A Car Free Life

I was at work the other day and a co-worker asked me, “Candace do you know how to drive?” I always find that a very funny question. I am in my late thirties, I have been born and raised in the United States, I talk about the road trips that I take, of course I drive!

I explained to her that about five years ago, I gave up my car for a simpler way of life. Living in a big city, driving a car has its advantages, just as not driving has its advantages. However, when I chose not to drive, I knew that it would make MY life simpler. I didn’t do it as a part of a movement. In fact, I had no idea that people gave talks on giving up your car. I just knew that mentally I needed the space that a car took up in my mind.

The neighborhood in which I live, indeed most of the neighborhoods on the north side have a HUGE parking problem. If you have an apartment that offers parking, you must pay for it and just like your rent, the parking goes up every year. It is also in short supply. If you are not fortunate enough to have parking available to you, you must look for parking on the street.

Street parking is a story in itself. It took me forever to learn how to parallel park. People parking on the street, they are still learning to park too. They hit your back bumper and your front bumper. They give you less than an inch to get out of your parking space. That is if you can find a parking space! I remember getting home after 8 p.m. and praying to find a space. Often, you must drive around and around the block looking and sometimes, it is necessary to park your car blocks from your house.

When I think about registration and city stickers, oil changes and additional maintenance, shoveling out of the snow in the winter, driving in the snow and ice, some of the highest gas prices in the nation, tickets, insurance, accidents and other drivers, WHEW, I am surprised that anyone would choose to drive. Knowing that I would be going through an extremely stressful time of my life with a divorce, I gave the car to the ex and took to public transportation.

I absolutely LOVE public transportation. I know that it can be very smelly at times, dirty, and filled with strange people. But in spite of that, it is so convenient for me and the lifestyle that I choose to live. I have not felt my safety threatened. I have rarely been late, and I don’t have to worry about the person in the next lane. I let someone else do the driving and I can read!

On occasion, I someone comments on whether riding public transportation is good for the health of my child, or their baby. My Bean was premature when she was born. She began riding public transportation the moment she was released from the hospital and she has never once been sick due to the bus or train. I put her into her sling and off we went.

A few of the things that really enjoy about living a car-free life:

  1. Interaction with others

Before Bean was born, I was pretty much invisible. I am not naturally gregarious. I could get on public transportation and no one would speak to me or look up. There may have been a random person who commented on my hair or general appearance. Maybe someone needed directions or a little assistance, but mostly my ride was tranquil.

After Bean was born, things changed. It seemed that everyone wanted to know about her. Since I wore a sling, I had so many people ask, “Is there a baby in there?” that I wanted to answer “No, I have potatoes. I am just doing my grocery shopping.” I was forced to interact with people and I found I enjoyed it. I thought that the attention would disappear at some point when Bean got older, but it hasn’t.

Bean is a social butterfly. She never meets a stranger, even if we are on the bus. She greets people, asks them questions, tells them about her day, and most people LOVE it. We have made some lovely acquaintances that will be in our lives for a long time because of riding the bus. In fact, Ms. Becky, who is helping us with our garden, came into our lives because Bean said “Hello.”

Our daily commutes are a joy instead of a drudge. Even if Bean is not with me, I try to remember to say hello to the driver, nod to someone I see every day, and be more present in the commute.

  1. Letting someone else drive

I do enjoy the fact that I don’t need to drive. This has to be one of the main reasons I choose to continue taking public transportation. I am able to focus my energies and attention of Bean when she is with me and on my personal development when she is not.

If I were in the driver’s seat, I would be much more stressed. It would be necessary for me to have my focus on being a good driver. On the train or bus, I am able to read to Bean, practice our foreign language skills, read, and relax. We have played games, colored, and drawn pictures (which Bean promptly gave away to the people sitting around her.) I find those activities preferable to having my eyes glued to the road.

  1. Limiting daily activities

Living simply/being a minimalist involves your daily actions. It means choosing what the most important task to do is and doing that task. When you take public transportation on a daily basis, you realize quickly that you can not do everything. It is simply not possible to pick up your child from school across town, take them to extra-curricular activities on the other side of town, go grocery shopping and then be at home for a relaxing evening. I suppose you could do it if you want to be irritated and stressed every day, but who REALLY wants to be that person.

