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marie-France Odyssey

Marie-France is passionate about natural health products to maintain optimum health and vitality. A professionally trained Naturopath, she is also a sales representative at Land Art since 2015.

It can certainly be said that the year 2018 was a hectic one. It was both the worst year of my life, and the best. Still very excited to have moved into our new home with my boyfriend, I learned that my dad had suddenly died. I no longer had a relationship with him; it was precisely for this reason that is was difficult to process. Previously, I still felt that I had the opportunity to create a link with this man, a small glimmer of hope that maybe one day, we might talk again, maybe cry about the time passed and finally have that father/daughter relationship that I dreamed of. But all of that changed at the beginning of March. I took the three regulatory days offered by my employer to organize the funeral, and then life went on as if nothing had happened. I played it as being a strong girl and ended up in a deep depression, and I never saw it coming. I spent the summer with my curtains closed, wearing pajamas most days and binge-watching Netflix for hours on end. I "worked " on myself with a shrink that seemed rather unsympathetic to me. I took the prescribed medications, and unfortunately, I also dealt with all the side-effects listed on the info sheet provided by the pharmacist.

It was in a sort of attempt to thumb my nose at this mediocre beginning of the year that I decided to accept the Facebook offer to escape to Costa Rica for 10 days. Although I knew the organizer, I left alone with my new suitcase on wheels and sixteen strangers of all ages from all over Quebec. A yoga trip, with only three previous courses to my credit; this was promising! So I left on a chilly November day, very early, towards what would be the most beautiful trip of my life.

Day 2

I will voluntarily pass on describing day one, as it was mainly a day of traveling by taxi, plane, and then a car on a bumpy gravel road towards our destination. It was already past 11PM when we finally arrived at the cottage that would be our home for the first three nights. Darkness is total, I'm exhausted. I collapse on my bed hoping that I won’t snore too much; this is not the first impression I want to give my roommate for the first few days. That morning I am awakened by a howler monkey; trust me, they are well named! Our room looks out over the inner courtyard of our lodgings. It is difficult to find the words to describe the view that I see as I open the door: the vegetation is dense, mature trees offer shade, keeping us cool, the flowers are spectacular, all vying to be the most beautiful. Everything is green, yellow, red, violet… I have never seen anything like it. The air is good and warm. At the end of the gravel driveway, there is a refreshing pool surrounded by luxurious flowering bushes of all colors. On my left, a bamboo wood platform has been set up as a yoga studio. All around, there are hammocks set up, inviting us to relax. On my right, an open dining room with beautiful chairs decorated with colorful cushions. The menu offers a delightful selection, but it is the fruit that gets my attention: papayas, mangos, watermelon and pineapple. Everything is perfect! And what more can be said about Costa Rican coffee: flavourful! Obviously, the day started with a yoga class. This first session was, to say the least, peculiar. I’m not sure if it was the words of the yogi or the sudden release of stress, but I just started crying. I cried, and I cried some more. Silently, without sobbing, just tears rolling uncontrollably down my cheeks. I don’t care if anyone can see me or judges me. I’m crying and it’s helping me tremendously.

Day 3

Vamos a la playa!

Day 4

The streets of Santa Teresa are gravel roads. Tourists travel on foot or with an ATV. Omnipresent, a cloud of dust rises every time a vehicle passes by. The facade of each building is dirty, so much so that children are having fun drawing stick figures on the windows. Every restaurant, every hotel or store has a luxurious inner courtyard, floral and inviting. There’s a definite boho-hippie-chic energy to the place. Every place deserves to be featured on Pinterest. I strive to memorize these images to possibly infuse a bit of this style in my own home, when I return. The restaurants are wonderful. They offer exotic fruits and vegetables which are perfectly ripened on the tree, and also fresh fish that was caught the same day. The food is simple, affordable and delicious, everywhere. Even the small sandwich that I bought at the airport on the way out was magical! The yoga is helping. In this warm and humid climate, I am able to achieve an amplitude of movement that even impresses myself. The air is good, I go to bed early and I’m up early enough to see the sunrise on the beach. The locals are beautiful, tanned, muscular. Surfing there is not a sport but a way of life. Pura vida! This is what we hear everywhere that we go. It is their “good day”, “thank you” and “come again” expression. I love Costa Rica!

