Pura Vida in Costa Rica

Going Solo
  |  Gorp.com

With so much focus on relationship building and cultural integration, it seems strange that the "solo" is an integral part of the Outward Bound experience. But self-reflection and self-reliance are just as important for personal well-being.

The solo's hardly a survival exercise; rather, it provides time alone in a remote natural environment. It forces the student to slow down. After days of hiking, caving, and climbing, it comes as a welcome change of pace.

The rains come while we eat lunch, rains that seem to float rather than fall, and we learn early on that trying to stay dry is akin to fighting gravity. Accompanied by Bonanza and her ever-present cheeriness, I walk toward my solo spot carrying a tarp, some string, a candle, and a change of clothes—no food or water, no light, no knife. We arrive at the pool of a waterfall and Bonanza leaves. I'm home for the night.

I begin by stringing up my tarp, which is irregularly shaped and missing a string. It's an easy fix; I replace it with the string that holds the bundle together. I find some sticks for support and tie two corners to nearby shrubs. It works well, but the spray from the waterfall drenches me until I think to use my poncho as another wall. Shelter at last.

The timpani of raindrops on the tarp is relaxing music as I set up my sleeping area, gathering poor-man's umbrellas and elephant leaves that had fallen in the previous night's storm. Shaking them out, I line the floor of my shelter, lay my Z-Rest atop this makeshift carpet, and unfurl my sleeping bag.

I strip down and walk to the waterfall. I gulp in the thought of being naked and alone under a 30-foot fall as I scoop water to my mouth. After my shower, I throw my shorts and sandals back on and, because we had been instructed not to wander, head in for a nap. I awake to find the rain has stopped. Lighting my candle, I write in my journal and listen to the sound of the falls, a sequence I follow several times during the night as I pass from sleeping to waking.

Dawn arrives and I feel very connected to the place where I rested, like I had made a small piece of Costa Rica my own. I also feel refreshed, as if the falls had washed away much of the stress that comes with living in a city. I crawl out of my sleeping bag and take an invigorating morning shower.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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