I was pushing my bike up the jungle-bordered hill when it happened.
My shorts fell down to the ground.
Suddenly, my whole body was hunched over as laughter bubbled over the cauldron of my mouth. Even with my bikini-covered booty out for every passing car to gawk at, I couldn’t manage to stop laughing until I was gasping for breath with a sore diaphragm.
Rocío joined me with an eruption of giggles and tears as she turned around to see what every passing car was honking at.
I had come to Costa Rica a week earlier to visit her. We’d been together for just over six months but had spent the last four in a long-distance relationship after a whirlwind romance in France.
Costa Rica sported the hottest, stickiest, and dampest weather I’d ever experienced. The tropics didn’t really suit me, even if she was my perfect match.
But there I was, hearing whistles and honks and yells in a language I didn’t speak, cry-laughing on the side of the road in my swimsuit bottoms.
Rocío ran back down the hill to me, doubled over with her own laughter, and helped me pull up the too-big shorts. The silky lining on the shorts didn’t help, as they kept slipping the whole way back to town.
That night, I held Rocío’s hand as we listened to the birds, monkeys, and insects just outside the cabin windows. I thought about how I had traveled to nearly 30 countries for months at a time, but I’d never laughed harder than on that dirt road with Rocío.
I’d never been more outside of my comfort zone than I was during that week in Costa Rica.
I was learning how to be part of a couple, and how to come back together after months apart.
I was navigating a culture that made no sense to me, no matter how friendly everyone was.
And my brain was doing backflips through thinking in English, being surrounded by Spanish, and only communicating in our solitary shared language—French.
But five years later, Rocío and I still turn to each other and share a knowing look sometimes. Within minutes, we’re belly-laughing with tears in our eyes, thinking of all the times we’ve laughed together, and all the joy still to come.