Fifty Something and Facing Life
Written by Wendy Choyce
It’s arrived! Five years in the planning, but here we are at Manchester Airport in the UK at the start of our epic backpacking journey to Costa Rica. This trip represents a personal passion and desire for me to experience a cocktail of interesting flora, fauna and wildlife, coupled with interesting people and adventure, pushing personal boundaries with the opportunity to “collapse on a beach” in the sunshine before heading home. Costa Rica – no pressure – will you be able to deliver? Here we come!
One thing I determined to be relevant at this stage of my life is to de-clutter my life of things. Being able to live out of a rucksack on the other side of the world will be proof of this.
Having arrived after hours and hours of travel, my husband Richard and I are now deep into our journey through the rainforest. We are far away from work, e-mails and cell phones. I read an article that spoke about where work sits in your life and how you should cherish what you do. “Cherish the mid-point” will be my new mantra.
What does “cherish the mid-point” actually mean? We are half way through our life. We should value and cherish this time to give us a steadier mind set. We need to recognize who we are both inside and outside of work and in relation to our family and friends. This may be particularly important when you are 50 something and planning for the next chapter of your life. I no longer feel the need to cling to work as a central part of my life; but instead find the prospect of letting go and exploring outside of work incredibly liberating. I relish the possibilities of cherishing the midpoint from here-on in.
We arrived at Talamanca on the Caribbean Coast – WOW! What a contrast! This laid back, “hippy” village lying on the edge of the Caribbean Sea is amazing! The Bob Marley, Creole influence is strong here, along with the surf boards, dreadlocks and street shack traders. Talamanca feels safe. The people appear relaxed and happy with their lot in life even though it is evident that their lot is more modest than many. A tropical downpour led us to shelter with a street seller offering homemade patties and chocolate banana cake. She kindly invited us to sit down and eat our lunch out of the rain; which we did whilst she continued to knead the pastry for the next batch of patties. A humble, heart-warming lunch topped by a welcoming host!
The downpour stopped as quickly as it started. We wandered along the many beaches that lie along the coast between Nicaragua and Panama. The surf is high, fast and furious as we watch a few brave surfers take them on.
We return to the bungalow to freshen up before dusk. When we awake to the forest of birds, we buy some local produce and eat on the veranda outside our bungalow as dusk falls. Then to bed for an early night spent under mosquito nets- a first for me!
I wake up early refreshed, but the jet lag is still playing havoc with my body clock. I have learned to listen to my body instead of watching the clock when I can’t sleep. Suddenly, we hear what Richard thinks are the wails of a child crying close by. Just as quickly, I realize the crying is a big cat and I don’t mean the domestic type! The cries go on for some time as we lie in the darkness, under our mosquito nets in the small wooden bungalow. It is exhilarating! We feel safe, yet on the edge of danger! I wish my best friend Mandy could be here to share this with me, too, if just for a moment.
The next day we head off on a jungle hike. We see sloths, crocodiles, iguana’s, spider and howler monkeys and many, many beautiful, colourful birds. The local guide is fantastic and we learn a lot about the environment. We top off our sites with two yellow, long eye-lashed vipers (snakes) and Richard faces his fears and snake phobia – I’m so proud of him! We learn how to make chocolate from the trees cocoa beans and then have a swim in a waterfall. An exhilarating day!
On my 54th birthday, I wake up to a chorus of cicada’s and birds. One of the best birthdays ever! A birthday text message from home cuts into our tranquility.
Off once more and on to Torteguero, the Northern side of the Costa Rican Caribbean coast. Off to our next accommodation that can only be accessed by boat.
After a long and varied trip we arrive in another paradise – Torteguero, where there are less than 1,000 residents. Richard buys me a local “floaty” dress and bangle for my birthday. That evening I am surprised with a birthday cake and song. What a way to spend my birthday!
The next morning we head off into the waterways on a small craft with a guide who opens our eyes to all the hidden animals and birds that are waking up around us. The real spiritual moment for me was watching the king vultures souring above our heads and laughing at the spider monkeys throwing almonds at us.
The feel of this place is very different. It is surrounded by canals and waterways similar to the American Bayous. No vehicles, no traffic, no commute. I feel at peace.
