Saturday, September 26, 2009

Around the World in 180 Days

UAE – Australia – New Zealand – Costa Rica – Argentina – Brazil – Peru – USA – Scotland – Germany – UAE

It has been a while now since I am back “home” in Dubai. Three months. It feels like three years. It almost feels like I have never been away. Amazing how the excitement of 6 months traveling can wear away so quickly, how life’s routine can catapult you right back into that mental state that you were hoping to escape from forever. All these natural wonders I have seen, all those people I have met, all that funny food I have eaten, all that soul food – diminished to nothing more than a distant memory captured in 2000 pictures.

But it is exactly that memory that counts. It is the reminder of how good life is, how beautiful and diverse this planet is and how fortunate I am to be able to experience it that makes the difference. It is this appreciation of life that continues to provide me with a limitless source of inspiration and motivation for everything I do and aim for … until the day when the batteries have to be re-charged and that backpack packed again.

Pura Vida! as the Ticos would say.

Aaah yes, the Ticos, the lovely Costa Ricans! Costa Rica - more than just a country on our list that we have visited. For me, it was an absolute highlight of our whole trip. We, that is Mark, Pam and I. Mark = husband; Pam = my travel mascot. Costa Rica, a relatively small country in Central America packed with so many natural wonders, wild life and adventures that you feel ashamed leaving it after just 3 weeks. We could have stayed forever, especially given that we have lodged for 10 days at what I consider to be the best kept secret and the most beautiful spot in Costa Rica if not Central America: Finca Exotica on Playa Carate (Peninsula Osa) –

Imagine a place where time has no meaning, where animals dictate your daily routine and where nature’s colors give you the feeling that you have been blind before. Have you ever dreamt about being one with nature? I have. David Attenborough is my hero. Without sounding like a marketer who has spent too much time in the communications business but Finca Exotica is where you get a taste for nature at its best. This is not just a guesthouse offering hand crafted jungle cabins and tents at the doorstep of Costa Rica’s most impressive national park (Corcovado), it is a center for sustainability, an organic farm, a botanical garden, and part of a biological refuge which hundreds of exotic and endangered animals consider as their home. So yes, I did wake up to the sound of howling monkeys, I made friends with spiders, snakes, scarlet macaws, mountain crabs or frogs that lounged in front of or in our open jungle cabin and I enjoyed listening to the ongoing symphony of thousands of cicadas.
It is amazing how long the mind needs to adjust to an environment that has excluded all aspects of our modern civilization – no internet, no supermarket, no restaurants, no souvenir shops, no museums or statues to look at, no loud and drunk partying tourists (bliss!), no ATM machines and no urge to constantly consume. Just me, Mark, some other like-minded guests, nature and of course the fabulous hosts Markus and Gabriela. True relaxation gained a new meaning for me at Finca Exotica, together with an increased appreciation for nature and animals. I never thought that I could spend hours in a hammock at the unspoiled beach and watch the busy hermit crabs without getting bored. Just as I never thought that I would get up voluntarily at 7am during my holiday, start my day with yoga, followed by a healthy breakfast based on freshly picked fruits and vegetables from the organic garden and fall into bed at 9pm after an exciting day of nature indulgence.
I am sure that there are other places similar to Finca Exotica which deserve equal admiration but after having traveled so extensively through the Americas, I can undoubtedly say that there are not many places where nature, beauty, hospitality and a true sense for ecological sustainability have come together in such a perfect blend. Thank you Markus and Gabriela.

There are so many more impressions from this trip. Each one unique and intense in its own way of course. Writing about them now is somehow weird. Thinking back to the different experiences actually changes the way I perceive them, especially when I try capturing those moments through words. Each ordinary moment during those 180 days seems extraordinary now. Exceptional moments seem like wild adventures. Well, maybe that distortion is a good thing. Isn’t it so much nicer to feel like a hero, jumping from one adventure to the next?

Sure enough, I want to tell you about how I have hiked through the Peruvian highlands for days surviving on drinking from waterfalls and hunting for guinea pigs, how the loneliness made me hallucinate but how my strong will for life kept me going, how I’ve camped at 4300 meters at minus 10 degrees Celsius and thought I would die and how I’ve just managed to follow a Lama trail until I’ve reached the ancient Inca city of Machu Pichu. But that’s another story to be told another time …