My Experiment: Part 2 – The Return

Photo above: my new home office

You can read Part 1 here: My Experiment: Part 1 – Introduction

My month-long experiment in Costa Rica yielded promising results. To recap, the goal of the trip was to deprogram my mind, to determine if being in a different environment would facilitate breaking the patterns in my mind that keep me unhappy. The small town of Montezuma was everything I hoped for and more. While researching my trip, every time I encountered references to Montezuma, I felt it calling to me. Prior to arrival, I had a loose idea of traveling throughout the Nicoya peninsula, looking for the right environment to conduct my experiment. But Montezuma had everything I wanted, so I wound up staying there for three weeks. After returning to San Francisco, I rid myself of most of my possessions and spent a month with my family in Milwaukee. Now I’ve returned to Montezuma, intending to stay for at least six months and continue the experiment.

People say Costa Rica has a slower pace of life, and I can feel that here. As soon as I arrived, I felt different. All my self-destructive urges started to disappear. In SF, I used food as a coping mechanism, often over-eating because my brain wanted to indulge its whims in seeking pleasure after spending so much time trapped in work, forced to do things I didn’t want to do. Especially sugar, I was constantly battling an addiction to sugar, because of the rush of pleasure it unleashes in the brain. (The only reason I wasn’t overweight is because my other go-to stress relief was exercise, especially 10-15 mile trail runs on weekends.)

Almost immediately upon arrival in Montezuma, I started eating less food in general, and almost no sugar. I just stopped craving it like I did before. As a result, my body started feeling much healthier. A reoccurring pain in my left side disappeared. I started sleeping better (which was also helped by the soothing lull of the ocean). My body started craving a really simple diet, lots of amazingly delicious fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, rice and beans. Some cheese and eggs for protein, with occasional meat dishes. My body started to feel like it was living harmoniously, instead of constantly presenting aches and pains that caused an incessant fear of dying of cancer or heart disease. It’s much easier to be present and still when your body isn’t in a state of discomfort.

The social environment in Montezuma is much less stressful than the US. This is one of the few places where I feel like I can just be myself and no one will judge me. In SF, I felt this constant pressure to conform, to fit it, buy into the great big shared illusion that everyone believes in. I constantly hid my real self, because I often felt judged when I expressed my true self, with all its glorious weirdness. Montezuma feels liberating, like there is no status quo to which everyone must conform. Or maybe that’s just my perspective, coming into this totally different environment. In any case, when I am out in social situations here, I feel like I can express myself here, without worrying about being judged. It feels like a judgement free zone, with no rules and no expectations.

In SF, I spent a lot of time alone, because being out in the world felt harsh and abrasive. Here in Montezuma, I feel like I can just wander into town and start talking to people, and it’s all ok. Again, maybe it’s just from being in an environment that is so different from what I’m used to. But the effect on me is a feeling of liberation, I can finally be myself.

As soon as I returned to San Francisco after my trip, I felt the pressure again, it felt suffocating. I could feel it as the plane was descending to the airport. I arrived at night, and seeing the vast expanse of lights that make up the Bay Area was a visual metaphor for the overwhelming web of oppressive human attention. I even felt some of that while visiting my family in Milwaukee. It’s not as intense there, but it’s still there, this pressure to conform, to fit into to this whole society thing. The whole time I was back in the US, in that pressure, I really struggled writing this post, because the pressure makes it hard to think clearly. Only after returning to Montezuma and unwinding for a bit do I feel able to put these thoughts into words.

Stay tuned for more insights from the experiment!

Read Part 3 here: My Experiment: Part 3 – Always Wanting More

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