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The Elements of Finding Yourself: It’s Not the Place, It’s Creating Space

The Elements of Finding Yourself: It’s Not the Place, It’s Creating Space

Last year, I quit my office job, boyfriend, and Netflix subscription to try to find myself in the jungles of Costa Rica. I didn’t know why I was going, I just felt like I needed to go. It was your typical, I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing with my life, I better drop everything, get on a plane, and figure this shit out.

One month turned to six months of hiking volcanoes, 10 days of silence, swimming in my underwear, and enjoying many sunsets with stray dogs. Although it was nothing short of magical, it became clear early on that what I needed to find myself wasn’t found in the place.

It was found in giving myself space.

Space to explore and act on my curiosity.

Space to be a bit primal and uncensored.

Space to quiet my thoughts.

Just a space to be.

Costa Rica’s nature was the place I chose to help me find this space within myself, but it doesn’t have to be. It could be your yoga class, your backyard, or the nearest forest you can find. Whatever you choose to do, here are the three elements that are fundamental to creating space and finding yourself through your adventure of choice.

1. Decide to Do It Alone

There’s power in going at it alone—not because there won’t be someone there to influence your decisions, but because the decision itself to adventure alone allows you to recognize and honor your power.  When I first moved to California, I looked out into the ocean to see, in the distance, several specs of the landmass. I wanted to see what was on the other side so I asked brothers and friends if they wanted to go, camp, and explore the Channel Islands, but I always got the same answer of, “yeah maybe next month.”  I waited because I needed someone to go with me, you know, to start a fire, fend off crazy, to not get lost on a trail, etc.  But after a year of waiting, I said, fuck it, I’m doing this and so I gathered everything I needed, I went, met people along the way, and had an incredible journey.  The gift of the solo journey is the power of knowing that you are everything you need to go after what you want in your life.

2. Remove Distractions

In a world where we get pinged by our phones and seek for answers from the internet, it’s really easy to lose ourselves in vast information. To create space to explore ourselves, we first need to purge our minds of the trivial stuff that keeps us from going beyond the surface of our consciousness, thus making it essential for you to go into your adventures with zero distractions from a phone or computer. For example, if you are going on a hike leave your phone in the car or put it in airplane mode. If you are traveling for a week, don’t bring your computer. In today’s era, we are addicted to our devices and a lot of the time we use our electronics as exit doors for avoiding boredom or unpleasant feelings, preventing ourselves from discovering and processing ideas, thoughts, or emotions that come up. Removing these distractions will allow you to fully immerse your mind in the flow of the adventure.

3. Breath and Observe

Going on an adventure to find yourself can result in many enriching experiences, from to discovering new passions to moments of feeling fully connected to your inner voice.  However, adventuring can bring up disagreeable thoughts and feelings, as well. This is normal and is part of the process of releasing what no longer serves you. Two weeks into my sabbatical, when I was climbing the mountains of Lake Arenal, the scenery was beautiful, but my mind was racing with thoughts—thoughts of missing home and thoughts of being an idiot for leaving the lover of my wildest dreams. I breathed and let myself sit with the feelings of missing and longing. The process was nothing short of painful, but when I walked down to the other side of the mountain something had shifted inside me—a lightness and contentment for what lies ahead. On your adventure just observe yourself and your surroundings, be present with what comes up, let your self become it, and go on to let yourself become something else.

A lot of times we travel miles, crossing seas and mountains to find what already exists inside of us—this space. A space that exists between our Self and the world, an inward sky that fosters strength,  clarity, and calm. While adventures to exotic locations have an uncanny ability to unleash this part of you, it’s important to know that, wherever you are, this space exists within you, making the journey to find yourself never far away.

Why Costa Rica?

Why Costa Rica?

Unlike the outward self, the inward self is very sensitive to the world and bringing her out of her shell can sometimes require a complete change in place. I believe Costa Rica is the best place to do this— it’s healthy vibes, lack of rules, abundant nature, safety, and endless adventure makes it an oasis for the inward self to thrive. Here are my top five reasons why you should ditch whatever you are doing and come find yourself in Costa Rica. 

Lack of Rules & Enforcement

My inner jungle likes to be free and wild so rules really aren’t her thang. And this makes life in Costa Rica a forever spontaneous interlude that is full of possibilities. Do you want to take the 9 dogs that are following you to the beach? Done. The popo isn’t  going to make you put them on leashes. Eww…leashes. You want to get a 6-pack of beer and watch the sunset on the beach? Done. The popo will drink one with you! Want to make bread and sell it at the farmers market? Health & Safety isn’t going to stop you. Your inner voice relishes in a world where innate ideas aren’t hampered by regulatory garbage, allowing you to expand whatever comes to mind.

