Last month we spoke with Paige from Wilcox Wellness & Fitness and she was getting ready to embark on a month long journey to Costa Rica with her family (click here to read it!) She returned a few weeks ago and we caught up with her to ask her about her experience. She had such an amazing time and so many valuable stories and lessons to share that we decided to split this blog post up into two different posts. Click here to read last week's post where we focused on her overall experience and day to day life in Costa Rica. This week is the final part and we will share some of her challenges, goals she achieved, and a story about an almost emergency evacuation due to a FIRE!
True North Beauty: It sounds like you had a pretty good routine and lots of fun things to do while you were there. Where there some things that worked well for you while away? What things did not?
Paige: We quickly learned that our kids did best when we were adventuring. We are not a family to sit by the pool or camp out at the beach for the day. This was great for us because Mike and I also love adventuring. Though, I will say the last 4 days of our 34 day trip were rough. I think the kids, especially Hazen had just had enough. Everyone was ready to go home. The season had turned from hot and dry to hot and humid (just like that in one rain storm one night - that by the way, poured all over us in bed), and we were not handling the humidity well.
We all wanted to get home to sit in our living room, play with toys, go to an American grocery store, eat something other than fish, veggies, and fruit, pet our dog Oliver, and see our friends.
True North Beauty: I bet Oliver was happy to see you! What was the biggest challenge that you faced that you did not plan for / anticipate?
Paige: I knew that everything would be a slower pace and I was really really to embrace that slower pace. But… I had my moments when we were out to eat where I just wanted to jump over the counter and make my meal for myself. I could actually feel my grandfather come through me (he was not known for his patience) and groan. I remember a particular time we were all packed up and ready to hit the road for an adventure. The plan was we would stop at the Bagel Kitchen and get 2 breakfast sandwiches and 1 bagel for the road (a girl can only eat so much fish, fruit, and veggies.) The kids and Mike were waiting in the car and I was watching the breakfast sandwich being made. The very nice man cracked the egg, beat the egg, poured the egg into the fry pan, toasted the bagel, fried the bacon, etc, etc, etc, at a pace comparable to a snail. He wrapped the bagel up, put it in a bag, and started on the next one… I just about lost it. I am not proud of myself in that moment. I heard my grandfather’s groan come out through my body. I truly appreciate everything being made fresh and to order and I also appreciate the efficiency of an american kitchen. I am fairly confident this makes me a jerk.
We did our best with language and I think next time we travel we will work hard to be even more prepared. When we went to Costa Rica 2 years ago it was for a weeks vacation - and vacation for a week is much different than making a far away land your home for over a month.
The kids did much better than us with language and Brooklyn came home with more words in Spanish than English just because she was in the sweet spot of learning new words. Hazen was fearless with his language skills. He would shout ‘Hola Amigos’ (hello friend) to anyone passing by; ‘Gracias’ (thank you) in not always the right circumstances; ‘con gusto’ (with pleasure / your welcome) in even stranger circumstances; and ‘Adios Muchachos’ because it rhymes (bye dude) - we had to look up Muchachos and make sure it wasn’t anything derogatory. Hazen also practiced repeating a string of sounds back to people which was incredibly entertaining for everyone involved. So - someone would say a sentence or two to Hazen in spanish and Hazen would parrot the same sounds back to that person, I am sure in his very Maine, very American accent. It was so fun to see the kids embrace learning the new language with such ease, curiosity, and fearlessness. It gave us more confidence to experiment and try our Spanish/French linguistic skills without being afraid of getting it wrong or embarrassing ourselves.
We did have a pretty scary miscommunication. We were in Costa Rica in the dry season and in the dry season there are forest fires. Not fires like you would imagine with high branches burning and big flames. Lots of little fires with burning of the underbrush. We would see smoldering ashes on the side of the road - just like when a campfire gets perfect to roast marshmallows. We had been to a monkey refuge sanctuary a few days prior and had learned that these fires the night before had gotten out of control and the refuge lost their water tanks and had a couple of animal casualties. The fire department wouldn’t help and all of the volunteers were working to put the fire out with a bucket brigade.
So that's the back story.
Then at 4:15am there is a rap rap rap rap rap rap rap on our door. Mike leaps out of bed says ‘stay here’ and I of course was hot on his heels. It is the youngest security guard from the gate and he is getting increasingly panicked that we don’t understand what he is trying to communicate to us. The incredible game of Costa Rican charades begins with him gesturing to the mountains and making flame like motions, then he starts motioning a key, car, steering wheel. OK - got it muchachos - forest fire, evaluate, leave in your car. Si.
The guard goes and knocks on our neighbors door...
