Slow Travel

2538_screen_shot_2013-03-31_at_6.36.38_pmA few years ago a friend launched a website called Slow Traveller.   It featured many vacation rentals and articles on enjoying and appreciating where you are by truly slowing down.  I didn’t realize how vacation rentals fit into what she was calling slow travel as vacation rentals meant to me a villa in a destination such as Cabo San Lucas or a luxury Paris apartment rental.   There was a sense that a vacation rental does slow down your trip, or in my view even inconvenience it,  as the option of buying groceries,  eating meals at the home and not being surrounded by crowds of people at the pool seemed to take away from the type of vacation that I enjoyed.

Last year,  after some dramatic changes in my life,  I needed to get away from work and the city and go to a place that was “out of the way” where things were calmer,  the ocean was close by and that I could afford for a few months.  Costa Rica had always been a dream destination of mine.  I was intrigued by the beauty of the country and that it has been named the happiest place on earth.

The combination of natural beauty and friendly people were all the reasons I need to make a decision.   It took me 20 minutes of searching the web for a long term vacation rental in Costa Rica.   I had no concern for location aside from wanting it to be in Costa Rica and preferably by a beach, though the mountains would have done too.

The apartment I found was in a small town called Playa Grande.  I had never heard of it.  The photos of the house, a duplex,  looked pretty and Playa Grande itself simply gorgeous.

A week later I found myself on a plane heading towards Costa Rica.   A few hours later I was in what seemed to be a jungle, with sounds of howler monkeys around me,  waves from the ocean rumbling the ground and more butterflies and birds than I have ever seen.   There were few cars and I learned quickly that there were few people too, partly because Playa Grande is off the beaten path and because it was the rainy season.   Both facts I didn’t know until I arrived.   I really needed a rest.

Playa Grande Costa Rica

The next month I stayed in the apartment,  bought food from the local store,   walked on the beach,  spoke to a few of the locals.   I didn’t do much else.   There were no distractions aside from being with myself, my busy mind and the sounds of nature.   The time passed extremely slowly.

I met a man on a bike one day.  He and his wife had moved there after winning a trip and had decided to stay.    He told me how his kids loved it, went surfing after school each day and when they did go back the States felt completely out of place because of all the stores and the material items that we clutch to.  The conversation resonated as I realized I hadn’t picked up a phone,  used a computer,  gone into any store aside from the  grocery store … a shack … for a month.   During the conversation a male howler monkey walked right by us.

I stayed there for 2 more months.   Each day swimming in the ocean,  walking on the  beach,  talking to a few of the locals,   never venturing further than Playa Grande, despite the beauty that I knew existed in the rest of the country.

Playa Tamarindo itself,  the most famous of the towns in the Northwest Region of Costa Rica, was only a short   water taxi ride.   I didn’t go there.  I surfed.  I swam. I took long walks on the beach.  I rested.  There was no wild night life.  No drinking.  Nothing but slowing down to feel nature.  And I did.

For the first time since my childhood I could hear the rhythm of nature.  From the intense thunderstorms — that happened for a few hours every day,  to the monkeys, crickets,  birds and my own footsteps walking on a road that barely a car would go on.  Nights were pitch black.  So black that I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.

One starts to notice things when you slow down.   Things that were always there.   It was during this time that I figured out what my friend had meant by slow travel.  It wasn’t simply about the vacation rental lifestyle of being in a house with all the amenities.   It was much, much more.

To discover more about Slow Travel in the NW part of Costa Rica here are some vacation rentals for you to choose from

13 thoughts on “Slow Travel

  1. I desperately need to hit a white sandy beach sometime soon. Spots like these are the places everyone really needs to visit, the main beaches are almost always beyond ruined.

    I enjoyed the post.

  2. PB thanks for reading it. Sort of fortunate that the recession hit when it did as this place probably would have gone the way of other resort towns. Instead the government has stepped in and protected most of Playa Grande and has made it close to impossible to build on the land that many investors purchased. I wouldn’t be happy If I owned land there that I couldn’t build on though you’re right about these being the spots that everyone needs to visit. Costa Rica is one country that knows how to protect the environment.

  3. “One starts to notice things when you slow down. Things that were always there.” How apt! I was so rapt in reading all that -while envying you all the time- I felt cut off when I reached the end. But I am happy to collect the pearl of wisdom from your refreshing post.

    PS: I loved the header image of your blog.

    • thanks umshankar for your kind comments. It’s challenging for me to share this part of my life as while I’m certain it contains immense gifts it was a period of time where I felt pretty lost. I’m grateful to have had this experience and hope that other posts show up 🙂

  4. Sounds lovely, Tony. So peaceful, relaxing, and a real reawakening for you. The slow life has always appealed to me. Human beings aren’t built to deal with that fast pace of modern civilization. All that speed and hurry is driving them crazy.

  5. It just goes to show how far we have removed ourselves from nature. Don’t get me wrong, I love the hustle and bustle of city life and the technology that allows me to do things quicker but there are times when I enjoy the perfect peace and quietness.

    This location seems perfect. I’ve never even thought of Costa Rica as a quiet unspoiled place or a place with little distractions. It conjurs up a thought of exotic women, dancing, lively music, half naked people on the beach etc….

    Maybe we should all take a leaf out of your book, and instead of just talking about doing things, we should just get on the internet and do it. You need guts to pack your bags in an instant and live. I love the idea of no nightlife too, but would at least have the vino in the fridge 🙂 Oh, pitch black is too scary for me, so the candles would have to be lit all night.
    I hope you’re batteries are fully recharged now and all is calm.

  6. nothingprofound yeah I think you’re right about us now being built to handle all this speed and rushing. The trip and now meditating regularly helps a bunch. Just being should be the easiest thing to do though somehow we’ve set up society in a way that seems to make it the most difficult.

    Rum Punch, the pitch black was pretty scary at first though after a few weeks I enjoyed it since it meant I wasn’t going anywhere as the little flashlight I had barely shone enough light to see my feet. I’m sure there were exotic women to be discovered and I more than half naked people. Perhaps next time I’ll be in a different state where I’ll go exploring more. Staying in one spot and walking everywhere, surrounded by the intense feeling of nature was what I needed then and probably still now 🙂

    My batteries are much more charged and life has calmed down. Thanks for asking 🙂

    • BugetGride thank you for commenting. It is one of the most beautiful places in its sheer natural rawness. I grew up in South Africa and there’s a country that has immense beauty. I suppose that it too emanates a strong energy that creates a feeling of aliveness that one gets when you are surrounded by natural beauty. The feelings were different though it could be that I connected to each place differently because I was in different stages and transitions in life. It’s challenging to say what’s the most beautiful place on earth. It seems like wherever the last place I’ve been is magnified because my memories and feelings associated to it are more tangible and less subtle. I found real healing by just being in nature, with few people around and being forced to go through whatever emotions I was experiencing. There was no way to hide in an iPhone, on the PC or listening to music. I’m really grateful I went. While there I had moments and sometimes days where I didn’t know what I was doing in another part of the world with nowhere to go except being right there. By the third month the days started passing quickly as I had started to regain strength and calmness. It gave me faith that there exists far more than we may care to believe as going there was done in such a hasty way, without much thought, that I find it difficult to believe that it was an accident.

  7. How I’d love to go to Costa Rica. It sounds like you had such a magnificient time as well as a well-deserved break from the real world. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. Loved it!

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