I went to Costa Rica alone

On the boat with my dive master. I was such a wimp I held this poor guy's hand the entire dive. We swam by a bunch of sharks, maybe 20 yards away? And saw GORGEOUS fish. 

On the boat with my dive master. I was such a wimp I held this poor guy's hand the entire dive. We swam by a bunch of sharks, maybe 20 yards away? And saw GORGEOUS fish. 

I signed a lease for an apartment in New York City without ever stepping foot in it. It was a fantastic studio on 100th and Broadway, with a "nook" for the bed. My Seattle friends lived next door and brokered the deal for me.

My friend said "take the apartment, they are harder to find in NYC than a job."

This was May, 2001.

I took the apartment while still in Seattle. A huge leap of faith into the unknown, even for me.

I shipped my stuff the cheapest way possible which meant it wouldn't arrive for nearly a month.

I had a decent amount of money saved up so I decided to fly to NYC, get as organized as possible, and then use miles to fly to Costa Rica for a couple of weeks.

By myself. With zero plans.

The move across country was so taxing that I literally opened my Lonely Planet book on the plane to figure out where I should stay that night.

For me, this was a lot of planning! When I traveled through Europe by myself a few years earlier, I didn't have a book (or phone or Internet). On an overnight train to Prague, a couple of travelers told me about an amazing hostel they'd just stayed at. When I got there, this super cool Australian woman opened the door and we had a blast (hey Lisa!!!).

I love that shit. I haven't done it enough in recent years. But I love trusting that the right situation, or the right person, or the right itinerary will reveal itself when it's time. 

When I landed in San Jose, I hopped into a taxi. The driver suggested I head to a small beach town called, Tamarindo. In 2001, it was the hot new spot for travelers and surfers.

When I got to the hostel, I immediately clicked with three women who were also traveling on their own. We decided to travel to Tamarindo the next day together.

Ha! I'm double fisting. Melinda (the woman next to me) and I are still dear friends to this day. We've hung out quite a bit over the years!! Miss you Mel! xoxo

Ha! I'm double fisting. Melinda (the woman next to me) and I are still dear friends to this day. We've hung out quite a bit over the years!! Miss you Mel! xoxo

My friends rented this adorable little house that was so cheap - they were staying much longer than I was (which I regretted when I got home and didn't find work for another month).

There were surfers from all over the world but we hung out with the locals. My friend, Mel is fluent in Spanish. I loved practicing my Spanish in Costa Rica because they speak slowly enough for my poor skills.

We drank. We danced. We scuba dived.

While the girls stayed in Tamarindo, I took off on my own to explore the rest of the country. 

I rode a horse across a really muddy mountain.

I'm about to zipline here!

I'm about to zipline here!

I ziplined.

I loved all of it.

When I think about the fact that I will probably never get to travel alone again - not just for physical reasons but because of my brain, I get really, really sad. 

I haven't told you guys yet about my brain.

I know, I know many of you assume I must be doing all right if I'm writing like this. No, it's not all right. It's one of the reasons I had to move in with my folks. It wasn't just physical.

I lost my short-term memory.

There. I finally said it out loud to you.

Part of why I struggle so much with regular life stuff is that I have so much trouble with my brain. Not just from the chemo! The insta-menopause, the super low hormones. The trauma. One of the symptoms of PTSD is memory loss.

I was ashamed to tell you this. I've been worried about how I could find a job. 

Also, I hate feeling stupid.

All those years, I'd get so impatient with people. I didn't understand. I just didn't.

I've had to develop many weird tools and tricks to compensate for the loss, which I'll explain later.

Many people say "oh that happened to me!" Or "it's just age." Or, "I never had good memory."

Nope. Sorry, it's not the same. This wasn't normal aging stuff. And on top of that, I used to have a nearly photographic memory. I didn't even realize my brain ENABLED me to hop on planes and manage a foreign country on my own. If someone gave me directions in Spanish, I could remember what they said and not get lost. I could remember which ticket I needed for which train.

I couldn't even remember the Sounder's ticket MEGAN GAVE TO ME THE NIGHT BEFORE when I headed to the game this past Sunday. Thankfully, my parents took a photo and they were able to scan it. But of course, I get scared. I'm a mere 3 miles from my house, Megan and David are in the stadium. I am safe. And I'm still scared. I don't even know what I don't remember.

It's terrifying.

It stresses me out. It saddens me on so many levels.

I didn't know this would come out today. Interestingly, the day I shared my idea for the RV trip.

If you haven't figured it out already, let me tell you: without short-term memory, I don't collect long-term memories now.

Without social media, I would have almost no memory of the last three and a half years.

This is part of the reason I want to write all of this down and make it public. (Just in case....)

I keep thinking "it will get better, it's got to get better." And I think it's not as bad as I was last year when I moved home and shuffled around the house like a 90 year old.

And I think sometimes some parts are better. BUT I CAN'T REMEMBER so....

I'm just now starting to accept that my brain will never be the same again. 

It's one of the reasons I keep telling you that I'm not the same. Just one example: I used to be messy. Now, I have to put things back in the exact same spot or I won't remember where it is. Entire habits changed.

So traveling alone is not really safe for me anymore. I can't trust myself to be at the right place and the right time. Or, know where I put something important. 

Or, even remember the name of my hotel.

Which makes these photos and these memories even more special and important to me.

I'll need you to keep me company if I ever get to see the world.

As sad as that makes me, maybe it's good for me. To force me out of isolation. My fragility requires me to get and stay close to people. Not necessarily a bad thing for me.

Thanks for being so sweet about my RV idea. I'm so glad you like it. And will help me do it. I love you guys.

I can't do another Seattle winter trapped inside again. 

I just can't. 

I've got to get some kleenex now. And finish this cry. 

Much love,
Jules

PHOTO #14. This post is part of a series celebrating my life before I lost four organs to three cancers in 2014. It is an “online memorial” honoring the person I was, in the hopes that I can make peace with the disabled person I’ve become. Every day for 30 days until my birthday, I will challenge myself to write a post inspired by the photo I’m sharing. I will not plan the topic or write ahead of time. I will merely look at the photo and write whatever it inspires. Thanks for reading! #julesfor30 #happyrebirth