Derick Fiedler embracing nature and a waterfall.

Backpacking Costa Rica: Do Things Happen For A Reason?

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My first backpacking trip international was to Costa Rica. It was supposed to be just a ten-day trip but I couldn’t get enough. I had three days left until my flight and I was trying to build up the courage to cancel my flight home. It was a rainy day on the jungle coast of Manuel Antonio. There wasn’t much to do but have a lazy day at the hostel where later that morning I would meet Margaux and my life would change forever.

As I was laying in my hammock writing in my journal feeling overwhelmed and unsure if I should continue my backpacking trip solo or not, a blonde girl walked passed me and made eye contact. Something in me shifted. She sat her things down on the table across the room and began the write down in a journal herself. I felt the need to go talk to her.

Her name was Margaux (pronounced Margo). She was a 29-year-old girl from France who quit her job as a marketing specialist for a makeup company and has been traveling for 17 months straight with no end in sight. So many people followed her on Facebook because of her inspiring travels that she became a public figure. When this began she started a separate travel blog called “GO Find Yourself” on Facebook and Instagram.  I immediately felt this gravitation towards her. We made small talk about how she likes to paint, draw and write. Her pack was so full of notes she had to mail them home. I asked her if she would ever write a book, It took her back because I wasn’t the first to ask her and she had already been posting work on her facebook page. The conversation took off, we barely spoke the same language but we could understand each other on a level that doesn’t have explanation. I told her how when I’m home I have trouble just functioning with every day life but when I’m on the road I seem to think and act more clearly. I said I had three days to wait for an opportunity to present itself or I was going to head back to the states. I left her at the hostel to get something to eat and I felt this lightness in my steps.

When I returned from dinner she was right where I had left her still working on whatever she was writing down. Her idea was she wanted to hitchhike from Costa Rica to Brazil in four weeks on no more than $500 and she wanted me to join her. I had mixed feelings of anxiety and excitement. Here I was searching for opportunities, I find an amazing one and it seems too intimidating. She hands me a coin and said “flip this coin, heads you come with me and tails you wont but I guarantee you wont need it to hit the floor before the answer comes from your self conscious.” I squeezed it in my hand and felt the answer already pulsating through my arm. I tossed the coin to her and said I didn’t need to flip it. I told her I couldn’t do it, that her trip was beyond my experience and my anxiety threshold just yet.

With guilt in my throat I told her that my entire life I’ve had an anxiety disorder where I constantly worry and it triggers panic attacks. That growing up I struggled going out to eat, being in class, or traveling in the car for extended periods of time. In college, the track team would travel 2-3 hours for meets and I would have to have a bag full of things in my lap (mints, Advil, Pepto-Bismol, water bottle etc.)  just in case I had anxiety attack. My goal of traveling to Costa Rica was exposure therapy, to push the boundary of my anxiety. To Margaux backpacking multiple countries was her challenge…. mine was a bit different. My challenge was to trust people in a foreign country, trust that foreign food wouldn’t make me sick just because it was foreign, and get over the fear of being physically far from home. So I continued to tell her, someday I will be able to backpack multiple countries for an extended period of time but at this moment I am not there yet. By the time I finished telling this to Margaux the guilt left my voice and turned into acceptance. I expected her to react like most people I generally tell these things to and its often confusion. Mental health disorders are a very difficult thing to understand if you have not gone through it yourself. Surprisingly she not only understood but was fascinated by how setting challenges for myself with anxiety was relative to what she was doing herself. I had taught her about a perspective she wasn’t aware of.

