Tag Archives: realistic expectations

Tortuguero, Costa Rica

PREFACE: Honestly, I have no idea how this happened. It´s June and the last time I posted was MONTHS ago. I keep thinking about posting, but the reality of not having my own computer or even tablet (which I did have when I was posting regularly and is now, um, broken) makes it really kind of difficult. But, I want to do better, and so this post re-starts what I can almost promise will be more regular updates. Because I missed so much in between, I may also fill in with some older stuff from the last few months.

So, let´s talk about Costa Rica! Everyone loves this place and for good reason; its gorgeous! However, I have two main complaints that seem to be mirrored by backpackers in general- 1) It is expensive! For me this was definitely true. Having spent the last few weeks in Nicaragua, Costa Rica was a slap in the face. Money just doesn´t stretch as far, with as little effort, as it does elsewhere. However, if you are coming straight from the U.S. for example, I´m sure the overall lower prices will seem great. It´s all relative, right? 2) Compared to the rest of Central America, Costa Rica is almost  a mini U.S. I definitely found this to be true. Comparatively, it is a pretty well developed country where there are lots of English speakers, U.S. dollars are widely accepted and there are more Gringos on each bus you ride than I had seen anywhere else.  I met more people from the U.S. traveling in Costa Rica than possibly on the entire rest of my trip, and I was only there for 10 days! For a lot of  experienced backpackers, it´s just not culturally different enough from the U.S. or other western countries to be as interesting as the rest of the region. But, I´m sure for some and certinaly those less experienced, this would make it the perfect travel destination! Still, no matter what your level of travel experience or desired level of comfort, you can´t argue with the natural beauty in Costa Rica. I had an amazing time visiting just a few new places, including Tortugero.

Tree canopy Tortuguero

Tortuguero is a National Park on Costa Rica´s Carribbean side, accessible only by boat or plane. Tourist shuttles are widely available to Tortuguero, but taking public transportation is really easy and 1/3 the price. A bus from San Jose to Cariari (1,660 Colones)  then another from Cariari to La Pavona (1,100 Colones) takes you to the boat (1,660 Colones) you need to finally arrive in Tortuguero. The whole thing takes about five hours and will cost you around $9. Bonus: the boat ride to Tortuguero is more like a tour than just transportation, snaking down the river until you eventually land in the small but very charming village. There are many opportunities for wildlife spotting from a kayak or a canoe through Tortuguero´s canals, or on foot through the land portion of the National Park. There are beaches, abundant soccer matches to watch and overall good vibes.

Tortuguero Lizard DSCN9069 DSCN9064 DSCN9043

I did a canoe tour ($20) which resulted in spotting three different types of monkeys (Spider, Howler and White-faced), several large birds, a few caymans, and lots of lizards. Later, I walked, on my own, through the National Park and found myself in the company of a very still and very low to the ground family of Howler Monkeys. One even posed long enough for me to FINALLY get a few decent pictures! Spotting these guys running from tree to tree is relatively easy, but getting a non-blurry photo takes a lot of patience, a little luck, and a pretty good camera. Just look at this one´s foot and his face!

Tortuguero Howler Monkey

Tortuguero Howler Monkey

Though Tortuguero is not one of the 5 most popular places to visit on a trip to Costa Rica, if you have the time and are interested in spotting wildlife, you should definitely find your way there.



Quality Vs. Quantity

With more than a little time to think things over while I ride to and from NYC everyday, I have been focusing on what I want to get out of my SoleJourn.  The dilemma: Do I want to spend more time in fewer places or do I take this opportunity to visit as many of the places on my bucket list as possible? Even though I already knew the answer deep down, I was having trouble committing and accepting the decision. So, I thought I would put it down on paper so it was clear and there was no denying the outcome.

Write it down

I started by asking myself what my goals for this trip are (aside from living an awesome untethered life and seeing the world, of course). Here are the big ones I came up with:

  1. To learn Spanish
  2. To keep to my budget and limit flight costs
  3. To visit places people don’t usually get the chance to go
  4. To have the freedom to stay for as little or as long as I want in any given place
  5. To talk to locals and make friends
  6. To figure out what comes next in my life in terms of work opportunities and lifestyle

Next, I objectively considered which type of trip would be most likely to satisfy each goal:

  1. To learn Spanish, I should spend as much time as I can in the Spanish speaking world, namely Central and South America.
  2. To keep to my budget and limit flight costs I should minimize continent hopping and focus on progressions that can be traveled by bus or train, or paid for using the frequent flier miles I have accumulated. I should also focus on affordable locations and set realistic expectations for how much ground I can cover so that I don’t go over budget trying to fulfill unrealistic plans.
  3.  If I want to visit out of the way places…
  4. …And stay as long as I please with the ability to go where the wind takes me,  I need the time and flexibility to do so. Minimizing the number of places I expect to be would allow this.
  5. To get to know locals I should work on goal #1 and put myself in positions where I might get to become familiar with people. Spending a few days or weeks in one place would maximize these opportunities.
  6. To explore possibilities for future locations to live and work, I need in depth exposure. Taking the time to get to know a place, maybe volunteer, work, explore would best allow me to accomplish this goal.

Got it!

Once I spelled it all out, there was no denying what choice my subconscious had already made. I need a fluid itinerary with a smaller number of regions that will allow for a slow, relaxed pace, and in depth exploration of the ins and outs of each country. I need to focus on places where I can learn and use Spanish and engage my surroundings more fully. I need places with cheap flights, food and internal transportation.  Since I decided long ago that Belize, Guatemala, Argentina, Brazil and Italy are non-negotiable, the keepers: Central and South America and Italy!!

map of central and samerica map of italian regions

Once this decision was made, a wave of relief washed over me. While I still want to visit all the other places I have considered, I know that spending an extended period of time in fewer regions will help me get the most out of my trip! And now that I know where I am headed, I can start to research individual countries, visas, vaccinations, flights etc.! Yay! Plus, I don’t plan to stop traveling once this trip is done and will find another way to spend just as much time in other parts of the world!

Quality over quantity every time.