Are you calling me free-spirited?
Last night I received the best complement I may have ever gotten from nearly a complete stranger. After meeting me on the airplane and spending about eight hours in San Jose together, Josué shared,
“I noticed you were writing every time I woke up from sleep. You didn’t look like a dirty hippie mochilero. You look like a regular girl…” He felt comfortable enough to invite me to share his pre-paid car service to the city and I felt comfortable enough to go with him. One of those ‘trust your intuition’ situations. He went on,
“You are very open. I worry. I think people are not trustable because in Salvador jyou can’t do those things like that. When there were not so many good bars, I was just walking, walking to find the good place. But jyou say we can go here, go here, go here, to change. To be free. You are open. You are free. This is so great.” I can’t explain how monumental it felt to be understood and appreciated by someone who was a complete stranger to me earlier that day.
Today I woke up, my first full day here in Costa Rica, and indulged in the freedom of doing nothing for a few hours. When I heard back from my Couchsurfing host, Joselyn, she had confused the dates and unfortunately couldn’t meet me today. San Jose is a bit limited in things to do, particularly as today kicks off Semana Santa, or the Holy Week, in celebration of Easter so many museums and businesses are closed. I mazed my way through the stairwells of my hostel to pick the brain of the Tica girl working at the front desk while Joselyn sends rapid fire WhatsApp messages trying to concoct a solution for me. Tica Hostel Girl tells me the last bus to La Fortuna for the day is at 11:50. It’s 11:23. In literally an instant I change my plans, grab my pack, and hop in the orange taxi that appears out front six minutes later. I arrive but don’t see any busses so I ask a policía for directions. After running up two flights of mall escalators and hobbling past the Tico version of claire’s, I find the ticket vendors. I ask the sun-tanned, wrinkled man in front of me,
“Este línea es para La Fortuna tambien?” assuming the longest line is probably mine. He gets out of line and walks over with me to the glass boxes to figure it out. (What a sweetie, right?) I find the right line and am the only one waiting there. It’s 11:46 now but there’s no one at the desk, just a sign taunting me with “CERRADO TEMPORADO”. At 11:49 a young guy sells me my one-way bus ticket to La Fortuna and throws in English words where he can, creating one of those situations where I’m speaking Spanish to him and he’s speaking an English-Spanglish blend back to me, both of us hoping some of what we’re throwing around is being understood. He says “primer piso” and points down.
Now I’m shuffling down escalator steps, imagining how many broken teeth I’d manage to lose after face planting with my pack. I may or may not have shoved a few toddlers and their mamas out of my way. I found my bus, and I made it in time! The driver threw my purple pack into the underbelly of the bus with the same indifference I had seen so many times before in South America, and I couldn’t help but grin at the similarity.
At times like this, I can’t help but love “Latin time” and see a bit of it in myself, the ever-late girl! It’s impressive how often I manage to get myself in these sweaty, rushed, and stressful situations. Sitting, happily squished, in the 11:50 bus to La Fortuna, I couldn’t help but think back to what Josué said to me last night.
I am a normal girl, but I’m also pretty open to what comes. Hearing that from him and then reflecting on my morning really made me see myself from his, a stranger’s, perspective. I am open. I am free.
That, to me, is what being ‘free-spirited’ is all about. It’s not about feathers, fringe, or being a hippie. That’s not me. It’s the readiness and willingness to take what comes my way. And right now, that’s La Fortuna. Translated, I’m headed towards fortune.