Is Finding Purpose The Answer?
by Sam Marcello
After a few hours of enjoying the sunset, drinking beer, and eating the world’s greatest nachos it was now dark and my new friends wanted to extend our gathering. I was on my first solo trip to Costa Rica. The week had been spent surfing, hiking, paddle boarding, jumping off waterfalls, and enjoying amazing food. This would be my last night in paradise, which is the same night I had a huge mental breakthrough.
Throughout the week I had met other travelers from the United States. I met one lady while surfing who is an editor for Forbes Magazine. While staying at a yoga retreat center I met another woman from Detroit who is an entrepreneur. I also ran into some girls who went to Tulane University, but I didn’t see them later in the week. Then through the lady from Detroit, I met a young ER doctor from New York. I was staying in Dominical, Costa Rica, which is a smaller beach town filled with expats. The town is also known for its great surfing, and there was even a surf competition while I was there. Most of the businesses in this town were owned by Canadians or Americans who had visited at some point, fell in love, and then decided to start a business in paradise. That being said, the locals and the culture were still very much present.
The town itself was very rustic. No paved roads except for the major highway that led to the other small towns. The beaches here were dark sand and looked very similar to the volcanic ash beaches in other areas. The beach itself was lined with coconut trees and small funky bars with cheap beer. Everyone moved very slow and had a laid back approach. The businesses would open around 10 at the earliest, and then they would take a siesta at some point in the afternoon. Usually, that siesta was to catch some good waves or grab some tacos. All the plants and animals were vibrant, and no matter what part of the day you could hear nature come alive. Whether that be the birds, waves, monkeys, or the locals playing their Latin music. This was as far from Americanized culture as you could get, and I believe that is part of what brought us all there in the first place.
The interesting thing about our group and our late night nacho and beer extravaganza was that we all met individually throughout our time in Costa Rica. Somehow fate had brought us all there to this very remote town all at the same time. I believe everything happens for a reason, and that we all were meant to meet each other for unknown reasons. We each had our own motivations for picking this place, which we would later get into a deep discussion about.
Over the course of enjoying our nachos and the sunset, we talked about what brought us all to Costa Rica. The editor was there to learn how to surf, the doctor was taking a scuba diving certification course, and the entrepreneur from Detroit was just an avid traveler. When it became my turn to say why I had gone to Costa Rica by myself I didn’t really have an exact answer.
I had recently gone through a break up with the person I was serious with for about three years. We had even talked about the future, kids, and moving in together right before our breakup. It wasn’t a chaotic breakup, but tough nonetheless. I was also contemplating a few other aspects of my life as well. I wasn’t exactly happy with my current situation and I was unsure of my path in life. Throughout the week I was asking myself questions like, “What is my purpose?”, “What was I meant to do?”, and “How can I give back to the world?”.
It is important to mention that I was by far the youngest person in the group. When I gave them my answer I just said that I needed to get away from everyday life and spend some time alone with myself. They were both impressed and confused by my response. They were impressed by my maturity, but at the same time they wondered why someone so young would need to “get away”.
I tend to be more introverted than extroverted meaning I am inside of my head a lot. I have my best ideas when I am in solitude, in the outdoors, or in a relaxed and open social environment. I don’t do as well in large crowds, or when “noise” takes me out of being present in the moment. I also have an extreme personality. If I choose to do something then I do it to an almost obsessive degree. In my world, my mind is binary. I am either all in or nothing at all. This type of thinking is what led me to drop everything and hop on a plane to Costa Rica by myself. Which is also how I found myself in this small gathering of strangers. Although they weren’t strangers to me, and I felt comfortable knowing that we had all met for a reason.
After the sun had gone down and the night sky started to light up we decided as a group to walk across the street and make a fire by the beach. Maybe it was all the cerveza, but the conversation had become too good to part ways just yet. Everyone else still had a few more days left of his or her trip. This would be my last night, it was getting late, and I had an early flight to catch. Nonetheless, something inside of me told me to stay in this moment.
The four of us sat around the fire we had made on the beach exchanging stories and talking about home. I found myself starting to listen more while taking mental notes. Each of them was so different in their occupations and backgrounds. Yet, all of them seemed to be happy and fulfilled. They seemed to take this young traveler under their wing and share their own stories and mistakes in life. They all assured me that I was doing the right things and that no matter which path I chose I would be successful.
Once our fire died out we decided to walk down the beach together. The stars and night sky were so bright that there was still a lot of visibility. The tide was also incredibly low so it made the beach seem much larger than normal. It seemed as if the ocean was miles away in the current darkness. We stumbled upon this huge piece of driftwood and decided to relax on it while gazing up at the stars. One by one we slowly stopped talking or making any noise at all. We all fell into our own trance and were captivated by the beautiful starry sky and the beach that extended before us.
I wish I could remember, but I still can’t recall where my mind wandered to in that moment. Being alone in a foreign country so far from home made me feel so small, but at the same time, it also made me feel so large. One part of me felt that I am just a very tiny insignificant piece of this universe. The other part of me realized how big the world really is, and how much there is out there to explore. Something about solo travel really humbles you and makes you realize what is truly important.
When we woke up from our trance we ventured out to see how far the tide had gone. I had walked at least three or four football field’s length and still had not reached the water. Between the darkness, the stars, and being so far out from anything artificial or man made it felt as if I was underneath the ocean or floating in the universe amongst the stars. It was an out of body experience that I can’t quite put into words.
In Costa Rica, the common greeting is, “Pura Vida.” Which literally translates to pure life. It is similar to “Hakuna Matata” from the Lion King movies. No worries about life or the grind. Just enjoying the moment for what it is. Honestly, it is something that must be experienced and cannot be fully explained.
What I began to realize for myself was that life isn’t about knowing; it is about being. What truly matters is being in the moment, being with the people around you, and treating every day as if it were your last. I am far from perfect, but that is truly how I strive to live my life now. I don’t worry so much about the future, or what my level of success will be on this path. I just focus on each day because life is too short and we only get one chance to make the most of it. If I see a pretty girl at the coffee shop I go up and talk to her. If I get invited to go hiking I go even if I am busy. And if I have the opportunity to help someone I do it because I may never get those chances again.