a southern yankee abroad


January 2017

Day #6 of “American Carnage” 

Washington Square Park, NYC, January 25, 2017

The U.S. Constitution is bigger than your (unfounded) “fear.” Or so I hope.

Almost a week into Donald Trump’s presidency, I am beginning to realize this is worse than I feared. I was devastated following Trump’s electoral college victory, just like all the other “liberal snowflakes” out there. I randomly cried every day for about a week, and I got out and joined protest marches and rallies twice in the week following the election. Although the pain and fear of Trump’s plans for the U.S. were real, I found myself quietly hoping as I listened to the words so many moderates spoke that week.

“It’s not going to be as bad as everyone thinks.”

“He just said all that stuff to get elected…he’s not serious.”

“Give him a chance before you judge him.”

“He hasn’t even taken office yet, so why is everyone freaking out?”

While I thought his campaign rhetoric (particularly promises to build a giant wall along the Mexican border and ban Muslims and refugees from traveling into the country) was sickening, I found myself praying they were just empty (disgusting) promises made on the campaign trail to garner votes. The words enough were awful, but actions would be even worse. (There’s also the fact people actually voted for this, which I will address later…)

Now, it’s Wednesday, January 25, and Trump has already issued an executive order to boost a “Deportation force” that will tear families apart, and to begin construction on a wall between our country and our neighbor, Mexico. He has censored scientists who were using social media to communicate facts, and has continued to promote the unsubstantiated claim that he lost the popular vote because of voter fraud. His administration is commanding us to “reject the evidence of our eyes and ears” (George Orwell, 1984), and pushing “alternative facts” in its place. He has unilaterally acted to deny healthcare to millions of Americans and deny women’s health services to millions of women. Tomorrow, it is reported he will announce an executive order to ban the entry of Muslims and other refugees in danger of losing their lives into the U.S. It is also reported that he will soon act to withdraw a substantial amount of U.S. support from the United Nations, an international body that came into existence following a horrific world war for the purpose of promoting international cooperation and peace. We haven’t had a world war since.

We are less than a week in, and his actions are “unpresidented.”

I have to admit that I am a fan of executive action when it benefits human beings and the greater good—examples include the Emancipation Proclamation (Lincoln) and DACA (Obama). However, now we are seeing what happens when the wrong person has the power to take executive action. It’s truly horrifying.

I still find myself grappling with the same question I found myself asking in the days immediately following the election—how can people I love and care about condone the beliefs and political platform that embolden actual racist, misogynist xenophobes who are out there? It has only gotten worse. Why can’t America, a nation built by immigrants, live up to the standard set forth by one of our earliest founders and leaders John Winthrop—“We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us”? Why are so many Americans so willing to blame people of a different racial, ethnic, or religious background for our country’s problems? Which came first, the hate or the fear?

During a recent visit to Mexico City, I had the chance to get to know a blond-haired, blue-eyed, collared shirt-wearing Mexican guy (not that any of this is important, but I am trying to paint a picture). This guy often travels to the U.S. for work trips, golf trips, and to visit his sister (who legally resides in New York City). He is aware of how shocked Americans always are to learn he is “Mexican,” and found it humorous, until recently. He nows sees it as evidence of the deeply ingrained racial prejudices and stereotypes held by many. He also finds Trump’s rhetoric deeply offensive and dangerous, and he and others plan to boycott our country because of the pervasive hate that has found its way into our White House.

The bigotry perpetuated by so many Americans, which has found a voice and platform in Trump, is unacceptable. Our country is now being boycotted by other nations because of human rights issues. We need to wake up and stand up.

I’ve also reached an unlikely conclusion in the last few days—Trump is a unifier, but not in the way he purports to be. I have been thinking a lot about the Women’s Marches that took place around the nation and world this past weekend. While I did not participate for personal reasons, I found the pictures of marches that took place everywhere from NYC to Washington DC to Jackson, Mississippi, to Nashville to San Francisco to Paris to Bangkok to Nairobi inspiring and humbling, but also unsettling. Where were WE (white women) during the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests across the nation over the last few years, many of which faced heavily militarized police resistance? Where were we during the recent DAPL protests, and all the subsequent demonstrations against the government’s rape and conquest of Native American land?

