Angel’s Aspirational Account
A past retreat participant shares her experience on a Costa Rican getaway with Jen Brewer.
It’s been over a week since I woke to an alarm clock of howler monkeys, toucans and other tropical birds. It’s hard to believe a trip that you spend an entire year anticipating, in the midst of a global pandemic–when things are so weird–is finally here. Then seven quick days go by, and it’s over. The realization that I’ve already been home and back to work a week, time moves so fast!
I wanted to take a little time and reflect on my trip. I don’t want to forget any of it.
If you’ve been in my circle for any amount of time, you are not surprised that although a slight reservation about money I had my bag packed, so to speak, and was on board for a trip to Costa Rica early on. To be quite honest, I didn’t even know where we were going exactly. A friend’s dad had spent some time in CR and when she asked me where I would be staying, I couldn’t answer her. In fact, on the flight from Charlotte to San Jose, a sweet lady sitting next to me asked the same question and the only answer I could give her was the name of the resort. When she asked, “but what town”? I had no clue. I am certain she thought I was crazy or irresponsible, maybe both! But you see…when you trust your people, it doesn’t matter what town you are going to be visiting. I knew without a doubt that all I had to do was get to the San Jose airport and Jennifer would have the rest of the details wrapped up with a bow. She was my fearless leader for the week and I never had any concerns.
This trip was a yoga retreat. I mean, just read the description, how could I not sign up for this? The Lord knows I need to work on “practicing joyful living”.
“Reset, refocus, and learn to access the joy that lies within. In our everyday lives it is easy to fill the calendar to the max and stretch our limits. When life gets stressful it is easy to forget how to create our own self-care rituals. This retreat has been designed to bring awareness to the quality of thoughts, habits in body movement and posture, and the overflowing of our calendars. During your seven day stay you will be encouraged to slow down, breath deep, connect with nature and move mindfully.”
I get it…a yoga retreat seems so bougie. I was a little apprehensive at times to say that was what I was going for. I didn’t talk much about it before I left. People probably wondered why I would go on a yoga retreat – I mean, I do yoga, occasionally, but I’m certainly not a yogi – YET. But as we all know, I keep a bag packed and am ready to go whenever and to wherever the offer is made. But that description?? Yes, please!
So, with the balance paid for the trip I made my passport application, booked my flight and waited. I was a nervous wreck. Not nervous about Costa Rica per se, or the virus; but nervous I wouldn’t have all my paperwork in order and I’d end up having to spend the week at the airport because I couldn’t get through customs. Or that I would have forgotten something significant and there wouldn’t be a Target to run to.
My husband and I needed to leave for the airport about 3:30am, and we finally got on the road just a little after 4 – SO TYPICAL. It was Daylight Savings Day – bad idea, lol, for a flight that leaves THAT early in the morning. Thankfully, our airport is a small airport and most of the staff and crew forgot it was DST also. I made it through security and on the plane with no issues. It was pitch black and COLD when we took off and the plane even had to be de-iced. It’s a quick flight from WV to Charlotte, thankfully, and a nice reward for being up that early was I managed to be up high enough and early enough to see the sun rise from above, what a sight! I love the sunshine, and it was fun to welcome her to work that day.
The Charlotte airport was PACKED out. I haven’t been around that many people in one place in – well, in over a year! CLT was the place that all my “covid related travel requirements” would first be checked. Score for me, my Costa Rican health questionnaire was completed properly and I was cleared to board the plane. Flying in to San Jose, all I could see were the mountains and I kind of felt like we took a wrong turn and I was back home. But, once I stepped foot off that plane, I felt the difference in the air and knew we had not in fact taken a wrong turn – but this also meant I had to ditch my sweatshirt, pronto!
The San Jose airport isn’t huge, and I managed to make my way to baggage claim to look for the travel rep that would be meeting us. This is where I met two of the sweetest women, who would become some of my favorite people during the week. Jennifer had mentioned to me that there would likely be two women from HHI on my flight, but I had no clue who they were…until I saw them. I have a steel trap mind for faces and I immediately recognized sweet Barbara from last summer when she and I were doing some virtual yoga classes with Jennifer, during the pandemic. If you know me, you know I’ve never met a stranger so I walked right up to she and Frances and asked if they were there for Jennifer’s yoga retreat. I think I may have scared them a little…I get it, it does seem kind of stalkerish, but it’s who I am. Lol
The 3 of us gathered our belongings and off we went. Once outside we were greeted by the sweetest travel representative, she was there to take us to the hotel. She told us her name was Jenni – without the –fer. Our hotel was only minutes from the airport so it wasn’t long before we were checked in and settled, heading off to the pool…get me to some sunshine, STAT! I had also met Pam by this point, another student of Jennifer’s from HHI, and the 3 of us headed to a lounge chair to chill in the warmth of the sun. It did not disappoint. We had a nice dinner at the hotel that night, went over our Monday morning game plan for breakfast and catching the shuttle to the coast and then we all retired to our rooms. Jen and I shared a room that night…I think we may have talked until we fell asleep, and I’m not sure who was asleep first. What a long day it had been.