By living a car-free life, I am forced on a daily basis to choose one activity that requires my attention and I do that task. This is also where my routine comes in handy. For example, I know that certain stores have a sale on Monday, so I schedule Monday as the day to go shopping. When I have what I need, I go home, prepare dinner and for the next day and continue with our evening routine.

I do not rush to get more done. There are only 24 hours in a day and if you choose your activities wisely, that is all you need.

  1. Daily exercise

This has to be the second favorite reason of mine to live a car free life. Getting daily exercise was not stressed when I was a child, we just played outside every day. That is not true of many of the children who are being raised today. Bean has exercise automatically built into her life. Even though we live within one block of the train and several buses, we often walk to our various destinations on the weekend. As a result, Bean is a great walker and doesn’t easily tire when we are walking all day on vacation.

Many people spend large amounts of money for gym memberships when all they need to do is get out of their car and walk more. I easily walk 30 minutes or more a day just because I need to get from one bus stop to the next or to make it to my job. I often walk home after work so that I can be more active, especially if I know I will have more sedentary activities at home that night.

Not owning a car allows you to take a nature walk every day. Just this morning, Bean and I spotted a beautiful spider web, a worm stranded on the sidewalk (which we helped back into the soil) and newly blooming wildflowers. This all happened within the five minutes it took us to walk from our house to the train. It was an excellent start to the day.

  1. Set monthly fee

Being budget conscious, I like to know what expenses are coming up monthly and how much they will be. I buy a monthly pass at the beginning of the month and it costs me $100 for the two of us. That is all. No rising gas prices to be concerned about, no parking tickets, no unexpected breakdowns to factor in, just $100 a month, month after month.

I know that it isn’t often someone sings the praises of public transportation though they may mention how much they like a car free life, so here I am. I am encouraging you, if you have the ability to walk, bike or take public transportation to do it. I promise after you too see the benefits, you will wonder what took you so long.

Returning to Routine

When I am home, Oh how I love my routine. I love the way that the simple and often mundane tasks that I do on a daily basis get me one step closer to my goal. I can look at my week and think “BORING”, but if I just do the tasks and remember that at the end of the year, I can look back and say “FANTASTIC”, it will be worth it.

However, getting back into the routine after an extended time away is really difficult. I often like to write down what I did when I was on vacation so that I don’t forget that I was actually on a vacation as soon as I return. I like to relive the lovely moments, the moments of enlightenment and joy with Bean. But in spite of it all, getting back into the routine is just what we MUST do.

A few things that I do that help me to get back into the routine:

  1. Leave my house clean before I leave. It helps that I am a practicing minimalist. I don’t have much to clean or dust. I just leave everything a little better than I normally would, and when I walk into the door after vacation, my house says “Welcome Home.”
  1. Wash clothes before I come home. Whenever it is possible, I like to re-pack our bags with freshly washed clothes for our return trip. Often, the places we stay have a washer and dryer available for use. Sometimes, like in Costa Rica, for a few dollars, they will wash your clothes for you. This is worth it for me. I don’t need to come home and look for something clean to wear or be concerned with having a massive load of laundry. I open the suitcase/backpack/tote and put everything away.
  1. Return one day before I return to work. I don’t always do this, but if Bean and I have a day to lay around the house, go for a walk in the neighborhood, and talk about our vacation and our return to “real life” the next day, I find that it is easier for Bean to make the transition. I haven’t always done this. I have been guilty of trying to get every little bit of vacation time that I can, up to the last few hours. (One time I even walked into my job straight off of a road trip). However, I have found that I can appreciate the time away more when I have time to readjust to life at home.

Maybe it is due to Bean’s age, but our transition back into routine flowed more smoothly this time than I can ever remember. Bean was ready to get to day camp. I went back to work with ease. As usually, life continued on while we were gone.

The garden was amazing. Our dear friend Ms. Becky helped us tend the garden when we got back. While we were gone, the rain came down and helped with the watering of the garden. My harvest of lettuce was HUGE. I believe this is the best gardening year we have ever had.