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I didn’t take this picture, but it spoke volumes to me

I attended a rally tonight in Washington Square Park to stand in solidarity with Muslims and Latinos in light of the Mexican wall order and impending Muslim travel ban executive order. I looked around, and many of the protesters were white like me. While I am so happy to see unity across race, socioeconomic status, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, and ethnic lines, I am still deeply troubled because in a way, some of us are too late. I am humbled and afraid. img_2121

I am trying to maintain faith in our constitutional institutions, but the damage is already done. This bigotry was here long before Trump took office—he just gave it a vehicle and a voice. I take personal responsibility for not acting and speaking sooner in my own personal life. Many people (aka white women) feel threatened for the first times in their lives, and that’s a sign of privilege. So many others have been afraid of losing their hard-won civil rights for a long time. Yet Trump’s policies are still a reason to fight back. I hope the marches on Saturday were just a start. While I disagree with some of the rhetoric coming from the resistance movement (particularly from celebrities), we need to stay vigilant, uncomfortable, and humble. It’s just getting started.


Good Fortune (Or, the Day the Jungle Chewed Me Up and Spit Me Out)

Volcan Arenal

After beach time and mountain time, I decided to round out my Costa Rica trip with some volcano time in the city of La Fortuna. La Fortuna is a small village that sits just below the formidable Arenal volcano. Arenal has been active twice in its history- once 3,000 years ago and most recently in the period between 1968 and 2010, when it again went dormant. The 1968 eruption killed 90 people on one side of the volcano, yet spared the small village sitting at its foot on the other side. At that point, the village changed its name to La Fortuna, meaning “good fortune” or “luck.”

I opted to travel from Monteverde to La Fortuna via the “jeep-boat-jeep” method, which is an overland vehicle out of Monteverde, a boat ride along Arenal Lake beneath the volcano, then another car ride into town. At a cost of $25 and travel time of only 3 hours, this travel method made sense as compared to all day on the public bus. It turned out to offer some amazing views, and was so much fun! I met other travelers from Mexico, Israel, Australia, and the Netherlands. 

With some Australian friends/a fellow law student from the boat!

In particular, I met Gustavo, a guy from Mexico City who has been traveling for 2 years straight now and finances his travels by impersonating Captain Jack Sparrow and collecting tips. He lost his phone 4 months ago and decided he didn’t need one, and has been living without one ever since. He is the definition of a free spirit, and he provided so much entertainment on our journey! 

Once we arrived in La Fortuna, I checked into Mayol Lodge and spent some time lounging by the pool, writing, and checking out the beautiful river and waterfall located on the property. I also booked an “extreme 2 volcano trek” with the receptionist for the next day. A friend back in Manuel Antonio had recommended Red Lava tours for $75, but the receptionist offered me a deal with a locally-owned company for $60. 


The next morning, I set off on the trek with our 2 guides, and a group of both solo and couple travelers from Australia, Canada, and Germany. I was also so excited to finally meet 3 other travelers from NYC, including another girl traveling solo like me! We ended up having some great conversations over the course of the day about life, travel, and living in NYC. 

With Juan the guide, before things got loco

The 10-hour trek kicked off with a 2.5 hour hike up Chato, which is a smaller volcano beside Arenal without a top. Instead, a massive cater and lagoon exist at the top of the volcano. The hike started off as difficult but manageable. We were going at a pretty steep incline, using hands to grab rocks and roots for balance and leverage along the way. There was no trail- we just followed a downhill path carved out by water flow. 
The trail up Chato. This all became mud once the rain started!

Then the rain started about halfway up Chato, and it didn’t stop for the rest of the day. We reached the top of the crater, and had to walk another kilometer around the edge to reach the point where we would descend 100 meters down to the lake. The mud situation got serious, and I was up to my ankles a few times and almost lost my shoe due to the suction once! The real challenge began when we descended down to the lagoon by sliding and climbing on all fours down the slick rocks. “It’s better to have mud on your a** than in your face,” our guide Juan advised. 


Once at the lagoon, the rain intensified and the already poor visibility decreased even more. I did wade out into the water with some of my NYC friends, only to wash some mud off, as the temperature had also dropped. Sadly, we couldn’t see any of the beautiful views of the crater and Arenal given the weather, but I know it was all there just beyond the rain! 

You can’t tell, but we’re standing in a lagoon on top of the volcano Chato.
We then ascended the 100 meters out of the crater to continue around Chato and descend the volcano on the other side toward Arenal. Just as it had been tricky descending the 100 meters on the slick rocks in the mud, it was equally as challenging climbing out the same way. I used roots and branches to pull myself up particularly tall rocks. 

