Have you ever had one of those moments where you know your life is never going to be the same? It's an interesting feeling. It's even more interesting if you really actually liked the life you had before, and you really actually like the life that potentially lies ahead. Change is inevitable, but this Universal Law is even more intriguing when you are consciously getting int touch with who you really are and opening yourself up to new paths and just seeing where you end up.
6 months ago I made myself a promise. I would get my ass to the mat every morning and meditate. I would clear my mind, listen, and find out what I really wanted. I would listen to who the voices inside of my head and heart were, pay attention to what I liked and what i didn't like, and try to include in my daily happenings the activities, thoughts, and actions that were in line with whatever I discovered. I also intended on saving up for a trip to Spain (by myself) and running a full marathon through Barcelona (by myself). Then I would drink myself into oblivion with handsome Irish men in Dublin. I toyed with the idea of spending a couple of days at a monastery in Bordeaux led by a Buddhist Monk I have admired for some time.
Well, I did what I said I would do, but I ended up somewhere else. Throughout the winter I listened to myself more than ever and meditated almost every morning. I think I missed 3-5 days per month. Not 100% accuracy, but close enough for me and plenty enough to make a difference. I realized I wasn't enjoying running. I tried and tried, and while I like the occasional 3 or 4 miles on a nice day, training was entirely too forced. I realized I really like yoga. The biggest shocker was how much I enjoy Pilates! (Yet another "never say never" moment. I used to hate running. I used to hate Pilates. I used to hate yoga...yet here I am, deeply involved in all 3.)
I also had two dear friends get engaged and plan a quick destination wedding. Then I met an amazing man. I focused on work, I focused on friends, I focused on meditation and myself. Through a number of small realizations and little turns here and there that just felt right (because I was finally starting to tune into what my feelings were) I ended up on an entirely different trip.
I ended up in Puerto Rico. with a very attractive travel partner. And it was an even more life changing trip than a solo marathon through Barcelona might have been.
We left a cold, rainy Denver on a Tuesday night and were sitting on the first beach we could find in San Juan by 3:00 on Wednesday. When I say first beach we could find, I mean i changed into my swimsuit so quickly in a parking garage that I had been on the beach for half an hour before I realized my bottoms were on inside out.
We then met up with my friends who own a clothing store in Fajardo. (Monkey Threads - check that shit out.) We met at this cute little surf bar right on the beach in Luquillo, had a glass of wine, said hello, and then went and got groceries (we wanted to cook and have fresh food instead of eating out every where) and then back to the condo they so gracioulsy let us stay in and went to sleep. The condo was perfect. 10th floor right on the marina overlooking the Ocean. Roosters next door crowed as the sun rose and you could watch the sail boats leaving for the morning. It was perfect.
Day One: Coconut beer cups, hidden beaches, and Frisbee.
We began our day with a home cooked breakfast on the patio overlooking the ocean. Chris and I cook well together. It's fun and we like to keep things simple. We realized pretty early into dating that we were more "cook together people" than "out to fancy dinner together" people.
We then ventured to a hidden beach we had heard about. It was a 3 minute drive and then about a fifteen minute hike through the trees and it was amazing. There were only 3 other couples as far as the eye could see. We drank Medallas, cracked open coconuts, read, did yoga, and just chilled. This was also the beginning of my supreme manifestation skills.
I had envisioned for weeks the two of us playing Frisbee on the beach. I didn't realized until about a week before the trip that my visions included ONLY us (there would certainly be other people on a beach) and I had never thought to buy a Frisbee. But, nonetheless, when we found thespot on the beach we wanted, there was a green Frisbee just waiting in the sand for us and there was literally no one else around. Cha ching. Put that in the manifestation piggy bank.
We also saw a beautiful white crane about 300 yards away. My parents love cranes so I was super excited and we tried to closer but of course he flew away.
We hiked back and met Logan at his store, (another shout out to Monkey Threads) and sipped on some Coronas. Then we went to dinner and the drinking ensued...a couple tequila shots and half a cigar later and we are shooting the shit on the pier in the dark watching the waves crash against the rocks. We continued to tell stories until 3 am on the floor of said store. Since driving was out of the question we slept on the beach and drove home first thing in the morning.