Healthy Vibes

Believe it not, your inner jungle likes to be one healthy mother fucker. Yeah, the occasional drink or two gives her the liquid courage to bust moves on the dance floor and feel alive for the first time in months since taking that boring office job. However, continual loud music and lights, hangovers, late-night pizzas, and sleep deprivation are more than enough to make her retreat into a deep dark place, unretrievable to the world without the help of a therapist. Costa Rica is rupturing this habit because everyone there is serious about their surf…stay with me for a moment.  When you surf, you have to be in tune with rising sun, the tide, and the energetic force of the universe. You can’t be staying out late, getting drunk, and then waking at 5:00 a.m. to align your board with a Tsunami—it just doesn’t work. The culture in Costa Rica is to be in sync with the natural rhythms of the earth and this extends into to every aspect of life there—your food, water, sleep, nature, and relationships. Everyone and their crab is on the same page, and this is a synergy that invites you to become the most healthy version of yourself. 

Nature Lives with You 

Once I was dining at a restaurant in on the Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo, where the restaurant had a giant tree in the center of it. The waiter ran over to our table and told us to look into the tree. Through the tree’s corridor, incoming into the restaurant, was a momma sloth and her baby sloth, curiously and courageously becoming the lives of the party. Unlike most western nations, these spontaneous interactions with wildlife in Costa Rica are far from rare. With 25% of Costa Rica’s landmass being protected areas, it is home to some of the most diverse populations of plants and species on the planet. And integrating ourselves into their home is what Costa Rican culture is all about. The love of nature in Costa Rica transcends every aspect of your experience from the clean and fresh rivers that flow through Arenal to the protected beaches of Tortuguero where turtles come to lay their eggs at sunset. Every day in Costa Rica is an opportunity to celebrate with the diverse and spontaneous characters that surround you. Just don’t be let them fool you into thinking you’ve been transported to another planet. 

Safety

Doing things on your own, (nature walks, hiking, etc) is an important part of removing yourself from the outside world to let the inner voice come out and you want to feel safe as you do this. As a woman who’s traveled to many countries, I’ve never feel quite as safe as I do in Costa Rica. In my eight months of traveling through the country, I’ve stayed in the homes of people I met on the bus, partied in hostels, walked around towns at night, etc., and not once have I been robbed or harassed. Of course, there were men that would catcall and blow kisses, and while this was embarrassing, most people in Costa Rica see this as flattery and rarely is it an indication of a threat. Like anywhere you go traveling, you want to be mindful of your surroundings and keep your personal belongings (iPhone, passport, money) near you, especially in areas that are more touristic. Every town will be different in terms of the level of safety and you will want to ask an expat or local of the “do’s and don’t” in the town. I wouldn’t do anything they wouldn’t do, which in some towns will be to not walk on the beach at night. I would try doing things they believe are safe to do, for example in the town of Santa Teresa it is very safe and common to hitchhike. Not only will you get a free ride, but you’ll meet some amazing people as well. Known as the Switzerland of the Americas, there is a strong mix of expats and locals and you’ll find that they are genuinely kind and honest people willing to help. Being a very safe country, Costa Rica is a beautiful introduction to the Americas, allowing you to go beyond in jungle with the confidence that the culture and people really do have your best interest at heart. 

Adventure

There’s nothing that makes your inner crazy say Hallelujah more than an f**** adventure! Do I even have to explain this one? Your inner jungle is a thirsty girl for the thrill. It’s like that feeling when you’re riding your bike, and you see the green light turning to yellow and you are like hell no! So you clench your handlebars and thrust yourself full speed into a red light, causing all traffic to seize, momentarily, as a sweaty flower child warps through, screaming “Hallelujah, I’m alive!” Yeah, Costa Rica is this feeling all time but with much cooler stuff like jumping off waterfalls, snorkeling amongst the stinging coral, flipping your raft on white waters, and catching a two-foot tuna. The cool thing about Costa Rica is that its varying geography, but small country, and cheap bus tickets, allow you to easily climb a volcano at Arenal one day and then white water raft yourself to the Caribbean for snorkel the next day. Costa Rica has all the adventure you need to engage the wild in you. 