In the short time we have been back, we have had a few sleepovers, get-togethers and trips to the park. We will be experiencing even more summertime activities in the coming weeks and I am looking forward to sharing them with you. Stay tuned!

The Joy of Packing Lightly

I remember when I was in my early teens and went away to the first overnight Jesus camp. It was a whole new world. My friends and I thought we were there to get closer to God and also to meet other people. We had no idea that we were really supposed to be there for the daily fashion show.

The guys were not as bad as the girls, but the girls blew my mind with all of the changes of clothes. They changed clothes in the morning, after lunch and then again for the night service. Some young people even changed clothes for hanging out after the night service. I had never seen anything like it. My friends and I felt like country bumpkins because we only brought one change of clothes per day. I internalized the feeling of being different and I wanted to fit in.

The next few years of camp, I made sure to have as many changes of name brand, beautiful clothing as the next person. One year, I brought with me thirteen pairs of shoes. Thirteen pairs of shoes for one week! At the end of that week, I felt it was all just too much. Slowly, but surely, I began to change my ways even though I still went to camp for a few more years.

Watching other girls struggle to fit all of their clothes into their humongous suitcases and then into the car, experiencing the stress of trying to keep up with everyone else, realizing there was more to life, I changed. Through out the years, I have taken with me smaller and smaller bags as I travel. It has made being on the road a joy, a delight.

Coming back from Costa Rica, more than ever, I looked around at all of the people burdened down with so much stuff. They were struggling to keep up with each other, struggling to get the bag to turn this way and that way. People unloaded bags because there was too much stuff and stuffed other bags with more stuff.

Coming and going from Costa Rica, Bean had a backpack and I had a shoulder tote. If something wouldn’t fit, I didn’t buy it. Stopping to people watch and needing to go through customs made me so thankful that I don’t pack the way I did when I was younger. If anything can give me stress coming back into the U.S. after a trip, it is going into customs.

The thing is every city is different. Flying into Chicago is vastly different than flying into Dallas. It is like arriving in heaven or hell. I can’t stand waiting in line in one city when I know that in another city you can just scan your passport and answer questions online. This time, we flew into Miami. I didn’t have any idea what to expect.

We got lines, lines and more lines. I am thankful that even though we had to wait in line, they did move fast. Having two small bags made that a breeze. Bean carried hers, I carried mine and we waited and walked the line. We answered the questions and we were done.

Once we were finished with customs, we were able to find our connecting flight and relax for a little while. I then overheard something that gave me pause. The airline no longer transferred bags from one plane to the next plane. All of the poor people who needed to catch a connecting flight after clearing customs then needed to go to the baggage claim and pick up their bags. They would then need to re-check their bags before catching the next plane. Many people missed their connecting flight because of this.

What a hassle! If I ever had a doubt as to whether I was really making the right choice by traveling light, it surely evaporated in that instance. If I had more bags, traveling would have been a drudge. My joy in my vacation would have evaporated as I lugged 50 pound bags around the Americas…managing my child and all my stuff.

I am so glad that I discovered the joy of traveling lightly and I encourage you to leave your stuff at home when you travel. You also will be able to experience the freedom and joy that comes of packing lightly.

A Message to the Vagabond

While Bean and I were in Costa Rica, we came across an individual at a street fest. He was walking around selling wares like many of the others. He happened to stop and speak with us as he heard us speaking English with another tourist.

The thing that made our exchange interesting was that he asked if life in the United States was easier than the life that he was leading in Costa Rica. He came to Costa Rica from Togo/Ghana and he said that he was finding it difficult to make it. I told him I understood, and that life had its difficulties in the United States as well. It was simply too deep a subject to delve into while standing on the corner.

Since meeting the young man, his question has plagued me. I wish that I had tried to articulate what I really feel about making a life. I want to answer him now that I have the time. It isn’t a very difficult conclusion to reach, but when there are a million other things going on in the middle of a festival, it is difficult to think up the answers to life’s many questions…especially if you have a child tugging your arm asking for candy.

In my opinion, life anywhere requires a certain degree of planning and preparation. We must know where we are going and find a plan of how to get there. I don’t mean that this is always an actual location. It can be in our relationships, in raising our children or how much money we are going to save in a year. It doesn’t matter if you move from one country to the next in order to improve your life, if you don’t know what you want or how to improve it, you will never arrive at the goal.

