Upon departing Seal island, my plan was to head back down to Florida where I’ve enjoyed spending copious amounts of time with my 95 year old grandmother over the course of the past year or so. Grandy introduced me to a love for international travel, she brought me to Kenya in 1999. I was 16 and she was in her eighties, making up the youngest and oldest member of the safari tour group. She took my brother Matthew to Europe when he was in highschool and a couple years later asked me, where in the world would you like to go? I said I wanted to see the wildlife of Africa. There was never a more lucky granddaughter.
For my highschool graduation, Grandy took me abroad to Costa Rica. As a bird-lover who has loved the feathered kind since practically before I can even remember (apparently in my mother’s arms as a baby, I tracked the birds, following them with my eyes as they flew over. My first word? Duck. Enough said.) travelling to the tropics was simply inevitable.
We spent two weeks exploring the rainforests which revealed to me a lush biodiversity that I had only ever dreamed about. I’m currently reading back through my journal from the 2002 trip and laughed while reading about my first morning in the country: waking up slowly to birdsong until I was suddenly hit with the glorious realization that each and every sound I was listening to was bird belting its declaration of love, territory and simple existence were species I’ve never seen before in my entire life, and they were right outside. You might be able to imagine how quick I bolted out of dreamland, out of that bed, and into that new world.
Well, since then, I’ve returned to the tropics as many times as I possible have been able to. Returning to Costa Rica in 2004, I went with my college class for the field portion of our semester studying tropical ecology and conservation. Instead of going home after that two-week study of the tropical climes, I worked at an ecolodge on the Osa Peninsula for a month. I spent five months in Guatemala in ’09 as an ecotourism volunteer while improving my Spanish and another month a year or so later in Nicaragua to continue pursuing fluency in that gorgeous language with the full intent of using it to help fully immerse myself in the culture. I’ve met so many amazing folks having lived in their homes, learning to cook authentic foods and enjoying the highly communal existence I continue to encounter among these various beautiful countries.
So, as you can imagine, I want to go back again. I always have it in the back of my mind that I’ll return. Meanwhile, bird jobs and writing jobs have taken me to all the most amazing places yet, that idea back of my mind always persists.
Well, this past week, coming off the island and then going camping along the coast of Maine while seeing some of my favorite friends from years past, I received an email. An internship I’d applied for got back to me, they’re still narrowing down what ended up being many more applicants than they’d expected. They wanted to do a skype call.
So, sitting on the Penobscot Bay, just a few yards from our campsite, I spoke with Susan and Harvey, the owners of a beautiful ecolodge in a remote corner of Costa Rica. I showed them the water, pointing my phone for them to see the view and they did the same for me (it took awhile for me to ratchet my jaw back up from the dirt). For the rest of the camping trip I was trying not to think about the dream that this possibility could turn into a reality.
Well, dream has become reality.
I’m beyond thrilled to let you all know that I’m officially headed to Costa Rica, where I’ll be joining at the Saladero Ecolodge team on the Gulfo Dulce. At this waterfront destination, accessible only by boat, my contributions will include leading birdwalks (!!!) as well as regular hikes through the rainforest and guiding kayak adventures around the coastal mangrove forests. We’ll also be participating in conservation efforts around the property (which is comprised of hundreds of acres of primary rainforest, meaning that it’s never been harvested for lumber or cut to graze cattle, for example) including coastal restoration, mangrove reforestation, wild cat monitoring, stream quality monitoring as well as assisting with university groups studying marine biology.
I’m also particularly excited that I’ll be returning to a Spanish-speaking country and reintegrating into the Latin culture. I’ve been so fortunate to visit and lend a hand in various countries in Central America several times in the past and have such a fondness for the richness of the culture itself, but also various peoples with whom I’ve been so lucky to spend time and have such respect and fondness for. I love that I’ll be returning to Costa Rica with an even fuller grasp of the language, which changes the experience completely. I’ve made such friends, worked alongside them and the only English we ever spoke was me teaching them new words while they were teaching me theirs.
I’m beyond thrilled at having “landed this position,” but also awed and humbled. I know I was up against significant and highly qualified competition, but I also know I’ve spent a great deal of time in the beautiful country of Costa Rica observing and learning the glorious diversity of birdlife there. I feel enormously fortunate and am more thrilled than I can even convey. I always say, every time I’ve left that beautifully stunning part of the world, that I’m going to come back. Well, I’m going to go back. It makes me smile to type those words.
Stay tuned for updates and, while internet will be limited out there, I’ll definitely be reporting from Saladero!