20 July, 2015
Lessons from Costa Rica
I’m a city girl: I’ve always been a city girl. I love the variety of people, the endless possibilities for a Tuesday afternoon or a Saturday night, the generally progressive populace, and the abundance of different ideas and possibilities offered by the big cities. I’ve known this for decades – ever since I realized my Alaskan hometown was too small for my wild neo-hippie vegan ideas. However, I had a momentary lapse in awareness when I booked us for three months in Costa Rica. The largest city, San Jose, is 300,000 people and we are not staying there. I think the biggest town we have been in had a population of 2-3,000 people. There’s not much to do here outside of high-priced tourist activities not designed for small children, and the country itself imports most things so the cost of living here can be quite high. As NomPa said today, “There are two economies here, the Tico economy and the tourist economy. Some things are ridiculously cheap (pineapple, bus fare) and others insanely expensive (quinoa, peanut butter, rental costs).” We pay U.S. big city prices or more to be here, but have the amenities of living in central Wyoming in 1983, or maybe 1998 given our wifi speeds.
I suck at making friends: Our last host, Dana, seemed really great. I wanted to invite her to play games with us repeatedly. I wanted to ask her about why she came to CR. I have been wanting to make friends wherever we go so we expand our community and get to know more really great people. But I am shy, I tell myself that other people are busy doing their own thing, so we haven’t made any friendships since we left. That is not a good habit to remain in when you are already feeling lonely and isolated.
I do not want to die quickly: We had a modestly close call with a car and a river. Closer than I’d like to get anyway. Thankfully the river was not swift, we were not fully submerged and the crocodiles did not get to that part of the river until after sunset. We escaped without a scratch and discovered how collaborative, friendly and helpful the Ticos are. I discovered that, contrary to my previous belief, I want to die slowly enough to say goodbye to the people I love.
Get full insurance on rentals in foreign lands: Why this obvious piece of common sense logic was out of mind is inexcusable. NomPa and I are penny pinchers in some areas, add-on insurance being one of them. But here is the deal: When you are in a foreign country, driving among people who have a different culture and thus probably have different ideas about what ‘safe driving’ means, and when you are driving in a place that commonly has flooded roads, landslides, and other extreme weather conditions – ALWAYS get full coverage. Costa Rica partially prepared us: they only allow 4 wheel drive rentals in certain areas and you must at least get basic insurance. But get the extra coverage anyway. You never know when you may overreach your estimate and dunk a car in a soon-to-be croc-laden river.
Upgrading Life: Before NomPa and I met, we each had made a list of qualities we were seeking in a life partner. When we discovered one another, we knew within days that we were going to have a family together. Here in Costa Rica we realized we needed to take that level of consciousness in clearly qualifying our lives – the qualities we want in our future countries, the qualities we are seeking before investing in new friendships, the quality of enjoyment we derive from our day to day activities. We did not settle when we chose one another; why should we settle anywhere else in life?
What are some of your important lessons you’ve learned from traveling?