Day 2: Jungle Love.
We had a small morning nap when we got back to the condo and then made a healthy little breakfast and met Logan for a jungle excursion! Shout out to him again because he skipped work and met us even after staying out till 3 am to show us around Yunque National Forest.
Of course we had beers (and quite the touristy Pena Colada) before we cruised in the Jeep to our first hike.
It was pretty short - not sure I would even call it a hike - but maybe that's just the Colorado girl in me being an outdoor snob. It was beautiful though. HUGE bamboo, perfect weather, and the rest stop included a river with a rope swing. Of course we jumped in.
We then drove up to a gorgeous jungle look out. So amazing to see mountains and a beach all in one snap shot.
On the way back we popped the top to the Jeep and I enjoyed a coconut water au naturale.
The last waterfall trail was closed, so we stopped at Degree 18, which is an awesome little juice bar. We hung out in the hammocks and that's when discussions about business ideas in Puerto Rico ensued...
We also met a new little friend, Nala. She was the cutest black lab. She ran right up to Logan and we found out he and Karin had rescued her and found her a forever home withthe couple that owned the juice bar. I flippantly told Logan if he ever wanted to know my type of dog, she was it.
We hung out on the beach in Luquillo for a little bit - this was the moment Chris and I realized we were both thinking of ways we could move there but we hadn't told the other one yet for fear of being told we were crazy. But as per usual we were on the same page and just starting to put the pieces to the puzzle together. After our "how could we move here" discussion, we went back to the condo.
All the playgrounds/outdoor areas in Puerto Rico have these small workout/playtime machines. It sounds weird, but they are like manual ellipticals and bench presses and rowing machines but they look like playground equipment. Maybe I am late to the travel game but I love them!
We watched the sunset and took a walk and drank wine. It was our last night in the condo and we were sad to go. We decided if we moved there (see, the conversations were already happening) that we would love to live in Fajardo by the Marina. It just felt right for us.
Day Three: FINE. We are listening...
This was one of the most amazing and Universally-in-your-face days of the trip and possibly my adult life.
We woke up early and decided to go for a run. It was raining, but it was a warm island rain, so we decided to jog the hiking trail to the hidden beach we had ventured to on our 2nd day. It was beautiful, and early, and all you could hear were lizards rustling through the forest, and our feet hitting the trail. Imagine our surprise when we reached the clearing of the trail and trees and there was a perfect, end to end rainbow over the ocean. There was not a living soul in site. We swam out to the ocean and just floated there with the rain falling perfectly onto the surface of the water. Swimming in the ocean as it rained under a rainbow will always be one of my favorite memories. I thought about taking a picture and then realized I wanted this to be only Chris and I's moment. Aside from the fish jumping around us, and the pelican that swooped down over my head (I freaked a little, not gonna lie), there wasn't another sign of life, and it was a nice thought to know that Chris and I were the only ones who would ever see this scene.
The rain let up and I meditated on the beach while Chris swam out a ways. We jogged back and not only did we realize the tiny holes we thought were beetle holes were actually hundreds of tiny crabs, but standing 10 feet in front of us was a beautiful white crane. It strutted for us for a good 3 minutes and then just went on it's way through the marsh.
After quite the morning we decided to try a local breakfast spot Logan had told us about. Las Vistas Cafe is a small restaurant at the top of a hill that overlooks Seven Seas Beach. It is also on the roof of the owners home: enter Gladys. Logan said she was adorable, but I had no idea. She serves breakfast from her personal garden, and when you walk in not only does she introduce herself to you, she looks you in the eye, touches your shoulder, and makes you feel like she's the woman you would call if you ever got sick and didn't have your mom around.
After she hit on Chris a little (grabbing his arm and saying "He works out, the boy" and then winking at me) she showed us to our seats. We watched as she explained where each entree came from, and made the rounds, bringing homemade concoctions for the sunburned tourists, and writing hand written receipts for each table.
The food was amazing, we hugged Gladys goodbye, and we jumped on the coastal highway! Game plan was to road trip to the rain forest where we had a room reserved a mountain retreat - if we saw a beach we liked along the way, we would just stop! Same spirit as the rest of the trip - do whatever feels right at the time.
