My cousin and I had only 7 days left in Puerto Rico, where had all the time gone? I had needed an extended vacation after a hectic yachting season and Leslie had recently left her job allowing her to join me for some Caribbean R&R. We’d been there for 2 months doing nothing but tanning, drinking and cousin bonding. Feeling somewhat guilty that in the last 8 weeks we hadn’t explored this beautiful island much further than the sands of the nearest beach and the barstools of the nearest rum shack, we decided to rent a car, make a few mixed cds and hit the road in search of la vida loca! Friendly locals and persuasive brochures informed us of a few must see stops but other than that we were just going to stay close to the coast and see where the open road would take us. Departing from our temporary hometown of Rincon on the Northwest side, we began our trip with enthusiasm and made excellent time between cities.
Old San Juan was as charming as the advertisements had promised and it was easy to see why the famous Corona commercials are shot on the pure, white sands of Culebra. The soothing white noise of the rain forest’s canopy made up for every moment of hungover winding road nausea on the way to the top and Ricardo’s meat on a stick proved delicious food can indeed come from the back of a van on the side of a highway.
By the fifth day I had dreadlocks, hated every annoying song on our annoying cds and was accustomed to finding sand in places that left me wondering, how and when did that get there? My legs were cramped, my sunburned tush hurt from sitting so long and if Leslie didn’t stop tapping the steering wheel in the next five minutes I was going to have to give her an spf 15 mace in the face. Riding in silence, staring out the window at yet another stupid palm tree I tried to remember when I had last changed my shirt and judging by the way my co-pilot was hanging her head out the open window I considered that she might be thinking the same thing. We were both losing momentum and after 5 days of living out of a ford echo, our wanderlust had worn down to wander dust.
A bit further down the road we came upon a sign for a state park. We had never heard of it and it wasn’t on any of our maps but we decided to check it out anyways. I had needed to use el bano since about about cinco fruit stands ago, and I think both of us were craving a little space from each oth-, i mean…. the rental car. Yes a breath of fresh air and a chance to stretch our legs was exactly what we needed. Once we drove onto the property, smooth asphalt of the highway gave way to gravel which eventually gave way to dusty potholes. The poor ford echo was not designed for this kind of terrain and each increasingly deeper dip and bump made me thankful that we had sprung for the added rental insurance. We briefly discussed turning around but something inside told us to keep going – it might have been my bladder. Once we found the empty parking lot, we looked for what made this piece of unkempt land so special in the eyes of the Puerto Rican government. Now I’m not fluent in Spanish but I was pretty sure “parque nacional’ meant ‘national park’ not ‘abandoned sandlot’. There weren’t big wooden signs telling us where to go but eventually we noticed a dirt path and decided to give it a try. It was a long, rocky trail with no end in sight that cut between fields of whatever plant life could survive the blazing Caribbean heat. My cousin and I forged ahead, slapping mosquitoes away from our legs expressing only our sudden dire thirst. I didn’t know what we were walking towards but I hoped that it would have a beverage vending machine and a bathroom? Why had we decided to come here, to this sweltering valley de death-o?
What seemed like 2 miles of sweaty walking later we finally made it. There were no bathrooms or vending machines, but suddenly I wasn’t thirsty at all………………………..The stunning panoramic view of teal blue water from the edge of the horizon to the cliff’s edge below my feet was remarkable. It was as if the beauty of that place was so strong it had called us off of the highway and down the rocky trail, despite our waning enthusiasm. And so we sat, took it all in and enjoyed what I will always remember as the most blissful, perfect moments of our entire Puerto Rican road trip.
Much like finding that beautiful ocean view cliff at the end of a path less traveled, I find that when I let my heart steer my life, I arrive at places better than the ones my mind could ever dream of. It’s as if my heart already knows what will make me the happiest and, desperate to lead me there, it speaks to me through intuition. Dashes of inspiration, flashes of joy, just feeling ‘clicked in’ to a deeper truth – these are whispers from the heart telling me I’m headed towards my true calling. Recognizing the whispers is easy, it’s taking their direction that can be difficult. The path that your heart calls you to may require a detour from the conventional or perhaps involve some risk, but if you have the courage to trust what your heart is telling you, if you listen to that deep inner voice you will eventually find the place where you can exist in bliss.