My plan was working well, until a few minutes in when my foot slipped on a rock just as I was dangling from a branch. My left thigh crashed into the rock as I fell just 2 feet, but it was enough to hurt a lot! Sure enough, I had a pretty big (but fortunately shallow) scrape on my left thigh, and the blood started flowing. I had no choice but to keep climbing, as we were in the middle of a cliff. All of my fellow hikers were so sweet and offered to help me, and one new NYC friend used his water to clean the wound. As the blood kept flowing, I waited for Juan once I reached the top, and he was able to clean the wound with alcohol and wrap my leg in gauze to keep all the mud out. I have to say I felt super tough at this point! 


We were all covered in mud, and it was still pouring rain…


We continued the hike down Chato to then hike around Arenal to some waterfalls and hanging bridges for another 3 hours. 

Crossing a hanging bridge

Juan kept a close eye on me to make sure I didn’t have any other accidents (haha). Even as the rain continued to pour, we all kept ourselves in good spirits by laughing and joking about the insanity of the situation. In particular, my new Canadian friend Matt made me laugh so much the rest of the afternoon that I forgot I was cold, wet, and bleeding. It was actually fun! 

We found a river to wash off in, and a waterfall. We even saw a tree frog in the pouring rain. So cute! 

This is real, not fake, I promise!

After a few more hours of hiking, we reached the Arenal observatory around 6:30pm. Sadly, we could not see Arenal at all. Instead, I stood under the hand dryer in the bathroom to try to warm up and dry off (this was the first shelter we had all day!) Juan also gave us coffee! 

Then, we loaded up in a bus and rode over to some natural hot springs, where we soaked our sore (and injured) muscles and floated. We also enjoyed some Costa Rican cocktails at this point, as well as a volcanic mud facial. It was the perfect ending to the day.


Last night, after I showered and as I fell asleep in clean, dry clothes, I thought about what a wild day it had been and realized I had never been more thankful to be in a dry, warm shelter in my life. I felt very fortunate. I also felt fortunate to have met such fun, adventurous, and hilarious people from around the world on the trek. We all had so much time to chat, commiserate, and share life stories as we trekked through the rain and mud for what felt like an endless amount of hours. Lastly, I felt fortunate that I didn’t hurt myself that badly when falling down the rock, that Juan had a first aid kit on hand, and that I was able to continue the trek and have a great day. I’ve had a few close calls on this trip, so I’m more than ready to return home to NYC at this point.


That’s not to say I didn’t love the jungle! Similar to when Sarah, Rachele, and I trekked Vinicunca mountain in Peru back in June, I feel like I pushed myself to a new limit and proved my own strength to myself on yesterday’s trek. At a point in my life where my days are usually characterized by a conflated stream of words from the cases I read and lecture notes I take, it was cathartic to get super dirty while hiking and climbing to the point exhaustion. 


This morning, I woke up and felt like I had been hit by a truck. But I also felt fortunate, and that’s Pura Vida. 

The view of La Fortuna from halfway up Chato.

Five Misconceptions about Female Solo Travel (and Solo Travel In General)

Traveling through Costa Rica over the past week has brought back so many emotions from my 12 week backpacking trip this past summer- the feelings of self-reliance and freedom, and the excitement of discovery and uncertainty. This time around, I strangely feel more at home “on the road,” but also further away from home than I ever have felt before. I find myself thinking less about how exciting the adventure is and more about how my traveling fits into my personal long and short-term goals. For me, I think I’m working on defining what home means, and I think there’s no better way to do this than traveling solo. Particularly, women traveling alone may face a unique set of questions, coming both from others and from their own self-doubt. I address a few below. 


1- “It’s bold of you to be traveling alone as a girl.” I got this exact comment from a very nice Floridian gentleman I met at Manuel Antonio a few days ago, who had just finished telling me his own son had traveled through Africa alone when he was my age. I couldn’t help but smile and wonder if the fact I was traveling solo would have elicited the same response if I were male. To be fair, this gentleman was with his college-aged daughter, and he encouraged the two of us to talk some more so she could “learn from me,” which I found humbling (he thinks I have something to teach!?) and inspiring (he wants his daughter to feel empowered to see the world on her own volition). 
Traveling solo while female isn’t necessarily bold or out-of-the-ordinary (at least it shouldn’t be). I have girl friends from Europe who do this type of thing regularly. And let’s not forget American pop culture icons Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat Pray Love fame) and Cheryl Strayed (Wild).
I found this encounter illustrative of something I view as a uniquely American perspective– the world’s not safe enough for women to travel alone. I have to disagree. To be fair, my own parents were reasonably concerned when I traveled to Africa last year on my own. But the truth is, practicing a certain level of care and attention will keep women just as safe as men in most places in the world. I’ll admit there are some places even I wouldn’t travel alone right now, but they’re few and far between. You have to accept 1 thing (America is just as dangerous or, in some ways, more dangerous than some places in the world) and believe 2 things: 1-despite what the media shows, most people generally have goodness in their hearts, and 2-practicing heightened care by paying attention to surroundings and instincts goes a long way. 

