“Where you from, Chica?” Canada. “And what you like to do in Canada?” I like to chill, I told him with the slightest of smirks as I threw in a compliment about his handmade pipes. They truly were works of art. “Oh, you like to chill?” he mimicked my knowing smile and asked if I’d like to join him on the beach just behind his table of artwork. Thus it was that I became acquainted with Wilco the Rastafarian, just how quick Pacific tide can rise (quick enough to have to relocate multiple times), and why Montezuma is so affectionately dubbed Montefuma. After finishing our herbal refreshment and cultural exchange, during which he collected shells for chica bonita and told me about living the good life in this hippie beach town, Wilco got us both laughing hysterically as he tried (successfully, eventually) to throw logs into the mango tree to knock loose its fruity rewards. I maintain that the mango I enjoyed shortly thereafter is the greatest thing I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.
In my edition of the non-existent dictionary that I’m never going to publish, the entry next to the word chill will direct the reader to the entry for Montezuma, which will in turn redirect back to chill. Everywhere I went and everyone I talked to along that short southwestern stretch of coastline along the Nicoya Peninsula seemed to have the word on the tip of their tongue and it’s not hard to see why. Near-constant sunshine, beautiful seashore, perfect waves, and little more to do than chill. For me, pura vida was something I discovered instantly in Costa Rica but was truly taught in Montezuma.
Our tour group had spent the week up until that point relatively doing our own things. Certain people melded with others and groups formed during our downtime, but for the most part, we did what we wanted and if someone else was tagging along — great! If not, catch ya later. In Montezuma, we all became one and did everything together with the sole goal of just taking it easy. When the question started with “Do you wanna..,” the answer was always “yeah, sure.” Because the activities we took part in were nothing short of chill, and chill is a state that Montezuma breeds well. Snorkeling at Isla Tortuga and the subsequent cervazas on Turtle Beach, bumming around and surfing at Playa Santa Teresa, jamming to reggae around the bonfire, shuffling down the road for a sunrise viewing (which we missed, no matter), or clocking that much-loved hammock time.
Hammock time, while usually slung across a breezy veranda, didn’t always include a hammock. Sometimes hammock time was simply laid out upon a stretch of sand, or on some rocky outcrop in the ocean. Hammock time: time to reflect, time to nap, time to just simply be. I won’t fall back on the hot button word of this post; you know exactly what I’m talking about. It was during hammock time that we took an opportunity to connect, sometimes with home if wifi allowed, but primarily with one another and with the beautiful place in which we were. Conversation strayed from the mundane and typical to real talk that felt like it truly mattered. With nothing more to worry about than what time the supermercado closes (10PM, if you’re wondering), it’s easy to drop your guard. We talked about real world issue that mattered to us, we talked about personal lessons learned, about our own insecurities, we talked no-holds-barred. Swinging slowly into the night with limbs hanging in absolute comfort and connecting as we did is why I came home with “it changed my life“ as my loaded answer whenever anyone asked how my trip was.
Because, and I’ll admit it’s due to my own inhibitions, finding such real experiences in my real life has always been difficult. Free to chill in Montezuma, I came into my own. And it was liberating. Addicting and fulfilling.
I managed to find all sorts of fulfillment during my time in Montezuma, certainly in each and every one of the activities we took part in, not least of all, my first experience on a surfboard. It’s not a secret, but nobody would guess that this landlocked Canadian who up until a couple weeks ago had never even seen the ocean up close, has harbored a serious surf obsession for a great many years. I subscribed to Surfer magazine, gobbled up novels and stories on the subject, and often spent spare time browsing wannasurf, the wikipedia of surf breaks around the world. Is that weird? I’ve always thought it was weird, hence why I didn’t broadcast my love of a sport I was in no position to experience to the masses.
At any rate, I’m a surfer now! I had my first boarding experience at nearby Playa Santa Teresa, an absolutely gorgeous beach, and I didn’t completely suck at it. I caught a fair few waves to shore with the help of my instructor, and in one glorious moment of triumph, paddled into a wave solo and rode it all the way to the beach. It was a throw up your arms and hoot with pride, elation, and adrenaline moment. The ocean is raw and powerful, and riding that wave was organic and electric.
Before departure on our final day in Montezuma, we went on a light hike to Montezuma Falls. That’s what our guide, Marvin, called it anyway. We lightly hopped from stone to stone across rivers, lightly climbed ninety-degree cliff-sides clinging to tree roots, lightly skipped across flat rock faces, and lightly rappelled ourselves down steep jungle pathways. It was the coolest light hike I’ve ever been on, though certainly not for the light-of-heart. It all ended at the very top of Montezuma Falls, more than one hundred and fifty feet over three tiers of absolutely gorgeous waterfalls. While jumping from the bottom tier is advised against, my hike culminated in an impulsive leap of derring-do from the middle-tier waterfall into the pool fifty feet below. Flipping back through my aforementioned imaginary dictionary, that moment is the entry you’ll find next to the word exhilarating.
To say that I enjoyed my time in Montezuma would be an understatement. I certainly did enjoy every last moment spent in that chill little hippie beach town, but I learned a lot as well. Arguably more important lessons than I’ve ever learned anywhere else. I was able to come into my own, enjoy being myself, and have a good time doing it. It may sound strange to you, but it was something very, very special to me. I fell in love and embraced the chill completely and wholeheartedly.
To sum it all up in but two more words: pura vida. I took it to my heart and brought it home with me to cherish forever, but that is another digression for another time.