The first beach was perfect. We just parked right off the road and walked 100 yards to a beautiful spot. Took a little swim, and sat our sandy butts back in the rental car. We passed BBQ's and kiosks, and miles and miles of ocean while jamming out to Slightly Stoopid (don't judge us) and drinking Medallas.
The second beach we stopped at charged us $5 to enter but it was clear early on why. This particular beach had a small hike along what looked like volcanic rock to spots where tourists could come and cliff dive. We did not have the proper attire (water shoes for the many sea urchin we kept hearing about) so we just hiked to the top and ate the banana pancakes we had saved from breakfast earlier.
The waves here were huge. It was unlike any of the beaches we had been to so far, and Chris being the rock climber he is, was in pure heaven. We were told there was a topless beach a ways back from where we had driven, but after a 30 minute hike, we hadn't found anyone topless, so we settled for watching the surfers and I watched Chris play in the waves like a little boy (this wouldn't be the last time).
We hiked back and continued our drive to the rain forest retreat. As with the rest of the trip, it only rained at only the most opportune times, and as we got into the winding side roads leading to the retreat, a warm, foggy rain began to fall. We slowly worked our way up the mountains, taking in the scenery at every turn.
When we arrived the rain stopped (like I said, only in our favor) and we checked in and napped on the hammocks while listening to the soft murmur of the small wildlife.
The retreat had about 10 cabins, each split in two rooms with their own deck, nestled into the hillside. Each "room" had a front porch with two chairs and a hammock, a bed, two side tables, and a bathroom. No tv, no desk, just the necessities. I would highly recommend Casa Grande Mountain Retreat if you're ever just casually in the area...
There were pineapple plants (news to me that pineapples grew that way - hey there city slicker), banana trees, coconut trees, and exotic plants with hand painted signs of their origins (one of my favorite parts).
After napping and relaxing, we sat on the patio for a small dinner and split a bottle of wine. Highlight of this portion of the trip was watching an elderly man show Chris how to use his iPad to take a picture for him...
Another highlight was a text I got while we were munching on garlic bread:
Enter the puppies.
I knew right after seeing this text that she was my puppy. I had been looking to adopt for a year and while I had one close encounter, none of them felt right. But this girl immediately felt like mine. Chris and I said we would just go meet them and see what I thought, but we both knew I would be bringing her home.
We met a fun couple who were on their 36th winter in Puerto Rico, and chatted for about an hour before they brought out rounds of Grand Marnier. Not really our usual choice, but it was appreciated all the same.
We then drifted off to sleep in the forest.
Day Four: Puppy Love.
The next morning we woke up early and walked down to the small yoga cabin to get in an early flow. There were only 6 of us in the class and it was intimate, extremely basic, and so relaxing. I find it interesting to see how different areas administer their yoga practices. From my limited experience it seems like we definitely take it much more competitively. I would love to have the opportunity to gather more data on this - any excuse to travel right?
We had an amazingly simple, yet refreshing breakfast out on the patio despite the stare down from no less than 5 different lizards and then hit the pool to close out the morning.
The road trip back consisted of a lot of Medallas and Zac Brown. We were on our way to meet the pups.
We arrived at Logan and Karin's house on the beach in Luquillo and went to the back yard to meet the teeny little black puppies tumbling around the patio. The girl immediately ran up to me and stayed by my side. I knew she was mine. What I did not know was that Chris was holding the boy and making quite the attachment. I looked over just in time for him to say "I was going to put him down, but then he did this with his paws..." at which point I knew I didn't have to worry about splitting them up.
We took the puppies to the beach and drank wine and watched them play. After some time digging a hole to no where, they crashed hard.
Day 5: Culebra, Flamenco Beach, and Sea Turtles
This was one of those days where it was invaluable to have friends that lived on the island. Weeks before, Logan and Karin had booked a small island hopper to take us to the island of Culebra. Not only were we to visit the picturesque Flamenco Beach, but he also promised snorkeling and tacos. Winning combo.
