The first time you travel internationally can be a very exciting and scary experience. As a seasoned traveler, I find myself dishing out advice on how and when to apply for your passport; to what kind of food they eat in any particular country. On my most recent trip to Costa Rica, I brought a 19 year old, never been on a plane before, scared for her life “International Newbie” named, Sydney.
Upon arrival at the O’hare airport in Chicago, the stress started to kick in. Flying in January from the Midwest is a very unsettling experience with blizzards and ice storms that can shut down an airport for days. Never did Sydney realize that her well awaited trip to Costa Rica can be delayed or even cancelled. As our first connecting flight was cancelled, she began to worry. “Maybe I was never meant to leave the country.” Not a good mindset to be in when you’re trying to get to an International paradise.
Boarding the plane—her ideological picture of what flying was (a glamorous event), was immediately shut down as we’re herded like cattle into a card board box, also known as economy class on any major airline. Head phones in, and heart pounding, I could tell she was starting to image the intense pressure she would feel upon takeoff. “It’s going to be ok, and we’ll be there before you know it,” I assured her, as my motherly instinct started to kick in. Half-way to 10,000 feet, she slumped into her seat—happy to be alive. “That wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.”
The nightmarish international flight experience finally ended upon arrival at the San Jose airport in Costa Rica. Running on fumes, we were all happy to be there safe and sound. Our drive from San Jose to Jaco Beach was a short one hour stint that had us all on edge as the driver weaved through oncoming lanes of traffic between the massive cliffs on either side of the highway. I think this made her realize that it’s not just Americans who can’t drive.
Sydney’s cultural experience left her with the sense that the American way is not always the best. The Costa Rican life style is very laid back. Driving through the Costa Rican country side, the roads are filled with farmers markets and tin roof houses that I can only imagine as a nightmare during the rainy season. It brought the question, “Are these people happy?” “If I brought a family to America, would they be happy with the American way of life, or feel bad for us?” Sydney concluded that they live like this for a reason. It’s what they know. They share meals together, they clean together, and they are at peace.
The research, language education, and the cultural immersion, to me are the best part of any International trip. For Sydney, it was the chance to see the world from a different point of view. To see the ocean, the moon, and the lovely coconut trees from a Costa Rican perspective.
If you liked this article, and would like to read more—please “Subscribe” above. You can also follow me on Twitter @ExplorePangea for more tips on tricks on International Travel.