We can not run away from ourselves. This is a point that I believe we often forget. Whatever issues we have been struggling to overcome in our home country/job/ relationship, if we do not take the time to discover the root of the problem, we will bring that same issue to our next country/ job/ relationship. A change of location does not equal a complete change of life.

There are different economies that affect countries all over the world. In those countries there are still rich people, poor people and the middle class. It may be harder to find in some places than others, but they are there. I believe that when we find what we want to do in life and we go about achieving our purpose in life, instead of living hand to mouth, we will discover the beauty of living, regardless of the money we make.

While I was not able to give the young man my thoughts about making a life, I truly hope that someone else will be able to share with him something that will guide him to living a life of which he can be proud. It is my wish for you as well. Blessings.

Poas Volcano, Costa Rica

When I told Bean what a volcano was, (a big hole in a mountain that sometimes had fire in the middle of it and hot mud) she said, “That’s o.k. mom, I don’t have to see it. You can go by yourself and I will sit in the van and wait for you and the rest of the people.” I thought that was so funny and I told her that she would not be scared. I wish I had listened to her and chosen another activity as well.

We got up early and though we had a few minutes to order breakfast at our guesthouse, I wasn’t sure if it would come out before the tour bus came. I wish I had of taken those few minutes to at least try and order something as there wasn’t a breakfast on this tour as I had hoped. We picked up a few people who were also going with us on the bus to the volcano and then we drove and drove until we reached the site.

Unfortunately for us, the day was very cool and overcast. Bean and I both had little jackets on, but it didn’t seem to be good enough. Also, regardless of what the brochure said, there really wasn’t a snack stand. There was a coffee machine, a few empanadas to buy and a few other snacks like cookies and trail mix. We were starving and because our group was about to leave, I forced myself to pay six dollars for a bag of nuts. Hungry people will do anything.

We started the hike with our group and walked about a mile to get to the viewing area where we could see the crater of Poas Volcano. Our group was certainly NOT the only group. There were lots of people just trying to catch a glimpse of the crater. Our guide told us just wait a few minutes and we might be able to see something because the clouds were moving fast.

About twenty minutes later, the clouds did move just a little and we were able to see a small speck of green. Everyone grabbed their cameras and started clicking away. It was somewhat funny. Our guide then told us that we were the lucky ones. He said that only 20% of the visitors coming to see Poas Volcano actually see anything. I was annoyed at that. 20%? And yet they sell tons of tours and never say a word about this! I should have listened to Bean and stayed in the van…better yet, choose another activity for the day.

After that short lived excitement, we were given the opportunity to go on another hike to see the crater from a different angle… if the clouds moved. I let Bean ride piggy back and she was more willing to go this time. I was the one who would be doing all of the work after all.

We walked and walked, maybe close to two miles uphill in order to get to the next viewing area. I wasn’t too upset this time. We just looked at the rain forest and foliage all around us. We listened to the birds and it was a blast. It was one of the activities that I believe helped Bean to get another sense of Costa Rica and the beautiful nature for which this country is known.

While I would not recommend buying a tour to Poas Volcano alone, I would recommend visiting and taking a hike. For me, the hike alone was worth the visit. We had the opportunity to really get close to nature in a way that the other tours did not provide, though it was implied. Bean was able to see first hand an active volcano which didn’t happen to be frightening at all. Being able to give my five year old this experience makes myspoclife worth living.

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio

Pura Vida at Manuel Antonio Costa Rica

Bean LOVES the beach. If there is a beach somewhere, Bean wants to go. I’m not quite the opposite, but if there is a beach around, I do not NEED to see it. Manuel Antonio is said to be a national park and the ocean front, so I decided it was necessary to take Bean.

Though it was a trip we were told we could organize ourselves, once again, I opted to use the tour company. With the company, we were able to sit back and relax and not worry about getting every bus right and finding places to eat and sleep within our budget.

The tour bus driver picked us up from our guesthouse before 7AM and we continued to pick up others from the surrounding San Jose area for the next hour or so. Unfortunately, the bus we were on began to have trouble and we needed to wait for a replacement. The driver and the guide were very apologetic and did their best to answer any questions.

