Well I am officially writing this exactly 2 years after our time in Costa Rica. 2 YEARS! Time flies. As mentioned in a previous blog post, I really wanted Scott to be the one to write this post. He never did and neither did I. For me, this blog documenting our trip ’round the world feels incomplete — like an unfinished story. My perspective is different 2 years — I no longer remember how I felt at that exact moment, but instead I remember the moments that really stand out. I have done my best to keep the spirit of all the other country recap posts.
Our last stop abroad on our adventure was Costa Rica. We completely skipped the Atlantic side and the national parks we have read so much about and focused our attention on the Pacific side of the country. The landscapes we saw were so varied and it was an excellent place to travel to — we will most certainly be back one day. We spent a week with Scott’s parents exploring the coast and zip lining high in the clouds before we took off down the coast for another week to finish out our trip with a little relaxing.
San Jose, La Fortuna (Arenal Volcano), Playa del Coco, Nosara, and Montezuma (San Juanillo, Ostional, and Santa Teresa were also explored — though we did not stay the night)\ We Liked
Things We Liked
Traveling with Scott’s parents, BEACHES, yoga, waterfalls, Spanish classes, sunsets, dirt roads, sea turtles laying eggs, new friends, and relaxing.
Things We Disliked
Very touristy, everywhere we went was incredibly expensive (food, accommodations, activities), bugs, lack of monkeys as promised, and it is hard to practice Spanish since everyone knows English so well. The things we disliked most about Costa Rica was my Grandmother passing away and my Mom being incredibly sick (ICU, ambulances) with no explanation. It was a great place to relax, but there was a constant undertone of sadness and anxiety.
Sickness and Sadness
There were some serious low times during our time in Costa Rica. That is the sole reason I kept trying to get Scott to write this post — it stirred up too much to try and gather my thoughts. My Grandmother had been fighting some heart problems in the weeks leading up to our time in Costa Rica. It was a situation we were keeping up with and I was worried sick about. As soon as I landed in Costa Rica and was able to connect to the airport wifi it was then that I was told that my Grandmother had passed away. In the customs line. Horrible timing (not that it is ever great timing). Unfortunately, my in-laws arrived the next morning. As much as all they wanted to do was make it better, I wished I could hide away or that I was home with my family grieving instead of 2,500 miles from home on “vacation”. My Mom lost her Mom and I have no idea what that feels like, but I can imagine it feels like a piece of you is gone. To know my Mom was hurting and I wasn’t there just killed me. I felt horrible that I was not in better spirits when we had visitors we had been looking forward to for such a long time had finally arrived (I know they would be mad at me for even saying that).
A week and a half later when Scott and I headed to a more remote area on the coast there was more low points. I woke up to a text from my Dad asking me to call him. That is never a good text to get. Long story short, she had been in the hospital a few days prior. They sent her home. She woke up 2 nights later and they immediately called an ambulance. From what I gather it was just like the TV shows — paddles to shock the heart and all. She was then in the hospital for the days after while they tried to figure out what was going on. Long story short is that she had an infection, drug interactions, and then got Sepsis. It was days before they really found out what happened and what was going on. It is nearly impossible for me to go back and feel what I felt in that exact moment– to be far away, with crappy internet (the only way I had to communicate), and with zero answers. We were headed back stateside in 6 days — what the hell were we supposed to do? It would be 2 days before we could drive to San Jose, catch a plane, and make it to Cleveland. Not to mention it would be a lot of money. On the urging of my Dad, we decided to stay since we were headed back so soon. He said by the time we got there it would all be figured out and that everything would be okay. Looking back, I should have gone. I took comfort in the fact my Dad was there, but maybe I needed to be there. Maybe my Dad needed me there too. It was one of the scariest moments of my life — I almost lost the most important person in my life in the blink of an eye. If that doesn’t change the way you look at life then I am not sure what does.
The Berkes Abroad and the Rental Car Mix Up
Scott’s parents, Lisa and Randy, came to meet us in the rich coast. It was amazing to see them on our trip — it gets lonely on the road and it was such a boost to spend time with people we love. There was a slight incident with our rental car — we took the shuttle to pick up our SUV and they did not have any automatic cars (which is what we rented). Nobody was feeling super spectacular about driving a manual, especially since some of the group was very nervous about driving in a foreign country to begin with. We watched another family get a manual try to back out of the parking lot. Their inability to reverse out of their space had us looking for plan B. After much back and forth, they offered us the shuttle van they use to take people from the airport to the car rental place. It was a VAN — it could hold maybe 12-15 people? Not ideal but we took it and went along on our way. There were some moments of regret that we took the van instead of changing car companies. Specifically I remember driving to Arenal in the dark on a very narrow road when met face to face with a bus. A little reversing down the steep, narrow road to get out of the way of the bus led to some tense moments from some of the passengers in the van. There was more regret while driving long distances on dirt roads where a 4×4 vehicle would have been perfect, but an airport shuttle bus was very rough riding. We made it safely everywhere and two years later have forgotten all about the hours spent at the car place dealing with this drama.