Why I Quit Normal Life and Haven’t Looked Back

Why I Quit Normal Life and Haven’t Looked Back

I was given many signs that normal life wasn’t meant for me. One was on Christmas Eve, an inevitably slow day in the office, my eyes wandered towards the glass between the warm California sun and me. I sunk down solemnly in my seat and with a desire to be uplifted, I turned to a Ted Talk where a man spoke of an underground world of bioluminescent creatures—plankton, sharks, octopus, and stingrays. Slowly coming out of the sea into the space of my fluorescent office, a deep feeling of life, living and passing on without me had coursed through my body. Feeling the strong curiosity to connect with what lies beyond, I was confused with my choice to be in this closed space. This was one, out of many internal conversations, that had led me to believe that the life I was living just wasn’t for me and since you’ve clicked on this article, it probably isn’t for you either. By turning up the volume of this inward voice—my jungle within— I was able to find the strength to leave normal life, embrace the unknown, and never look back.

By ‘normal life,’ I’m referring to the expectations that guide us into thinking that there is no other way to live beside working in an office job 40 hours a week—spending all your money and time on items that accommodate this lifestyle and on vices that try to fill a heaping gap of fulfillment. Not to say there’s anything wrong with normal life. I mean you get a steady paycheck, scheduled holidays, paved roads, Amazon 2-day shipping, guaranteed weekends off, and other nice convenient things. If you like your normal life and don’t find any need to change it, by all means, skip over this entire article. However, if you were like me, and would’ve trade anything to be freed from the invisible rules that had so much control over my life—when I woke up in the morning, how fast I chewed my food, when I would see my family, the clothes I had to wear, how I would be “productive,” then read on. But normal life didn’t just govern my physical time; it took over my attention and energy, as well. I was expected to pay half of what I earned on rent to be able to afford the city in which I worked. I also was expected to buy a car I couldn’t afford to be able to commute to and from my work. Sometimes I just really needed a day to recharge, but I was expected to need only 10 days a year to do this. There were so many expectations that came with living a normal life that that seemed unreasonable. But for how much I understood this, I still found it hard to leave.

The hardest part about living normal life was knowing it wasn’t right for me, but not being able to justify leaving. I mean I had made it. I lived in Santa Barbara, where the sun shines and the vibes breathe—a place where everyone and their grandma wants to live. My work was pretty boring, but, hey, at least I received a paycheck to sit in a chair and press buttons on a screen. Maybe if I worked a little bit harder, I could advance, do something a bit more interesting that pays more? Oh besides, I can’t leave my job until I have another one, right? My mind gave a lot of arguments as to why I should stick to normal life, but it still didn’t feel right and eventually, my body made the decision for me.

Sometimes when your rational mind doesn’t listen to what your inner person truly desires, it will let you know in other ways. For months, before I quit my life, I felt a strong fatigue when I would sit down at my desk. At first, it was manageable, just would drink some coffee and go. But as time went on, the fatigue became so unbearable that I had thought I might be allergic to something in my apartment. I moved apartments, however, the fatigue still continued. In the midst of trying to figure out what was wrong with me, a friend noticed my anxiety and had asked me if he could practice a myofascial massage on my body. Myofascial massage is a type of massage that focuses putting pressure on points in your body to release, sometimes, years of built-up stress. Each time he let go of a pressure point, tears came streaming down my face. It felt as if things, ideas, expectations of myself had been finally lifted. All I was in that moment was my inward person—my divine, essence, or jungle. Being fully in my inward person, like a third eye, I was able to see that the things I was doing in my life—the job, my relationships, and the quick fixes, were not serving me. My inward person just wanted to see the world and observe it. She just wanted space, quiet, and time to think, which I was not afforded in my daily routine. She wanted to push boundaries and encourage my other self to do things that would inspire our growth. It became clear that if I wanted to feel whole again, I would have to quit things that didn’t serve my inward person and start incorporating things that do. The next day I sent in my resignation. Left with no plans, I could only think of doing what I’ve been dreaming about for last couple years: exploring the jungles of Costa Rica. With a one-way ticket, I prepared to leave a life I had no idea when or if I would come back to.

When taking this leap of faith, many asked me if I was scared of the unknown. Which: of course. But after finding my jungle backbone, the known seemed much scarier than the journey that lied ahead of me. People tried to persuade me against my decision, telling me it would be hard for me to find a job when I returned or that I would get harassed in Central America. I would lie if I said I didn’t experience any fear from these comments. However, the inner voice that led me was stronger than the outside voices that deterred me. Since leaving normal life to travel and learn how to build my own way, many of my problems have been alleviated. I don’t experience fatigue, anxiety, or depression in the same circular way I did in normal life. I give myself plenty attention to the things that nourish my inward person—walks in nature, writing, and long dinners with people I care about. Yes, not all my problems went away. I still have to find ways to earn money in a much more entrepreneurial fashion and I work harder now than at my previous job. I also, still experience a good amount of stress. However, it is a different type of stress—the type that pushes me to continue so I can see how my unique journey will unfold. This, for me, is everything worth fighting for.