Learning to Breathe | My Family Travels
Taking the Ocean Guardian pledge with Bodhi Surf
Building an Edible Garden for the Youth Center
Touring Tom's Permaculture Farm
Teaching the Kids How to Surf at Playa Uvita
Waterfall Rappelling—Eek!

For ten days during the summer of ‘13, living with the locals and 6 girls I barely knew in the quaint village of Uvita on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, I breathed fresh air.

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Inhale.

And I’m hanging onto a rope, 85 feet in the air, with my trembling feet planted on a vertical rock wall, cold water shooting up my nose. Not the best position for someone who is utterly terrified of heights to find themselves in. And yet, I would do it all over again. Waterfall rappelling with Costa Canyoning gifted me with plenty of scrapes, bruises and jellified nerves, but I’ve never been as completely immersed in the emerald beauty of the rainforest…

Exhale.

Evening yoga at the Bodhi bungalow is like paradise on earth. There is nothing better than lying in shavasana with birdsong and jungle ambience all around you and a burnt-orange sunset on the horizon radiating coolness. My eyes had been open cameras all day, frantically snapping pictures of people and places, but now they are closed. And instead of seeing Costa Rica, I finally feel it…

Inhale.

In front of me stands a 12-year-old Costa Rican girl twirling in a tropical print dress, the one I pulled out of my suitcase earlier, exclaiming in broken Spanish that it would look great on her. And it did, but the best part of the outfit was her smile, as bright as the Central American sun. The girl’s name was Priscilla and she frequented the Forjandos Alas Youth Center, run by the nonprofit that had brought me down to Costa Rica, Kids’ FUN. Everybody here smiled like she did. No wonder it’s been rated as the happiest country on earth…

Exhale.

It’s the fourth time I’ve fallen from my paddleboard and I’m beginning to feel embarrassed. The other six high school students I’m travelling with glance at me sympathetically, but soon I’ve forgotten my problems, because we’ve reached the narrow strip of beach called the Whale’s Tail and I’m looking back at the mist-shrouded mountains overflowing with primary rainforest and then I’m turning back to face the salty cerulean ocean crashing onto rocks and a voice in my head whispers, this is balance…

Inhale.

It’s a wooden bridge, a rickety wooden bridge, spanning an incredibly deep chasm, and we’re driving a truck across it. I force myself to breathe. When I open my squeezed-shut eyelids, I’m not only alive but I’m standing in a privately owned permaculture farm on top of a mountain. I feel like I’m in Willy Wonka’s factory, except instead of reaching out and grabbing candy, I reach out and pluck purple leaves from a nearby plant. Sweet fireworks go off in my mouth, melting into a foreign and pleasantly surprising sourness…

Exhale.

“GRANDE!” The little girl next to me screams, her hand giving mine a squeeze seconds before the huge wave crests over us and sends us spinning underwater. When we surface, the first thing I hear is her laughter and then, the resonant groaning of the ocean. “Pequeño!” she exclaims, pointing at a smaller wave. I lift her up and spin her around so that her toes skim the water. Suddenly, I find myself hoping that she’ll enjoy the pineapples we planted over at the youth center…

A year later, I’m packing my bags to head back down to Uvita. I can already taste the salty breeze‚ see the children laughing in the sun… If you ever visit Costa‚ there is one phrase you absolutely must know. It means ‘pure life’ in Spanish and everyone there says it.

PURA VIDA!

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