The first face I will remember of my journey will be that of a Jack Nicholson look-alike. He had the breath of someone who had been drinking coffee creamer for decades, and had a permanent stale coating on the back of his esophagus. He had a son the same age as his grandson, and he gave me a ride to my hostel. He was some bigshot lawyer that employed ex cons at his cacao farm in Costa Rica. But after sitting next to me all plane ride and hearing about my upcoming odyssey, he assumed a protective fatherly aire and resolved to make sure I was at least delivered safely to my hostel. He would be the first of many such people who dropped me off at my next checkpoint saying, ¨Here´s my number… if you need ANYTHING, anything at all, don´t hesitate to call.¨
The second person I’ll remember is a name more than a face, because she crept into the room late at night. Another solitary traveler. As I eagerly made conversation with her, she didn’t know how much comfort I hung upon her like a coat rack. It was my first hours within this half year-long expedition in a foreign land and I had already lost my only means of money. I will confess, Mom and Dad, now that the problem has been resolved, that I naiievely, nervous from being the solitary 5ft sanitized blonde girl walking down the (unmarked) uneven streets of San Jose amongst 6ft tall, deep-voiced hookers at 11pm, had left my card in the ATM as I was drawing out money. Not only did I do this but I also managed to miscount the numbers of zeros in the conversion, drawing out a mere ten dollars instead of 100. On top of that, the cheapest rate for a hostel bed was $13, so I had not enough even to buy a bed for the night. The machine subsequently swallowed my card, my livelihood, my lifeline. I was all alone in a foreign country on my first night with a mere ten dollars to my name. I went back to the hostel and told the manager what happened, and seeing my face on the brink of a panic attack he told he, “It’s okay, you’re safe here, I’ll take care of you.”
It’s miraculous what the body will compensate for in the face of a monetary crisis. I also became acutely aware of the fear attached to being utterly broke: With survival at stake- with starving to death as the alternative. I could fish through a trash can, I resolved, if it came to that. I could run out on this hostel payment and use the cash to barter for a bus ticket to where my friend awaited me. I was so clumsy, so clumsy. So humiliatingly incompetent. The manager provided me with a bed for the night and told me to go to the bank in the morning. In the meantime I curled up in a ball in the middle of my hostel bed, in the dark. Realizing my breath, thinking, at least I have that. You realize the futility of life when you are without food. Something we take for granted everyday. But once the means are out, the countdown starts. How long can I last? I asked myself. My willpower impressed me. For 50 hours I had nothing beyond water. And when I eventually did descend upon the fruitful (literally) plot of land which is la Ruka hostel in Puerto Viejo (I was, as it turned out, able to retrieve my ATM card from the bank the following day just in time to make my bus), I was still in energy preservation mode. I realized then how lethargic I had become. Even when I saw Taylor for the first time in six months, my excitement peaked in a monotone expression of “Hello.” You start to smell like toxins when you’re hungry. I remember it from my days of insomnia. It is a “shutting down” smell. But gradually, with sustenance, the cells reacquire hydration, the syrum, the buoyancy, energy. Back on track. A minor hiccup in retrospect, but quite a crescendo of emotion to kick-start my trip.