What to grab for an evacuation in Costa Rica? Passports, water, elephant blanket, computers, who knows - we stuff a few things into an already packed bag. I wake Hazen up and say: ‘Honey, there is a fire, we are being evacuated, you need to wake up and walk’ and I get the baby out of her crib.
The fear hit me when we were walking down the long path to our car and I hear the bomberos (the Costa Rican fire truck siren). I know there is one road in and out. I know we have the option to either go right to the jungle on the bumpy monkey trail or left to wind around the coast line. I know that we aren’t going to have a team of emergency personnel telling us calmly and in English where to go and what to do. I know this is it. We are on our own. At least we have elephant blanket.
Just as we get to the end of the path we see Roberta, our host of Italian nationality. ‘Buongiorno!!!’ she calls to us - walking towards us slower than she should in an forest fire / evacuation situation. After a few Italian niceties she explains to us that we are not being evacuated we just need to move our rental car. There is a truck in full flames of fire and it is right next to our rental car.
Welp… that was a bit of a misunderstanding - sorry kids - wanna go to the waterslide park? What time do you think they open?
True North Beauty: Wow! We are so glad you’re safe! That must have been so scary! Besides that unforeseen event, what was a lot easier for you that you originally thought was going to be a challenge?
Paige: I had never been with my kids for that period of time, full time. I was really worried that I wouldn’t like it / couldn’t do it / that there would be no one to cry ‘uncle’ to if we needed a break. I was worried if I had felt these feels - not enjoying every second of every minute of every day with my kids what that would mean about me as a mother or as a person. And then I was worried about beating myself up for those feelings and those thoughts. This was really hard for me to say before I left. Really. I had mentioned it subtly in the blog before I left and somebody really close to me and to my kids mentioned it to me and I literally busted out in tears. (And if you know me, you know I have an incredibly stiff upper lip.) She said to me “You will be fine. It will be great.” And. I. Lost. It.
But you know what - I was better than fine and it was absolutely great. Being with our family 24/7 was actually the very best part of the entire experience. I don’t know how to describe it - everyone just did what they were supposed to do. There was no asking the 4almost5yearold to get dressed or brush his teeth 10,000 times - he just did it. Don’t get me wrong, we certainly had our moments but having the kids, knowing what was going on with them start to finish, was SO. MUCH. EASIER. than all of the transitioning and hustle associated with living and working in America.
True North Beauty: You must be really proud of your family for working together and doing what they were supposed to do! It can be a bit daunting at first when you set out on a trip like this and know you are doing to be spending all this time together. It sounds like you did a great job managing everything while you were away and that your family had an incredible experience! You mentioned that you had hoped to get certain things out of this trip before leaving. Did you accomplish that and meet your goals? And How did this experience change you as a person and as a family unit?
Paige: Absolutely - travel always give us an incredible sense of perspective and this trip certainly achieved that for me. But more than that, I think it gave our son an incredible sense of perspective as well. I love how he was able to see that we are just a very very small part of a really big and beautiful world, that we are so lucky to live in one of the greatest countries in the world, and that there are all kinds of different people living all kinds of different lifestyles. Being away also taught us to live with and enjoy living with a lot less.
I think we have come together much closer as a family unit. Living in 433 square feet (that’s probably an exaggeration - I have no idea how big our condo was) will do that for you. I have a lot more trust in the children’s ability to listen to me and follow instruction when (read: only when) absolutely necessary. I have gained a lot of confidence in being a Mother.
True North Beauty: Traveling like that can really change your perception of the world and yourself! We are thrilled to hear you gained a lot of confidence in being a mother! One last question… Would you do it again? Would you do anything differently or try a different location?
Paige: Absolutely - 100%. Our goal is to have one big family adventure per year. Hazen wants to go to Boston - his Uncle lives there. Mike and I haven’t figured it out yet but we are thinking that it may involve an RV and lots of national parks.
We love Costa Rica but we really want to explore the world so we will definitely try a different location. Now taking recommendations!!
True North Beauty: Thank you so much for sharing your experience and story with us, Paige! We are so glad you made it home safe and had the opportunity of a lifetime to experience a month in Costa Rica with your family! We wish you luck on you next adventure!
Paige Wilcox and her husband, Mike own Wilcox Wellness & Fitness. Their clients are busy professionals who are looking to gain leverage in their lives through health and fitness. They work with people who are are looking to feel better, have more energy, and radiate confidence so that they can do [and keyword: ENJOY] the things that they love doing. They believe that health and fitness is a strategic leverage point to help you get anything else out of life that you want. Work on your health and fitness and a lot of other aspects of life - career, relationships, fulfillment - will start to fall into place for you. Learn more about Wilcox Wellness & Fitness here: www.wilcoxwellnessfitness.com