A few months ago, as we hiked for three days through the jungle of Guatemala with two Mayan men who didn’t speak English, I told my friend Heather, “I like traveling with you. You have a nice big comfort zone that doesn’t make you difficult when bats fly into our faces or tarantula eyes light up at night.” She laughed and retorted, “I’m not sure you could ever be outside of your comfort zone, it’s so wide.”
But I just booked my and my son’s airfare to Costa Rica for one year and discovered the very edges of my comfort zone.
Going to Costa Rica for one year. It’s wild and beautiful and exciting. We’re heading to a place where there are monkeys in the yard, the Pacific an hour away, and a live volcano next door. Weekends will be camping in national parks that hold 6% of our world’s biodiversity, hiking through rainforests, and swimming in the local waterfall. Whales will migrate to our coasts and toucans will perch in the trees outside of our bedroom windows. The Ticos are known to be kind and welcoming, and the country’s paradisiacal culture and climate lure hoards of expats to set up retirement there.
But. Going to Costa Rica for one year. It’s absurd and financially difficult. It’s impulsive and foolish. There’s no logic to it, and I am utterly terrified of the vast unknown.
Here’s what I do know:
- There is no hot water in my house.
- We cannot afford to live in the town I will be teaching in, so have found a little cottage out in the countryside. It will take about 30 minutes of walking and 30 minutes of bus riding to get to school unless I can manage to afford a car. Which it doesn’t look like right now.
- I was hired to be a librarian, but now I will be teaching 5 English classes: grades 7,8,9,10, and 12. I think. There is also a new principal and the director who hired me is leaving the school, so this could all change.
- The sun comes up between 5-5:30 am and goes down between 5:30-6:00 pm all year.
- I have to be at school from 7:30-3:30 every day. Elliot will have sports until 4. This won’t leave much daylight for us.
- Communication is difficult. “Tico Time” is not “Type-A-Angie Time” which means weeks go by without answers to big questions (like when am I going?). Our landlord, in his gentle and kind manner, essentially told me I need to chill out when I sent him a list of questions.
- I start August 1. Elliot starts August 7. We have four trips planned for my husband to come visit us; we will be home for five weeks at Christmas; and I have a long list of people who are wanting to come visit. I really hope they do.
In seventeen days, my 15-year-old son and I will board a plane, headed to a foreign land where we will learn a foreign language, and embark on an adventure that will influence our lives in ways we haven’t imagined yet.
In seventeen days I’ll kiss my steadfast, patient husband goodbye, feed the goats and chickens, climb the hill behind my house, and hug my wonderdogs one last time. I’m terrible with departures, and saying goodbye to a life that I am madly in love with might be the hardest I’ve had to make.
For seventeen days, I’m discovering I have a comfort zone–and it’s a place where I am caught between the wonder of what I can do and the terror of what I have done.