, laugh, and appreciate our Costa Rican adventure trip.