mishak: (gotplur)
[personal profile] mishak
Me and mom’s Costa Rica trip was pretty great. I don’t usually use travel agents, I like looking stuff up online and reading books and researching things myself, and I learn more history, geography, and politics of the places I’m going. But this time I didn’t have a bunch of mindspace to do a lot of planning, why not try out someone who’s job it is to do this stuff. So big shout-out to Nichole of Costa Rica Custom Trips; I told her the stuff we wanted to do, with what budget, and we got a fantastic trip; she set up everything, all we had to do was show up. Not including airfare, it cost about $220 a day each for a 3-4 star hotel (my mom’s 74 years old, I want her to be comfortable), all transportation, one or two meals included and either one or two activities each day - river floating, nature hike, canopy tour zipline, canyoneering, sunset cruise, boat tours, etc. I might have been able to find a better deal? But I doubt it.

There were a few hiccups, here and there: the bus never showed up to pick us up from the hot springs, I called the tour company and they sent a cab picked us up in 10 minutes. No big. There were a couple travel snafus going from the Monteverde cloud forest to Manuel Antonio beach, but I called Nichole and she sorted things out right away, rearranged some pickup times, tour schedules, hotel nights, and everything was good. Costa Rica is a country of dirt roads and not a long, widely established culture/infrastructure for industrial-scale hospitality like the US and Europe. If you expected every detail of your plan to be executed as a well-oiled machine, you’d go to Germany, not Costa Rica. Not everything will happen when and how you planned, but just go with it, everything will turn out great. That’s another bonus of having a good travel agent, when problems happen, you’ve got one person to call and they take care of it.

Costa Rica rocks the eco-friendly, they play it up on all the brochures, but they also walk the walk. All their energy is non-fossil (70% hydro, 15% wind, 15% geothermal), I never saw a single incandescent bulb anywhere, everything’s low-output CFL. There are little placards reminding you to turn off the lights when you leave, and often as not the electricity in your hotel only turns on when you slot your room key in a receiver so when you leave and take your key, everything necessarily turns off. Recycling bins are everywhere, barely any litter on any roads or sidewalks, it’s way cleaner than Boston. To the point where, I saw a beer can on the beach and I felt mildly offended so I picked it up and tossed it in the nearest bin. I wouldn’t do that in Boston.

I’ve always thought that saying “The people there are so friendly!” sounds squeamishly patronizing and colonial, but maybe I should get over it; like, you can say ridiculously broad-brushed stuff about Americans, or Bostonians, and of course it’s not all literally true, but you’ll probably have a point in there somewhere. So here we go: The people here in Costa Rica are so friendly! This place is chill, Ticos love their country and are happy to show you the great stuff about it. Tipping is appreciated but not totally expected, there isn’t a palm-greasing culture of baksheesh like in Egypt. I didn’t get the feeling and was not advised from the guidebooks that there were a lot of locals trying to rip you off, as opposed to like, Hanoi and Cairo. Talking to one of our tour guides and he was saying that sure, you can try to go to the US and work your ass off and try to make money, but here in Costa Rica you can work and have a great life and be a part of developing your own country.

Costa Rica has no military, the president abolished the army in 1948, and put the money into education and health care and other cool stuff. When you think about it, through all the Cold War proxy violence bullshit with Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south, and the hideous drug war violence from the 80s up till now, Costa Rica has done miraculously well with no military. Kinda makes me reconsider what I thought were first principles of geopolitics. They’re in a rough neighborhood, how do they not get invaded or otherwise messed with? Maybe cuz the roads are terrible and hills and valleys full of rainforest are difficult to navigate, so it’s not worth the effort for an an invading army to hold territory? Currently, Costa Rica has so many friends, lots of American and other expats own land and live here - an invasion is just not going to happen. Pretty sweet deal, when you think about it, you don’t have to spend a bunch of money on soldiers, just use your resources to be awesome and everybody likes you and wants to vacation in your country. Which is not to say Costa Rica doesn’t have it’s problems, but for the most part this is a beautiful country, economically thriving and just about carbon neutral, and they don’t need a military. Not every nation can do what they’re doing, but the fact that they are is kind of inspiring.
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April 2015

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