A *solo* coconut lunch in Costa Rica. Muy rico!


2- “You’re staying in a hostel!? / Aren’t those sketchy and gross?” They’re awesome, if you pick the right one! I’m actually a huge fan of hostels, yet I feel they get a bad wrap in the USA because they’re just not as common there. Despite the sound of the name, I’ve found “hostels” to be quite hospitable places. Many of them are just as nice or nicer than hotels, with the added bonus of meeting fellow travelers and making friends more easily. The average age is somewhere between 23 to 35, if you pick the right one. And they are generally far less expensive to boot, with special deals on stuff to see and do around town. In addition, many hostels have a private room option which provides the privacy benefit of hotels at a far cheaper cost. 

I use Hostelworld to research and book in advance. The reviews are very helpful here in terms of choosing a hostel that’s clean and safe, with the right blend of social-ness and solitude. The flexible deposit option also allows you to receive a refund if you cancel far enough in advance that’s then credited toward booking your next hostel (they also have hotels on here too!) 
Ironically, I feel hostels are a much safer option for female solo travelers than single Airbnbs or hotels. As much as I love Airbnb, I think it’s better to be around a group of fellow travelers if you’re traveling alone. Also, it’s just an easier and more convenient way to make friends! 

My hostel in La Fortuna, complete with a pool, river, and waterfall. At $15/night.

I think my favorite hostel I’ve ever stayed in was St. Christopher’s Inn in Berlin. I stayed in a huge room with 3 other girls, one who became one of my closest friends from the summer. We also had 2 full baths, a living room and kitchen, and a full bar and restaurant downstairs. It was also next to 2 major train stations. And it was ridiculously cheap– if you’re going to Berlin, book in advance because it fills up fast. 

3- “Doesn’t it get lonely sometimes?” Yes and no. I am a firm believer that everyone would benefit from taking a solo trip at some point in his or her life. Solo travel teaches you how to rely on yourself in a completely unique way, as you are often the only person you know when you first arrive in a completely new part of the world. Solo travel is a healthy exercise in self-reliance, and I’m convinced it teaches you more about yourself than you thought you could know. It also forces you to step outside your comfort zone to make new connections, causing you to realize your comfort zone is in fact larger than you ever realized.
That being said, I think it takes a special blend of introversion and extroversion to truly relish the experience, as I tend to do. I am admittedly an introverted extrovert, which means I tend to gravitate towards social settings and being around other people, but I not only crave, but need, time alone to recharge and reflect. I love traveling solo because I can direct when I want to be social and when I want to be alone, which is a luxury for someone who lives in one of the most crowded cities in the world! 
Does it get lonely sometimes? Sure, sometimes. And I have to admit I also love traveling with other people, too. It’s just a different experience, and there is a lot of value to be recognized in both methods. I don’t think I’ll travel solo forever, but at this point in my life I’m relishing the freedom.

It’s easier than you think to meet new friends while traveling solo!


4- “Why travel so much now? Don’t you want to wait and do it someday with a husband and kids?” My response is why not travel now and then! The (morbid) truth is, none of us know how many hours we have left on this earth. Or, you may wake up one day at 80 years old and realize you never pursued your dream of seeing the world because you kept waiting on other people. So if seeing as much of the world as possible is a priority to you, do it now. Not only is it safe and practical for women to solo travel (for reasons discussed above), but it makes so much sense to do so during the free, uncommitted days of early adulthood. You can stay in hostels! You can take an overnight bus with your backpack! You can wander through a jungle by yourself! 

Flying in a tiny plane, aka an opportunity to be brave on my own!

Traveling has allowed me to make sense of both the world and myself on a deeper level, even as what I see and learn often uncovers even more questions. I feel richer because of the opportunities I’ve had over the last couple of years to travel solo, and these experiences will enrich my future, whatever it holds. 


