In a little over a month’s time I will be heading back to where my solo travels all began. When I was just a naive 20 year old confused as to what he would do with his future, I set off to Central America with a round trip flight booked out of San Jose, Costa Rica. I left home by myself not looking to find myself, to grow as a person, or even really experience anything. I just wanted a break from the stress of not knowing what I was doing with my life. But after a little under four months of making my way around Central America something really funny happened. I found myself, I grew as a person, and I gained the most valuable experience I could have ever imagined. As I head back to where it all began I couldn’t be more excited.
I’m excited to see Central America through different eyes. When I left the first time I knew nothing about the area other than it was fairly cheap, there was surfing in Costa Rica and that there were parts that were dangerous. Five years later I have explored the history and politics through the two degrees I have specializing in the region. I have explored the general Latin culture through my 2 years living in Latin America. And most of all I have explored my own being. My eyes see the
world in a different way now than they did before, I wonder how this will affect my vision of this wonderful land.
I am excited to see places that I missed the first time around. You never really have enough time to see everything the right way. And on my first trip I made the decision to skip some places in order to give myself enough time to properly understand others. I would like to take a bit of a vacation in Cancun so I could see Tulum and Chitzen Itza, or explore the wild night life. I would have loved to spend more time in the area around Tikal to spend time at the ranches (fincas). And I would have loved to spend more time exploring the highlands of Guatemala. This time, I will have the chance to do these things, as well as relive some of the places and experiences I already have. This time around I will start in Cancun and make my way south to San Jose, Costa Rica before returning to Colombia.
I am excited to see the changes in the places I visited five years ago. I know that part of me will probably be sad when I see how things have become developed in Costa Rica. I know that the increasing popularity of the area will mean more tourists on the paths I once saw as off the beaten track. But in the end, I am happy that more people are falling in love with the region as I did. I have come to grips with the fact that things won’t be the same as before, but that makes the experience all the more exciting. It’s like visiting a new place all over again. It allows for excited re-discovery. I remember going back to my hometown after a year or so away, and getting so excited to see a new grocery store and that the high school was no longer there, and that along with the fact that somethings never change had me smiling from dimple to dimple. I’m sure that my experience in Central America will feel a lot like this, but perhaps even more exaggerated.
I am excited to see if the sentiments I had the first time will resurface. I remember looking at the ruins of Tikal in wonder, listening to the howl of howler monkeys in fear and curiosity, and trekking through the Costa Rican rain forest and feeling like an explorer. It was those feelings of
discovery that drove me to learn more, explore further, and better understand the world. I hope I will be able to look at things with that same admiration and curiosity. It was so long ago that I was in Central America that it almost feels like a different lifetime, or a dream that was just a little more real than all the others.
But most of all, I am excited to find out if my love for this part of the world has remained strong despite the five years we have spent apart. Central America wasn’t just a place that I enjoyed visiting or spending time with. Central America changed my life’s path, it gave me direction and it guided me from being a naive boy in the world to a grown man. As I begin my journey to return, I can’t help but be curious if I will feel the same love and affection I did six years ago. And maybe more than anything, I can’t help but wonder if that same love and affection will be returned to me the way it was five long years ago.