A Memorable Place

Turning point on a tropical beach

By Jean Meile


During the last two years, I had become unsatisfied with work and the direction of my life.

Each day it became harder to walk down the corridors leading to the office where I worked in the development office at a prestigious university. Life had become a series of tasks and was no longer an adventure.

So about a year ago, at the age of 34 and single, I decided to change things. I cut expenses, saved money, paid off bills and began researching alternatives.

By January, I had quit my job, planned a month of Spanish-language school in Costa Rica and then three months in Chile as a volunteer English teacher.

This was exactly the kind of opportunity and excitement I wanted.

When I arrived in Costa Rica on Jan. 7, however, I felt overwhelmed by the uncertainty about what would happen after my scheduled travels. The weather in San Jose -- rainy and overcast -- matched my spirits.

On Day 2 in Costa Rica, I traveled to Puntarenas, a beach town on the Pacific coast, in search of sunshine and rest. By Day 3, my confidence started to return.

When I took the photograph shown, I knew at that moment that everything would be all right. I could feel the sunshine reaching through the leaves of the coconut and palm trees, soothing my worries and giving me renewed hope.

The language school gave me a chance to improve my Spanish and to meet new people. During my free time, I hung out with college students. Their energy and openness was inspiring. They said they admired me for choosing a new path, but it was I who admired them.

Costa Rica prepared me for Chile in unexpected ways. For instance, my host family usually left their unscreened doors and windows wide open. It wasn't unusual to see a salamander, insects or even a bird passing through the living room. This experience served me well in Chile, where bugs easily found their way into my room.

After Costa Rica, I returned home for two weeks, then left for Los Andes, Chile, where I taught English classes to children and adults.

What impressed me in Chile was the emphasis people placed on relationships. Most of the students, young and old, had never met a foreigner before, and they poured out their affection with smiles and hugs. Sharing this with them was the highlight of my trip -- and the hardest thing to leave behind.

Now that I have returned to the Baltimore area, my plans are to pursue ESL (English as a second language) certification and study translation. Through this, I hope to share what I have learned and continue building on the feelings from that sunny January day in Puntarenas.

Jean Meile lives in Westminster.

My Best Shot

Adam Kelley, Baltimore

Shifting shades of the Sahara

On the western edge of the Sahara in Morocco, nestled among miles and miles of rolling sand dunes, is a hamlet called Merzouga. Spend a day there, and you can't miss the chameleon-like quality of the dunes: At daybreak, the sand looks pale pink, and then changes color constantly throughout the day, from pink to tan to maroon to a deep orange-yellow at sunset. The only way to traverse the Sahara's miles and miles of sand is by camel. I can say from experience that once the novelty wears off (which takes about five minutes), there is nothing at all magical about that mode of transport.

Readers Recommend

Lochsa River, Idaho

Bill Hoyle, Cumberland

My fishing companion, Mark Moes-singer (pictured), and I traveled to the western Rockies to fly-fish for trout last year. Each year, for the past 18 years or so, we fish different waters. This year we made our way to the Lochsa River in Idaho. As it turns out, we were smack in the middle of the land that Lewis and Clark traversed with the Corps of Discovery on their search for a passage to the Pacific. Traveling through this area, which has changed little since that time in 1805, and experiencing great fishing made this trip one of our most memorable.

Las Vegas

Gordon Strauss, Fallston

On a recent visit to Las Vegas, my wife, Mary, and I took several day trips. If you are a lover of the outdoors, there are many enjoyable places to visit in the area. The Valley of Fire State Park (shown) is one of my favorite places, as is the Lake Mead area and Hoover Dam. Even the Grand Canyon is within reach from Las Vegas.

We Want To Hear From You

We want to know about your travels, your experiences, your pictures. Here's how to participate in this page:

My Best Shot -- Send us a terrific travel photo with a description of when and where you took it. (Cash value: $50.)

A Memorable Place -- In 500 words or less, tell us about a travel experience that changed you; about the nostalgia a certain place evokes; about a favorite beach, the mountains, a city cafe. Include a photo. (Cash value: $150.)

Readers Recommend -- Briefly tell us about places you've recently visited that you'd recommend to other readers. (50 words or less; photos are welcome.)

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