5- “Isn’t it expensive though?” To be fair, this applies to guys and girls. My answer is twofold- 1) it’s not as expensive as you may think and 2) it doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think. Budgeting and using a savings plan, being flexible with flight dates, replacing some eating out with groceries, and using hostels can combine to make (almost) any trip a reality. Everyone has a right to choose what they value most, and for me, in the last few years I’ve begun to value experiences more than things. (That doesn’t mean wanting to spend money on nice things is a less worthy goal at all! It’s all personal preference). Life is all about choices anyway. If you want, feel free to message me to chat privately about travel finances. I promise I’ve paid less for this trip than you’d believe, and I’d love to share my secrets with you!

My friend Gustavo has been traveling for 2 years now, and finances his travels by impersonating Captain Jack Sparrow and collecting tips along the way!
Also, each time I travel, I’m blown away by how many Americans I do not meet. For people from other countries (Australia and the U.K. come to mind), traveling abroad is a priority that manifests in the way people save and spend their money. Most people I meet traveling are not extremely wealthy, yet they just prioritize traveling in their finances. And, so many countries are cheaper to live in and travel in than the USA- with a bit of financial planning, I’m convinced more Americans can see the world.
If you take the chance to travel alone, you’ll discover you’re stronger than you ever realized, meet some of the most interesting people, and learn just how small the world really is. The world is yours to explore, so I encourage all women (and men) out there to not make any more excuses and do it. To combine two of my favorite cliches- fortune favors the bold, and travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. 

I’ve Got My Head in the Clouds

Monteverde has been a complete 180 from the pace and climate of Manuel Antonio. I am amazed that two destinations that are so different can exist in the same tiny country. As different as these towns are, they both have Pura Vida in common. 


Getting from Manuel Antonio to Monteverde was an adventure in itself. I had 2 options- a private transfer service that would last 5 hours and take me door-to-door with air conditioning for $50, or the public bus that would last 6 hours without air conditioning and with a transfer in Puntarenas for $8. Of course I chose the public bus! Not only did I save money, but I enjoyed getting to know a few locals along the route. I also met some girls from Germany and France who had the same idea I had. I definitely recommend taking the public bus here if a) you don’t need air conditioning (I’m from the South so I’m used to the heat!), b) you’re fairly confident in your Spanish (most of the people I met in the stations didn’t speak English, and you’ll need to communicate as the terminals can be confusing), and c) you’re a student and want to save money!


Monteverde is a small village located in the Costa Rican cloud forests, and was founded by Quakers who left the USA in the 1950s to avoid the draft for the Korean War. As our bus climbed up into the mountains from the sea, I could feel the temperature dropping. We were also graced with this amazing view along the road. 

Once the bus dropped me off in Monteverde, I found my way to my bed and breakfast, Cabinas Vista Al Golfo. The climate had completely changed from Manuel Antonio– cold, rain, and wind replaced the scorching humid heat of the coastal area. 


It was so windy, I only left Cabinas to visit an ATM, get dinner (ceviche and Imperial of course!), and invest in a pair of $10 fleece-lined leggings for the cold night ahead (so comfy!) I came back, showered, and crawled into bed with a book as the wind howled outside my window. It sounded like a hurricane, or at least a tropical depression. My private room had no electrical outlets, and I had to go outside to access the bathroom, so it was pretty much like glamping. 


The next morning, I woke up early to hit the trails at the Santa Elena Reserve. As Santa Elena is located in a true rainforest, I spent about 3.5 hours hiking the accessible trails in the rain. Fortunately, I was able to rent mud boots there for just $2. There’s no way I could have done this trek in my regular sneakers without ruining them!

The views from beneath the canopy were so peaceful and beautiful, and I often found myself stopping just to take long breathes of the clean, fresh air. I definitely got a lot of thinking, meditating, and praying in on this trek. 

A rainforest selfie!

I was soaked to the bone following the trek, but very energized. As I drank a coffee to warm up following the hike, I met this friendly pizote who decided to visit the cafe area!

The rain finally stopped when I returned from Santa Elena, so I sat outside in the sun to dry off while I wrote a few postcards. After visiting the post office, I stopped by the Monteverde Outdoor Center, where my new friend Clayton had helped direct me to Cabinas the day before. Andres, another new friend there, recommended I spend the rest of the afternoon hiking in Bosque Eterno de los Ninos, or the eternal children’s forest.  We also had a very interesting discussion about how climate change is affecting the rainforests and weather patterns here in Costa Rica. I took his advice, and my cab driver Laulo drove me out to the reserve, where I spent the next 2 hours hiking!

