Lessons on Love & Purpose: Backpacking in Central America with a 7 year old.
My partner and I packed 2 regular sized backpacks and spent a few weeks backpacking around Costa Rica with our 7 year old. It was beautiful. The people were amazing. The food was fresh and delicious. The experience has changed all of us for the better. It was absolutely soul nourishing and faith building.
Here’s what I learned:
Being green is easily incorporated into a culture when it’s government supported. Costa Rica is set to be 100% carbon neutral by 2020 and with the exception of cars, I can’t believe they aren’t already there. The few plastic bags we saw were biodegradable and compostable. There were ZERO plastic straws to be found. To-go containers were sturdier than any Tupperware I’ve seen and clearly meant to be reused or recycled. Every facility, even the hostels had a central sorting site for compost, recyclables, and general trash. Their energy is mostly hydroelectric and the windmills dotting the countryside fill in the gaps. The people embrace this and are concerned with their balance in the ecosystem. Every consumer interaction is grounded with caring for our planet and communities. Caring for the ecosystem is a down right spiritual experience; and the entire country was journeying together in working for the greater good of mankind and protecting this miraculous world we live in. It feels damn good and I felt like we were caring for our daughter on a much deeper level by honoring the world we brought her into. But what I found most obvious in this cultural difference: If the government supports these initiatives and educates people, it happens.
Architecture. Ticos know how to live in the climate. Their homes were made to breathe and bring in natural light. They’re a blend of indoor and outdoor spaces. It is impossible for words to do it justice, but Costa Ricans know how to build livable homes that create efficiency and comfort. Considering the various climates and terrains in that one little country, their architects should be world leaders in housing design. It is so fun and relaxing to feel like you’re living in nature, but completely comfortable indoors.
Smoking: there is essentially no smoking allowed anywhere and no one breaks the rules.
Monkeys: howler monkeys are most active just before sunrise which is at 5:30 am on the coast. You’ll never sleep past sunrise in Guanacaste.
Children: Children are amazingly resilient and adaptable. More so than we give them credit for as a society. People thought we were crazy taking our 7 year old on an adventure like this, but y'all she was amazing. She rolled with the flow and ate whatever we gave her. She slept with new sounds and in strange beds and hopped on every bus we asked without issue. She had one toy and she was happy with that the entire time. There was no television or ipads and she unleashed her creative imagination in place of electronics. She saw fairies and magic everywhere. She relished walks and watching the sunrise. She grew in so many ways and I am so impressed with her maturity. The only issues were on long hikes, then she’d need a quick carry to regain her strength. All in all I’d say she fared this roughing it vacation with more grace than I did.
Stress: Americans are too stressed and too burdened with things that do not matter. We work, we pay bills, we hurry hurry hurry and FOR WHAT!?! Our children are growing up before our eyes and our partners are working long hours and where is the family time? Why isn’t that protected? We as a people are suffering and we need to reclaim and rearrange our lives so that we can live with REAL PURPOSE. Connecting with and loving our family. Connecting with and building up our communities. Connecting with and serving God over money. STEP OFF of the hamster wheel. We are made to do so much more with this life than pay bills, work, then retire only to find the little ones gone and our bodies refusing to hike that volcano and surf new beaches. I know this is a hard one and takes time to recreate the structure of your life, but it is absolutely worth pondering and building towards. It was a gift to truly feel connected with my family and realize how much we’ve been missing in our daily lives.
Stuff: The Minimalists have it right: our stuff really is weighing us down. A family of 3 comfortably survived with only what fit in 2 backpacks for weeks. We had everything we needed. We stayed in places with only essential furniture. WE WERE SO HAPPY. It wasn’t just the tropical adventure, but it was seriously the lack of stuff. Anxiety was diminished, space was open and airy, creativity flowed freely, we could breathe! And as soon as we got home I could feel the weight of our STUFF. ( Serious purging happening now).
Put the smartphone DOWN. They serve essentially no purpose except for overwhelming you with information and increasing stress and anxiety levels. They’re addicting and you feel like you’re doing something, but you aren’t. You’re missing life. You’re missing connection with your family and nature. Detox. Do it today. Let that phone go. For those who work a lot on social media like I do, use schedulers like Later or Hootsuite and schedule that work like you do with all of your other work. Your emails can wait and be answered in time that you set aside each morning rather than instant replies. Texts will be there when you check in periodically throughout the day and surprise- people can and do wait. You are seriously missing your own life and ruining your posture for absolutely nothing, but with a huge cost to your well being. PUT THE PHONE DOWN.