If you had told me, when I started in the natural health field at 19 years old, that one day I would be traveling to faraway lands for my job, I would’ve laughed. Then I would’ve finished pricing my products with a little handheld stickering gun, now a relic of the retail past, and moved on to change the tofu water in the bulk bucket.
However, this year the retail gods and goddesses bestowed upon me a lucky opportunity to travel to Costa Rica for a four day tour of a biodynamic farm and eco-resort. The farm is supported by purchasing of turmeric and ginger, and general funds given by an important non-GMO organic supplement brand: New Chapter.
Traveling internationally is still a hair-raising and exciting challenge in and of itself. The flights were easy, and customs was painless, and I found my guides easily and jumped onto the mini-bus that would take us (a small group of retailers from around the country) to Finca Luna Nueva, about 2.5 hours from the airport.
I tried to take in every inch of scenery we passed: factories, neighborhoods, stray dogs, exotic flora, school kids walking home on steep winding roads with no sidewalks, billboards, shops, hydro power facility, and eventually – cows, farms, men clearing land with machetes, forests, huge mountain ranges, horses, bridges, and fields of coffee crops carved out from the nooks between bends in the road.
The winding, bobbing and dipping of the road put the little mini-bus to the test, and I found myself unusually car-woozy. Looking back, the swirling and jerking probably served to entrance me into a state that would help me absorb the beauty of the change of scenery at Finca Luna Nueva.
We got unpacked into our rooms, and marveled at the open-air rooms and exotic landscape. And the hammocks. And the pool. And the gigantic grasshoppers, asymmetrical flowers, expansive roofs, wood bungalows, birds. And the sounds: of a jungle, of a stream, of the breeze blowing through the expansive wrap-around porch. And the air: made of a wholly different blend of dampness, oxygen, and molecules than the DC air to which I’m so accustomed.
We each kept our eyes peeled to see a sloth, the elusive prize of our imaginations.
We ate dinner in the open-air “room” by the freshwater pool, a hearty meal made from the ingredients on the farm, as we would for every meal at Finca Luna Nueva. Each day was highlighted by explorations into the gardens, tours of the medicinal plants, cooing at the happy livestock, insights into the complexities of biodynamic farming, reflections on the ingenuity of sustainable hospitality (imagine air-drying all the linens for a resort in a greenhouse tent!).
On field trips we saw wild howler monkeys with their babies (the howl is more raucous than any animal noise I’ve ever imagined, I thought the sound alone might snap my collar bone), La Fortuna Volcano, a small town center, a bright somewhat-egotistical parrot, expansive armies of cutter ants carrying torn bits of leaves forever across the jungle floor, butterflies, spores from a huge reiki mushroom cluster, and I cannot end this list for it goes on in perpetuity.
On a nighttime tour of the thick surrounding forest, we spotted small snakes, various frogs, huge brightly-colored caterpillars that emit cyanide, and heard the piercing chirps of a glass frog. Ishmael (far below, in green shirt), our Costa Rican guardian and guide, told us what not to touch, and named the species we happened upon. Each little pathway from the main resort led us to another Wonderland of knowledge, sometimes led by Ishmael, sometimes led by Steven the fatherly biodynamic turmeric farmer (below, in hat), and sometimes self-led, emboldened by our own curiosity.
After a couple days it was apparent to me that I was a different person.
The change of scenery became internal. And the world, the physics, the gravity of this place was different. Its as if each cell in my body had been gently replaced by a more buoyant and interconnected cell. Each day registered to me as 2 days. I fell asleep at 10:30 or 11pm, and awoke, partially, at 4:30am to the sounds of I-have-no-idea-what birds, frogs, bats, who-knows-what. An hour of “meditation” on those sounds and somehow I was ready to rise from bed.
For a lifelong night owl, it was quite a change in routine, but I found myself satisfied with it all. I could hike uphill for miles, challenge myself to daring feats (like zip-lining, riding swinging sky trams, traversing shaky hanging bridges and climbing swaying towers that were far, far above the safety of the ground), chew leaves off a plant I had not personally identified and researched, smear myself with color from a plant, slurp goo-ey slime from a fluorescent red fruit that had pliable spikes all over it. I was someone else.
The sun came out every day, although the weather channel app insisted it was raining every day, we only had rain for a few hours on one day. I thought, the weather channel isn’t even itself over here, as the sun cascaded through the huge tropical leaves.
On the morning we left, we had a soulful breakfast with the group, lamenting leaving the new bond we had formed amongst the group members. We traded facebook addys, and clinked our glasses of guanabana juice and cups of Costa Rican coffee. On our walk back to the rooms, someone (Tyler) yelled “Sloth!” and we scurried up the hill to find him cuddling a sloth near the base of a tree. She was sweet and gentle and looked a bit as if she’d been spotted by a bunch of teenage groupies, which was close to the truth. She posed for pictures, as any good superstar should, and (s..l..o..w..l..y) ascended the tree, away from our gawking and muted squealing.
Tyler high fives sloth
Debbie says Hi to sloth
Brian says Bye to sloth
I had hoped by now that I would’ve processed the trip, and would have some insightful and spectacular motto to share on the experience.
Upon introspection, I can only say that I stashed a little bit of myself at Finca Luna Nueva, maybe in the cacao trees, maybe in the folds of a fuchsia flower, maybe in the palm of the she-sloth. Its a part of me I willingly give in order to have Costa Rica with me forever. I’ve gained the insight that the “me” that’s here is only an illusion, really.
In conclusion, I hope everyone has the opportunity at some point in their lives to change the scenery, not just externally but internally, and that you get to leave a bit of yourself behind. You’ll undoubtedly gain more than you leave.