Finding Peace in Costa Rica

When I think back to when I bought my plane ticket – I can’t actually remember what month it was, let alone what day. Chris over at highlighted a seat sale and I hopped right on it! There is something about Central America that intrigues me and brings me peace.

In December, I counted down the days.

In January, I continued to count but with a grand feeling of excitement.

Finally all became real on February 5th when I was en route to the airport.

Something I have learned about myself over the past couple of years is that I am very high and low. “Regular” day-to-day life is busy. The focus is on working a lot, helping others as much as I can, volunteering in the community, attending events, pushing myself to learn more, keeping track of my new niece and family, learning to run, catching up with friends — and keeping my head above water.

Sometimes stamina will keep me going a month, but other times it’s a week.

When I get to my brink – all I want to do is lay down in silence. I don’t want to talk or even sleep (…I often say “I’m done talking today”)… I just want to enjoy. I curl up in my duvet for as long as it takes to catch my breath and start again.

Every so often I exchange a little R&R in my bedroom for a trip abroad.

My exposure to international travel began when I spent 5 weeks in Europe in 2005 (10 incredible countries!). Before that I had just been to the US and Mexico — which keeps one fairly sheltered!

  • 2005: England, France, Monaco, Italy, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium
  • 2006: Kelowna, Playa del Carmen
  • 2007: Banff, Puerto Vallarta
  • 2008: Dominican

[Note: In late 2008, I finally ended my travel frustration as I figured out how to manipulate my ‘corporate’ 2 weeks vacation into mega time off. Win. :)]

  • 2009: Las Vegas, Germany, Tunisia
  • 2010: Toronto, Niagara Falls, Hawaii, New York, California (San Francisco and Napa Valley), Montana, Japan
  • 2011: Belize, California (from Laguna Beach to LA), Chicago, Philadelphia, DC, Maryland, Virginia

[Note: No I do not own a home. Yes I have a travel bank account instead of a mortgage savings account (much to my banker’s disagreement).]

So, 2012. After this trip to Costa Rica, the hope/plan is a week in Toronto, girls weekend (and a half marathon) in Seattle, Wanderlust in Whistler, the JCI World Congress in Taiwan and 4 weeks in India teaching entrepreneurship.

Just writing that out gets me so amped for what is next.

My soul comes alive when I travel. It allows me to step outside my life and for whatever reason (the good and the bad) all becomes clear.

Travel pushes me out of my comfort zone and allows me to learn so much about the world. When I was young “travel” meant 5* hotels and all-inclusives. Now it means a backpackers hostel and at least one “I think I might die” moment. [Note: I still love a spa day, massage and duvet every so often. :)]


I had absolutely no expectations of Costa Rica, and very unlike me, I did absolutely no planning. Mom gave me the Lonely Planet for Christmas and I opened it up on the flight to LAX.

I had one destination – Santa Teresa. I had randomly met a terrific (capital T) woman named Shannon in Whistler late last year. Sure enough we know lots of the same people (…thank you Vancouver!) and I met her biz partner, the fab (capital F) Diana last month. Anyways Shannon and her family [badass (capital B) Brett and too cute Kaede] are living in Costa Rica for 3ish months. Sweet life eh? My “plan” was to head to their beach town and go from there.

My “I think I might die” moment of this trip took place in the first 48 hours (kind of the first day still as I had spent the last 24 hrs traveling and that only kind of counts)… I missed my regional flight as we landed late in Liberia. The next flight they could get me on was 2 days later (not an option). I had no idea until I arrived but Santa Teresa is 5 hours by car from Liberia — in other words, a hell of a long way in a developing world. I was told that most people headed to Santa Teresa fly into San Jose… which is considerably closer… :) I was advised not to take the local bus as it would take 10 hours and was very unsafe compared to local buses in Central America. My only option was a taxi… and it would cost me $300 USD. :-/ My driver did not speak English, the car barely worked and my fingers were crossed I would make it down the Nicoya Peninsula. A local tourist guy at the airport gave me his phone number and told me to text him if I ran into any problems. He reinforced that I need to pay attention to the routes the driver is taking and to not let him stop anywhere. He gave me a map and wished me luck. Great and all but I only had cell service the first 2 hours (of which I panicky texted my sister and a few friends telling them where I was headed and what I was wearing).

It was a very long drive. I was exhausted from my 24 hours of travel and my eyes kept on fading in the last 2 hours. The driver was a nice young guy and (I could tell) he knew I was scared he was going to rape and kill me. He offered many times to stop and I politely declined. The last 3 hours of roads were brutal bad – dirt roads full of pot holes, bumps and not so much fun.

