“How do I get it to work on airplane mode,” he says to me pointing at the curved lines on the top left of the iPad.
I have been sitting an empty seat away from him for about two hours while I finished The Farming of Bones quietly, taking short moments to cry then wipe my tears away.
“It’s not you, we don’t have access to wi-fi on this flight.”
He smiles and takes a breath before responding with a grainy voice. I wonder if he’s an expat, one of those Americans who has come to find solace in a foreign land because the place we’ve claimed as United is much like the break terror takes when its hand grows tired from the sling of the whip.
“You young people know how to do these things better than I ever could.”
“It’s not you,” I remind him. We smile at each other as the flight attendant announces that we’ll need to fill out two immigration forms.
This is my first solo trip. It is also my debut as an American and I have a dark blue passport to prove it. Earlier this morning when Lorrie, my adoptive Florida mom, drove me to the Tri-Rail station I was quiet with nerves. I mean, I am super pumped — it’s my first solo trip out of the country by my damn self. But it’s also scary. Last night, I stacked a first aide kit on top of medical tape, praying that I won’t have to use any of my precautionary items.
I am excited to use my grammar-less Spanish.
I can’t wait to wander into small-town markets and local museums.
I want to reward myself with the legs of mountains as I stare down at a small town from the top of a volcano hike.
I look forward to my words thriving — I write best when god and the universe converse quietly with me in my travels.
I am grateful to be millennial rich, the kind of affluency that allows for Airbnb rentals, day trips and a few days on an island in Panama for the price of a hammock.
Right now, sitting in my window seat with Beyonce singing in my ear, I am proud of myself. Happy to know that I am the kind of woman who will challenge herself to live outside of comfort. The kind who searches for humanity in new lands.
It’s what we were meant to do, you know, rather than capture, kill, rape, and seize (sorry, it’s hard to quite my justice brain).
Anyway, come back here over the next couple of weeks, I plan to share my journey with you.
Helpful nuggets on day one:
- I am spending my first full week with Gabriela; it cost me only $183. I could have stayed in San Jose for much less or much more. The reason I decided to go with Gabi’s place is because it seemed to have a homey feel (and it delivers!) and other women who had travelled alone left her outstanding reviews. Within moments of contacting her, she responded and has not let me down since.
- The immigration line is efficient, I moved through it in maybe 15 minutes.
- When you arrive at the airport, you get access to internet for free so let your family and friends know you’ve arrived safely. If you’d like, you could also purchase an internet card for a couple U.S. dollars. I decided not to because I heard there is wi-fi everywhere is Costa Rica — so far, that holds true.
- You can “cambia plata” or exchange money in the airport. I exchanged $40 which made out to a little over 19,000 colones, enough to cover me for a couple of days. Most places seem to take U.S. currency though.
- When you get outside the heat will hit you immediately and you’ll be met with dozens of people standing with signs. There will also be a hoard of (unofficial) taxi drivers ready to bargain with you; all men. One offered to take me to Los Yoses for $30 and another quickly added that he’d take me for $20. After giving him my location, I realized he was not an official driver in one of the orange-red vehicles so I turned him down. I suggest not telling a random man in a foreign country where you’re going just because he has a sign that reads “TAXI.”
- I took the public bus. If you don’t know where to find it, ask airport staff; they’re quite helpful. It cost 1,000 colones. Once I arrived in Los Yoses, San Jose, I took a taxi for less than 3,000 colones. I knew where to go and how much everything would cost because Gabi sent me a detailed email four days before my trip.
- Once I settled in with Gabi, she explained the neighborhood to me and showed me an incredible map that she designed herself. I’d describe the map and accompanying directions as a marriage between your maps app and Yelp. Using her map, I was able to make it to “Automercado” successfully, but did get lost on the way back a couple of times before finding my way (to no fault of hers).
Thank you for reading about day one! I’m off to write up my itinerary for the week. See you back here tomorrow.