Up and at ‘em early…the shuttle was set to meet us at 7:45 am for the three-four hour trip to the coast. Along the way, we stopped at a roadside fruit stand and bought local plantain chips, mangoes and a papaya, lol. We also made a pit-stop at the Crocodile Bridge and saw what must have been very old crocodiles under the bridge, they were massive! I had just watched the movie The Penguin Bloom on Netflix and all I could think about was “don’t lean on the rail – it might break and you’ll be eaten by a crocodile” (that’s what happens to the mom in the movie, except she isn’t eaten by a crocodile – she’s paralyzed).
Finally, we arrive at the resort, La Cusinga Lodge and Spa, walk up the jungle lined walkway and are greeted by a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean AND a HUMPBACK whale showing off. WHAT??? What a treat! We were served fresh pineapple juice with spearmint upon arrival and we stood in awe of the view before us. I don’t exactly know how everyone else felt, but this girl from little ol’ West Virginia felt incredibly fortunate. Okay, Okay…you’re right, there were tears. We journeyed over to the restaurant and had the best meal – so far – of the day. Lol. We would quickly learn that each meal we would be served would be THE BEST MEAL. Fresh, local, much of it farm to table…it was ALL so good. The manager took us on a tour of the property – showed us to our rooms, the path to the swimming hole, the pool and how to get to the yoga studio – also breathtaking! Jennifer and I had a room with a great view for the week! Shocking to no one…our door remained open most of the time, just like our college dorm room.
The next 6 days would be spent waking up to the sound of howler monkeys, jungle birds and rain forest bugs. We were up with the sunshine, errrrr, monkey howling, and the day was underway. We meditated and had breakfast, did yoga and ate lunch. Spent several hours lounging at the pool or hiking to the ocean and exploring caves, reading in hammocks or getting a massage (everyone but me!). Evenings would be filled with dinner and then restorative yoga. We went from daylight to dark and I wouldn’t have had it any other way – it was fabulous, much less stressful than when I’m daylight to dark at home. Most of the week, it felt as though we slept for 2 days at a time and then lived life for 4 days worth of time.
IT WAS THE BEST WEEK!
In addition to good food and a lot of yoga, a few special things we participated in were: a visit to the Whale’s Tail one afternoon and had a picnic lunch. It was beautiful and can best be appreciated by googling it so you can see some drone pics. We walked the beach when the tide was low, and it would soon be swallowed up by the ocean again. It definitely makes you appreciate the way nature does its thing and doesn’t need any of us to remind it how to be perfect. Another thing we did was participate in a traditional cacao ceremony. This event was quite spiritual and personal for me, so I won’t write much about it here. Just know that it was deeply impactful and I’ll never forget it. The least fun excursion we had was getting tested for Covid. The guy was very kind and gentle – thank goodness. We eagerly awaited our results…half joking that maybe we’d be positive and have to stay.
This trip was one I’ll never forget. I got so much out of this week: time with an old friend, met three new friends, experienced the culture of another country and was well cared for by the staff at La Cusinga – I mean, seriously, they could not have been any better!! Every single second of this trip was better than I could have ever imagined.
So much thanks to offer up:
*New friends – you guys were warned that I’m a lifer, you’ll never get rid of me! Thank you for being a part of my safe zone that week, and making me feel like I’m part of the HHI pack! I’ll see you for dinner the next time I’m there, count on it!
**Jennifer – thank you for organizing a trip that allowed me to practice joyful living – something that I had forgotten how to do. Thank you for letting me see I’m capable. That I can take up space. That I have the strength to hold Mountain Pose (my least favorite pose – I always feel SO vulnerable) as the one I wanted a picture of, to capture the growth I had; I’m now ready to face whatever comes at me! Thanks for helping me find it in me. I hope this won’t be my last Jen Brewer Yoga trip.
***My husband – THANK YOU for loving me enough that you are okay giving me room to be me. Thank you for supporting my need to be with my friends, while knowing I miss you much. I appreciate your trust and that you encourage me to go – to live – to do. Next time, you’re getting on the plane too…you have to see this place.
COSTA RICA – thank you – you were so kind to me