1.     Always bring a proper raincoat—a J. Crew questionably water resistant old jacket does not do.

2.     Or better yet, buy a poncho…supposedly.  I heard they are wonderful.  Ashley, my old roommate had a green poncho with a Monteverde logo to match her green pants.  Our Arenal Volcano tour guide, Hector, found a burgundy poncho with a Trojans/USC logo:  he now knows about the deep war between UCLA and USC and my life as a person who had parents with opposing college teams. 

3.     Always wear Dri-Fit clothing.  Bring all layers:  tank tops, short and long sleeves, hoodies, whatever you can made of the Dri-Fit fabric.   They retain water well and dry the quickest (hence, the creative name “dri-fit”).  Cotton products, such as H&M or Target hoodies, are worthless and will only absorb the rain/water for days.

4.     Clothes starts smelling like mold because they are molding.

5.     Heating up dirty and wet clothes in microwaves just leads to warm wet clothes.  Note: Microwaving clothing does not always produce the smell of said dirty clothing though.  Also metal zippers can be microwaved but proceed with caution.

6.     When in a bind, eat termites.  They have more protein compacted in them than a slab of steak. Place termite on tip of tongue and chew gently, taste wood (you will know what that means when you cross that bridge).

7.     In first class, you do not drink beverages out of plastic, paper or Styrofoam cups.  Instead, you will drink out of actual ceramic mugs and glassware.  They also have a limited number of specific meals and with westward flights start with the odd numbers and eastward start with the even numbers so if you’re the last to choose your meal, based on our seating assignment as an odd/even and you find yourself with the leftover meal option (you have to take the cereal) don’t feel bad.  Next time, since you are always riding in first class, you will get that egg dish as an odd/even row.  

8.     For those who are lactose intolerant or people who only consume soymilk, feel free to eat your Cornflakes with orange juice instead of milk.

9.     First class also provides additional snack hour in which you can eat Sun Chips, Craisins, Twix bars, etc.

10.  When people say you can leave with all that food you’re bringing in and eat over there (watch my hand point to those chairs outside of your gate), they really mean you need to physically exit the terminal, sit on a rail (somehow) and make your peanut butter and rice cakes concoction outside of a bathroom stall then you can board a plane to America.

11.  Try imperial beer.  Yum.

12.  Do not buy bread at a bakery.  If a baked good looks weird, it is weird.  Buy the banana cake.  Don’t buy the chocolate croissant that looks like it contains chocolate only seen on or inside a donut because it is that chocolate you normally eat on or inside a donut.

13.  Aim to stay at hotels that have breakfast included.

14.  Find yourself an amazing feast at Tabacon Springs dinner buffet.  The meal is better than the springs themselves (check it out: http://www.tabacon.com/).  Raid the food.  Bring Tupperware and Ziploc bags.  Pack food, such as nuts, trail mix, rolls, tea, for moments of starvation.  These are all good to have in your raincoat when you suddenly need a snack and are stuck on a ferry for two hours.

15.  Always travel with emergency snacks.  Don’t eat them all on your first flight to Atlanta, as I did.

16.  You can put too much spicy cinnamon on your cereal.  And cereal with cream instead of milk is as disgusting as it sounds.

17.  When you’re feeling down (mentally or energetically) buy some random ice cream product.  Trust the freakiest flavor you can find: mint or apple custard?  Apple custard.

18.   Cadbury bars are always infinitely better abroad.

19.  Never drink the wine in Costa Rica unless you want to vomit.

20.           Always have a headlamp.  When lighting quality is poor, simply turn on your headlamp to read that fantastic novel.  Also when it’s pitch black outside and you can’t find your way off the hotel grounds, find your way using a headlamp.  The cheaper the headlamp, the better the quality.

21.           Don’t trust the zip line boys.  They will lead you to a secret spot, known as the Tarzan swing (a main tourist attraction), give you a rope, kick your knees out from under you so that you free fall in the air, scream bloody murder and have the best time being a human swing.  Watch video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hA5cr5BuO1E Similarly,

22.           …be sure to request the Tarzan swing at Montverde Cloud forest and ask to be kicked, if you have any hesitation about jumping off the deck by your lonesome. 

23.            Zip lining in the rain is amazing.   The Redwood trees have nothing on the jungles of Costa Rica (duh).  All you have to do is ride that line…no human-manual breaking necessary.

24.           When it sounds like it’s pouring rain outside, it probably is not.  The roof infrastructure is not the same caliber as the states, so what sounds spooky, most likely is actually a step-up from fog.

25.           It rains a lot in the rainy season, but doesn’t get cold: “It’s like an outdoor shower.” It will always rain:  bring something to protect your luggage and bring a hat to protect you from both the rain and sun.

26.           When the jungle moves, you stay still.

27.           Arenal volcano looks like a mud mound.

28.             Adopt stray animals; just don’t touch them.  Wendy, a stray, straggly white dog adopted us and followed us to a bakery in Monteverde.  She was our pet for all one hour.  When pictures are posted, you will see her.  

29.           Other people are just as disgusting as you are—they too believe in hang drying clothes all over your humble abode or log cabin intended for three or four couples.

30.           You can always teach people new tricks, such as the skill of showering with dirty clothes on.  Exfoliate, rinse and repeat.  Treat those dri-fit pants as though they are your hairy legs.  Hang dry.

31.           Soap can look like poop—green and purple swirled together (as seen and experienced at Los Pinos in Montverde).

32.            Tour companies don’t up-charge you for when they create you a personal itinerary specific to your needs and desires. Answer questions like this: Why Visit Costa Rica?

