It all started almost a year ago when my friend Karin asked me to go to Costa Rica with her. I imagined sunny beaches and swim-up bars so of course I was into it.
Turns out she had something very different in mind. She sent me links to a website for Finca Bellavista, an eco treehouse community in the jungle. I have to admit…even though I had been all in for the beach, I wasn’t sure the treehouse in the jungle was for me. Because snakes. Especially since snakes are the first three horrible creatures on this list.
But I decided, in the spirit of trying new things and being adventurous, that I would do it. I would say YES to living life to the fullest and taking advantage of new opportunities. Also, at this time, the trip was about 9 or 10 months away so I had a TON of time before it actually happened so it didn’t even seem real.
And then January was here. We had both purchased hiking boots, 40L backpacks, and small daypacks for our epic journey. I was both excited and nervous.
We arrived at the Finca, which has a base camp including an office, a community center for serving meals, and “The Rancho” where people can hang out anytime of day and, more importantly, where they held the daily happy hour. Base camp is also the only place you can access Wi-Fi for any sort of connection with the outside world.
Our treehouse was about a 10 minute hike out from base camp and I was excited as we started the journey. But about 1 minute into said journey we encountered a sign that said, “Once you cross this bridge, you are in the jungle…” and included some warnings about making sure your ankles were covered every time you entered the jungle. Because, like I said before, snakes.
But I was still determined to be excited. And then I actually saw the bridge.
Um, ok. I took one step on it and felt it start to shake under my feet, so naturally I muttered (not really under my breath), “You have GOT to be kidding me!”
Once we got past the bridge I felt better. I was looking forward to checking out our treehouse and I wasn’t disappointed. It was beautiful, and had two balconies looking out into the jungle. Amazing.
We packed up our day packs and started to explore the jungle. We hiked to a beautiful waterfall first.
We explored the Finca’s garden and, while hiking along afterward, discovered these adorable dandelion-like plants that we dubbed “kerfloofs.”
Even though these things were technically “fun,” I unfortunately found my anxiety starting to ratchet up. While I was enjoying hiking the steep, crude trails, I found myself looking down at every single step I took, certain that if I didn’t I would step on a snake. Because snakes. In the meantime, I was mostly missing the beautiful views and scenery around me.
That first night, we went down to the Rancho to join our fellow adventurers for drinks and then dinner at the Community Center. One of the women we met looked at me and very pleasantly asked, “Would you like to see a pit viper?” To which I very pleasantly replied, “No, I would not.”
As we finished dinner, I suddenly realized why we had headlamps. We had to hike back to our treehouse in the pitch black.
What was more, the pit viper woman and her husband were determined to show everyone “their” snake. I preferred to stand alone in the dark while a group of others went to see the snake. Just, no.
Every night as we made the journey back to our treehouse in the dark, I used both my headlamp and a flashlight and spent the whole time looking down at my feet for movement. Because (do I have to say it again?) snakes.
Karin or some of our newly-made friends were looking around for cool spiders, frogs, and toads. I was happy to stop and check them out.
But guys, I’m going to be honest here. For the first day and a half that we were there, I was terrified most of the time.
So terrified, in fact, that when we were at base camp the second night I frantically texted my husband, telling him that I had made a terrible mistake in taking this trip and that I wanted to come home. This trip just wasn’t me and I was so afraid of the bridge, the jungle in the dark, and the snakes. Dear God, the snakes. (For the record, I had not yet seen a single snake but I just KNEW they were out there, waiting for me…)
My husband talked me down a little. Reminded me that I was brave and strong and that I COULD DO THIS. That I was already doing it!
He also reminded me that I was, in fact, on a vacation and that I should try and find some way to enjoy it despite my fears. He wisely told me that I could find a way to be ME and still be here. In the jungle. With the snakes.
So there was also to be zip-lining, and beyond snakes, I am afraid of heights. However, I have zip-lined before and it wasn’t so much about the heights as the fact that I didn’t really enjoy it.
I decided to be ME and let Karin know that I was choosing not to do it. So off Karin went, zip-lining solo while I relaxed at the Rancho and read my book. We both had a great time.
Things got much more fun after that; after I decided to make this trip more enjoyable for myself in any way possible. I borrowed some rubber boots from the Community Center and felt a lot better because, even if I stepped on a snake, my rubber boots would protect me.
I can’t say I wasn’t still afraid after getting my snake-proof (sort of…at least that’s what I told myself) rubber boots. But it was so much easier to have fun after I got them.
I can’t say I ever stopped looking down at nearly every step I took. But I loved trudging through the river in my leaky rubber boots and exploring the beautiful jungle.
I can’t say I ever really came to enjoy the night hikes. But I came to realize and love the fact that this was a truly amazing, once-in-a-lifetime adventure that I was on.
We spent more time exploring, ate meals with some really cool people, cooked a few meals at our treehouse, and played a lot of Yahtzee (which I mostly lost. Don’t ever play Yahtzee with Karin–she is a pro.)
In the end, this was a beautiful and amazing trip with a beautiful and amazing friend. Despite my fears, I wouldn’t change a thing about it (especially since I didn’t see a single snake the whole time. Winning!)
I learned so much about myself and came to realize that I AM brave, because I do believe that there can be no courage if you are not afraid. Courage, bravery, is going on despite the fear. That’s exactly what I did and I am so proud of myself. I was terrified, but I pressed on and found a way to not only come to terms with the jungle, but to love being in it.