Countdown lessons: Get out of the house

A year ago I did a countdown to the start of my yearlong daily blogging project; as I enter my last ten days of the Daily Boost in its current form, I thought I’d count down once again. This time, I’m pondering things I’ve learned from writing about Costa Rica every weekday for a whole year. It’s not exactly a heroic feat, but it sure did open up a lot of doors in my brain, for whatever reason.

The first lesson, without a doubt, was one that sounds funny now in mid-pandemic: I learned to get out of the house.

I started the project in part because, after two brutally difficult years of personal and professional losses, I was not excited about a whole lot. I hoped that what was essentially a daily gratitude practice might help turn things around. It did, but what I didn’t expect was how it also restored excitement for exploring my city and country that I’d lost long before.

Just the slightest hint of accountability, the thought that someone might enjoy hearing about something if I went to it, got me hot-footing it out the door as if were being chased by a horde of demanding news editors. I went to places I hadn’t been in years and others where I’d never been at all: the Mercado Central, independent bookstores, street fairs, farmers’ markets, mountain towns. I learned how to make organic fertilizer for coffee plants in Los Santos, and I finally, finally went to the Desfile de Boyeros in San José. I snapped photos of graffiti and street art, more alert than I had been in some time. I went to a book launch and saw artisan’s work with new eyes, eager to share it with people who might love it as much as I did.

Then came the pandemic, and getting out of the house went out the door – or did it? I think I simply appreciate it more. In those early days, a visit to the supermarket felt as exhilarating as a beach vacation. That’s not quite true anymore in these more moderate months, but a bookstore trip or a quick journey out of town can still profoundly lift our spirits and reset our brains in a way that they never would have, pre-pandemic. I think that, as we emerge, I will try to remember that the outings we make for business or pleasure are medicine, in a way, a crucial balance to the time we spend at home.

I don’t think I’ll ever again take completely for granted the San José streets and shops and funny corners of humanity I love so much, and my ability to wander through them.

And, if I can help it, I’ll never, ever miss another Desfile de Boyeros.

I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; learn how to join my Overwhelmed Writers’ League, every Saturday at 1 pm EST; and please connect with me on Instagram or FacebookTo learn more about how to support Costa Rica during the crisis, visit my COVID-19 section – or for ways to enjoy Costa Rica from afar, visit Virtual Costa Rica.

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