Explore a new country

Rest and relaxation

Enjoy family time

Celebrate a romantic occasion

Have an adventure

Experience Tico culture

I’ve heard Costa Rica is awesome!

Repeat Visit. Returning for more!

This brings me to my next point which is:

33.            Pre-paid trips are amazing.  Words cannot explain going somewhere and never having to open your wallet.

34.           Your special trip tour guide, ours was Harold, will call you, when you’re least expecting it.  After many, “Oh Harold’s” such as “how could you put us in this amazing hotel, Harold?”  “Harold, this place is weird and we found a bug in our room and killed it!  And why is this hotel such a dump in the first place?!?!  Not cool, Harold!”  Harold will call you to make sure your trip is up-to-par and inform you that the ferry ride he originally booked you on has been cancelled so would you like a 1 PM or 5 PM pick up?  How’s that for phenomenal customer service?

35.           Everything is at least a 3-hour drive.

36.           Travel in style:  have a personal escort, if you need it.  Enjoy.  Pay $200 to stay on the beach all day and drive through the night.

37.           The roads are crazy so at all times I felt like I was driving to the lake in Alisal at a slow, swervy pace. The rules of the road are that there are no rules on the road.  People drive in circle-eights to move horizontally and vertically.  When driving at 20 mph, tourists can read novels and avoid the usual terrible motion-experience she experiences.  Yay! 

38.           Everyone is always late, especially when they are picking you up for a tour.

39.           People will call you sexy even when it’s completely inappropriate and you are their client.

40.           Even if you sleep 10 hours a day, you can still be tired.  

41.           Carry a backpack or “soft luggage,” as you cannot roll a suitcase over gravel or dilapidated roads.

42.           Always bring a lot of your country’s currency with you.  Sometimes Bank of America cancels your debit card while you are traveling internationally, despite the fact that you told them you were traveling internationally on specific dates and needed this one debit card to remove money while you were aboard.  My hate-love relationship with BOA continues.

43.           $1=500 cuenta

44.           Don’t count on the ATM making sense…there will be six options, on average, and when you select English that home screen in which you need to say you want to remove money, will present 6 options in Spanish, at least at the airport.

45.           As always, the bank will charge you a million times for each foreign transaction.

46.           Newsflash: Am Ex is not accepted in Costa Rica.

 

47.           Books abandoned in five star hotels can be the best books (i.e. Nora Ephron, I Remember Nothing:  And Other Reflections).  

 

48.           People in Costa Rica are open and accepting.  No one cares whether you are gay, straight, single, married, ambitious, a bohemian artists, etc.  Many retire there because whatever money they have in the states, goes far.  In Costa Rica, tourism seems to be regarded in an entirely positive light as it funds 40% of the economy and allows for unconventional lifestyles (jobs outside of 9 AM to 5 PM).   No one (note:  I only spoke to Costa Ricans working in the tourism industry) sees tourism as modernizing culture too quickly or perhaps endorsing an untraditional, bachelor-esque lifestyle. People used to live in their parent’s homes until he/she was married.  Now people in their 20’s rent their own apartments and live on their own before settling down.  No one cares.  This mentality (free-loving) is admirable.

 

49.           “Mr. Obama is President,”—November 6, 2012, Hector.

50.           Designate a brave person to kill animals or insects in your room.  Then when that person unnecessarily kills grasshopper-mutant-cockroach she/he will suffer from visions of said creature emerging from the toilet and killing her/him.  

51.           Bandeau bikini tops are not made for swimming.

52.           Your hair can drown you, as can waves.

53.           Clear water doesn’t mean it’s safer water.

54.  Let’s say you are drinking the water from your water bottle on your deck, reading your found hotel book (short stories by Nora Ephron), when suddenly your water bottle rolls beneath your feet, under your sundeck chair.  You attempt to pick up your bottle with its lovely nozzle and contains that sweet lemon that has been dying a slow death in the bottle for over a week (that lemon came all the way from Long Beach four days previous to your trip to Costa Rica).  You pull your chair forward and the bottle is not there.  You pull the second lounge chair forward and before you know it, you hear a noise that sounds like a bottle rotating quickly and suddenly, your water bottle flew off the deck of your second story apartment.  You exit your air-conditioned apartment, find your apartment from the ground/dirt level in the dark (distinguished by those two haphazardly misplaced sun deck chairs) and you find no trace of your missing water bottle. This is a time when a headlamp would be useful.  You go home: devastated.  You are so upset you can’t even tell your roommate about it.  The next day your water bottle appears sitting in a tree.  Clearly some gardener placed it there or magic put it in a palm tree.  You take it home but are too scared to use it because –for some unknown amount of time—the treasured water bottle was lying in a bed of dust.

55.           One leaf can act as an asthma inhaler, drug (i.e. marijuana) and/or a green tea/stimulant.  

56.           Don’t flush anything down the toilet (as signs indicate).  Hold out for a clean #2 to save face in front of your housemate, or better yet, get constipated for the entire trip.

57.           Most men will ask you on question two if you have a “novio” or boyfriend.  Or if you are casado or married.

58.           After spending much time alone in your inclusive world with your plus one, you can still manage to get hit on by a 20 something year old local boy.  He tells you that you are beautiful; he likes your muscles and asks if he can hold your hair, which was not as similar to his own hair texture, as he expected.  He wants you to come live with him and be his friend on the Facebook.

59.           There’s something to be said about loving yourself and appreciating all parts of you and your body.  Women walked around exposing half of their butt-cheeks and these gals were not models by any means and in most standards, flaunting cellulite or parts of their body not worth flaunting.  But they didn’t care.  Why do Icare? 

60.           Does everyone’s butt look great in a Brazilian bottom?  Seriously?   

 

 

 

 

 

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