Once we were back on the road, we headed straight to breakfast! The drivers and guide explained the scenery and the route that we would be taking to Manuel Antonio and back. Maybe all tours do this, and all tour guides, but since I do not normally choose tours, I found the explanation of the days activities very reassuring.

I was also pleased by the way that the guides stopped on the side of the road and let us view the crocodiles in the river. It was not just one or two crocodiles, but about 12 or 15. It was amazing to see them lounging in the water. Once Bean was reassured that this was not our final destination and we would be moving on, she was able to relax and watch the crocodiles go about their activities, which she found fascinating.

We arrived at Manuel Antonio about an hour and a half later. The guides were kind enough to point out some of the sites along the way and allow us a couple of restroom breaks. Even though it was still a little before noon when we arrived at Manuel Antonio, the beach front and the little community was full of activity. The guides handed out sack lunches and told us the program for the rest of our time at the national park.

We followed along with most of our group for a little (and I mean little) hike through the forest to the beach. I suppose I expected something much grander, because of all of the animals we were told we could see. The main word was COULD. We looked and looked and walked, and there was nothing out but a few lizards and a sloth high up in the trees barely in eyesight. Bean was ready for the beach.

Before we were left on our own for free time at the beach, the guides told us that we needed to watch out for the monkeys and the raccoons who like to steal unattended bags and run into the forest with them. I listened, but didn’t take them very seriously because we hadn’t seen any animals.

Bean and I took off our cover-ups and headed to the Atlantic Ocean. Though I am not a fan of lounging at the beach, as I said before, it was truly beautiful. Bean doesn’t know how to swim so I had to follow her immediately out to the water. The currents and waves were so strong if I didn’t watch her closely I felt she could wash out to sea. Not an adventure I would like on any vacation.

I happened to look up and there was a lady waving and yelling back where we had laid our bags. I knew something was wrong. I told Bean to wait and took off running. There were at least six raccoons running of into the woods with our sack lunches and my bag with our extra clothes!

I began to yell and wave my arms. I ran after them for our stuff. I didn’t care about the lunch, but I certainly was not going to ride all the way back to San Jose in a bathing suit. Even though people turned and stared and laughed, I kept running until I got our STUFF!

We returned to the water for a short time and then went up to shower. That was a very nice feature of the national park, showers not too far from the ocean. Soap is not allowed as it will wash out to sea, but it is nice to get all of the sand off of your body before dinner.

We walked back down the hill and through some of the town where locals lined the street selling their wares and coconut water. We walked a ways to the hotel where we were to meet the rest of our tour group.

The hotel was to provide us with a late lunch/ early dinner. From the menu, the selections look pretty good. There was a pasta option, a chicken option and a seafood option. I hoped for a lunch like the day before where everything was well prepared. I don’t know if it was the time of day or the hotel trying to put on a show, but the food was simply not very good. They put forth a small effort to appear gourmet, but failed miserably. I would have preferred simple food, simply prepared. The portions were either too large (pasta) or too small (chicken and vegetables). It was tasteless and the waiter was irritable. Maybe he wished he was hanging at the beach.

After dinner, we piled into the van and headed back to San Jose. The ride back was uneventful and peaceful. It was nice to sit back and look out at the scenery. Expeditions Tropical was kind enough to split up the tour group before we came to the outskirts of town. Doing so allowed us to get back to the guesthouse at a decent hour instead of the dead of night.

All together, the trip to Manuel Antonio was a pleasant day trip to the beach. I feel that the tour was well thought out and executed. Bean enjoyed herself and I did as well. We were not left searching for a place to eat or rest and we could luxuriate in Pura Vida!

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

A dear friend at work told me about La Paz Waterfall Gardens before we left town. Costa Rica is her most favorite place to visit when she is traveling. She tries to go at least once a year to a yoga retreat. I asked her some places to visit before I left and she and her husband highly recommended La Paz. As a result, I was very interested in seeing this place.

