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My Paradise: Costambar, Dominican Republic

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I’m going to write.

That was the excuse I gave people when they asked me why I was going back to the Dominican Republic for a month.

It wasn’t a lie, per se. I did plan to write. Maybe even paint a little. But the trip was about more than that.

The 5 Gringas: Mumsy, Jules, Kathie, Nona y yo.

The 5 Gringas: Mumsy, Jules, Kathie, Nona y yo.

It’s not often that I’ve felt a true connection to a place, but that was what happened when I spent two weeks in Costambar – a small, gated community just west of Puerto Plata on the Dominican Republic’s North Coast. The trip was a much-needed getaway for my travel companions and I. (One of those travel companions was my friend Kathie, who offered up her house in Costambar for the trip.)

Almost as soon as I arrived, I knew I had to come back. I didn’t just want to come back; I needed to. I had healing to do, and decisions to make, and I felt like I could do that here.

But I couldn’t really explain that to people, for to do so would be to admit how claustrophobic I was feeling. How stifled I was by my usual surroundings, how overwhelmed by the opinions of those around me, all of whom knew just what I should do next. How much I needed some time to just BE. To refill the well inside me that had run dangerously low while I was trying to be everything for everyone. (Forgetting in the process that I had to take care of me, too.)

And I needed time to remember who I am as a person, and as a writer. Because one thing I’ve realized these last few months is that somewhere, somehow I’d gotten so far off track I wasn’t sure I could find my way back.

The view that won me over. (Taken that first morning.)

The view that won me over. (Taken that first morning.)

Until, that is, I came to Costambar. I knew this place was special from my first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean glimmering in the early morning sun. We’d arrived in the wee hours of the morning, but neither the late hour of our arrival or the 24 hours of travel hell we’d endured to get to our destination, were enough to keep me from waking at first light to get my look at paradise.

Now, some people may think paradise is a 5-star resort, but not me. Oh, I can appreciate the finer points of life as much as the next girl. But a developer’s idea of perfection is not my definition of paradise.

Don’t get me wrong, Costambar does meet the classic definition of paradise. It has palm trees, lush tropical foliage, sandy beaches, a seemingly endless string of sunny days and crystal clear skies, and an ocean that contains more hues of blue and green than I’ve ever imagined. There are amazing restaurants, cabana bars on the beach and some of the best rum in the world. But it’s more than that.

It’s the rhythm, the idiosyncrasies, the character (…and the characters!) that speak to me along with the sounds of the wind in the palms and the dull roar of the surf on the reefs. It’s the rooster that crows every morning (and sometimes all night). The motoconchos whizzing by. The horses and chickens on the golf course. The pomegranate, fig and banana trees I can see from my windows, all heavy with fruit. The flowering trees I can’t yet name. The seductive beat of the bachata, merengue and salsa – dances I can’t hope to master with my gringa hips.

I came here quite by accident, or so I thought. I was looking for a vacation spot, and Kathie offered up her place. It was that simple.

But as soon as I saw the ocean on that first morning, I knew it was no accident. I was meant to come here. And only a few days in, when I could feel my heart starting to beat in time with this place, I knew I would come back. The only question was how soon and for how long.

And here I am. Three weeks into a four-week stay in (my) paradise. Already plotting my return.

And, yes, I’m writing. Every day. Painting a bit, too. I’ve only just scratched the surface, but there is so much more there. I can feel it. Already the threads are there, I just have to tug slightly and they start weaving all on their own.

It’s just the rhythm of this place. It has seeped into my bones.

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13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Audrey Robinson #

    What you’re doing is something we’ve all dreamed of. (Especially with the horrid winter we’ve had). But, you actually had the guts to do it. Whether or not you’re actually writing or painting is not really important. What matters most is how it makes you feel inside. But, we miss you here and can’t wait to hear more about your journey and see more of the tropical pics you love to post. xoxo Melissa!

    March 19, 2014
  2. Mary Anne Morrone Papelino #

    Audrey says it well. You are lucky and a perfect time in your life to do it. Hopefully all of your fans will get the inspiration you have!

    March 19, 2014
  3. This made tears well up in my eyes and reminds me yet again how much I love Costambar and how at home I feel there. I have never felt so at peace as I do when I am in Costambar! I am so very glad that I was able to share my love of Costambar with you and that you also felt what I feel every time I come “home”.

    March 19, 2014
  4. Mumsy #

    So happy that you have found peace. How blessed to have such a great friend , actually family

    We have such a special bond with Kathie,Anna and Julie.
    Paradise says it all.

    March 20, 2014
  5. Lori #

    Melissa, this is beautiful and Thank you for sharing.

    March 20, 2014
  6. JGates #

    Ok, I just got home, I’m eating rice and beans “the staple food” and thinking of you and how peaceful you are feeling. I am so glad to have spent time with all you girls there. If not for you and Kathie inviting me I would never have left to visit a new country. Costambar is heaven, I am so happy for you and look forward to hearing about all the fun and sun. Enjoy my dear friend you deserve every minute! oxoxo

    March 20, 2014
  7. The biggest mistake is coming to DR in the first place. It invades your every pore with desire to return 🙂 Enjoy your stay!

    March 31, 2014
  8. Beautiful post, Melissa! I can relate to many of the words you shared here. So happy that you’re taking this time for yourself. It’s amazing the discoveries that travel brings out in us. xo

    April 25, 2014

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