Updated: Apr 15
I had quit my corporate job and was in desperate need of a lifestyle change. Feeling an overwhelming urge to escape the pressure of the city I began researching travel options and stumbled across a site called Workaway. An online platform that introduces travellers to hosts around the world. In exchange for just a few hours work each day the host provides volunteers with accommodation and food.
Deciding to roll the dice I applied to crew a small boat sailing from Portugal to Australia. The captain, Justin was a former corporate who cashed in his savings to sail around the world. Wi-Fi must be amazing in the middle of the ocean because he responded almost instantly to my enquiry. Suspicious that he required crew with no experience, I started to dig deep into his website and social profiles and discovered dear Justin’s crew consisted only of young women. Ever the entrepreneur, he had created his own version of the bachelor in which he probably discovered that after months at sea his harem found him more attractive estranged from land with a bottle of rum. Needless to say I decided against, Mum also had a great point that my inclination to be restless may pose as an issue in the confines of a boat. She was absolutely right, after 10 days at sea I would have either plunged to freedom and swam home or prayed to go down with the ship.
A few days later I came across a writer/ blogger Workaway at a surf/yoga camp called Dreamsea in the jungles of Tamarindo in Costa Rica. Their reviews were resoundingly positive and after checking out their social media I was sold, it looked incredible. After exchanging just four emails, the last being my confirmation date I had booked a flight out of Australia five days later. The flight to Libera was a gruelling 26 hours from Sydney with two stop overs in LA and Houston. When I arrived in the US border security were sceptical that I was travelling by myself to Central America. The guard gave me a once over, perhaps judging my juvenile attire of overalls and tennis shoes and said, “you know it’s not safe there.” Failing to come up with a response I simply shrugged and with that he stamped by passport and dismissed me with, “goodluck”.
As I flew out of Houston towards Central America his words continued to ruminate and I became increasingly nervous. Then I remembered my friend had given me a ‘travel pack’ he never went overseas without which consisted of pain meds, anti anxiety (Valium) and anti nausea tablets. Their uses specifically for the worst part of travelling, the raucous noises inevitably found in cheap hostel rooms and confined spaces one finds themselves entrapped when travelling from one location to another. It seemed like as good a moment as any as the pilots voice over announced we would be landing in 30 minutes. I reached for my bag, pulling the pack out of a small zip compartment, the passenger next to me eyed me curiously as I popped them like tick tacks and hollered at a flight attendant for a tall glass of red to calm my nerves. When I arrived at Libera airport at 9pm I was cloudy headed and thanks to the Valium, super chill.
I had pre-empted that asking a taxi driver to take me to ‘the jungle of Tamarindo to the Dreamsea camp’ would not be seamless and had pre-organised a transfer through Dreamsea. After picking up my bags I walked out of the entrance of the airport to find a sea of local men with signs and was relieved to see a sign with my name on it held by a large Costa Rican man named Henry.
We hit the highway out of Libera airport at high speed, the realisation that I was in Central America hitting me just as the cocktail I’d made before landing really started to kick in. I sat drowsy in the backseat feeling somewhat out of control as Henry overtook slow cars on an all too narrow road. I decided to pick Henry’s brain about Dreamsea but he spoke with restraint, briefly mentioning a man named Carlos who had employed him. Henry’s reluctance to talk about Dreamsea sparked a terrible thought as I wondered if the camp was real. I chastised myself for my stupidity, there I was high in the backseat of a stranger’s van in Costa Rica headed towards the jungle.
I sat idle in the backseat as we passed a nearby town then along a dirt road, eventually veering left off the beaten track. Shortly after passing a broken down bus we came to a clearing that looked remarkably civilised considering we were in the middle of the jungle. Henry pulled up beside a make-shift straw hut that looked like an outdoor bar, “we’re here, reception’s on the right” he said. Relieved that Dreamsea existed I hopped out of the car with my backpack.
The rain was beating down hard and within moments I was drenched. Henry drove off and I stood waiting by reception as the bar tender walked over casually with a beer in hand. Introducing myself I told him I was a volunteer to which he responded, “good we prefer volunteers, come with me.” Passing the well-lit centre of camp we walked on a small pathway further into the jungle. It was dark but I could make out the white glamping tents on both sides of the path which amusingly looked similar to those used at the Fyre Festival. As I went to make a joke he said, “usually we use a torch at night in case of snakes” which made me look to the ground rather than open my mouth. After a short while the accommodation came into view which in all truth would be a generous word to describe what was a giant shelter. The shelter had no walls or barricades to prevent incoming rain, it did however at the very least have electricity. On entering I was hit with the distinct stench of weed and looked over to see one of my new roommates smoking it out of what looked like a seashell.
My guide showed me to an available bunk and extended an invitation to join them at the bar but all I could think of was sleep. I threw my heavy soaked backpack on the ground and went to place my shoes under the bed when a voice said, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” I turned to face a young man sitting on his bunk and he said, “spiders and scorpions can crawl in, don’t forget to zip up your backpack” and with that he went back to sleep. Exhausted I climbed up to the top bunk of an available bed and threw my backpack and shoes on top, hugging the soaked fabric I drifted off to long awaited sleep and woke in the light under the watchful eyes of Howler Monkeys.