Day 5

Transition day. We leave beautiful Santa Teresa towards the south, to Osa. Our lodgings are made up of old recycled transport containers renovated into deluxe rooms. Each container is linked to the other by wooden walkways and all around this, nature is abundant! Again, there are the flowers, the trees, the vines, greens, pinks and purples. It is grandiose! The originality of this place certainly deserves a 10/10 grade! The owners, Americans, left behind their past life to settle here and teach yoga. Another perfect example of la pura vida. On the way, we visited a National Park that was extraordinary. I have never seen such grandiose scenery. Seeing all this splendor once again brought me to tears with unsuspected emotions. No sadness, just beauty. Friendship bonds were made between many of the travelers and me. Me who had cravings for solitude and reflection, I found myself surrounded by people – women for the most part – each with an exciting story to tell. During the day, each of us goes about our business, as everyone understands the other’s need to find themselves alone to meditate and reflect. Then, in the evening, we dine together, discuss, and talk about our day. The spirit of community that is created during our stay makes me realize that I am a very social being. I love people for what they have to tell, but also for what I can bring to them. I realize that my summer spent indoors did me some good, but it was high time I came out of my stupor. Over there, I am spoken to with interest about my profession and my studies in Naturopathy. I am consulted and asked for advice, which rekindles a little flame that I thought was extinguished. I am a naturopath. I had almost forgotten that; I had nearly forgotten myself.

Days 6 to 10

The main part of the trip is pretty much over. I am considering my return with optimism. I am looking forward to seeing my family. However, the last three nights were a little bit special. Thirteen of us shared a dorm room without air conditioning, in bunk beds and shared a bathroom. This experience allowed me to comprehend that my tolerance levels are rather high. I am resilient and I adapt well. I can’t really say the same for many of my roommates… Let’s just say that each person’s true personality was revealed during these final days. Living in a group in such proximity comes with a boatload of challenges. My years in boarding school certainly helped to prepare me for this situation. The decor is still just as marvelous, however. Situated at the top of a mountain, with a breathtaking view of the ocean, this private cottage was the last to be built before the Costa Rican government declared these lands as a National Park. Completely independent for electricity and drinking water supply, this complex consists of a dozen small cottages connected by several winding stone paths, surrounded by trees and vines. I am totally convinced that the decor would have been the perfect background for a movie about hobbits and fairies! This is also where I had to be the most patient and gentle with myself. You see, when a yoga room has a mirror, it is extremely easy to fall into self-criticism and judgment, forgetting everything that has been improved since the beginning of the trip. I found myself less supple than my colleague on the left, less pretty than the one on the right, and suddenly the least skillful of the entire group. All of my efforts to concentrate were futile. Instead of concentrating on my breathing, I would just look at my bulges and see my hair stuck to my forehead because of the sweat and the humidity. Still happy that we had only one session in this room, it would have been enough to keep me from going back! Okay, I exaggerate a little, but this experience did make me aware that I was not very indulgent towards myself. Before noticing my reflection, I was proud of myself, I managed to follow a group of people rather advanced in their practice of yoga. I had gone from three or four lifetime yoga classes to two courses per day! And now, with only one hour face to face with my own reflection, I was demoralized, enough to question my presence at these courses for the rest of the trip. Fortunately, I quickly recovered. Love yourself, isn’t that what they say? I may be a beginner at yoga, and my technique may not be perfect, but why would I deny myself this pleasure? I got right back to it the following morning, and instead of comparing myself to others, I closed my eyes to concentrate on my breathing properly. The results were remarkable, as much with regards to my mood as with my whole being. Small constant pain in my back and my sciatic nerve went away during this trip. I felt fulfilled, happy and alive.

The hardest part of returning from such an enriching experience is to say goodbye to the people that I met along the way. Some live close by, whereas others are hundreds of kilometers away. Keeping the good habits learned during this trip is also a challenge; practicing yoga, for example, seems less accessible now that the regular routine has set in with work and the kids. Meals on the go also remind me how much better I felt when I was eating light meals that included a lot of fruit, vegetable and fish. That being said, I came back from an incredible experience with unforgettable memories. When I feel overwhelmed or I have some pain in my back or in my hips, I remember that it might be time to give a quick salute to the sun. Everything is better afterward. I close my eyes. Everything is beautiful. Pura vida! 

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