The next day, we board a boat and head off for the next leg of our journey. Boat is a lovely way to travel with the breeze, the wake of the water cooling my arms, and the colours of the rainbow reflecting on the surface. The myriad of coloured birds spotted along the way now feel normal. Toucans, macaws, and more, along with the bright green lizards and spiders dot the landscape as we easily forget the cold, hostile area of work back home.
A big part of an adventure for me is time to reflect and think “what next?” in terms of what life has yet to offer. I know that my future needs to involve the freedom of working outside, with people, nature and perhaps art. I will never be a Picasso or a Van Gough. The joy of learning to draw or write a book excites me. I realise that health and well-being must remain a rich part of our lives. “Pura Vida.”
The most remote part of our trip is not accessible by standard vehicles. We drive the last two hours of our journey by tractor and trailer. We are thrown from side to side, driving through fords with water buffalo. After a long and eventful journey, we arrive at what will be our home for the next couple of days, the Old Hacienda. This lodge is constructed from rough cut timber, with mesh over the windows and a huge open aired veranda full of hammocks and rustic furniture which overlooks the rainforest. This is where I end up with a tummy upset. I drink the boiled bark off a tree as I’m advised. My symptoms soon subside after a day spent hanging in the hammock enjoying the sights and sounds around me.
We leave this beautiful lodge and head to La Fortuna. It’s a long journey and we can feel the climate change as we head across the middle of the country. La Fortuna is renowned for being cloudy but we can see majestic Arenal Volcano as we arrive to the Arenal Backpackers Lodge. Our guide takes us to Baldi Hot Springs; a hotel with hot springs and pools heated by the volcano. We spend the evening in our swimwear under the stars before dining in luxury at the hotel.
La Fortuna was to be our adrenaline leg of the trip. Our first afternoon, we went canyoneering and rappelling down the waterfalls. Each one was more challenging than before. The next day we went white-water rafting on a continuous six mile stretch of rough water; whereby Richard is thrown out of the boat on the final stretch.
After two days of fun and fear, it’s time to be on the move again. We head up the mountains to Monte Verde. Here we stay in a small family run set of bungalows that have a pura vida feel. We traverse the skywalk across the canopy as the sun comes out. Our final adrenalin challenge lies ahead. With a fear of heights, Richard has major reservations about a series of nine ziplines that send you flying across the forest canopy with the option of a tarzan swing as a grande finale. I am pleased to say we did them all. Now I know what it really means to have your heart in your mouth. The exhilaration of flying like a bird on such a clear day was a once in a lifetime experience.
We head over to the heat of the Pacific Coast to the holiday resort of Qeopos; white sands, warm sea and blue skies. After an excursion on a catamaran where we watched dolphins and snorkelled in the sea, we enjoy a hearty meal watching the sun set out on the Pacific Ocean with Jack Johnson singing in the background.
I received a sad call from my son and offered him my support and love. I know that he is strong and will be able to cope with what life throws at him. I also know that my ex-husband is there for him too, so pura vida – a true test of mindfulness and life going on.
This gets me meandering to what will be next for me in terms of personal fulfilment as my life continues. I need to move to a bigger house with sufficient space outside to enable me to create the next chapter in my working / living phase in to provide me with the balance to develop my ideas around a country retreat for work and pleasure.
Our last day of our Costa Rican Adventure ends where it began – in San Jose. Civilisation, noise and cars. We sneak a few hours’ sleep before the long journey home.
Change is good. Our adventure in Costa Rica not only recharged my batteries but reminded me of what’s important and still possible in life. Even someone with a few years on the clock has learned that anything is possible. Keep your mind healthy and don’t let it get bogged down with stuff. Put your efforts into life’s experiences which will help you see more clearly what fills you with joy.
Happy living Silver Sagers – go get it!
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Wendy Choyce was born in 1962 in the English market town of Sandbach where she has lived virtually all of her life. She has two sons Robert and Andrew and lives with her partner Richard who will become her husband in May 2017. Her back ground is in training and human resources (HR) and having set up and managed her own business for a number of years she has since joined forces with a specialist law firm and taken on the role of HR Director. Her main hobbies are motorcycling (pillion), travel and walking. She is defined by her enthusiasm and passion for life, getting out there, making new friends and experiencing all that living on this planet can offer!