The reserve is named for a global effort of school children from over 40 countries to save the rainforests by raising enough money to purchase the land for the reserve. ❤ Even though it is near Santa Elena, the two forests are different ecosystems. I saw so many butterflies here!

Instead of calling another cab, I walked the 30 minutes back into the city, which turned into a beautiful, third hike on its own. The sunset over the cloud forest was muy bonita!

Laulo forgot to charge me for my cab earlier, so I stopped back by Monteverde Outdoor Center to leave the money for him with Andres and Clayton, who know him. I was really impressed with how helpful they were on my 2 days in Monteverde, and I encourage anyone visiting this mountain village to check in with them! They also do private tours, including night walks, and offer good advice in general (for example, after hearing of my love of ceviche and Imperial, they recommended a local spot called Barvilla to me, where you get free ceviche with an Imperial! It did not disappoint!) I also ran into a nice Canadian couple I had met back in Quepos when I was leaving… el mundo pequeno!


If you’re in Monteverde, please stop by Monteverde Outdoor Center and tell Andres and Clayton I sent you! 

Also, Monteverde can be expensive if you want to do all the zip lining, bungee jumping, etc. Fortunately, I got my zip lining fix at Abby’s bachelorette weekend earlier in the year, so I wasn’t as tempted. I just wanted to hike. I was able to get into Santa Elena Reserve and Bosque de los Ninos for $7 and $10 respectively, with a student discount. All money goes toward preservation and upkeep efforts. Be sure to budget for the other activities if you want to do those while here!

Roll Tide or Riptide?

El mundo es muy pequeno! Every time I travel, I become more aware of this fact. On my second day just outside Quepos, I was able to connect with Steph and Dan, who are close friends with my close friends Erin and Doug (Erin was my roommate in Memphis). Steph and Dan got married, traveled the world together, and moved their lives from Chicago to Costa Rica to follow their dream of opening a B&B in Manuel Antonio. After spending one last morning laying in the hammock, reading, and swimming at Plinio, Dan arrived in his fabulous ’87 Montero and brought me back to Casa Linda, where I was finally able to meet Steph after hearing about her from Erin for years!


Steph and Dan set me up in one of their 6 very comfortable rooms available for rent. The room even had Apple TV and Netflix, but I’m not sure anyone would ever need to use it given this breathtaking view from the porch!

Casa Linda in Manuel Antonio

Dan then introduced me to his friends Reuben and Eric (aka Paulito), and we set off for Playitas, a hidden beach in Manuel Antonio. We even had to off-road to get there! Eric is a surf instructor on this beach, and offered me a lesson, but I opted to watch the pros do their thing while I swam and relaxed. Reuben is a semi-professional skateboarder, so this translates to his surfing too. I didn’t want to slow them down, but they were generous to offer to teach me!

So, in my last post, I said Costa Rica doesn’t have riptides. I think Marvin must have been speaking about only that beach in particular, because there is certainly one at Playitas. In all my years of growing up swimming in the ocean, I have never been caught in a riptide, but I was caught in one yesterday. It was a surreal experience- one minute I was swimming along and body surfing on the waves, and the next I turned around to see the shore was much farther away than I intended it to be.


Realizing what must be happening, I immediately started to try to swim back to shore with all my strength (obviously forgetting everything I had ever been taught about swimming parallel to the shore if caught in a riptide). I was swimming so hard that my arms and legs started to go numb, yet I was still getting farther away.


Despite all possible reasons to do so, I didn’t panic and decided just to float along and hope I got closer to shore eventually. I thought about calling out to Reuben or Eric down shore, but I didn’t think I needed to. I felt like it would all work out.


Sure enough, right as I was thinking this, I saw Eric swimming toward me with his surfboard. Eric has been swimming and surfing in these waters his whole life, and recognized the situation instantly. He told me to climb onto the surfboard and hold on tight and keep it straight, while he swam along and pulled it forward. After a few minutes, we were back in shallow waters. Eric saved my life!

Eric aka Paulito- rescuer y amigo Tico!