When in Costa Rica, you zip line. It is a well known fact. So obviously, we had to do it. Since heights are my greatest fear, I am unsure what pushed me to sign us all up for this adventure. Lisa almost backed out while we were receiving our safety briefing and I almost backed out before each and every one of our 6 or 7 ziplines (except you can’t because there is nowhere to go but down). At points we were 600 feet above ground with stunning views of Volcan de Arenal and Lago de Arenal. Despite the fear, the asking if they were sure my carabiners were attached properly incessantly, and my inability to keep my eyes open it was incredible! Everyone had a great time and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Sea Turtle Arribada
There is no way we could have planned this if we tried. Once a month, sea turtles come to nest in the Nicoya Peninsula, specifically Ostional Beach. This particular beach is one of the few places in the world where massive numbers of endangered olive ridley turtles swarm in the phenomenon known as the arribada. Nobody knows why the turtles coordinated themselves to all lay their eggs over a period of a few days or why they choose to lay their eggs at this particular beach. They do know that it is on a dark night prior to the new moon arriving.
We just so happened to be staying around 25 very bumpy minutes from Ostional Beach when we got the news that the arribada was happening and we could go and see the turtles coming to shore to lay their eggs. We set out one evening in our rental car to drive the 10 km to Ostional Beach. To view the turtles, it was required to go with an authorized guide. We arrived and realized the guides only knew Spanish — it was game for me using my newly acquired language skills. We parked the car, paid our money, and busted out our headlamps. As to not disturb the turtles, we were required to put the headlamps on the red light setting. Our guide taught us about the turtles, how the dig their nests, how many eggs they lay and what the survival rate is. At this point, I have forgotten all of the details except for that magical moment when we stepped onto the beach. It was very dark, but you could make out shapes of turtles coming out of the water and walking up to shore. We were able to see how hard these turtles work to dig a hole and lay their eggs before returning back to the ocean. They are incredible animals and the opportunity to witness them in nature was a highlight of our entire RTW trip. We went back the next day during the daylight with some friends we met. The arribada lasts only a few days and we wanted to fully embrace this experience while we had the chance. There are less turtles in the day, but it is much easier to see them in the daylight!
It was very challenging that the guide only spoke Spanish, but I was really impressed with my ability to communicate and understand. Costa Rica is a hard place to learn Spanish (at least in the touristy locations) as most people know some English, but most locals we encountered spoke really good English. They spoke way better English that I know Spanish, which makes it easy to defer to English when conversations get difficult. I really enjoyed (and was terrified at the time) that I actually had to use my Spanish skills to get by.
Nosara — Our Perfect Place (Minus the Scorpions)
After a week with the Berkes we headed to the Nicoya Peninsula to Nosara. Scott and I had traded to a smaller SUV that was perfect for getting around the dirt roads that lead to Nosara. We stayed in hotel that was made up of a series of shipping containers. There was a pool surrounded by trees in which felt like the jungle. We would listen to the howler monkeys all day while swimming and reading by the pool. The beach was a 5 minute drive from our hotel and it was perfect for swimming. Scott rented a surf board a few days (I turned in my surf board, maybe for good, after being beat up by waves in Mexico) and I took Spanish lessons in the afternoon. We ate at Rosa’s Soda Tica everyday for a lunch casado (Costa Rican meal with rice, beans, salad, veggies, and choice of meat). It was simple, fresh, cheap, and delicious. There was yoga classes taught in an open air studio surrounded by the jungle. It is all a blur at this point, but I remember feeling good here and thinking we could stay a while.
I would have a hard time describing our RTW trip as a vacation as it wasn’t. It was a lifestyle that we chose to live for almost a year. Nosara is one of the few places we felt like we were on vacation — maybe it was because it was the second to last stop on our trip or maybe just because we let ourselves relax. Although as mentioned before, there was an undertone of anxiety and fear as my Mom was sick while we were in Nosara.
Like most places in Costa Rica, there are a lot of bugs. There was an incident where I went to go put on a pair of shorts that was on top of my suit case and THERE WAS A SCORPION. On my shorts. We (cough, I mean Scott) removed said scorpion and brought him outside. We found some little scorpion babies too and I was not okay after that. Nosara is paradise, minus the scorpions…and the spiders.
We stayed in a shipping container Airbnb outside of Montezuma. There were so many bugs and no air conditioning — usually this combination would be a hard no for us and we would never book. We figured as a last location that we could do it. This place was incredible — probably the most picturesque spot we stayed on our entire trip. To use the toilet or shower, you would have to go to go outside since the bathroom was an open air bathroom located on the deck. We could hear the howler monkeys in the morning time, but we never did see monkeys outside on our porch — many previous guests have had monkeys hanging in the trees visible from inside and the deck.
Costa Rica was the last international stop of our trip round the world. 26 countries later, we were headed back to the US of A. Although we were ready to go back, I am not sure you can ever be completely ready to end a once in a lifetime experience like this. We missed a lot about home, but figuring out what life looks like on the return of 10 months abroad is overwhelming to say the least. Also, we had a flight into NYC which isn’t necessarily home. We weren’t done yet, but it was time to say goodbye to foreign lands and hello to familiar ground.
Total Number of Nights: 8
Currency: $1 USD = 7.35 Guatemalan Quetzal
Number of Miles Traveled: 1,150 miles (including our flight from Houston)
Number of Miles Walked: 52 miles (average of 6.5 miles per day)
Steps Taken: 112,129 steps (average of about 14,000 per day)
Transportation Used: Car
Type of Accommodations: Hotel (2), Airbnb (3) — We stayed in two different shipping container places
Number of Beds: 5