In early 2000, the dawn of the new millennium, I left my husband of six and a half years. The first thing I did upon regaining my freedom was to take a trip. I’d been wanting to travel for many years, but there was always some excuse why we couldn’t go. Released from my ball and chain, now was my chance. I cashed in my credit card air miles accumulated through the ex’s excesses and was off to Costa Rica.
After a while of heating up in the sun, I needed to cool off in the Pacific Ocean. In I went, enjoying the cool, salty water. I stood up in the shallows to turn and look back at the beach, when all of a sudden I was being swallowed up by a large wave, thrown on the sea floor and grabbed and whipped around in a wave once again. The waves passed and I stood up disoriented, not sure which side was up and slowly made my way back to my towel on the beach. “Wow!” was my first thought, “that was powerful! Now I get why people surf. I think I’d like to learn to harness that power.” For the rest of my trip I watched people surfing. I was in awe of these people who could walk on water.
I vowed to return to Costa Rica and a short two months later was back once again, this time with a goal – I would learn how to surf. I had no idea what a monumental task I had set for myself. I did my best and hung out with other beginners, but I was in over my head. Two weeks of trying and I was not much closer to becoming a real surfer. I was stunned. Never in my life had I had such difficulty learning a sport. Rather than let the challenge I was faced with dampen my spirits, however, it hardened my resolve. I decided I had to move to Costa Rica and become a surfer no matter how long it took.
But first I had to go back to Canada where I had a job and was working on my Masters thesis.
Back in Canada, I immersed myself in all things surfing. And I began to study Spanish. A plan evolved. I decided I would finish my thesis and get my degree. I would save some money and make it last via a diet of coconuts, rice and beans and the kindness of strangers. I figured I would live on the beach, do yoga and surf. In my fantasy, one day someone would happen along who either needed a housesitter or had a job for a biologist looking to get into conservation. It all sounded perfectly sane to me.
One day several months and several pages of my thesis later, one of my sisters and I decided to travel somewhere together before I disappeared to Costa Rica. But where? We agreed we both wanted to get our SCUBA diving certification and I said it would be nice to go somewhere I could work on my Spanish. A travel magazine that had been on the floor next to my bed for months popped into my field of vision. On the cover it said “Hidden Treasures” and inside I found an article about a jewel of a place called Cabo Pulmo, Mexico located on the shores of a national marine park and with a dive shop where the owner was involved in grassroots conservation. Bingo!
I returned to Canada with an amended plan. I would move to Cabo Pulmo, Mexico where I would work as the director of research in Pepe’s non-profit conservation organization (and learn to surf in the uncrowded waves just south along the coast).
Seven months later, thesis in hand and pickup truck overloaded, I was on my way.