I later learned he’s saved upwards of 50 people from riptides, but that once a young boy slipped right away from him in a breaking wave, drowning in the current. As many lives as he’s saved, the sadness of this tragedy weighs heavily on Eric’s face as he discusses it. Eric also told me I was the “chillest” person he has ever saved, as I wasn’t panicking at all and apparently most people do. Maybe I should have been, but I don’t think that would have helped the situation.


I thought that my decades of swimming and years of lifeguard experience meant I was immune from this danger, but I was definitely wrong. I really hope this post doesn’t alarm or worry anyone (apologies to my parents!) While it’s somewhat embarrassing, I wanted to share this story to encourage others to take extra care and to not swim too far into the waves at low tide (apparently this is what was causing the strong riptide). I got back in the water a few more times that afternoon, but didn’t swim out further than I could touch. Only calm waters from now on!


I am truly grateful for Eric’s attentiveness! I feel so fortunate to have befriended him and Reuben on this trip.

Sunset at Manuel Antonio


After watching the sunset, we rode the bus back into town and reunited with Steph, Dan, and the other Casa Linda guests. We then all loaded up the Montero to head to Sancho’s, where we watched the National Championship on Spanish ESPN (yes, with Spanish-speaking commentators!) Ironically, there were about 4 Clemson fans in the bar (1 who was also staying at Casa Linda) and I was the only Alabama fan. In the spirit of Pura Vida, we kept it light and friendly! (Plus, I’m a Dabo fan, so it was cool with me if Clemson won. Fun fact: “Dabo” means “that boy” in Alabama-speak, as he was born and raised in Alabama). I left to go to bed during the 3rd quarter, so I wasn’t there to witness the shocking last-second defeat. Congratulations to my new Clemson friends from Costa Rica!

Me, Steph, and my Clemson friend Aaron enjoying futbol americano at Sancho’s


My last day in Manuel Antonio was eventful, to say the least, but also very enjoyable and relaxing. I highly recommend staying at Casa Linda with Steph and Dan if you are in the area. They truly treat all of their guests like family and go out of their way to take care of you (Dan even drove me to the bus station in Quepos the next morning). Their energy is contagious and I’m so grateful for their hospitality!

Donde es la playa!?

Hola from Quepos! Fittingly, my life briefly flashed before my eyes when I boarded this plane for a 15 minute flight with NatureAir from San Jose to Quepos. I found myself asking if this reactionary adventure to my first semester in law school was really worth it… eh, I decided it was! 
I was very apprehensive about this flight leading up to it, but it turned out to be a fun experience and a much smoother ride than I expected. There was hardly any turbulence! Just to be extra careful (haha), I sat directly behind the pilot, so I could just follow him out of the plane in case anything bad happened. However, 15 scenic and uneventful minutes later, we arrived at the Quepos airport (pictured below).

After paying a $3 “exit fee” to leave the airport (ugh!), I took a bus into the village to find my accommodation. I was the only English speaker on the bus so I got to practice even more with my driver and seat mate. After arriving at Hostel Plinio, I immediately changed into my bathing suit, went for a long swim, and napped on a lounge chair. All recent memories of the law library’s fluorescent lighting and dusty bookshelves faded away, replaced by recent good memories and the peace and beauty of the present moment. Pura Vida! 

After settling into my room (essentially a screened-in porch that feels like a treehouse), I walked 1 km into Quepos to buy some new sunglasses (mine did not survive the trip.. RIP!) for only 3,000 colones (about $6). I then set off to hike to Playa Mancha, a hidden beach the receptionist had told me about. Unfortunately, I got a bit lost along the way. “Hola! Donde es la playa?” (Playa=beach in Spanish) I asked a few friendly locals I encountered along the way. They tried their best to help me, but I ultimately decided to turn around and head back toward Plinio. As there were no signs (it is a hidden beach after all) and I was all alone in a fairly remote area, I was beginning to think perhaps this hidden beach just wasn’t in my plan. I did see a lot of monkeys along the trail, which was fun! Earlier, I had stopped at a roadside restaurant along the way to ask for directions, so I stopped here along the way back to show some business to the nice and hospitable owner. I had some very delicious and fresh ceviche, and an Imperial (Costa Rica’s national beer). 

The next day included a visit to the Manuel Antonio Park, and I finally found la playa! I visited with the receptionist from my hostel (she moved here from Ireland 3 years ago and hasn’t left yet), her cousins visiting from England, and another solo traveler from Colombia. Our guide was Marvin, a native who could spot the most obscure and camouflaged animals in the trees with his superhuman eyesight. He’d then train his mini-“telescope” to let us mere mortals view the animals, too, while he told us interesting facts about the flora and fauna.