But eventually we made it to Santa Teresa!!

First impression was — Why the hell did I come here? This is not paradise. I arrived at night and the town was a dusty dirty mess. The dirt road creates a lot of dust (it’ll all be washed away when the rain comes in a few months!). If you’re planning a visit (and renting a ATV), bring a bandana or dust mask to cover your nose/mouth. Shannon and I chatted about the nasty road and she made a good point… If the road wasn’t dirt, then Santa Teresa would be LOADED with tourists. The dirt road keeps them away…. Ah, dirt. Love dirt. Love dust.

I could continue to write for days on every detail of the trip but instead, a few of the highlights:

  • Morning runs at Playa Santa Teresa (by the way, running on the beach sucks hardcore)
  • Daily smoothie goodness (banana, guava, soy was my fave!)
  • Learning to surf at Playa Hermosa
  • Ice cream everyday (mainly consumed to-die-for Trits but also loved the choco mint mmmmm)
  • Raw food classes with Joanne
  • Breathtaking views and the infinity pool at XXX < cannot remember what it’s called :)
  • Sunsets, sand castles and tacos with my adoptive family
  • Evening hammock sessions at Casa Zen with the boys
  • Sleeping more than 5 hours… most of the trip I slept 8 hours :)

Santa Teresa is a special place. The beachesand sunsets are absolutely stunning, but the town has some charm too. There ended up being a lot of stress from back home throughout the trip but — still, Santa Teresa calmed me. On the last day, badass Brett told me that I looked more relaxed than when I arrived. Well thank goodness haha.

It’s been years since I bunk bed travelled (I usually opt for the $20 private room over the $8-10 shared dorm). I am someone who loves my space (sorry Casey, Luke, Julie, Jake and Nate). On the second to last day, I was done.


In order to avoid the 5 hour taxi back to Liberia, I decided to take a regional flight. Sansa Air took me from Tambor to San Jose and then San Jose to Liberia. Breathtaking views on both flights. I’ve been feeling ick the past few days (and also threw up on my 2nd flight)… so when I landed in Liberia I decided to end hostel life early and head to a hotel for the night. I had a hot shower (no more cold!!), room service and slept in a kind sized bed with down duvet. This morning I blow dryed my hair and put on shoes, jeans & mascara! Perfection.

As much as I love travel, I also love home and the routine that comes with day-to-day life. I’m on my flight from Liberia to Miami (then Dallas Fort-Worth) — and honestly so excited to get back to Vancouver. I’m looking forward catching up with my clients, seeing my friends and sleeping in my own bed. I thought I was getting in at 11pm but I actually get in at 8:30pm. Once I get home, I’m heading straight to the grocery store. I can’t wait to put all I learned from Joanne at The Healing Cuisine into action.

Tomorrow morning I’ll be back to work. It’ll be a busy week catching up on client work, plus Forum for Women Entrepreneurs‘ Sparkle Gala, JCI Vancouver’s launch party, Pink Tank Group’s NextGen panel and CKNW’s Pink Shirt Day Ladies Luncheon.


2 weeks in Costa Rica was just what I needed. It allowed me to breathe [and cough… damn dust. ;)]

I’m very grateful that I am able to see the world and spend time with those who continually expand my mind.

A big thank you to Shannon, Brett and Kaede forthe laughs and love.

PS – Travel Wish List (in no particular order): Panama, Brazil, Spain, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Colorado & New Orleans in the USA. … yep, pretty much everywhere. :)

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10 thoughts on “Finding Peace in Costa Rica

  1. Wonderful & inspiring post! I don’t believe there is anything more liberating than traveling, experiencing a new culture and seeing a new place. Travel on!!!

  2. aimtosucceed says:

    As always love hearing about what you have been up to and being inspired by it and you. When you going to put England back on that travel list?

  3. Alice says:

    You’re amazing Jillian!

  4. Shannon says:

    Miss you already our adoptive cousin (??)! Will have a Trits and catch a wave in your honour. Say hi to the FWE crew for me! P.S. The hotel you can’t remember the name of with the infinity pool is Vistas de Olas.

  5. Pippa Martin-St. Onge says:

    You are very fortunate to be able to travel so much. Many Women in the World have trouble scraping up money to fund their next meal.

  6. […] finding a deal through YVRdeals {and Chris Myden}, I booked a trip to Costa Rica. At the time I had no plan, just needed a little escape. I had met an entrepreneur {all around […]

  7. […] on a whim? Over and over again, that’s what I do. Hell, it’s how I ended up in Belize, Costa Rica, New York and […]

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