Thoughts on Travel

The tree-tops of Antigua, Guatemala

I recently returned from a destination wedding in Antigua, Guatemala, followed by a mini-vacation in Monteverde, Costa Rica with some friends from college. It was my second time out of the country in the last 8 years.

I traveled a lot when I was in elementary school, as my parents made it a point to send the family on some sort of overnight, airplane-required trip every summer. As a whole the trips were mostly to touristy locations. Off the top of my head I can recall Orlando, Hawaii, Bermuda, a cruise to the Bahamas, St. Thomas/US Virgin Islands, and Korea/Japan.

The “travel more” directive is pretty much on every single bucketlist-esque post on the Internet. I was too young to fully appreciate everything non-Disneyworld/beach earlier in life, and while travel has been something I could appreciate from afar, I couldn’t afford any overseas trips for a long time. Now that I can fund everything on my own it’s something I hope to be doing a lot more of.

I like foreign stop signs

Traveling in Central America was this interesting dichotomy of keeping your guard up enough to protect yourself and letting your guard down enough to soak in the culture and beauty of your surroundings. I take a lot for granted in the US, like infrastructure, clean water, safety and regulatory institutions, and even language fluency. It’s crazy to think that the norm in Guatemala City is that it’s unsafe to get into any random cab on the street for fear of being kidnapped. That even locals don’t walk around much at night for fear of being mugged. I mean this is the capital city here, not some random town of ill repute.

A woman weaving textiles for sale

The best part about this trip for me was that for the first time in my life I didn’t just sit on a beach drinking some sort of slushy drink out of a glass fitted with a small paper umbrella. Not that I have anything against slushy drinks, but my favorite part of the entire trip was walking around Antigua, snapping photos. Sitting in a Guatemalan cathedral on a Sunday. Talking to an 8 year old boy and his 1 year old sister with my largely forgotten three years of high school Spanish. Bartering a street vendor from $12 to $4 for a wooden flute, only to later realize that it definitely was not worth $4.

There are distinct differences between life here and life elsewhere, where people aren’t compulsively checking social media feeds and online news sources. And I don’t say that in some sort of condescending, “life is so simple there” type of sentiment that some travelers get. People abroad are not somehow more primitive as a result of a difference in lifestyle or technology. It’s just different. And really nice.

Waking up in Monteverde, Costa Rica

On my flight back from Costa Rica, I sat next to a third-year college student from Brazil who was flying to the States for a one year exchange program at the University of West Virginia. Jouan was flying into DC on my 1230am flight and then catching an 8am flight the following morning to Morgantown. He was excited; he had never left Brazil before nor been on an airplane. I told him that I was amazed how good his English was and he said he didn’t learn it in school but picked it up from watching American TV shows. He sold all his possessions before getting on the plane so everything he owned was in checked baggage, on its way to WVA. He was excited and nervous, but overall upbeat.

For everything I had just experienced in both Guatemala and Costa Rica, Jouan is about to experience it ten-fold. My trip was six days, with the knowledge that I’d be returning to a functional iPhone and a new job and life as normal. We lost each other in customs, but I gave him my email address on the plane. You can’t help but feel excited for the guy.

The waterfall at San Luis, Costa Rica

Current International Travel Bucketlist

  • Thailand/Vietnam
  • Japan
  • Peru and Machu Picchu

Overlooked Travel Items

  • Poncho
  • Copy of your passport
  • Money belt/travel wallet
  • Cold/headache/diarrhea medicine
  • Bug spray w/ Deet
  • iPhone (there’s WiFi everywhere)
  • iPhone apps that excel over WiFi: Talkatone (call US numbers for free), Skype (call international numbers for cheap), Kakao (text other Kakao users)
  • A camera that you feel safe carrying around
  • Reminder: clothes can be washed in a sink and dried overnight. Carrying more than you need is not worth it.