Bean and I awoke when the birds started singing outside and discovered it was only about 5 A.M., so we just relaxed in the bed and talked. After getting dressed and having our breakfast, we waited for our tour guide to come and pick us up. Of course Bean took that opportunity to talk to the other guests in the guesthouse. She let them know where she was from and where she was going. Just by being herself, she brightened the morning of many weary travelers.

When the driver from Expeditions Tropical came to pick us up, Bean was thrilled at the thought of riding in a mini bus. I expected to pick up many other people, but found out that we were joining a tour that started earlier that morning. Using a combination of Spanglish to communicate, my driver and I talked about the view as he drove. He explained about the use of ferns to cover the strawberries in the fields and the export of ferns for floral arrangements. It was quite fascinating.

Bean and I were able to explore the tourist stand while waiting for our tour to catch up. The main items for sale were Volcanic Strawberries, which was Costa Rican grown strawberries covered with condensed milk and melted chocolate. It was a hit!

Once the tour caught up, we continued on to La Paz Waterfall Gardens. We met 4 other individuals with whom Bean immediately became acquainted. I, like Bean, find that travel is immensely more pleasant when you share activities with nice people.

Before we arrived at La Paz, our guide explained again that it was in the rain forest, with waterfalls and native animals. We were really excited. I was totally expecting something wild and scenic. I envisioned walking under great big trees with the rain occasionally falling on me. That was pretty much what we were told to expect.

Upon arrival, I was completely disappointed. It looked like nothing but a glorified resort. Our guides took us into the gift shop so that we could buy rain jackets or other items if needed and also to let us know about how the tour was going to be conducted, breaks and meeting points. He then led us outside. The view was nice, but it really seemed to be an upscale zoo.

As we went from the small bird houses to the larger bird houses, the guides explained to us that all of the animals at La Paz were no longer able to live in the wild. I was thinking, “Of course they can’t, they have lived here too long.” They then went on to explain that these animals were either found or rescued. I was starting to like this place.

We stopped by the butterfly room where butterflies in all stages of life were just a touch away. I loved it for Bean. I get so excited when she has the opportunity for hands on learning. I reminded her of the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. The butterflies here were exactly like the one in the book. I liked La Paz a little more.

We were treated to a full buffet lunch with both Costa Rican and America style food. It was all you could eat. I was happy to get a plate of gallo pinto and chicken and fruit. Bean was o.k. with that, but she was determined to have the ice cream for dessert. Our guides let us know we had a lot of walking to do in the afternoon and the best thing to do was not to eat too much. I am glad they told me, because I was very happy with lunch. I would have enjoyed another helping if I could.

Finally, after lunch, I saw the one thing that made me fall in love with La Paz Waterfall Gardens. There was a great big plaque in one of the rooms we toured. When my brothers and I were children, my mom used to read everything when we happened to be in museums. I am certainly turning into my mom! I read that La Paz was begun by a gentleman in order to stop the destruction of the rain forest in the area of Costa Rica. It was a nature preserve as well for animals that were rescued and could no longer live in the wild. It has brought jobs and some economic stability to the area. After reading that, I felt positively thrilled that we came…and we hadn’t even made it to the waterfalls yet.

There are actually three waterfalls and a million steps to climb up and down to see all of them. I was ready. Bean was not. We went down, down, down to the first waterfall and it was lovely. It was loud and roaring, an excellent spot for pictures, just everything that a waterfall should be. Bean really liked it, but when we heard of how many more steps were needed, she opted out.

Bean happily went to the next viewing spot with another new “friend”. We were sprinkled with the mist from the falls and the rainforest. I didn’t want to carry Bean on my back, and she didn’t want to keep climbing stairs, so we called it a day and went to the lounge.

The lounge was lovely; just as lovely as everything else turned out to be. I truly feel that the tour was worth every penny and the Gardens are doing an excellent service to the tourism industry and for the country of Costa Rica. I will definitely go back again. Who knows, maybe we will do an overnight there one day?

Costa Rican child friendly tours

I suppose choosing the best child friendly tour in Costa Rica depends on the age of your child. Bean is five, so there are many things that are not at the top of my list to do…Ziplining and miles long hikes to name a couple. When I was searching for a tour back at home, I came across several online that seemed to say the children would be free or significantly reduced. Why, oh why didn’t I sign up then?

