Once again, less is more

Despite how it may sound based on some of my recent posts, we are pretty easy to please.   The kids and I have traveled to Spain, Ireland, England, Arkansas, the Bahamas,  (Do you like how I threw Arkansas in the middle?  And it still doesn’t sound exotic) Indiana and various other places in the States, and we have always enjoyed ourselves.   So it has come as a surprise that we have all struggled to find a pleasant groove here in Costa Rica.

The trip was full of expectations that didn’t pan out, and unexpected pressure to do things we didn’t really want to do.   I was not prepared for either, and so it took us a good four days to settle in.  Not good when you are only staying for seven.   But I have learned that there is a reason I do all the planning for the trips we take;  it’s because I know what we like, and how to set things up so that there is the best chance we will all enjoy ourselves.  (As Jerry Seinfeld said, “There is no such thing as fun for the entire family”, but we try to get as close as possible.)

So for this trip, I had to accept that it was not going to be the cool cultural experience I’d hoped for.  I was not going to have a local coffee place, fruit stand or bakery by weeks’ end.   I was not going to greet the local street singers each morning and stop into the bodega for a newspaper.    This was surprisingly difficult, and only yesterday did I stop resisting the fact that but for the largely Spanish speaking population, we could be anywhere.    We are staying in a Residence Inn that is decorated with exactly the same furniture, down to the color of the couch, as the Residence Inn we stayed at in Louisiana.   Across the street are French Connection and Columbia Sportswear stores, and the nearest places to eat are McDonalds and Subway.

But once you stop fighting your idea of what a trip should be, you can enjoy it as it is.  And today was the best day of all.  We did nothing in the morning but walk around and take some photos, ate lunch at Subway and then spent the afternoon at the hotel pool.  It was SUNNY all day and I have a weird patchy sunburn on my arms due to the uneven spread of spray-on sunscreen applied while standing in the wind.    The kids had an excellent time playing in the pool using two tennis balls, some rocks and an empty water bottle for toys, and it reminded me that less is usually more when it comes to fun.    They made up all kinds of games and were totally absorbed for almost 4 hours, until the late afternoon clouds drove us back inside.

A few years ago I met a woman who unschooled both her kids, a boy and a girl who at the time were 13 and 14 years old.   Today I was reminded of a story she told us ‘newbie’ homeschoolers at the time;  she said that one day she was talking to her son, reminding him of all the cool field trips they’d gone on when he and his sister were younger – all the special ‘educational’ tours and such – to which he responded, “Yeah, you know we don’t really remember any of that stuff.”

Yep.  That’s about right.

So this trip has taught me several things.   First, definitions of things like “downtown”, “walking distance” and “on time” are all relative, and you should never assume that your definition matches someone else’s.  Especially if that someone else is planning a trip for you.  Second, if things don’t turn out as planned, just go with it.  Don’t resist.   It won’t change anything.   And finally, all the educational activities and tours with cultural value in the world are no match for two tennis balls, an empty water bottle, some rocks and a pool.

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