It’s about time we coughed up the story of why we’re in Texas and not in Puerto Viejo right now. Many of you I’m sure are more a little confused that we chose to return to the cold tundra of the American plains instead of kicking it caribe-style on our beachfront property. To be honest, sometimes we look back at our decision and wonder the same thing. But then we remember, and we don’t feel guilty, upset, or confused at all. If we were given the choice to leave earlier knowing what we know now, we probably would have taken it.
So here’s my attempt to explain it to you as best as I can in 3 reasons.
1. Costa Rica: The hardest country we’ve been to
When the words “Costa Rica” are said, you usually don’t expect them to be followed with “didn’t like it”. Until we met some folks in Ecuador, we had never—NEVER—heard a negative thing about the entire country, and even then it was 2 people out of hundreds. Costa Rica was the coveted land, at least for us Americans. It promised beaches, jungle, adventure, and relaxation… and I suppose it delivered on all of those things. But as it turns out, we’ve come to appreciate travel for more reasons than those four descriptors. What we’ve really come to love about a place is the culture, the people & community, the unscathed scenery, the food, and the healthy, new perspective on life.
Our experience in Costa Rica fell short in almost all of those categories, and what we came to value and cherish about a new country was no longer being met. A significant part of it was our location—Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side is known for being more of a party town then a “hey let’s settle down and raise a family” town. I’d reckon that 70% of the population was grafted in over the past 100 or so years, and even though a subculture has risen from it all, it’s not one that we really appreciated the way we did others. It was bohemian. It was transient. It was lackadaisical, even. And it didn’t really fit us, not anymore. It was a little like being in a tropical, beautiful hell: a place of complete stagnancy, where nothing progresses or changes, and most everyone was too baked to care either way.
2. The only place in the world where a 2-liter soda costs $4
We’ve seen London. We’ve seen France. We’ve been to Italy, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. Never have we spent more than $2 for any type/quality of soda beverage in a 2-liter bottle… until now. But it’s not the cost of carbonated beverages that we’re complaining about, it’s the cost of absolutely everything. In all the praises we heard about the place, no one warned us how expensive Costa Rica really is.
If it was simply a Puerto Viejo thing, I’d be less global about it… but I tend to believe it’s not. We sampled from 3 areas of the country, including the capital of San José where the majority of the population lives. The cost of everything was equal to or higher than the cost of the US equivalent, and more often than not the quality was much less. Renting a room, taking a taxi, riding a bus, renting a bike, restaurants, take out, empanadas, activities, souvenirs, groceries, ATM fees, etc, etc, etc—all of it was almost double what we were expecting to pay in a Central American country, even given the level of tourism. And don’t even get me started on the produce. If we had stayed the full month we planned on, we would have been broke just from eating hot dogs and PB&Js.
It really comes down to this: many of the things we expected to find in Costa Rica—from zip lines, beaches, and jungle to food, activity, and transportation—we found in Ecuador the month before at well below half the cost.
3. We were needed somewhere else
It’s hard to shake the feeling we had both received during our final week in Costa Rica. There was something calling us elsewhere, and though we didn’t know exactly where, we knew we had to investigate. The plan was originally to go to Utah first and surprise my family on March 3rd, so we first looked into heading to Salt Lake City a couple weeks earlier than scheduled. But things didn’t work out. We tried a couple other areas—NYC, Austin, Mexico—but they too didn’t feel quite right. We then thought about heading to Texas, our most recent long-term home. We didn’t want to be “home”, so to speak, so it wasn’t our first choice… but it turned out to be the right one, and our feelings confirmed that. Once the location was decided, the timing was obvious: we needed to be home as soon as possible. So we found a flight from San José for the very next day and left Puerto Viejo for good within the following 2 hours.
Sitting here in Dallas, we now know exactly why we’re here. By leaving so early, we were able to catch Emily’s brother who we haven’t seen for 3 years and Carter’s never met. We were able to see Emily’s grandfather, who in the last few months has had 8 surgeries. I’ve been able to save a few clients who were getting frustrated with the dropped calls I was making to them from Costa Rica, and I’ve been able to have the time/power to get a few new ones. We’ve been able to save some money in order to get a car earlier than planned and road trip around the US for our 12th country.
We are still so glad we made it to Costa Rica despite all the extra garbage we went through to get there. We’re glad we spent the time we did there, and we don’t regret our visit. We in turn don’t regret leaving when we did, and are eagerly looking forward to what lies shortly ahead for us. We can’t wait to get started on country #12, and having this 2-week gap has made things much, much easier for us to accomplish what we’ve been wanting to do for a long time.