I never thought bats were cute… until Costa Rica
3- toed sloth. Known for being lazy, they are actually pretty efficient. They can latch onto high branches for days at a time, safe from the grasp of predators, without expending any energy. They only come down once/week to use the bathroom, so I guess we caught this guy at a bad time…
Gladiator frog
This guy (a congo monkey) is my favorite. His face says it all. Pura Vida!

After our animal-spotting trek, I split off to go for a long swim in the Pacific. I floated and swam in the ocean for a very long time and got lost in my own thoughts.
My little spot en la playa ❤️

The ocean here has no sharks, jellyfish, or riptide (according to Marvin)… how much more perfect could this country get!? After swimming, I dried off and met a family from Jacksonville, Fl, who had set up their towels nearby. While chatting, a raccoon ran up and grabbed this family’s food! Fortunately, they left all other belongings alone. After this excitement and wonderful chat, I set off hiking to Playa Gemalas, swam some more there, then hiked to the “Lost Port.” Feeling pretty exhausted at this point, I bought a fresh coconut for lunch (they hack the top off with a knife and stick a straw in for the fresh juice) and took the bus back to Quepos, where I read and chilled by the pool the rest of the day. 
I like it here so much I’ve decided to stay an extra day! 

On The Road Again, in Pursuit of Pura Vida

Hello from Costa Rica! It seems like just yesterday I was hopping off the plane after a summer backpacking abroad, but somehow I’ve managed to finish a semester of law school since then. Ever since my return, I’ve missed the feeling of being a traveler- with everything I need in my backpack and a manageable sense of uncertainty about where to go next and how to get there. I’ve also missed the feeling of solo traveling, because NYC (as much as I love it) has a way of making a person feel claustrophobic at times.


In fact, it was during a cloudy, overcast afternoon spent in the NYU law library in November that I booked a round trip flight from NYC to San Jose, almost on a whim. Even as I was finding law school to be a healthy amount of challenging and rewarding, I could feel that sense of freedom, spontaneity, and energy I enjoyed over my summer travels fading fast. I took the fact that the round trip flight was cheaper than the round trip flight I had already booked to visit home (Alabama/Mississippi) for the earlier part of the holidays as a sure sign that Costa Rica was where I needed to recharge my batteries before semester #2 of law school insanity. I believe in signs, and this one was pointing me to this happy little Central American country.


Why Costa Rica? First, I’ve always wanted to visit this country ever since I learned it does not have a military. Peace, beaches, coffee, and rainforests– could it get any better?! Second, I’m very drawn to the national motto of “Pura Vida”– the pure life. Pura Vida is like the “hakuna matata” of Costa Rica. Pura Vida means living a simple and peaceful life, appreciating the beauty and people around you, and always being grateful for what you have while never taking anything for granted. This summer (and last year in whole) brought me closer to a personal understanding of Pura Vida, and my goal this week is to shake off the anxieties of law school in exchange for a reconnection with some Pura Vida. 


The trip has been off to a good start so far. I left JFK on an Aeromexico flight to Mexico City, where I spent a 3 hour layover enjoying Dos Equis and watching VH1 classics in the terminal (Pura Vida!). I then took another Aeromexico flight to San Jose. As my flight arrived just after 1am and my next flight is at 8am, I napped in a coffee shop area in the airport with several other folks who seemed to be on the same mission as I am. I have also already had some opportunities to start brushing up on my Spanish again! (Sarah, if you’re reading this I know you’re probably laughing now. And that’s ok, because I am too.) 


My next and final flight for today will be a quick 20 minute flight to Quepos/Manuel Antonio via NatureAir, a Costa Rican airline which happens to be the world’s first carbon neutral airline. No military, minimizing its carbon footprint, Pura Vida– this little country is on to something, and my goal is to think about the scalability of some of Costa Rica’s ways while I’m here.


I’m so glad to be on the road again! While I could never go “full nomad” and will always need something to ground me (whether that’s a job, school, friends/family, etc), I think keeping adventure and spontaneity regularly injected in my life helps me to keep perspective on those important things that ground me.  
Next stop, Quepos! 


** disclaimer- in keeping with the Pura Vida theme, I left my laptop behind in NYC, so I’m blogging from my phone. I apologize in advance for any typing or formatting errors! 🙂

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