Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Permanent Vacation

Two weeks in Costa Rica.  Two weeks to go.  The Spanish Language program that I'm enrolled at - AEC - has a relationship with a guide and tour operator called Explornatura.  AEC provides fresh gringos on a weekly basis and Explornatura provides the "Adventure" in Adventure Education Center.  Two separate entities in - symbiosis.

It's a great way to spend time out here.  My mornings are all classroom and my afternoons are hikes, activities and tours.  There's a distinct "summer camp" feel to it which I simultaneously like and dislike.  "Like" in that all the work is done for me  - all the scenic destinations picked out, all the logistics planned, all the lines rehearsed to perfection.  "Dislike" in that activities whose audience varies from nubile adolescents to elderly retirees tend to be overly sanitized.   For goatee wearing extreme sports engaging Mountain Dew drinking Gen-Xers like myself (I'm very popular among the 12-60 male segment) it's "dizzle" but it ain't "gnarly". 

That said, my no-medical-insurance-until-April-ass recognizes the compromise and am pretty content with scenic tours of butterfly gardens, snake farms, canyoning through the rain forrest, and river rafting down the Pacuare river in a giant inflatable mattress. 

The other big plus is that during my stay in Turrialba I came to have an appreciation for the people who work at Explornatura.  On top of letting me use their wireless internet connection free everyday (thanks Erin), I hung out with a number of them and they all seem like really cool people.  The guides are multi-lingual outdoor enthusiasts who have developed their passion into a touristic trade.  When you're repelling down a waterfall and it takes you 20 minutes to do so, and then you see this dude climb down ninja-style down that same water fall in 5 seconds you get that "what the hell" feeling and this normal seeming guy suddenly doesn't seem so normal anymore.

But then again, that's the whole pro vs non-pro thing.  You do something, you think you're cool then BAM, someone's there to show you just how not cool you actually are.  

Then go out and have a couple of drinks and suddenly it's like your friends with a minor celebrity.  I admit I'm jealous.  Here you are, you basically do the thing you love - kayak, zip-line, river raft, hike - in a beautiful rain-forest and you make a life for yourself.  The thing is I talk to these guys and everything I envy seems so easy to grasp.  It turns out a lot of these guys just travel from place to place and learn something new along the way.  They pay the bills to do mostly the same stuff they'd be doing anyway.  Permanent vacation.

"I'm not in it for the money" one of the guides told me.  I've definitely uttered these words in my lifetime.  I've heard other people say it too and I'm not saying they're lying.  It's just that when you're hitting that class 4 rapid and fresh water sprays in your face and you're paddling like a madman, suddenly those words seem truer than life.  So it goes.

My time in Turrialba is up.  Up next Dominical.