Know a first-time traveler? Nominate your friend for a trip on Do It While You’re Young‘s “Friends Don’t Let Friends Not Travel” contest, and both of you could take a trip together! Here’s another installment, from our very own Marketing Specialist Heather M.,(left), as she tells us about her own first-time travel experience in Costa Rica!
Guest Post by Heather M., Contiki Marketing Specialist
As a child, I had the privilege of traveling a lot with my family. Before I was 12, I had cruised around Tahiti Islands, the Caribbean islands, and all throughout Europe. At the risk of sounding like an unappreciative brat, looking back I wish I could have saved up my young travel experiences and cashed in as a young adult. Nevertheless, it was through my childhood travels that I caught the travel bug. Thanks Mom and Dad!
Around the age of 15, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Costa Rica with a girlfriend’s family. This trip was different. It wasn’t with Mom and Dad, and it wasn’t a vacation destination that my parents would choose. Being a California native, I heard the words: warm, beach, rainforest, and surfing and was immediately sold! Plus, it was the perfect way for me to spruce up my Spanish skills. At least that’s how I sold it to Mom & Dad. After the typical period of parental research (Would I need shots? Is it safe? Where would I be staying? Would I be left to explore on my own? etc.), they were persuaded to let me go. I couldn’t wait!
Costa Rica wasn’t the typical cruise I was accustomed to. I had been forewarned and for good reason. While I was a jock and didn’t mind getting dirty on a soccer field, I was ….well… a bit of a priss. I enjoyed manicures, pedicures, long (warm) showers, cute shoes, bug spray, and all the other girly necessities. My girlfriend was blunt: “Our house is in the rainforest, there are no paved roads, no flush toilets, the shower isn’t enclosed, it’s outside, and there is no hot water. There are scorpions, monkeys, bats, spiders, wasps, giant cockroaches, and all other sorts of crawling creatures.” I was a little offended, intrigued, and more sold than ever. What an adventure.
The plane ride from LAX to San Jose was long and my excitement didn’t help pass the time. By the time we landed, I was ready to get the adventure started. Upon landing, finding our luggage, passing through the thousands of people surrounding the airport, and finding our rental car, I realized this was going to be a life-changing experience. We stayed one night in San Jose to rest up before our journey. While in San Jose, we exchanged our money into a beautiful and colorful currency called the Colones. Then we set out to explore the mercados, eat some authentic Costa Rican food, escape the heat with a cold helado, and take in the sights of the city. There were parts of meats for sale I had never seen before. Chicken feet and heads hung in the windows and pig hooves filled the shelves. It was amazing. I certainly wasn’t on a cruise ship!
Then we were off, traveling down to Puntarenas, hopping on a ferry ride to cross the Gulf of Nicoya and after quite a bit of driving, arriving in the small town to a beautiful house surrounded by rainforest mere steps away from the Pacific Ocean. I had arrived! What followed was a blur of amazing beaches such as Malpais, Playa Carmen, Rancho Playa Negro, Tamarindo, and Quepos. It was amazing. The food was delicious and I developed quite a liking to the Costa Rican equivalent of ketchup called Lizano, which I applied liberally to all my rice and beans. I also grew quite fond of the fried bananas that came with every meal. Costa Rican cuisine is delicious!
I am proud to say that during the trip, I surprised my girlfriend. Although she was a bit skeptical that my prissy side wouldn’t hack it in the rainforests of Costa Rica, she was pleasantly surprised by my inner explorer. She had warned me about the bats, scorpions, wasps, and other creepy crawlers and I encountered each and every one! But she failed to tell me about the other the once-in-a-lifetime sites I would also encounter. In addition to the creepy crawlers, I saw an albino bat (quite a rarity even among the locals), the beautiful butterflies Costa Rica is well-known for, wild iguanas, and the cutest monkeys that would occasionally play in our shower water. Also, since it was so hot, I didn’t even mind the cold showers. In fact I preferred the chilled water shaded by the canopy of the rainforest. It was the perfect escape from the humid heat.
Although I had a traveler’s background, nothing in my childhood could have prepared me for my Costa Rica experience. I consider it my first real travel experience. It changed my whole perspective of the world and myself while preparing me for the many more adventures to come!