Bait and Switch: Travel Style

Whimg_0608en I decided to escape from winter, I coordinated events quickly not certain if I wanted a sit-on-the-beach-sipping-fruity-drinks kind of experience, a cram-in-as-many-things-as-you-can experience, or perhaps somewhere in between. After a day or two of just relaxing in the sun, taking long walks on the beach, and playing in the surf, I decided it was time to stray from the tranquility of the resort.

I had heard great things about the Arenal volcano, so it seemed a reasonable place to start. Off to the tourist desk I went and signed up for a trip the following day to Arenal and Baldi hot springs. I paid little attention to the mention of hot springs. They seemed a side note to the majesty of the volcano. But I played along, wearing my swimming suit and packing a change of clothes and a towel.

The following morning I met Ronald, the driver and guide for the day, in the lobby and off we went with two other women. We turned our backs on the coastline and  headed northeast back toward San Jose and the interior of the country. The drive is 2.5-3 hours, depending on traffic, road conditions, weather. We made a single stop at some lovely gardens that naturally included a souvenir shop, bathrooms, and coffee samples – rather delicious, I must say.

As we headed further into the clouds, the once clear skies turned from fog and mist to an angry downpour. And that’s when it dawned on me why the hot springs are included in the trip…the chance of actually getting a glimpse of Arenal, much less a full, unencumbered view was relatively low. Somewhere between being hit by lightning and winning a Powerball.

The drive was great though. We went through a few small towns, so got to see homes, schools, bus stops, roadside stands, grocery stores – all the everyday sights that make traveling such a rich experience. Our drive was slow during some of the periods of heavy rain when navigating potholes ranked among the most steely-nerved of Olympic sports.

To their credit, the hot springs are lovely. There are 25 different pools, a few cool, but most warm. It was an excellent place to relax and imagine the skies lifting and Arenal making an appearance. During the few hours we were there, it looked like it could happen once or twice, but, alas, it was not to be.

It reminded me of my trip to Japan a few years ago when several of us piled into a bus to go to Mt. Fuji. About an hour into the trip, the guide mentioned that the mountain could only be seen once every three to four days. But then, we saw it. It was more amazing than I’d expected. At each level we stopped, we got a slightly different view. It was windy. It was cold. No one cared. Because on that day, our 25% chance had skyrocketed to 100% and it was like we’d been struck by lightning.

I should have known better than to think it might strike again at Arenal, but you don’t know if you don’t try, you always have the hot springs to distract you, and now there’s even more reason to return to Costa Rica!

 

A Frenetic Case of Wanderlust

Important Things
My life of late has been a series of leavings. Partly by design, partly by desire, I find myself unpacking and repacking on a regular basis. I have the logistics of it down to a science – leave the house two hours before any flight, pack anything critical in carry on, set the thermostat to fifty-five, put the mail on hold, and so on.

But the emotions of it, I’m still working on. As much as I look forward to most trips, I also don’t want to leave home. I never feel like I have enough time at home – except when I’m there, of course.

This frenetic case of wanderlust has been with me for a lifetime. At this juncture, it wouldn’t seem that it’s some phase I’ll grow out of in due course, like when I thought I wanted to join the Peace Corps or be a long-haul truck driver (true story for another time!).

My father was a career Navy man working on diesel submarines. For the first several years of my life, we moved every couple of years, sometimes less. We exited the roller coaster the year I turned ten, which on paper sure doesn’t seem all that long, and yet, living that first decade of my life in such a nomadic style has shaped everything that came after.

When you’re born in to something, you can go a long time not realizing there’s another way. A whole lot of other ways, as it turns out. I remember during sixth or seventh grade when I realized that I had friends who had never been on a plane, had always lived in the same town, and even more strikingly, lived within reasonable driving distance from the bulk of their relatives. My relatives, on the other hand, lived on the opposite coast from me. We’d never shared a Thanksgiving or Christmas with any of them.

As children, you don’t spend a lot of time missing what you don’t have. Indeed, we had no need to. I have the great privilege of having incredible parents, and a sister who isn’t so bad either. (That’s a joke – she’s a gem, my mirror, my forever friend.) I never felt that we were missing out by spending each holiday just the four of us, or maybe with some family friends.

In any case, it was most assuredly those early years that fed my desire for exploration, independence. Perhaps it would have been there anyway, but I’m not so sure about that. Exposure to different geographies, people, and cultures only made me want more. I sought it out in my education. I sought it out in my leisure time. I sought it out in my professional life.

And so we’ve come full circle – back to the trip that I’m on right now. The trip that allows me to explore and experience while at the same time maintaining a home in a town that I love.

What was I complaining about again?   

Death to the Single Supplement

SPOILER ALERT: I’m single. I’ve been single for quite some time – happily so, I might add. But there are occasions when being single is a real drag. Case in point is the single supplement, an innocuous term for a rather painful levy for those traveling solo. This has never made sense to me since standard rates for most hotel rooms is for up to two people. Oddly, however, if you join a tour group or attend a conference, and accommodation is at that same hotel, you’ll find a hidden little checkbox somewhere that notifies you’ll need to pay extra if you want a single room.

If the single supplement is minimal, I’m inclined to pay it without much consideration. After all, the last thing I want is to spend a lot of money on a holiday I’m excited about only to have it (potentially) ruined because I get paired with someone who’s incompatible. Sometimes, however, the supplement is egregious. I recently signed up for a four-day workshop that runs around $1650. The single supplement was – wait for it – an additional $900!! Raise your hand if you think that might be a bit out of bounds? Go ahead. Let me get a good head count. Aah, yes, you see the absurdity too. So, an event that already costs a little over $400 per day, becomes over $600 per day just because I want to fly solo.

Somehow I’ve morphed into a person and a half. That’s a little hard to make sense of. I’m not going to eat for one and a half people, although it must be said that I’ve been known to do this on occasion…I’m not going to take up more space in the workshop, nor am I guaranteed of walking away with one and a half person’s worth of knowledge. It seems it has to come down to the accommodations, in which case I can only surmise that a butler is included or that singles are paying for all those extra high-end toiletries. Payback for all those times I’ve pilfered the shampoo and soaps.

You can see this same kind of foolishness with certain memberships. Gyms are famous for it. Join a gym by yourself, and perhaps it costs $50/month. But find a partner and maybe you’ll pay $75 or $80. Add on some kids for even less. The next thing you know, a family of five is paying the equivalent of $25 or $30 per person.

Many, many years ago, a male friend and I pretended to be part of a loving couple just to get a reasonable rate at our local gym. There was no requirement for couples to be married, but the illusion of togetherness was imperative. We were being penalized for being uncoupled, so we decided to game the system. Things worked well for about three years, and then, even that relationship, died on the vine when my friend moved to another town and joined a new gym with a new fake partner.

The single supplement isn’t going to stop me from traveling solo or from joining the gym, but have a heart, people. Perhaps your time would be better spent finding me a suitable mate instead of creating new ways to gouge both my wallet and my heart.

Don’t even get me started on taxes…