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My First 24 Hours in Costa Rica (Part One: The Arrival)

Off to the Airport

In true fashion of the #ProcrastinationNation, I didn’t actually pack my things until the night before my 8AM flight…

I arrived at the airport thinking I had time to spare, but I didn’t know I had to fill out a lengthy travel authorization form. Next thing you know, my mom leaves the car double parked outside to help me hold my place in line, and I scramble to get everything done. I’m frantically checking old emails for info and sweating bullets thinking I was about to miss my flight. I made it to the counter at 5:58AM - just two minutes before the deadline to check my bags. (& I ended up paying more for them than I did for the flight itself! Charging extra for bags over 50 pounds should definitely count as discrimination…)

Just when I thought the stress was over, I got lost looking for the right security line. I walked circles and circles and circles around until finally finding where I was supposed to be. I made it to the gate okay and slept through the first leg of the flight.

But of all places to have a layover, MIA might just be one of the worst. I mean seriously! It took me 35 minutes just to walk from my arrival gate to my departure. I had just gotten a new iPhone - again, maybe two or three days before the trip, and made the mistake of waiting to open it until I was on my way - which was also the point I discovered that they don’t include the adapter/charging box in the package for a new phone?!! So now amidst my cross-country sprint, I have to find time to exchange currency and buy this adapter because who knows whether I’ll be able to find it when I arrive…

I won’t say I was wheezing by the time I got to the gate, but it was definitely an indication that I need to get in shape…but I’d think more about that after eating the McGriddle I was saving in my purse. Just as I scarfed it down, the attendant gave the call that the flight was ready to board.

Cue: arrival at Liberia Airport.

I love international flights because you sometimes get to deplane directly onto the ground instead of walking through a jet bridge. Even though I looked stupid wearing gym shorts and bright pink Crocs amidst the snow in my hometown, it paid off as soon as I stepped foot outside. The day was bright and sunny, and of course I got a bit caught up in the beauty of it all.

We didn’t wait long to get through customs…but it would be too good to be true for everything to go smoothly from there.

Almost Went Left...

There were signs EVERYWHERE saying the attendant would be checking for proof of purchase for a return flight to my home city. Perfect situation for someone who’d only gotten a ticket one way! I got my phone out and looked for a random ticket just so I could give the date and flight number when I got asked for it.

If you’ve ever seen that show about extreme couponers, you know the drill about scanning the room to size up the attendants when you’re waiting somewhere with multiple lines. I locked eyes with someone who seemed friendly and crossed my fingers that I’d proceed smoothly. But of course, I got assigned to someone different and everything went up in smoke.

When I gave the attendant my passport and entrance card, she looked at me with the most resentful expression. She asked me about my reason for travel, but when I said education she seemed to get agitated. She kept asking and asking and I kept repeating and rephrasing until she moved on to ask me where I was going. I pointed to the address I’d written down for my host family, but that just added to the confusion. “Where are you going?!” she insisted. “Santa Rosa. Santa Rosa?! …Santa Rosa?” I continued again and again, less confidently each time. “Where in Santa Rosa? Where in Santa Rosa???” she replied.

How the hell am I supposed to know where when I was already saying where?! I had no idea what she was looking for me to say. My mind immediately goes to worst case scenario. I’m panicking thinking the city I’m going to isn’t even a city and that I’m gonna be trapped in some customs detention center having to try to find a way to explain myself in a foreign language.

I called the emergency number for the school and gave the phone to the attendant so she could talk to someone with better information. I don’t know if she got the answers she was looking for or if she was just exasperated with me, but she let me go. And no, she never even asked me about that return flight.

Oh, and that decision to pack at the last minute ended up costing me in more ways than one. Now here I am alone with three heavy check bags, a purse, and a carry on trying to roll my way outside and find my driver, whom the emergency contact said was already waiting for me. I thought I was in luck when I found a luggage cart. I heaaavvveeed the bags on top…only to push them about 20 feet and have to take them off again to get them onto a conveyor belt for security screening. I put them back onto the cart once the screening was finished and pushed the cart a few more feet this time…just for another attendant to tell me I had to take them off AGAIN because the luggage carts weren’t allowed outside!! WHAT?! OMG.

At this point I’m kicking one bag in front of me while squeezing the others beneath my elbows and cradling my carryons like overgrown babies. It took a few minutes of my embarrassing myself this way for someone to offer to help me, but I finally found my driver and took a second to relax.

He looked at me as if the fear of God had struck him. He said my bags were too big and his car was too small to fit them + me + the other person we were waiting for and whatever they had to bring. When she arrived, he called another driver. He said he would drive us to our homes, and that the other driver would deliver our things later in the night. Now keep in mind: he’s communicating all this in Spanish. I thought I understood everything until the second driver got there and we were instructed to get onto his bus. ???? The bus stopped at a rental car place and I was completely baffled trying to imagine what to expect. Out of nowhere, the original driver showed back up. We got into the car with him leaving our things behind as originally planned. Reassurance that my Spanish wasn’t so terrible after all.

We drove for an hour or two and I took the opportunity to take in all the scenery.

I walked into my new home for the first time, and wow was it surreal! ...

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