I realize it is a bit ironic that I am posting this blog on April 15. Perhaps the title should be amended to "Don't Worry, Be Happy… unless you're late filing your taxes and then maybe you can be a little bit worried." At any rate, my inspiration for this post comes from the past two weekends that I spent in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Since San Jose is a big, loud, dirty, not particularly scenic city, I decided to get out of the city on my days off from school (Friday-Sunday) and take some side trips to explore other parts of the country. At the recommendation of several people, I decided to go to Puerto Viejo on my first weekend, and I liked it so much, I went back again this past weekend.
Puerto Viejo is a speck of a town on the Caribbean coast just north of Panama. It consists of about three square blocks of hotels and hostels, restaurants and bars, and various shops. The road leading here dead ends in Manzanillo, about 7 miles further south. From what I can tell from the people I met here, their travels and roamings dead ended here too. My first weekend here, I met another gal from Portland and a guy from Pittsburgh who had both planned to travel around Latin America, but decided to stay in Puerto Viejo after they got here. My second weekend, I met a gal from London who had planned to continue on to Panama but never made it that far, and a guy from Italy who came here nine years ago and never left. After spending two weekends here, I can definitely see the appeal.
Unlike Tortuguero, which is also on the Caribbean sea but felt rugged and wild, Puerto Viejo feels like the Caribbean. The sea is that turquoise blue you see on postcards. There's a black sand beach as you come into town that is unlike anything I have ever seen, and the white sand beaches in town are buffered by a shallow reef just off shore that creates protected pools perfect for swimming. My first weekend, I borrowed a bike from the hotel and rode to Manzanillo. The road mostly followed the coast and passed a couple other beautiful beaches - Playa Cocles and Punta Uva. There's a big Rastafarian culture here with lots of dreadlocks, Bob Marley memorabilia, reggae music… and weed. Maybe it's because everyone has a contact high, but the people here are relaxed, friendly, having a good time. Don't worry, be happy, mon.
It's hard to think about your problems or get stressed about anything when you're amid this sea of tranquility. On one street, I saw a mural with vibrant colors, rainbows, and flowers, and the caption read something like, "What if we ruin the world? We'll build a new one!" Geez. If that is as worked up as they get over Armageddon, I guess I shouldn't get too stressed thinking about what I will do for a job when I return home and what I'll do if I can't find one. (I admit that I've had more than a few bad night's sleep thinking about that.)
So, for those folks who really want to get away from it all and find a place where worries are few, Puerto Viejo definitely seems like a good option, and I can understand why there are so many expats here doing just that. For me, it was a great place to visit and get away from it all… for a few days… a couple of times. While it's fun to think about just floating around with nary a care in the world, I don't think my personality would ever allow me to fully disembody myself from my responsibilities. But perhaps I can learn to not get quite so worked up and stressed out, and instead, just relax and enjoy the ride. Translation: Don't worry (so much), be happy (more often). I think that's an adjustment I can live with.