Sep 12, 2005

Understanding Underlying Utopian Universe

Tikal Sunset, Great Pyramid of the Lost World

When talking about her life our Mom often uses an analogy of walking along a path along the ridge of a high mountain at night. It's wonderful if she has flashlight, or a full moon, to show her the way all along. But all she really needs is for God, an insight, or a bolt of dry lightning to illuminate the path right in front of her. As long as she can trust that she'll get more guidance when she gets a little farther on she can confidently step into the blackness without plunging off a cliff.

The few times in my life I've been given a clear sense of who I am, where I'm going and what I'm doing have illuminated the path for me when things got dark again. My last post was about some key epiphanies of this trip, most notably the insight that it's been really dark for a long time and I no longer have an idea where I am nor if my next step will be the wrong one.

Travel for me has always served as a well needed flash of light. By the time I'm home, or a little while afterwards, I know clearly where my next steps should be. So it was no coincidence that Tyler and I timed this trip to bridge the gap between one life and another. I wrote a bit about what I discovered in the last blog post. The essence of which was that I need to come up with a life vision and use that as a guiding light to leap in whatever new life I come across upon our return. I've had a clear guiding vision in the past, mostly in my blissfully idealistic later undergrad and grad years but lost it along the way to the "real world" of career, bills, and settling in to a new place.

My post on destinations versus directions wasn't really unique insight. Choosing ones dream and following it is a common theme in great literature, cheesy self help books, hollywood storylines and countless articles I myself wrote in my life as a college journalist. The big insight was really a personal one. That it applied to me. I'd had a clear enough vision for long enough that I trusted it to always be there and knew myself as one who had a broader sense of the big picture. Then, as it slipped away it took a long time to register it being gone. I could still readily fake it, I'd held onto the vision so long it was easy to describe to strangers what I used to be guided by and act like I still was. I was particularly convincing because I still believed it myself. It took burning out at what I was doing for me to really get a sense that I wasn't really on a path anymore. And the only meaningful solution I could come up with was abandoning the pleasant life I was building to come down here to figure out what went wrong.


It took the first part of this trip to fully step out of the headspace of the life I'd lived. We studied spanish on a mountain sea, celebrated life with likeminded travelers and breathed with fish. It took two deliriously fun months before we reached a point where we earnestly started looking for something beyond fun. In the tail end of Honduras and throughout Nicaragua we discussed and pondered the destination and direction dilemma. It's not that it's bad to live without a goal in mind there is a solid school of thought that emphasizes the journey over the destination. For example, one of the most magical and enlightening parts of this trip is it's lack of any fixed itinerary. What was causing me trouble is that I was convinced I was on a clear path, that I had a goal, when in fact I'd long since lost my way.

My situation crystallized for me while writing that last blog post, and with that came what I needed to do. I needed to recapture a sense of what I was doing with my life, who I wanted to be and what my next steps should be. But that, alas, is far easier said than done. Much has changed in me, and the world, since I last knew who I was. It's not easy to recapture dreams long since lost, nor find the idealism I'd had years hence. By the time I finished that post I was starting to feel overwhelmed by the task ahead of me. How on earth could I find myself, lost in a different country, when the last true marker I had was as an idealistic college kid with wild ideas of sustainable living several years ago.

Then, the very next day, there was a huge flash of dry lightning that lit up my path. After a couple busses and the cute little town of Periscal Tyler and I finally arrived to Rancho Mastatal. It's very existence is due to a couple from upstate New York, Tim and Robin, who had a vision and followed it. They wanted to start an ecotourism destination deep in the jungle of Costa Rica and after much planning, saving, and a courageous leap they did exactly that. It's still being built, a process that is actually more important than it being "finished", so we came to help. It's a beautiful spot with waterfalls, exotic animals and a friendly house organized to facilitate. They cook communal meals, work with the small town full of wonderful locals to build an ultimately sustainable way of life.


but I found that there is little more inspiring to find ones vision and work towards it than to find a pair of idealists and help them work towards theirs. And the fact that their goal, sustainable living, so closely mirrors memories of my own goal it makes it all the sweeter. Upon arriving, and checking out such a beautiful place, I thought it couldn't possibly get any better to pick up the trail of my idealism where I'd lost it.

And I was wrong. Within an hour of our arriving a bus of students from the University of Washington arrived. They are a diverse group of environmental studies students who came here on a study abroad program to spend a month helping out and learn about sustainability. So, right when I decided I needed to find the path I last remembered we stumbled upon the ideal place and became surrounded by a large friendly group of likeminded idealistic people. What have I done to be so lucky?


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