Gadabout Gringa

An experienced freelance writer based in Brooklyn, New York, Alexandra seeks out the stories that speak to the best parts of  music, travel, relationships, and culture.

Tico Time Part 1: Sola Adventures

Tico Time Part 1: Sola Adventures

7 Days in Costa Rica

I cry on every return flight home from traveling abroad.


I bawled buckets leaving Costa Rica.

 

I swore I’d keep it together when I said goodbye to Maynor, but when the sign said 20 km to Liberia airport the tears started to fall, first gracefully until the dam burst into his neck at the airport gate.

I had to close the plane window when my flight took off because I’d attached the exquisite landscape, the brightest shades of green and blue to chunks of peace I’d found and was forced to flee.

When I returned, I was so disoriented by my reality that I refused to unpack my suitcase because I was afraid that it would wake me up from the trance I’d defiantly chose to remain in.

 

What I didn't realize then, Costa Rica had bartered with me. The connections I made with the land and the people had seeped into me. While I mourned the piece of me I left behind, it was replaced with a flame and a perspective that continues to ignite me.


 

Here is that part one of that journey.


 And here you get a rare glimpse of my (clearly) superior design skills

And here you get a rare glimpse of my (clearly) superior design skills

I booked my trip to Costa Rica on a whim. Scott's Cheap Flights {If you love cheap travel get on this!} showed a round-trip ticket from NYC to San Jose for 240 bucks. So despite my meager/nonexistent net worth I purchased a ticket through Spirit ( I know, I know. More on this later)  for a five-day trip that would extend into seven. 

 

(Caution: this is not a blog for luxury travelers.)

 

There's not much in the surrounding area of the SJO airport. Many people told me about such a short trip I should skip it all together.  So I headed their advice. I booked an Interbus directly to La Fortuna. 

 

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Interbus is the middle class travel option, offering trips throughout the country for around 50 bucks a leg. I highly highly recommend Interbus.

 

I grabbed a cab to my pickup up point across the street from the airport, Dennys.  I had three hours to kill. My first experience with Costa Rican cuisine - questionable "eggs" and broccoli on a skillet. I wanted to tell the waiter,

I swear I didn’t come here because I’m a tacky gringa.

Despite the flat food, the servers were so kind. They seemed versed in the dining/squatting habits of tourists and encouraged me to hang out as long as I’d need. As any wayfarer knows, wifi is the currency of travel.

It started to storm hard. The Interbus was twenty minutes late, and I started to think I incorrectly booked. This was my introduction to Tico Time. 

Suddenly, an older man walked over and asked, Headed to Arenal?" Together, we got through to the company and they explained that the driver was behind but all was on track. His name was Ken and he is the best.( Also the named of my dad who is also the best) Ken and his wife, Helen, retired at 40. Now, in their 70s, they have been traveling the world ever since. They've clocked 100,000 miles of travel and carried a sense of adventure and content with them that rivals the fortitude of most twenty-somethings.(Ken has serious TripAdvisor cred) I loved the way Ken apologized to Helen when he'd excitedly cut her off during his impassioned storytelling. He shed a tear recalling the time he was gifted sheet music in a Parisian cafe. When he told his stories, I could tell he was living them all over again. I was so touched when they'd later tipped on behalf because I'd forgotten to take out cash.

They were invigorating to listen to.

It was there on that bus, in awe of the blinding green that never stopped, in the company of these warming travelers, that I let go. I let go of the planning, projecting and experiential expectation. I had mentally arrived. 

Crap, Right?

 

According to Tico Time, it's anywhere from 2.5-5 hours to Arenal (La Fortuna) from San Jose by Interbus.  Tico Time is real. Coming from  a country of Yelpers and "the customer is always right-ers" I was startled at how casual everyone in Costa Rica was about timeliness. By the end of my trip I was high on "Pura Vida", the country's catch phrase. I'd end up floating around like, "what's time?" 

I booked a hostel at Selina La Fortuna. Now, like the true vagabond I am....I've stayed at a lot of hostels. This place was one of the nicest hostels I've ever stayed at. I knew I'd be physically depleted from the red eye so I forked out the big bucks (30 dollars) for a private room. A stones throw from 30, I've retired dorm-style accommodations. (You're all soldiers in my book). Since September is slow season they upgraded me to a private suite. OH LALA. 

PRO TIP Everywhere you go in Costa Rica - Try the Chili Guaro . It's generally made with a local rum, Tabasco, lime and salt. A baby Bloody, if you will. Every place has their own variation and as a show of hospitality, they almost always gave me the first one free.

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My driver was 20 min late to take me to Sky Adventures to zip line but the Pura Vida had kicked and I was half-chill, "I'm sure he'll be here.....I really hope he'll be here." 

Now, here's an anecdotal definition of Tico Time:  

My driver picks me up (he has other stops to make on his route) and abruptly stops at this chocolate shop. He says, "I'll be right back."

After about ten minutes he comes back with a brown sack and he's smiling so big I thought his dimples might reach his eyelids. He explains to me in Spanish that he has a big crush on the woman who works there and he stops to see her under the guise of a chocolate addiction. To hell with time! We have a man in love! I'm beyond tickled by this, we share some chocolate (IT'S DELICIOUS) and find our why to Arenal.

 

Again: Slow Season. I'm the only person waiting for the zip line experience. They told me in high season there's groups of 30 or more. My two guides were hilarious and spent most of the time making up false facts in attempt to psyche me out. It worked... a few times. I got them back when I drafted up a fake review about how they tried to throw me off the dismount. It's not cheap. I paid around 90 bucks (it included hotel/hostel pick up and drop off and lunch). I can't say what it's like in high season, but I had a blast. The views were incredible.

PRO TIP: If you opt to test out the Go Pro make sure you turn your head fully to the left and right. Look all over. Otherwise, your video will look like mine. A fascinating film of your hands. Luckily, they let you try it before you buy it. A man is also there taking tons of professional photos you can opt to buy at the end.

 

Now, I would have been content heading back to New York at this point. The standard travel-weeps would have ensued. THEN I went to Coco Beach, it shook me like a rag doll in the best possible way.

 

TO BE CONTINUED.....

Meeting Maynor : Finding Silence in Costa Rica

Meeting Maynor : Finding Silence in Costa Rica

My First Couchsurfing Experience: Finding The "Craic" & Acceptance

My First Couchsurfing Experience: Finding The "Craic" & Acceptance