I’m beginning to learn a painfully obvious lesson: what has been cannot be again.
Deep, I know.
When it comes to travel and living abroad, I’ve discovered this to be even more true. When I arrived in Sámara last November for the Costa Rica TEFL month-long course, I was thrust into a group of friends that by nature was going to more or less split up at the course’s end. We all had our initial reasons for signing up for the course: some of us wanted to stay in Costa Rica to teach, some of us just wanted to get out of wherever we’d been before and didn’t know what we wanted next, and some of us had simply wanted to take a short sabbatical before returning home by Christmas. I don’t think any of us anticipated that we’d all find such good friends in one another, making the goodbyes come December surprisingly sad.
Including my time in Sámara, so far in Costa Rica I’ve lived in three houses and one apartment, with some couch and hostel surfing mixed in also. Though parting from my friends in Sámara was a major bummer, I had a lot on the horizon that kept me eager and positive. I had to find a new home and a new job; the hunt kept me active and excitable. A few of us headed north from Sámara. The few of us were glad to have each other close by as we nose dove into new cities and jobs and friend groups, but I don’t think I’m the only of us who longed for the simplicity and bliss of our time together in Sámara. But what has been cannot be again. So I applied to volunteer at Abriendo Mentes, which landed me a room in my second Costa Rica house, and then one in my third.
Moving into the third house in January, 3-bedroom Casaverde, located a stone’s throw from one of the best beaches in the province, legitimately changed my life. I was slightly nervous at the thought of living with strangers because you never know how that’ll go, but when Marcela moved in a week or so after I did and I discovered that she had learned much of her English from Friends, I knew things would be okay. And when we got to know Sigrid and Erik, who would be moving in come April, life went from good to (too) perfect.
I have never known four strangers to click in such a raw and real way as the four of us did. Even before Sigrid and Erik joined me and Marcela in Casaverde, we began our tradition of movie nights, going back and forth between our house and their’s to watch the next in whatever series we had chosen. When they moved in, we genuinely became the family that each other needed, all being so far from our own. “Bored” was not a word in that house. On the days when it was too hot to move or one of us had had a rough work day or the hangovers were too real, simply being in the living room together was our safe space. I think I’ve had some of the best, funniest conversations of my life in that living room. Not a week went by without Sigrid kicking our asses in some card game, or without a Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Big Mouth showing. Laughter was constant. Sunset attendance was mandatory. Love and support was unwavering. Matching tattoos were unavoidable. Looking back on those months, I know for certain that they will always be some of the best of my life and that those three people will always tug on my heartstrings in a major way. Sometimes – sometimes – you just get lucky.
On a warm Sunday in May, the day before Erik and Sigrid would fly back to Sweden, we were a damn mopey bunch. I didn’t really realize this until we were sharing our last sunset beers together with other friends. One of them looked at us and said, “You guys look so sad.” That’s when I realized just how sad I was. Our perfect little family, my found paradise, was about to split up and I couldn’t stand the thought. The next morning brought many tears. After hugs goodbye on our front porch, we kind of just stood there, staring at each other for a minute, before Erik finally mustered up enough voice to say, “You guys are awesome,” and walked to the car. Marcela and I hugged Sigrid one last time and we watched the car of Swedes roll down the driveway. Erik let out his yodel just before they sped off towards the airport, leaving me and Marcela cackling through our tears.
Marcela and I lived in the house together for a few more weeks. She was looking for a new job, so I began looking for a new place to live because the thought of living in Casaverde without my happy little family depressed me. She made plans to move back to Mexico and I found a one-bedroom apartment really close to work. She moved with me for the first few days, then went on to Mexico, leaving me a note in my apartment that I still have hung up on my wall. Part of it reads:
Cosas que hacer siempre:
- Cerveza en la playa
- Cerveza en casa
- Cerveza con amigos
- Buscar ladies night a mitad de semana
- Ver más Friends
- Platicar horas y horas
- Reir y bailar
Now in my funky apartment that has too much loud traffic in the early mornings instead of the tropical birds and monkeys of Potrero, I miss them more than ever. I also miss Eli and Kate, mis compañeros from Sámara who moved up here when I did. The former has moved back to the States and the latter to the Central Valley. I know that what has been cannot be again. Just as our good friend Charles Bradley did, I’m going through changes, and while they suck right now, I know there’s a light at the end of the transition tunnel. I’ve become friends with the new residents of Casaverde and have started hanging out with teacher friends again. I’ve had time to cook, read, and write more. But sometimes I just want to reverse time to a random Wednesday night playing card games in the living room of Casaverde, interrupted only by intermittent dancing to Avicii or Abba or Backstreet Boys, or to crack open cold ones and pass around a bottle of wine. I’m telling you, heaven really can be a place on earth.
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain