Spontaneity. That is the summation of our Costa Rican adventure. Pure and utter serendipity. It all began the night of our medical school graduation. We went out to a local bar with our fellow classmates to celebrate the momentous occasion. Over cocktails and pints, we discussed travels and past escapades to the far ends of the earth. We were blessed with many curious souls in our class, so the experiences varied widely across multiple continents. One girl mentioned her time with a WWOOF stay in Costa Rica the previous year. She had only pleasant things to say about the work level, the gracious host family, and the safety of the location. I felt a little tug on my soul. WWOOF was the one thing on our bucket list that we weren’t able to cross off during our glorious last year in school. Was this a sign? She texted the farm owner right then, asking if there were any availabilities in the coming week. We were leaving the next morning with our trailer packed to the brim for our cross-country drive to our future home in Utah. We had exactly two weeks between our move and our orientation for internal medicine residency in Utah. Not much time for a trip, especially since we already planned on visiting my brother and his adorable family in San Francisco before we started our hectic work schedules. As her phone dinged signaling a text message, I noticed my white knuckles gripping the edge of my seat in anticipation. Miraculously, there were two beds available for us at the organic farm, Villas Mastatal, in three days. Yes, you heard me, three days. Before we let our brains dissect the many reasons why this impulsive trip could be problematic, we immediately booked our stay. The fear of the unknown was completely overwhelmed by a resounding sense of peace in our decision. The stars aligned too perfectly on that night to listen to any doubts. It felt like the gods were pointing us towards fulfilling our last wish before our travels would hit a screeching halt during residency. It was fate.
Three days later, we boarded a plane heading towards San Jose. After driving through an onslaught of pouring rain, sinking into mud holes with water seeping into the car along the way, we arrived at our home for the next week. Villas Mastatal is a small organic farm perched in the middle of the rainforest. Our sleeping quarters entailed bunk beds under a roof, with walls open on three sides to the surrounding greenery. Hammocks swayed peacefully in the breeze as rain drops pattered on the tin roof. We quickly settled in, storing our backpacks on wood planks under the mosquito net canopied bunks above. Before we knew it, the dinner bell rang for our first family style community dinner. At Villas Mastatal, workers rotate cooking and cleaning up after meals for the group. Gathering ingredients for dinner was my absolute favorite part of the experience, as I learned which bushes were edible as salad leaves, which flowers provided particular flavors to main dishes, and unearthed fresh vegetables for the table. Every morning we gathered eggs from the chicken coup for breakfast, supplemented by traditional rice and beans. We had fresh fruit juice or smoothies daily, and more bananas than we could possibly gobble up. It was wholesome, clean eating that provided the perfect detox for the last month of heavy restaurant dinners and fast food during our move out west.
We began work each morning around 8, dividing into groups to accomplish the various tasks set out for us each day. We planted citrus trees, potatoes, and banana trees. We toiled in the hydroponics hut, built a new bus stop for the farm, and cleared trails through the national park across the way. Working the dirt between my fingers felt so nourishing to my soul. The all encompassing nature awed me and humbled me. The beauty of an ecofriendly food production cycle, the joy of hard labor, the allure of a simplified life. It all coalesced into moments of deep reflection and attempts to grasp what sentiments were running through my soul. I would spend hours just lying in the hammock in the afternoons, completely still, devoid of any tasks, not even reading. That sense of stillness is unheard of for me, a person constantly adding things to to-do lists, with a nagging guilt anytime I’m not “productive.” It was such a relief for my mind to calm for once, for my body to respond to the lack of urgency, and to simply be. I can’t honestly tell you what I pondered during those luxurious afternoons. I’m not sure myself. All I know is that I needed in my deepest of hearts to have that time for myself. I desperately needed that time to reflect on my path in life, as a transition point between graduation and starting a career, to reflect on my “me” time ending as I would begin 80 hour work weeks in just shy of a seven days. I felt compelled to still my mind and open my soul to the beautiful experience. It was refreshing and revitalizing.