Why are we here?

Trip Start Jan 14, 2013
Trip End Apr 11, 2013

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Alajuela,
Sunday, February 3, 2013

No, no, not the BIG "why are we here," just “why did the Millhousers decide to spend three months in Costa Rica?”

Well, those of us who have known Lesley and me for a while may recall our prior decision to pack up our stuff and disappear to Africa for an extended period.  While that trip did not go exactly as originally planned, it was an amazing experience that whetted our appetites for more travel to out of the way spots.  It also inspired us to move to Denver and try to start living the life we wanted to live, rather than just following the path we had settled into.  That turned out to be a bit easier said that done, given the need to support ourselves just as the economy went into a tailspin.  We also chose to buy a house and have children, both of which have been wonderful experiences, but neither of which is part of the typical recipe for freewheeling adventure travel.  All of this led me (Paul) to continue working as a lawyer on a freelance basis; given the economy, I was fortunate to have great relationships with two very substantial clients who treated me well and compensated me fairly.  Still, it was not what I wanted to be doing, and I knew Lesley was looking for more as well.

We gave a lot of thought to what we wanted to do with our lives for the last couple of years, but came to realize that our determination to find a plan that was both perfect and long-term was preventing us from doing anything at all.  We're under no illusion that we can, either financially or for that matter emotionally, spend the rest of our lives gallivanting around the world.  But we are pretty sure that we want to do at least some gallivanting while we figure things out and before the kids start school in a serious way. 

As parents, though, we found ourselves unable to simply take off for Africa again, although it will probably always remain our true love.  The sheer distances, abundance of diseases, scarcity of medical care and horrifying roads in the parts that we would want to visit are simply too challenging for such small kids—but check back in a few years!  Costa Rica, while full of exotic wildlife and culturally different from the US, is much more developed than most places in Africa and presents fewer obstacles to traveling with kids.  While some of the roads are still horrifying, overall Costa Rica is a safe enough place that we can bring the kids along with clear consciences.  Even better, the people here are very accepting of kids and eager to lend a hand where they are concerned.

So far the kids have been thriving.  Ivy, as some may know, has had stomach issues that seems to be lactose and/or gluten intolerance, and that has been much better here (neither dairy nor wheat are big parts of the Costa Rican diet).  The abundance of monkeys doesn’t hurt either, as she laughs uproariously every time she sees one.  Vivian is always an intrepid adventurer, although a slightly bipolar one.  Anytime anything goes wrong (whether or not connected in any way with Costa Rica), she declares she wants to go home.  On the other hand, she had some chicken nuggets last night and declared, “These are the best chicken nuggets ever.  I love Costa Rica!”

  Addendum by Lesley

After we booked our tickets to fly to Costa Rica, I spent many sleepless nights worrying.  Having never been to Costa Rica, my imagination ran wild.  I worried about exposing our very young children to venomous snakes, spiders, sharks, and scorpions.  I worried about food bourn illness and car accidents.  I worried about hotel kidnappings and malaria and pool drownings.

To counteract my anxieties, I dragged Paul to an attorney to revise our will.  I made him buy additional travelers insurance with emergency air evacuation just in case.  I took the girls to a special travel consultant to get the most up-to-date information on medicines, and vaccinations for our impending trip (turns out, no additional vaccinations were necessary!)  I bought full body UV protection swimsuits, hats, sunglasses and SPF 50 kids’ sunblock to protect my fair children from the strong Costa Rican sun.  I got special deet-free bug spray.  I packed life jackets.  I insisted we bring our baby car seats with us.  I packed a smoke alarm.  And I verified that the Costa Rican emergency phone number is also 911.    

Even after these sensible precautions, I worried we were putting our children at undo risk.  What if something horrible were to happen?

Then something horrible did happen.  On the morning of December 14th, I found myself sitting in front of the television as news of the Newtown, CT shooting began to trickle in.  As the enormity of what had transpired became clearer, a feeling I had never experienced overtook me.  I raced to Vivian’s preschool to just hug her.  The news had not reached the innocent halls of her school yet, and the sight of my tear-streaked face puzzled the staff.  Vivian was busy painting a snowman, but she stopped to give me a big hug.  I never wanted to let her go.

Something about that day made me realize that we can do everything “right” to protect our children.  We can teach them to look both ways to cross the road, to not play with matches, to not look at the sun with binoculars.  We can encourage them to exercise and to eat healthy food.  We can enroll them in the finest learning institutions.  But despite all our vigilance, at any moment, a madman could take them away from us. 

So when we boarded the plan to Costa Rica, I felt something akin tranquility.  Life is precious.  Let’s enjoy it. 
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steph on

well said lesley, bringing tears to my eyes. life is beautiful.

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