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Don't Worry, Be Happy

About a month ago, I had the privilege of going on vacation. It was a spur of the moment decision, where I bought my ticket about a week in advance, with the thought of, "Why not go somewhere, far, take a break from life, for a bit?"

I have, for awhile now, been deliberating going on vacation to Belize, or to the little islands off Honduras, the little islands off the mainland, that were once part of the English territory and are considered the safest, most tourist friendly part of the country in the current day and age. But with all of the COVID restrictions, those two potential destinations did not make it easy for me to visit. It looked like there were an actual curfew imposed in Hondorus and a negative COVID test was required to enter Belize. As a matter of last resort, I instead chose to go to Costa Rica.

Costa Rica seemed to have the least restrictive policies for tourists, and it seemed to be the most accessible from my home airport. In the past, I have met many people who have visited Costa Rica, so it's been on my radar of places to visit, even if not my first choice. It's such a popular destination amongst Americans, which was one of the deterrents for me in going. When I go travel somewhere far, I like to feel as though I'm away from my home that is the US, but Costa Rica offers a sense of familiarity of home in that the bulk of the tourists there are from America. English is so widely spoken that it's not even necessary to even attempt to speak another language to get around. I usually enjoy circumstances that get me out of my comfort zone, but this seemed a bit safer than my usual travels. So maybe this trip was less stimulating in a way, but in the end, I had fun nonetheless.

My general impressions of Costa Rica? Beautiful. But of course, that's an obvious one. It's also very diverse. It's funny how such a small geographic area can be so diverse. As someone who lives in the United States, I take it for granted the amount of land I have at my disposal to explore, and its beautiful diversity. Apparently though, even the tiniest countries have varying geographic and tropical regions, and Costa Rica is just one example.

During my trip, I got to visit three cities: San Jose, Jaco, and La Fortuna. Of course, there are many more to explore but I tend to travel best when I give each city enough time, rather than rush through it in a day or two. All three places I visited are vastly different.

San Jose has its charm and things worth seeing but overall, a very underwhelming, major city. There is no beautiful, colonial architecture, as in some Latin American countries, just a bunch of run-down buildings. Many tourists would say that the city is best suited as a pass-through city, on the way to bigger and better, more beautiful places. The climate there is very temperate, at least when I went in Feb/March, and a light jacket is necessary.

Just about three hours away is Jaco: very humid and sunny. Even though I wore spf 70 sunscreen the entire time, I still managed to catch some sun on my delicate, porcelain skin, which is not so porcelain anymore, thanks to Jaco. I was warned that Jaco was a party town and somewhat seedy. That's not the impression I got (I guess it all depends on the group or environment you put yourself in). The humid climate is a perfect host for beautiful lush rain forest, next to the ocean. There were beautiful sunsets to see, against the horizon of the ocean.

La Fortuna is about four hours away from Jaco. It's a volcano town. What I learned is that, there is always the risk of a volcano erupting and interestingly, when that happens, it's not the lava that is most dangerous but the fumes from the gasses. I got to go rafting, with some class 1-3 rapids, and also got to spot animals in the wild, while doing it.

What did I like best about Costa Rica? Well, I think it pretty cool that it doesn't have a military. The scenery, of course, was beautiful and diverse. What didn't I like about it? It's super touristy, and too many people from my home country, which makes the trip less exotic than it otherwise would be.

Twenty days in total spent in Costa Rica. As I've reflected on my time as a companion (and also, more broadly, as a human) this past year, international travel is something I'd like to do more of. There is never enough time, or opportunity, it seems like. I always have goals I'm working towards. And admittedly, I'm doing ok in that regard, accomplishing the things I want to do, or at least trying to. But life shouldn't be just all about work, and serious stuff. As some recent happenings in my life have shown me, life is short, so why not live it while you can? Hence, my somewhat spontaneous trip to Costa Rica.

With every life experience, with every trip, there is always something to take away. Or, at least, there is, ideally. If an experience does not provide you with something to change you, or make you grow, is it even an experience worth having?

I feel as though my trip to Costa Rica definitely gave me something that I did not have before. If we were to meet, you can ask me what it is, in person.

In the meanwhile, what I have taken away and can communicate to you here is, "Don't worry, be happy!" And what a great motto that is!


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