Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica - Zoe Davidson

I spent my summer of 2015 volunteering at a monkey sanctuary in Costa Rica. The sanctuary is a nice little place located on a small island, and houses many different types of monkeys. The woman running the sanctuary seemed nice at first, but I quickly realized that she was a quick-tempered and generally horrible human being. Her demeanor was the exact opposite of what I expected of an animal-loving sanctuary owner. Volunteering there became very stressful and mentally exhausting. I wasn’t able to bond with the other volunteers there and I felt very alone. In this time of solitude, water became my best friend.

Whenever I had time off, I would swim kilometres at a time across seawater to different islands nearby, sit on the beaches, and just listen to the waves. The water was peaceful but busy at the same time, as there were plenty of fish. I didn’t think I would need one initially, but the water became my very own sanctuary. The feeling of separation from the horrible woman comforted me. It can be said that I left the island to find my own little metaphorical island.

When I returned to the city, I realized that loneliness in the city means absolutely nothing. If you walk out onto the street, you will still find people all around you. But when you’re swimming in the seas of Costa Rica just half an hour before sunset, listening to nothing but the birds and waves, true loneliness overcomes you. As scary as it may seem, I began to appreciate loneliness for the peace it brings to me.

As much as I disliked how I was treated at the monkey sanctuary, I find myself surprisingly willing to do it all over again. Being able to escape into the water helped me foster independence and bravery I never knew I had within me.

Jim Chen
Zoe Davidson

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