Welcome to Ryley Writes, a collection of thoughts, stories, and work from deep in the heart of Texas.

Pura Vida

shoutout my iPhone and whoever was holding it idk

So after a long weekend up north, I landed back in Texas for two days, unpacked my bag, repacked my bag, and got on a plane heading due south.

When it comes to the common "mountains or beach?" icebreaker question, I'm always quick to choose the former. I'm a mountain girl at heart, feeling closest to God and most comfortable in my own skin surrounded by snow-capped sleeping giants.

Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, though, gave the mountains a run for their money this past week.

Along with eight coworkers, I boarded one plane, then another; then piled out of the San Jose airport into a sticky heat and noisy chaos that instantly transported me back to my days in Guatemala as a high school missions intern.

Latin America can and will drive you crazy if you don't fall in love with it — and even, sometimes, when you do. It is loud, proud, and a little dramatic — from the climate, to the colors, to the language. Time is relative. People are both easygoing and stubborn. If you can hurdle American impatience and embrace the chaos, it will embrace you back. If not, best run the other direction.

Personally, I've always enjoyed learning about and (and learning to blend into) other cultures; and while it's been too long since I spent time south of the States, I was thrilled to find that those experiences I'd accumulated in the past provided familiarity in a place I'd never been before.

We crushed into the shuttle and made our way to the outskirts of the city, where we were dropped at another, smaller airport. Two tiny charter planes awaited. My grandpa was a pilot for years, and I was stoked about this particular part of the journey. Others in the group had been dreading it since we received our itineraries, bolting Dramamine and texting their last will and testament to husbands and parents as we boarded.

Once in the air, though, everyone agreed it was one of the highlights of the trip overall. We cruised over rainforests and deep green mountains and the ocean dotted with fishing boats, waving to one another as our planes swooped on criss-cross paths.

We touched down in Tambor and loaded into yet another bus. It wound through farmland and small towns that progressively shifted to a more coastal appearance until we arrived at the internet-described "hippie-backpacker" town of Santa Teresa and its jaw-dropping beaches.

Sky and waves the same shades of blue and miles of sand and soft foam, I couldn't get from the bus to the water fast enough. I haven't been to many beaches in my lifetime, I guess (see mountains preference above), but I'm pretty sure this one beats them all. I was smitten.

I spent the first few days soaking up as much sun and salt as possible; surfing (badly but happily), swimming, sprawling out on the sand before going back for more. We wandered into town for lunch or grazed on chips and salsa until dinner. I didn't touch makeup (or my hair, for that matter) for at least three full days. It was like my ideal existence, guys: roll out of bed and into the ocean. Repeat.

We took a zipline tour of the rainforest that included a brief hike to a jungle waterfall. The pool at its base was 100% sketchy, but I reasoned there might be like a 1% chance of me having another opportunity to jump into a jungle waterfall pool in Costa Rica again, so obviously I did. (Worth it. Very worth it.)

We moved further inland for the second half of the week, down the road to Mal Pais. ("Why is it called mal pais?" I questioned the bus driver suspiciously. He laughed, then wrinkled his eyebrows. "You know what, I actually don't know." He paused, then added, "Maybe don't Google it until after you leave."*)

While I missed the beach, the jungle wasn't bad, either. Daily excursions into Mal Pais meant coffee and exploring, as well as plenty of opportunities to practice my now miserably slow, rusty Spanish. (I started off nearly every conversation with an apology — "Alright, so I'm gonna need some help here" — always met with laughter and extraordinary patience. People are great.) At our house, I bunked down in a hammock or chair on the porch and inhaled as many books as possible. Can't complain.

So basically, Costa Rica was great, 10/10 would recommend, and I just wanted an excuse to share all the photos with you guys.

Always thankful for a new adventure, and thankful to be back home.

*Googled it, by the way. Has to do with early inhabitants opinion on how the weather effected agriculture — a little anticlimactic, I guess, but I'll take it.

Once You Know

True North