First it entered through my nose. The sweet perfume of hibiscus mingled with blades of grass and earthy clay.
Then it spread across my face as the wind kissed my skin, its scent seeping into my pores.
I heard it in the crashing waves of the ocean, in the howls of monkeys in jungle trees, among the humming cicadas and the squawking macaws.
I felt the sensation of being embraced by the infinitely mysterious healing energy of the earth.
Today, I felt Costa Rica.
The place I once considered my true home. Where I continually returned between bouts of globetrotting to Panama, Colombia, Nicaragua, Mexico, Belize, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, England, the United States. A place that I connected with so deeply, I returned to eight times in less than two years.
I reminisce to when I caught my first flight to Costa Rica. Walking into the airport at midnight, color blocked in neon wearing hiking boots and a yellow fanny pack, with a smile that could have lit the runway. The plan was to stay for three months and return to the United States to begin graduate school.
Instead Costa Rica changed everything.
Living in a jungle hut in the South Caribbean, I learned to walk barefoot and wake with the sun. I learned to shoot bad tequila, to dance my heart out, and to love recklessly. I learned to relinquish snobbery and materialism and to be young and wild and free. I learned to relax through surrendering to my surroundings. I learned to make space for myself and to find contentment sitting alone.
When I returned to Seattle, unsure what kind of life I even wanted anymore, my heart longed for the one place where I truly knew how to be me.
So I went back.
This time I learned how to travel on my own. I learned that it wasn’t scary. That it was actually quite easy. And that if I wanted friends, I could make them anywhere. I learned to love sleeping in hostels and on overnight buses. I learned that perhaps the traveling lifestyle suited me better than the domesticated one. I continued to travel solo all over the world.
But I was more confused than ever. I hoped that travel might lend me clarity, yet the more stamps I acquired in my passport the less I understood where to go next. I knew the medicine I needed was Puerto Viejo.
I arrived at the peak of the rainy season, this time needing more to fulfill me than a deserted beach or a surfer boyfriend or a reggae club. So I started practicing yoga. Twice a day. Every day.
And that’s when I began to really learn who I was.
I learned to listen to my body, to let go of stories I had created, to practice self-compassion, and to find comfort no matter my discomfort.
At the same time, I started a blog called This American Girl. Through this outlet I shared my process of getting to know myself, this new jungle dwelling travel loving yogi self, with all of you. And perhaps more than anything, that level of vulnerability and acceptance really changed my life.
I continued traveling the world, more confident than ever that I was on my own personal path to happiness.
However I wondered if I could sustain my lifestyle. My savings were running out, I suffered food poisoning constantly, and my entire body was usually covered in infected insect bites. But I knew that I wanted this more than anything.
So I made it happen, again in Puerto Viejo.
I learned about probiotics and cleansing and the power of green juice. I became certified in practicing Reiki. I sat in a sweat lodge in the dirt with a shaman and cried for pain I didn’t even know I had. I learned to heal my whole self.
I developed a freelance writing business to fund my travels and grew my blog. This opened my eyes to the idea that I could manifest my life in any direction that I wanted.
Healthier than I had ever felt I became confident enough to embark on a big adventure, knowing that I could take care of myself. I felt ready to let go of Costa Rica and the security net in provided me, and allow myself to be healthy, centered, and authentic somewhere else instead.
I embarked on an adventure across the world in Southeast Asia.
The water kefir I traveled with kept me healthy and safe from food poisoning. My coconut water fast from months prior made my blood no longer appealing to mosquitoes and I was practically bite free in the jungles of Indonesia and Thailand. I used my Reiki practice to share healing with locals and travelers I met on the road.
I looked to the practices I developed in Costa Rica that brought me back to myself in the present moment, and when I returned to them I experienced contentment even in struggle and bliss even in pain.
Backpacking in Southeast Asia was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I grew and changed in ways I did not know I possibly could, and I know that sooner than later I will be back. However I missed how easy it was to feel centered and sane and healthy in Costa Rica.
In Southeast Asia my blog grew more than I ever imagined, and that has inspired and impassioned me to a great degree. But by focusing so much on building This American Girl, I wondered if I lost a bit of Camille.
I needed space from the hectic vibration of humans and traffic and development and the constant (dis)connection of technology.
So here I am.
In the land of pura vida again.
This time on the Osa Peninsula, in the tiny surf town of Pavones, at the top of a mountain overlooking the ocean, here to recommit to the practice that has always, always, always brought me back to being me.
By enrolling myself in a month long yoga teacher training program, I am relinquishing my freedom in exchange for structure and routine. I am humbling myself to accept instruction from someone else. I am cultivating the patience to stay in one place long enough to deepen my commitment to my yoga and to develop the skills to share it with the world.
As I begin this chapter of deep self-inquiry, I feel a bit afraid. That perhaps as I inevitably change I will drift further from the person I once was. I fear that the disconnect I feel in old places and in old relationships will broaden even further. I feel afraid that in order to open these new dimensions of myself I will have to let some things go.
And I will.
Though perhaps the deeper I delve into myself the less the differences I feel between cultures and lifestyles and mentalities will matter. Perhaps the more I become connected with my truest version of self, the more I will understand that we are all in fact one.