Eventually we parted ways, I made my way back to San Jose with a friend to drop him off at the airport and decide if I was staying longer or not. At the hostel in San Jose I decided, I want to prove to myself that I can get on a bus, make it to a destination, spend a few nights and make it back all completely alone without the comfort of my friend who was leaving to go back to the states.   If I did this I would have gone above and beyond everything I wanted to prove to myself. I’ll never forget when I dropped my friend off at the airport and it finally sank in that I was completely alone, it gave me anxiety and excitement simultaneously. Driving through congested dark city streets to the hostel from the airport gave me a shot of adrenaline. All of a sudden here I was completely alone driving through city traffic in a foreign country watching out for mopeds with entire families strapped to them weave in front of me and look out for cars that view stop lights as a suggestion more than a law. That drive alone was one of the more terrifying yet thrilling things I had ever done. I swear I was out of breath by the time I reached the hostel again.

I decided to travel to Santa Teresa the next day. It would be a seven-hour bus ride including an hour ferry ride. We had briefly passed through Santa Teresa earlier in my trip and I really wanted to go back and explore. Santa Teresa was a small town made up of one dirt road, lined with small surf shops and cafes. The main form of transportation in Santa Teresa was four wheeler and motorcycle. This was by far the most authentic and simple town I had crossed through on my trip. I had an incredible week. I immediately made friends at my hostel from all over the world. By the end of the week I was content with what I had accomplished and was ready to make my way home. As if that wasn’t enough, I received a message from Margaux saying she wanted to interview me about my traveling with anxiety for her blog because she thought it could help people. I said I was in Santa Teresa and heading back to San Jose to go home soon. Coincidently she was on her way to Santa Teresa herself and would be there the next morning before my bus left in the afternoon….what were the chances.

The next morning we did the interview on the beach and then I took my bus back to San Jose to fly home. Later that night I saw Margaux had posted her story about me including the video of our interview on the beach. I was hesitant to share it on my own Facebook page worrying what certain people might think of it till I realized how hypocritical that would be of me. Mental health was nothing to be ashamed of and shouldn’t be talked about any differently than any other disease. It was difficult and took a few days to build up the courage but once I saw my video had over 4,000 views and my message box was being filled with strangers who I had never met that watched my video I realized how important this was to share it on my personal page. Doing that video was one of the most gratifying things I have ever done. By just being myself and pushing my own boundaries I had indirectly helped inspire other people who struggle with mental health. I have attached links to both my interview and Margaux’s Facebook Blog at the bottom of this page.

The strange thing was before I even met Margaux I had a dream of sorts to write about my travels and struggles with mental health to inspire other people who have similar struggles. Then all of a sudden because I listened to my conscious despite the many fears which included losing my job back home and my loved ones disapproval of canceling my flight home with no set date to return, my dream of helping people and getting my story out there was answered through Margaux’s blog without even searching for it. At the time I truly did believe that everything happens for a reason in life but the even stranger thing is how I was reassured that that statement is absolutely true. Not only true but that the statement could be added to.

Shortly after returning home I was at a friends house having a whiskey and catching up. Not only a friend but someone I look up to very much and find just as important and influential in my life as Margaux. We got on the subject of books and he recommended I read How to win friends and influence peopleby Dale Carnegie. He told me that it was the most important book he has ever read. So I went to the local bookstore to buy a copy. I found the book on a display table, and literally right next to How to win friends and influence peoplewas a book that I remembered Margaux telling me about multiple times called The Power of Nowby Ekhart Tollee. Let me repeat myself, these books were not only on the same display table, they were right next to each other.  I had no intention of going to the bookstore to buy The Power of Now but since I saw it I figured I would buy it as well. I texted Margaux that I bought the book and she replied did you find it or did it find you? I laughed and said I think it found me.

How to win friends and influence peopleis an amazing book that I recommend everyone should read but The Power of Now is the single most important book I ever read in my life. If you read one book the rest of your life, let it be this one. (I plan on writing an essay for my blog in the future specifically on my recommendation of this book).  One of the many lessons I learned from The Power of Now is that if you stay conscious enough, the Universe, or God or whatever you believe in will create an undeniable path for your highest purpose on this earth. So was this experience all just one large coincidence? listen to your heart, quiet your thinking mind and decide for yourself

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