I have a list of things I want to do before I die, and learning how to surf is one of them. So I searched the web for surf camps anywhere in the world. From the uber swanky to a relaxed experience, I decided on a combination with Waves Costa Rica.

After years of traveling with a spouse, I became comfortable traveling anywhere. However, this changed when it came time to travel alone. I’m a woman. I had worries about staying out at night. Dining alone. And the unwelcome advances of men. Still, I wanted to find a foreign place to shift my mind away from U.S. culture, a divorce and preparing for three subsequent moves that year, while learning to surf!

Waves Costa Rica specializes in all-female tours and is run by a woman named Andrea Díaz, a champion surfer. They are also sponsored by Roxy, which appealed to the side of me that loves American surf culture and the clothing that goes along with it.

When I arrived at San Jose Airport in Costa Rica over three hours late, Edwin from Waves was sleepily ready and waiting at the airport for the two-hour drive back to Playa Hermosa – I’m sure he lost any chance at the AM surf the next day waiting for me. Still, he smiled through his waist length dreadlocks.

During the car ride, we sang to African rap music while zooming through the hills of Costa Rica in the dark. He knew every word of each rap song. I joined in during the choruses. Our mutual fatigue and lack of proficiency speaking each others language featured a trip full of hot swirling air between our open windows, smiling nods, and singing.

By the time I got to my sparse room at Ola Bonita Hotel, Edwin dropped me off and into the hands of a guard who had the key to my room and who made sure I got in okay. When I had a moment to reflect through the sound of waves in the background, I realized I’d made a friend and traveling alone doesn’t mean being ‘alone’.

The next morning, Mitzam, the cheerful and charming director of the camp, knocked on my door to find out if I was comfortable. She’d arranged river rafting, canopy and volcano tours and as many days of surf lessons that I could handle. She also let me know there were two other solo women arriving in the next few days. All of us ‘chicas’ would eventually be going out on a private hike to hidden Calderas Beach, where we would swim in a lagoon as warm as bathwater, share lemonade, beer and cans of Pringles before heading back to our final feast of gallo pinto, beach side.

But before the adventure started, I saw what I could only hear the night before. The ocean blared out at me from down the terra cotta tiled hallway. A black sand beach and surf mist framed expert surfers on the steep, difficult waves. I immediately put on my bikini, grabbed my book and towel and headed to the nearby pool while I lounged with resident iguanas as flocks of pelicans flew overhead. I would eventually surf while dolphins and stingrays jumped in and out of the water.

My solo Costa Rica surf adventure had just begun, and already I’d forgotten I was alone, forgotten I didn’t speak the language and forgotten about all the things I’d left back in the U.S. (except my cash. Fortunately, there are ATMs in nearby Jaco).

They call that ‘Pura Vida’ baby, and you can only get it in Costa Rica.