Sometimes, sometimes it works out to do no research before visiting a new place. Of course researching new places is absolutely the suggested way to travel! But sometimes things just work out in a way where you get to be pleasantly surprised.
To my delight, I was pleasantly surprised when I travelled to the Pacuare River area for the first time. And by “pleasantly surprised”, I mean “completely and utterly enchanted and frankly blown away.”
Let me set the scene a little.
The only way to access the hotels and lodges along the Pacuare River is by white water rafting. Since I had decided to do no research before this trip, I was informed of this fact only a couple days before the trip. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.
We bump down a dirt road somewhere outside of Turrialba, in Costa Rica, descending steadily down the side of a steep, forested mountain. The sun was shining. The trees were verdant and green. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
We arrived to the river, where our guides were waiting for us next to several large rafts. I had never been rafting before and it was safe to say I was a bit nervous! Suddenly I thought about how I hadn’t done any research and was completely unprepared. The rapids we could see right at the bend of the river looked much bigger than I had imagined them.
I smiled nervously at my friend, who seemed confident enough to make me feel better. The guides did the rest of the work. Their cheerful attitude and carefree manner put us at ease right away.
Before I had time to do any more worrying, we were in the rafts and pushing off. You know that little bubble of adrenaline and excitement that sometimes sits in your stomach? That little bit of nervous energy that makes you smile like a fool or giggle uncontrollably? Well, if you have never experienced it, I urge you to go out and do something that makes you feel that way. Because that feeling is life. That feeling is everything. And sitting on that raft, watching the rapids come closer and closer gave me that feeling.
We paddled together furiously as we approached the roaring white water. It was us against the river. We were a team: the smiling guide, the couple I had never met before, my friend, and me. Forward, Left back, Forward, Stop, DOWN!
We all crouched down in the raft as we crested a rapid and plunged down a short drop. All of a sudden, the river was placid again, calm, as we drifted along. We all scooted back to our seats on the raft, smiles plastered all over our dripping faces. I couldn’t have taken that smile from my face if I had wanted to…and I didn’t want to. All that nervous energy I’d had before turned into excited anticipation.
I paddled harder than before, eagerly carrying our crew closer to the next rapid. I was alive with adrenaline. Please, if you do nothing else in your life, do something that ignites you with adrenaline like that. Whether it’s white water rafting or mountain climbing, wine tasting or marathons, do something that makes you feel alive. Do it as often as you can.
During a straight part, where the current was slow and peaceful, we were able to jump off into the cool water. As I floated next to the raft in the sunlight, watching the trees pass by and birds fly overhead, I thought about how I was completely satisfied in that moment. There was nothing else I wanted to do, no complaints, no negative thoughts. That moment in time was perfect.
Soon we were back in the raft… that tranquil little moment forgotten as we enthusiastically rushed towards the next rapids.
I couldn’t imagine anything being better than that.
But that is just because I hadn’t gotten to our destination yet. I was in for an even bigger surprise, but I just didn’t know it yet.