We Don't Take Trips, Trips Take Us

I raise my hand at the bartender, “Una mas por favor,” I say with confidence, as if it hasn’t been a while since I’ve practiced Spanish (talking Spanish at my local taqueria in L.A. probably doesn’t count). He effortlessly pops the top off a Modelo beer and sets it in front of me. All around me I’m satisfied by the sound of only Spanish, though I’m only recognizing about one out of every ten words. But this isn’t my destination. No, this is Mexico City Airport, where I’m laying over on the way to Costa Rica. The last time I was here? Three years ago when I was returning from a trip I took to Costa Rica that ended up lasting several months. Or, was it the trip that took me?


For years, before that trip, I saw life as something of a problem to be solved, or more relevant to this discussion, a map intended for getting from point A to point B. Following the right steps would produce the desired outcome and lower the risk of unpredictability, and therefore, danger. This trickled down in my travel style too. I traveled rather safely. The trips I took were  short, with detailed itineraries to destinations that at least felt familiar, even if I had never been.

But that was before any of this happened.

I remember five years ago when I’d lie in bed each night for hours, wondering how on earth I could get an out on this so-called life (if that’s what you wanted to call it) that I was living. I wondered who would miss me if I just disappeared, as I concocted elaborate plans in my mind of how I could actually do this. Kind of crazy town, right? And then I’d wake up the next morning in the same place without the courage to do anything about it, making myself nearly throw up because of how much stress I felt as a result of living a life that just didn’t feel like me. The last couple years had seen me lose my father and grandmother and get laid off from my dream job, only to work minimum wage jobs for months. All this while feeling like a divorce wasn’t too far away. And it wasn’t, as weeks later after my car was repossessed, that was it.

Arenal Volcano Costa Rica
Arenal Volcano Costa Rica

But it was about a year later that I was sitting on a Costa Rica beach, Playa del Coco, flooded with emotions and experiencing a rare travel moment that I hadn't experienced to that extent before. But I wasn’t sad, or depressed, or mad. In fact, I was the opposite. I felt more pride and accomplishment in my life than ever before. I saw for the first time in a long time that the world was beautiful. And while my life had been a mess, it was now a beautiful mess, and I was going to make something of it.

We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.-John Steinbeck

The thought of coming to Costa Rica was birthed months before, when I decided to write down a list of things that I had always thought about wanting to do, but had never done. The list included:

  • Move out of the Carolinas.
  • Support myself as a writer.
  • Travel long-term on my own agenda in a culture foreign to me.
  • Live on a beach…abroad

And a couple months later I was living out all of those things. Costa Rica, however, was the full realization of all these things I wanted to do. For years I had lived my life based off this idea that it was supposed to be a series of steps to reach this desired outcome. It was what I thought I was supposed to do and what I thought people wanted of me. But I was a hamster on a wheel. On the contrary, within mere months I had taken a few things that I had always thought of doing, and I had done them. And I was happier than I had ever been, while also feeling like I was just scratching the surface. Because if I could do that in a few months, what about a year, a few years, a decade, or a lifetime?

Costa Rica was one of the most monumental times in my life. I feel like I put a lifetime of experiences and emotions into the span of a few months. After sunset on that night on the beach, following a few months of living in Costa Rica, I walked back to my apartment and booked a ticket back “home,” via a stop first for a one-week trip in California. And anyone who knows me well knows that I’ve neither left California, nor quit taking risks and traveling.

So here I am, back in the place where it all started. I’m going in conjunction with Expedia’s storybook campaign, in which each blogger has been given budget to take their own storybook trip. Some bloggers have gone on trips to rediscover love in Ireland, while others have traveled for friendship (and food) in Spain, and still others have taken their children on trips to countries they've yet to experience as a family. Since Costa Rica has been so central to my story the last three years, it only seemed natural to return here. Not only did that chapter in Costa Rica mark a turn in the story of my life, but what I experienced there has continued to weave its way through my life the last three years. My journey to this point is impossible without that chapter in Costa Rica.

What do I expect from this trip? Well similar to my first trip, I'm going in with as few expectations as possible. I know that I want to try adventures I've yet to try, such as waterfall rappelling. And I'll be seeing friends I haven't seen in three years. But more than that, I'll be experiencing Costa Rica, the world and my own life through a different lens. I wasn't really sure who I was when I stepped foot on Costa Rica over three years ago. Today, as I step foot on it for the first time since, I feel like I have a firmer grasp on who I am, what the world is and how I fit in it, than ever before. And because of that, I feel indebted to Costa Rica. In that way, it feels like a "welcome home" trip.