Bushplane in Costa Rica

I came home; or, how giving up isn’t always giving in

Heartbreak and heartache on the Nicaraguan border

Six months. I’ve been meaning to write a blog post for six months. During that time, at least once or twice every month, I’d say to myself, very sternly, “this week, I’m going to do it. This week, I’m going to write a damned blog post.”

This week, I’m going to write a damned blog post.

I actually wrote the above, and a great deal of the below, over a month ago. I just never got around to writing the last paragraph and coming up with a title that wasn’t completely asinine. Somehow, writing this post has become an insurmountable task.

It’s weird, but I seem to be much better at managing the odd post here and there when I’m travelling. It might seem that the big gaps between posts are when I disappear off into the jungle somewhere, but in actuality it’s the reverse. When I’m in Canada, chained to a desk sixteen hours a day with super-fast internet, I write notably less.

I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe it’s that my stories are smaller: border crossings are less thrilling, I’m not constantly being thrown into new situations (or jail) or having my things stolen repeatedly. Maybe it’s that the stories are harder to tell because they’re somehow even more personal. I’ve been this vagabond woman for a few years now, and I feel as though it almost splits me into two people. Somehow, it feels as though Canada Sarah’s stories just aren’t as interesting as Travel Sarah’s.

This story belongs to both Sarahs.

So the craziest thing happened when I was in Colombia: I came home early. I’m pretty certain that’s the first time that’s ever happened. When I went to Argentina a few years ago, I only intended to stay three months. When I realized I hadn’t tanked my business by running off to South America, I changed my flight to stay an extra two months. Since then, my trips have invariably ended up lingering on the longer side, and I’ve always been a little crestfallen to come home.

But this time, something changed.

I flew to Costa Rica to travel with a boy I’d met in Thailand. We’d spent a few months together in the UK and travelling through eastern Europe since, so I thought I was sure of him. We were somewhere in the dusty, empty space between Nicaragua and Costa Rica when things took a sour turn. Turns out we weren’t the friends I thought we were, and he wasn’t the person I thought he was. Of course, we were still travelling together. So: we fought constantly; I felt trapped. My stress levels skyrocketed. I couldn’t work for an hour without triggering a massive argument. Everything I did became a trigger: wanting to go for a twenty-minute run, having ten-minute conversations with the bartender, texting a friend at home who was going through something traumatic, refusing to have a third glass of bourbon, checking my email, listening to music on a long-distance bus while trying to fall asleep.

Jardin Secreto
My best night in Nicaragua was when I prevented my friend from drunkenly squaring off with a particularly vicious-looking cactus, then went for a long run through the broken, unlit, and uneven streets of the town at 2am in an attempt to “de-stress.” Said attempt was largely unsuccessful.

It’s scary being stranded in a foreign country with someone you suddenly don’t trust. Far scarier than being in a foreign place all by yourself. I didn’t feel safe, and I didn’t know how to graciously back out. In all my misadventures travelling, I’ve never felt as unsafe as I did then.

So I didn’t.

I bade my time a bit, waiting until we were somewhere I felt secure enough of my exit strategy. Then, I picked a massive fight, escalated things, and, in no uncertain terms, kicked him out of the place we’d rented. It wasn’t a pretty scene, and I wish I’d be able to do things in a cleaner way.

When all the dust settled, all I wanted was to be around the people I loved.

For the first time, I actually wanted to go home. I missed my friends. I missed feeling safe. I missed being around the people who cared about me. I missed being around people who treated me like an independent created. I missed being loved without having my agency stolen from me.

I had a return flight to Colombia from Costa Rica, and a return flight from Colombia to Canada. My original plan was to return to Colombia, miss my last flight leg to stay in Bogotá, then wait for my flight out: either by hiding in an airport hotel a few days, or absconding off on a very brief stint to Curaçao. Waiting wouldn’t have killed me. All told, if I’d followed my original plan, I’d have been home in a little over a week. I’d been in South America three months already, I liked Colombia, and I don’t exactly have troubles keeping myself busy.

But I’d had enough. For the first time, I just wanted to go home. I wanted for things to be easy. I was tired of fighting.

So I booked the first flight out of Costa Rica that made sense, and came home.

Costa Rican bushplane
On the plus side, when you fly in Costa Rica, the plane is tiny and holds fourteen people. Boarding is a breeze, turbulence is wild, and you land on mostly gravel runways at airports that are largely just sheds. Not recommended if you like flight attendants, or people telling you to buckle your seatbelt. Highly recommended if you’re not a fan of transit-related ridiculousness.

I’ll admit it, after cancelling my flight, I felt awful. I was sad to cut my adventures short. I was disappointed, and I felt as though I was taking the easy way out somehow, or afraid to brave new adventures or face things that make me uncomfortable. I worried that maybe I was running away from my problems. I felt like I’d failed.

But I’ve devoted most of my life to doing things that make me uncomfortable. I often genuinely believe that, if something terrifies me, I should make a point of doing it, just so I know that I can, and so that I can face my fear head-on. I don’t think I’m in any danger of losing that quality.

Coming home wasn’t a failure. Not then. It was, in many respects, much harder than just sticking it out for a few more weeks. Staying would have been more of a failure on my part than leaving.

I’ve learned a lot about travelling as I’ve become more entrenched into my vagabond lifestyle. I think one of the most important lessons has been that, sometimes, it’s okay to make things a bit easier on yourself. You don’t always need to do things the absolute hardest way possible, just to make sure that you’re getting a “full experience.” Doing something because it feels right, or because it will make you happy, isn’t a sign of weakness.

It’s a sign you know to get out before you get devoured.

I came home. But I came home sane, and I came home retaining my sense of self. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s a win.

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