Pura Vida from Costa Rica

At one of the beautiful national parks of Costa Rica

Tonight is my very last night living in Costa Rica. Over the course of the past several months, I have been living in Playas del Coco, Guanacaste to try to find some normalcy in the context of the global pandemic. I was originally supposed to come down here to complete my Scuba Diving instructor course in April, but Covid, of course, had other plans. 

This past decade, Scuba Diving has become my favorite pastime, as words cannot adequately describe what it is like to experience life 100 feet underwater. Although I thought I was only going to be here for two weeks, I fell so much in love with the “pura vida” lifestyle that I extended my trip by a few months – and with most schools operating remotely right now, why not work from Costa Rica?

The term pura vida, I have learned, means a lot more than the direct translation of “pure life.” A lot of Ticos around here use the phrase to say hello and goodbye, to be grateful for what they have, and also as a way of saying “it is what it is,” like when you get a parking ticket, I suppose. I felt the pura vida hospitality from the Costa Ricans and fellow travelers as soon as I landed in Liberia.

With a White Tipped Reef Shark, taken by my friend Manuel

As part of my instructor course, I have been living in a house with other dive masters and instructors from all over the world. Lucy is from the UK, Bo is from the Netherlands, Ashley is from Australia, and Luis, René, and Manuel all live in Costa Rica. I have loved getting to know this group so much – and am so happy that we were able to celebrate Thanksgiving, my birthday, Christmas, and New Year’s together. 

Celebrating Thanksgiving with my new friends
Teaching during the IE

My Instructor Development Course – or the IDC, as we refer to it as, was a fun, stressful, exhausting two weeks that ended in the Instructor Exam, or IE. During the IDC, our group truly came together as a family and helped each other out tremendously. I was the weakest diver in the group but found that I was able to support my friends with the teaching part of becoming an instructor, and they all helped me with practice skills in the pool long after the IDC part of our day was over. 

Our Course Director, with a background in the Dutch Navy, had very high expectations of us during the IDC and kept on telling us that the IE jokingly stands for “it’s easy.” Although there were many moments where I honestly did not know if I was going to be able to finish the IDC and pass the IE, all six of us passed with flying colors! 

Celebrating on the beach after a successful IE!!!

Between attending scuba classes, working remotely, and exploring the country these past few months, Costa Rica has truly lived up to my wildest expectations. Truth be told, I do not think I have ever felt so grounded in my entire life. While I have mixed feeling about going back, and is mainly motivated by my desire to finish my doctorate, I think my next scuba trip is going to be a big one – maybe to the Galapagos? We shall see what 2022 has in store for me. Until then, as we say in Costa Rica – ¡Pura Vida!

¡Pura vida from Costa Rica!

Here Travels the Brave at Sea

As we close out this decade, I am blessed that I had the opportunity to spend the past two weeks in Norway to learn about my cultural heritage. Although both of my grandfathers were Norwegian, I never learned anything about Norway while growing up; as such, I was excited to learn about the indigenous Sami culture of northern Norway, the incredible valor exhibited by the Vikings, the history of the Hanseatic League, and the culture and customs of modern day Norway. 

Exploring the majestic fjords of Norway

First off, Norway is so incredibly beautiful. One of the biggest highlights on this trip was our boat trip through the majestic fjords in the northern part of the country. Perhaps Rick Riordan put it best: “Pretty doesn’t do it justice. I felt like we’d sailed into a world meant for much larger beings, a place where gods and monsters roamed freely” (The Ship of the Dead, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, #3).

God jul fra Norge! 🇳🇴 (Merry Christmas from Norway!)

While I appreciate my Norwegian heritage now more than ever, my favorite part of the trip was learning about how significant naval navigation was throughout the course of Norwegian history. On one rune stick that was carved out during the Medieval Ages, a runic inscription proudly boasts that “here travels the brave at sea.”

The Rune stick at a museum in Bergen

Norwegians have always led the world in exploring the unknown: the Vikings created trade routes connecting three continents, there is considerable evidence that the Hanseatic League traveled to North America and traded with Native Americans centuries before Columbus, Roald Amundsen was the first person to explore both the North and South Pole, and Thor Heyerdahl demonstrated the possibility of Incan contact with Polynesian Islands by sailing on a raft made of balsa-wood for over 100 days (see image below).

The original Kon-Tiki boat

This past decade, I have been so privileged to continue this legacy and graciously had the opportunity to visit over 30 different countries, each with their own unique history and culture. In my travels, I have grown to tremendously appreciate the wealth to be found in diverse cultures. In doing so, I have learned so much about our country, our world, and perhaps most importantly, myself.

Standing in front of the Royal House of Norway

Perhaps Andre Gide said it best: “Man cannot discover new oceans until he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” Godt nytt år! Here’s to another decade of exploring the world. 🤙🏼