Reflections from an RLAG Ambassador Guide

I’ve been a fan and follower of Run Like a Girl from its very beginning days, and went as a client on the Costa Rica retreat in November 2016!  I was beyond thrilled and grateful when the timing of events in my life lined up with the opportunity to come back to Costa Rica a year later and help co-guide the first half of the retreats with Hailey, Eduardo, Kate, and the rest of the local staff members.  I have been passionate about wellness, adventure, and the RLAG community for so long, and was so excited to help other RLAG community members have the type of life changing experience that I did… and to put my Spanish knowledge to the test!  Experiencing Costa Rica the first time was one of the top highlights in my life, but to call being a part of the retreats on the staff side this time around life-changing is an understatement. Here’s some other reflections and memories from this experience!

I’ve always loved traveling and seeing new places and putting myself in situations outside of my comfort zone.  For a long time, I’ve wanted to experience living in another country for an extended period of time, and I got to spend a total of 3 months in Costa Rica!  I took over 4 years of Spanish in high school and college and have never gotten to really use it.  Hailey and I joked that together, we could speak Spanish fluently!  I had the vocabulary and grammar knowledge, and she had the practical application and speaking skills!  Speaking the language that I know in my head was so much harder than I anticipated.  By the end of my three months, I could at least listen to native Spanish speakers and understand them a lot better, but stringing together the sentences is still a skill I hope I can keep improving.  One major goal I had going into the retreat season was to develop close relationships with the native Spanish-only speaking staff at Chakra.  I absolutely fell in love with the local family we employ to cook, clean, construct, and maintain the facilities at Chakra — Luis, Martina, and Roxanna.  I wish I could stay and live with them forever!  I loved popping my head into the kitchen and practicing my conversations with them.  They were genuinely interested in learning about me and I was able to show them all the pictures on my phone of my family and where I live (Colorado).  Martina and Roxanna and I taught each other the names of vegetables in English and Spanish (“squash” was a favorite word they learned from me!)  Plus, they give the warmest and comfiest hugs.  Luis and I bonded every single day over our love for our kitties.  My heart still aches in missing this family every single day, and I can’t wait to come back and hug them again!  They are incredibly hard workers, and I’m so happy to see firsthand how working at Chakra has also transformed their livelihoods.

The unique thing about these retreats – and the Run Like a Girl community in general – is the life-long bonds that are formed when strangers with common passions from all over the world meet.  I am a pretty introverted person so I keep my tight circle of friends pretty small, and the majority of who I count as closest friends are friends I’ve met in Costa Rica and Squamish for the Be Fearless trail races.  The Chakra retreats are so nurturing and intimate, it’s almost impossible not to walk away with life-long friends at the end of the week.  I hope that each and every person on our retreats this past season was able to say the same!  One value that this company fosters and practices wholeheartedly is the empowerment of strong women and men — unconditional love and support for every person that comes for the Chakra experience.  We share our lives, passions, and struggles with each other; we cry tears of celebration and accomplishment and tears of release and letting go.  There is absolutely zero judgment from the staff and participants of the Chakra retreats — it just seems to draw people together that are authentic, inspiring, and strong.  I will cherish all the hugs, heart-to-heart talks, celebratory cheers, and countless memories for the rest of my life.

Every single day, I would wake up in awe of my surroundings.  It NEVER got old to wake with the sun rising and exotic birds chirping, and to the view of the jungle right in front of me with no barriers between me and the wild cloudforest.  I got hooked on Costa Rican coffee on my first visit, and I never considered myself a coffee snob until these retreats.  Now I can actually taste the difference between coffees from around the world, but I make a point to only drink Costa Rican coffee now!  We ate pure and local food on a daily basis, and my body felt so nourished; I wish I lived in a climate that had a long growing season so I could garden and eat the amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables that I got to in Costa Rica.  I will also forever be grateful for Costa Rica teaching me to appreciate (and dare I say love?) running hills, because I noticed in a short amount of time that my legs were getting strong, and fast!  I dearly miss my constant squad of workout buddies and cheerleaders!

After the first wave of retreats in November and December, I got to dog sit while Maria, Hailey, and Eduardo respectively traveled and I extended my stay before heading back to the States to resume reality of my 9-5 office job.  If you’ve even been remotely following the Run Like a Girl or Chakra accounts, you’ve probably seen Paxi the Ecuadorian rescue puppy show up on a number of pictures.  I’m primarily a cat person, but I LOVE that little dog!  Paxi really is a rare and special little dog, and not only the love of Hailey and Eduardo’s life, but an adorable addition to the retreats.  She loves every human she meets, joins in on morning yoga (she would downward dog like a pro!), and instantly befriends every person on the retreats (except Luis’ little orange kitten Minnie!).  I was so lucky to be her foster mom for several weeks while Hailey and Eduardo were scouting and planning the upcoming Patagonia retreats!

As much as I said I loved traveling before this season in my life, by the time 3 months rolled around, I was definitely homesick and ready for the comforts of my life in Colorado.   Home had a record dry winter this year and the mountains are severely lacking snow, so I had a lot of FOMO seeing my friends traipsing around the mountains back home that were still bare and climbable that late into winter.  I still absolutely love traveling and can’t wait for the next plane ticket purchase I make, but it really made me appreciate how blessed I am to come from the life that I have, and also made me respect on a whole new level the lifestyle of those on the RLAG team that have dedicated their lives to putting together these retreats and running the company behind the scenes.  It’s a shared dream, and I’m thankful to be a part of it and share those dreams and goals with you all and I can’t wait to join you for the next RLAG adventure!  To those of you that I was blessed to meet this past year, thank you so much for your open hearts and minds and sharing your first Costa Rica!

 

If I had to narrow down the list to the top 5 experiences from guiding this year, it would be:

1)  Experiencing a minor earthquake from Chakra!  (This happened the week before the first retreat!)  I am fascinated by planet earth and I didn’t grow up anywhere near where tectonic activity happens.  If you were on the first November retreat, you probably remember my quirky child-like excitement that whole rest of the week!

2)  Being a part of the cheering squad every time we welcomed clients back from a long day on Ena.  There’s something about the energy of the celebration at the amazing accomplishment of running back up the steps to the lodge as the sun is setting after trudging through mud and many miles up and down the 25th highest point in the country.  I’m so lucky to have shared in that stoke and see people be so proud of themselves for accomplishing often times the hardest thing they’ve ever done.

3)  The first time I got to summit Ena was this year was with a tiny group of only three clients (Deanna, Marty and Jessy) and Eduardo.  Conditions were not ideal and it rained the entire day, and I hiked the whole thing with my umbrella (and I stayed totally dry!), which gave Eduardo fuel to make fun of me the rest of the time I was in Costa Rica! We told riddles the entire way down to pass the time… it was an all around memorable day!

4)  Renting a car and joining the local maniacs on the roads of Costa Rica during our off week when Kate and I did a week of exploring.  I managed just fine zipping around in our little rental Swift stick shift!

5)  Climbing Chirripo from the San Jeronimo side, with local guide and good family friend Marco, Kate, and her husband that flew down from Alaska to join us for a week.  It was SO cold when we tried to summit as the rainy season weather was still lingering around.  We hiked up and stayed in bunk beds in the shelter and summitted the next morning.  We had no summit views and were constantly damp, and I was so jealous when Hailey and Sawna summitted later in March with clear blue skies!

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