In addition to learning a lot of life lessons by the age of 25, I also learned that no matter what, spending time outside beats any party for me. Pablo noticed how much time we’ve been spending behind our computers lately and decided to surprise me with a camping trip to one of our favorite places in Costa Rica that was equal parts adrenaline and relaxation. A few surprises like late night rock climbing, a fire show, and a “campfire chicken” buffet – and of course plenty of s’mores – made it that much more special, and he impressed me with his gift-smuggling abilities (I even carried one without noticing!). We met Balto’s new family, and got to take him on his first camping trip which meant waking up one year older with puppy kisses a muddy paw prints all over the tent. More than anything, my birthday in Costa Rica wasn’t just about me – it was about celebrating the little things, slowing down, and making the little memories that make every year worth celebrating in the first place. One of my favorite quotes sums up how I feel about these two days – that “if we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.” Here are just a few of the special memories we made…
Pablo woke me up bright and early for surprise number 1: a picnic breakfast at the Irazu volcano, which we were meant to hike. The only problem was that after arriving at 5:30AM we saw the entrance sign announcing that the park opens at 8, and we had plans in another place starting at 9. He gave me the choice of hanging out until the park opening or continuing with the day – we chose to play with the pup, eat our breakfast outside, and take in the gorgeous valley views.
Being all alone in a tourist place gives you a different perspective; the fog filling the valley below looked more like a glacier and the only other cars on the winding roads through fincas and farms were full of workers, ready to start their early shifts. By the time we were eating breakfast, Balto was darting around in the still-wet grass and the sun was making mirrors out of dew-covered plants. In a completely quiet moment, I saw movement in the grass. The three of us stood by the car, holding our breath and a huge coyote trotted right in front of us, making eye contact until he disappeared into the bushes.
Enroute to the climbing wall and camping spot in Cachi, we stopped to meet Balto’s new family (that we’re bringing him to later this week) and explored local places along the way. My favorite was this wooden shack on the side of the road that had a sign saying there were artisan crafts for sale.
We met the artists and found out his family has been carving these figurines for 4 generations, and his father built the little shack using coffee wood that was plentiful in the area – everything from the tiniest dolls to the intricate doors are still made out of that same wood. They even had an antique collection on the second floor.
When we finally arrived to the climbing wall it was late afternoon. We parked our car at the top of the hill, and Pablo humored me as I took photos of the owners gardens – full of my favorite little succulent plants.
We headed down the hill, ready to pitch camp, and Pablo managed to hide a huge box disguised as dinner ingredients. I was distracted by a dog who decided to follow along…
It wasn’t long before it started getting dark, so Pablo set out to make the fire while I organized our bags. To my surprise, one of the grocery bags had a birthday present in place of vegetables – and even more surprising, I discovered Pablo’s secret talent of picking out cute wrapping paper and (seriously) professional-level wrapping skills.
I also learned that he really does pay attention – acrylic paints and brushes, a great bottle of wine, a handmade docking station for my phone made out of drift wood he sanded and varnished were just a few of the thoughtful surprises. We turned our attention to the fire, and did a little photo shoot while waiting for the coals to get nice and hot.
When the coals were finally ready, I chopped the ingredients for one of my all-time-favorite-meals: Campfire Chicken. Pablo had packed tons of fresh veggies and a whole bag of herbs, and we both loaded our aluminum foil boats with tomatoes, carrots, onions, potatoes, celery, bell peppers, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, and marinated chicken. We poured some of the wine in for good measure, twisted the foil tops and waited…
Dinner is served! Little did I know that the folks at Cachi (who are also awesome friends) had a birthday surprise in mind…
They had several lines set up, headlamps and harnesses ready and we both got to try night climbing for the first time. It was pitch black, and only seeing the rocks right in front of you with no sense of high how you are off the ground was a totally new experience. When I came down Pablo suggested we walk to the river and when it was time to turn back, one of the guys was standing in a clearing holding two balls of fire (!) We joined the other campers and watched as he swung poi, swallowed fire and danced – turns out that he heard it was my birthday and decided to put on a show! I went to bed exhausted and happy to have spent my last few hours of 24 in such a crazy place.
Waking up to puppy kisses, muddy paws and the smell of campfire will forever be my first memories of 25 (S’mores for breakfast are now in competition with breakfast in bed when it comes to favorite things…)
A few fellow campers wandered over to wish me a happy day and asked if we wanted to try our hand at slack lining over at the natural pool. Knowing there was no way we’d manage to balance on the thin rope, we came to terms with a cold swim despite stomachs full of marshmallows, and headed towards the river to my favorite little pond in Costa Rica. The water was turquoise and frigid as usual, but an 80lb snapping turtle who had made one corner home made balancing over the pool that much more exciting (and even though it never moved a muscle, made my heart jump every time I fell in). A giant basilisk or “jesus lizard” ran across the pools surface and gave a convincing display of his camouflaging skills as he watched us try and fail over and over again from a nearby leaf (Can you find him in the photos?)
The cold water woke us up, and after a quick change of clothes we spent the next few hours taking turns climbing the massive rock walls while Balto looked on from below and called us back to the ground.
We wrapped the day up with an awesome cup of cafe con leche watching the sun set over a nearby lake and even managed to get home in time to shower, get dressed and have some local brews and crazy good food at my favorite gastro pub.
25 is feeling good, and I can’t believe how lucky I am to have people in my life who get me and are willing to join me on this crazy ride called life. Lots of love to friends and family back home and a massive thank you to everyone who helped make 25 one of the best birthdays yet!