I’ve been (very) mum about it, but later this week I’m traveling to Costa Rica for some much needed relaxation, warm temperatures (not hard to crave when you live in Pittsburgh during the winter), and most importantly, sun. If you’re reading this now, you may be thinking “oh, that’s cool.” And if you’ve been following this blog long enough, you’ll know that I studied abroad there during the spring semester of my sophomore year of college. So I’ll help you with the math, the last time I was in Costa Rica I was still a teenager (I would turn 20 later that year). It’s been that long since I’ve been in a country that in so many ways forced me outside of my comfort zone and awarded me experiences I never would have had in a more “typical” study abroad experience (i.e. studying in a developed European nation).
Thirteen years later when I think of Costa Rica I still think of all the rice and beans I ate (a staple at just about every meal including breakfast), eating patacones for the first time against the backdrop of the (then) undeveloped and chill vibes of the Afro-Caribbean coast, how unbearably hot it was in neighboring Nicaragua, and how much I loved the Spanish language and more so, Costa Rican Spanish (it’s very clean and easy to understand, unlike in the following year when I would go up against the challenge that is the Andalusian accent).
Although Costa Rica wasn’t my first experience studying abroad (I had studied the previous summer in South Korea and did an exchange program in Mexico while in high school), it was far and away my longest experience to date. And so, that definitely came with its share of challenges– being one of the least proficient Spanish speakers in the program (well, the odds were already not in my favor since one girl was from Argentina and another had lived in El Salvador as a child), having a volatile first host family, feeling like I was drowning in my coursework. But I overcame them because I knew a lot of that stemmed from culture shock.
The funny thing is I never planned to go to Costa Rica this year, even though returning to all of my former study abroad haunts has long been an item on my bucket list. Originally I had my heart set on Antigua (the Caribbean island, not the colonial city in Guatemala), but there were too few flights. Then I settled on St. Martin, as I’ve heard it’s a foodie paradise. Unfortunately I had to change those plans when the hotel I had my heart set on staying at was destroyed in last year’s devastating Hurricane Irma. After that, I was at a loss. Where oh where to go? And then for some reason, Costa Rica entered my mind. And planning a trip there became a reality.
Now here’s the thing, my trip there next week will be entirely different from my time there as a college student. Sadly, I won’t be visiting San Jose (where I lived) at all. It’s not that I had any hard pressed desire to return there; it was more to see my wonderful host family. But San Jose is in the central part of the country, hours from either coast due to the poor condition of the roads. So this time, I’ll be much farther north in the region of Guanacaste. It’s a province in the northwestern part of the country (almost to Nicaragua) and has miles upon miles of pristine coastline. And because I work and am long overdue for a luxurious relaxing trip, I’ll be staying in pretty posh accommodations which I’ll be sharing and writing about once I return. Because unlike my previous venture into Guanacaste, I won’t be staying in barracks this time around. (No joke, my trip to Guanacaste was through my program and was a field service/learning type experience.) Although I definitely hope to eat at a soda (a Costa Rican diner) at least once, I know that the food overall won’t be the same as what my Costa Rican host mom Flora used to make me.
But this time around, I’m going as someone older and wiser. I’m someone whose food palate has definitely expanded and who’s interested in the “details” and not just the sights anymore. Although I won’t be delving full into the country like I did when I was 19, as this trip is about relaxing and unwinding, I have booked two off-site adventures that I think will be unique and memorable.
So with all that said, I’ll be taking a short break from the blog after today’s post. But I look forward to sharing all my pictures and posts in the coming weeks once I’m back because the best part is, unlike in 2005, I now have a digital camera and my photos should be stellar quality.
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