A conversation with Joe Baur on ‘Without a Path’

Without a Path InterviewTravel writer Joe Baur interviewed me on the latest episode of his fascinating podcast, “Without a Path.” We share not only a love of Costa Rica but an obsession with Costa Rican slang, to the point where we both wrote books about it – check out his, “Talking Tico” – and it was great fun to shoot the breeze with him.

Listen in to our conversation about reasons travel is particularly important for U.S. citizens, why “the greatest country on Earth” is such a ridiculous concept, the immigrant secret identity and more.

Also, subscribe to Joe’s podcast for weekly interviews with “creative types, adventurers and the occasional hope for humanity about the travels that have helped define their lives.”

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4 life lessons best learned from living abroad

Waves

By Pöllö at creativecommons.org / Wikimedia Commons

Based on remarks to wonderful staff members, volunteers and friends of AFS Costa Rica in San José on Sept. 29.

I’ve spent a number of years and many thousands of words pondering the lessons Costa Rica has taught me. Some of them are specific to the delightfully unique attitudes, wordplay, foibles and flaws of this particular country. Others, however, are life lessons that I think are familiar to anyone who has lived or studied abroad.

We carry them with us, whether we “forget to come home” – as my father, who turned 80 last week, likes to say of me – or whether we head back to our native lands, forever changed.

Here are four of the lessons that have been most important for me. What about you?

  1. Progress isn’t always linear.

This is, perhaps, a lesson learned simply by getting a little older – but experiencing the intricacies of culture shock over a period of years definitely helped me figure this one out. The thing is: it’s not really one shock. And it’s definitely not a series of steps to check off.

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Waiting for gray (bochorno)

IMG_7086.JPGDear E.,

The longer I live in places where you can wear flip-flops 12 months a year, the more obsessed I become with seasons.

It’s not as simple as missing them. If I could choose right now, I’m not sure I’d wish the seasons of my childhood back into my current life. But I’m fascinated by the way those memories find us at odd moments, and how we reconfigure them among the smells, sounds and sensations of entirely different climes.

Last week I was telling you your favorite bedtime story, the same one you ask for every night. In it, you discover a set of keys that unlocks little doors hidden in the nooks and crannies of our house, doors that go unnoticed until you discover them one rainy day. There is one key and one door for every color of the rainbow, and each door reveals a different landscape: an orange grove, a blue Maine lake, green hills that we run across and roll down.

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Why Rain Is Better by the Bucketful (qué baldazo)

The rainy season with you is lonely and cosy. We live in a city, and in summer it feels that way – we hear footfalls back and forth, one neighbor shouting to another, a conversation outside our gate, a honk for a friend, soccer ooooohs from Garros Bar down the hill. In the rain, though, with your dad out working at the restaurant, our house becomes a ship’s cabin in the middle of the ocean. Watching you walk around like a tiny, drunken sailor serves to heighten the effect; I’m the only one here with sea legs. As I write this, a torrential rain has been falling for six hours straight. You are finally down for the count. I patted you to sleep on your belly, watched your eyes drop shut like magic over a count of ten. Continue reading