We woke up early to get to the "airport" and jumped into the tiny little plane (and that's coming from me...) The pilot seemed like the type that would have no issue letting the plane careen into the ocean, and as we were taking off, Karin and I felt something dripping onto our shoulders and realized the roof was leaking. Yet aside from what seem to be glaringly red flags, it was a really cool 20 minute flight.
We landed, got in the Jeep, and headed to Flamenco. At this point, there was a running joke about my manifestation skills with the Frisbee. Logan told me I better start manifesting a turtle as Karin hadn't seen one on any of her snorkeling trips.
Logan and Karin set up their hammocks while Chris and I strolled the beach. I got a good little meditation in while Chris explored a little more. I awoke to "Look what you manifested, Yuri..." and to my side was a little plastic turtle. Wasn't exactly what I was trying to create, but I guess I wasn't specific enough. Lesson learned.
After more beers, a little wine, some wave crashing on Chris's end, and snorkeling around a small piece of coral close to where we were staked out, we decided it was time to take it up a notch and go snorkeling on another part of the island.
The water was MUCH clearer here - enough so that you could see the hoards of sea urchins looming beneath you. But I had enough alcohol in my system to relax me, yet not enough to impair my snorkeling skills. (I say skills facetiously - this was my first day snorkeling. What a sheltered human.)
To be honest, I was so in the moment, I had forgotten we were promised sea turtles. I had thought about it all week, but by the time we were out in the water I wasn't really even looking for them. Chris tapped me on the arm and pointed and we swam to catch up with Logan and what do you know - right below us was a beautiful sea turtle just grazing the ocean floor. And then there was another. And another. And another. They were swimming on the floor, they were swimming up to the surface, a time or two we even surfaced at the same time and saw their little beaks poking out above the water.
I kid you not, I am surprised I could swim with one hand because the other one kept coming to my chest over my heart as I tried to contain myself. I wish we could have gotten pictures, but once again, it's kind of nice to just have a moment with the people you are with.
After the sea turtle experience, we tried to go to one more beach but it rained. This was the only time it rained inconveniently and we had just been handed sea turtles on a silver platter so I was in no position to complain.
We then decided to put something in our bellies at a restaurant on the water (my memory starts to get a little hazy here...) and saw these ginormous catfish and I proceeded to get properly shit faced. I don't even remember the plane ride back. But I do remember how amazing the coconut shrimp was. And I also remember watching an older woman try with all her drunken might to karaoke. It was uncomfortably similar to when I try to rap drunkly. I had a window into my future and it was bleak. She was having a damn good time with her friends though. So if that's my plight, I shall accept.
We came back so we could go pick up the puppies from some friends who helped out with getting them checked and cleared at the vet. We brought those cutie pies home, now fully aware that they both would be coming back to The States with us, and proceeded to party at the house all night. We talked, and made playlists, and watched the puppies rumble with each other over and over and over again.
But what to name them? Earlier in the day Chris had said "If i WERE to bring the boy, I think I would name him RIco," thereby sealing his fate of puppy ownership. But what about the girl? Sandy? (because she was found on the beach.) What about Jamie? (Because Jameson.) Or how about Gladys? Named after the amazing restaurateur/herbal remedy witchdoctoress/idol we had met earlier in the week? While Gladys might be a handful to explain over and over again when people ask me why I would name my dog Gladys, she really couldn't be anyone else. So Gladys she became. Glady for short.
There was really no bed time this night. Suffice it to say i got to see the sunrise.
Day 6: The day we were supposed to go home
Our flights were at 4:45.
No excuse to miss a 4:45 PM flight. But we somehow did. Another rental car and small road trip later, Chris and I were back at the beach house, two puppies in tow, grateful for a place to stay until our standby fights in the morning.
The puppies did great. We were able to put them in the same carrier and they just cuddled and slept the entire way - both flights. There was really no question in our minds that we were supposed to bring these puppies home.
So that's the trip. I know it's a long post, and it seems like we were go go go all the time, but we really weren't. We woke up every day and did whatever we felt like doing. I washed dishes while looking out over the ocean. We cooked. We slept until we felt like it even though that was usually around sunrise.
We are going back. Stay tuned for the details, but when I said this was a life changing trip I meant it. We are simplifying our belongings and following a dream. It's scary, but it's right.
Thanks for following along...