I waited until I came to Costa Rica to book a tour. I asked at the guesthouse, and then went into town to see what they would say. I think all of the companies are connected anyway. Everyone gets a commission. I went with an organization called Expeditions Tropical. When the lady behind the desk told me the total cost for the tours I picked, I gasped internally. I have NEVER paid for a tour before, much less for a child under 11.

I chose the company because I didn’t want to run out of time searching around for the “perfect” company. I just chose what I thought would be a decent fit. The guides spoke both English and Spanish. There were many people of many nationalities in the office. I believe that we will have a good mix of many cultures on tour with us, while learning about the culture of Costa Rica.

I chose the La Paz Waterfall, Manuel Antonio and Poas volcano tours. Since we are only in Costa Rica a week, I think that is enough. Last year when I traveled with Bean, she was exhausted with all of the things we did, even though I thought the activities were few and far between. A couple of the excursions are all day, so we will have a few days to just relax and do nothing but explore.

Bean asked what a volcano was. I told her it was a big mountain with a hole in the middle and sometimes there was fire inside too. She told me, “I don’t have to go on that one Mom. You can go by yourself and I will sit in the van.” Hilarious! I let her know that it was completely safe. I am sure she will find someone who will be her friend for the day and she will opt to go with me.

I chose these particular tours because Bean still takes naps. She gets very tired during the afternoon and when she is tired, she doesn’t listen. Better yet, it is like she CAN’T listen. I figure if we can leave in the morning, see something awesome and then come back in the early afternoon, we can rest going and coming back. If we have light outside when we return, we will take a walk to find food and call it an early night.

I also chose these tours because, even though I am a BIG do it yourselfer on vacations, I realize that finding all the local areas of interest and taking the local buses just might be a bit much for a child. I really enjoy immersing myself in a culture by living as they live. Since we don’t know anyone in Costa Rica, I am not doing that as much as I would like. However, on the other hand, I want Bean to have the time of her life. It is her vacation too. A tour company will take care of all of the details for us. All we need to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the sights.

Costa Rica with kids

I think I have mentioned it before, but I love to travel with Bean.
The most stressful time for me is getting to the airport. I am always
holding my breath and mentally have my fingers crossed.

This time it was no different as we got up before the crack of dawn in
order to get to the train on time. (Oh, no, I don’t own a car and I
don’t know what friend would want to get us to the airport by 4:30). I
figure if I want to go to Costa Rica with my kid, or any other country,
I have to do the work it takes to get there.

We ate and slept on the plane in order to make up for our early
awakening. When we arrived, the first thing we noticed was the heat.
In our city, it is most often cool, even in the summertime. Though I
grew up in a very hot state, it takes some time for me to process actually
being in hot weather as soon as we get off of the plane.

Being the adventurous person that I am, I used my elementary level Spanish
to find the bus that would take us to San Jose. We got on the local bus and the
people were nice enough to give Bean and I a seat even though the bus was packed.
The ride was about 45 minutes and since Bean looked well rested, I was ready to
walk 2K to the guesthouse! I decide against it after asking how much a taxi would
cost. It was only 2 colones from the stop we happened to be. I had 2 colones in
my hand…we took the taxi.

Immediately upon arrival at Costa Rica Guesthouse, I liked it. I am always counting
my pennies, so I got a room with a shared bathroom. The bathroom was not actually
adjoining the room as I expected, but a couple of doors down the hall. The room and
the bathroom were HUGE. I was happy! IT IS TIME TO EXPLORE!

Travel Planning- Accommodation

I am one of those people who is always planning the next vacation.
I enjoy planning and my trips come together relatively simply. The
hardest thing is always accommodation. Where are we going to sleep?

Since my income demands that I am a budget traveler, I automatically cross four and five-star hotels off my list if they exceed a certain price point per night. I also like being as familiar with the local way of life as possible and that is not always an option when staying at chain hotels. In Europe, we normally stay with friends. In America, we often stay with family. What should we do in Central America?

Costa Rica is known for friendliness and hospitality. I really want to experience that and I want Bean to experience it as well. She is such a friendly child, never meeting a stranger. I am looking forward to visiting a country where she can feel free being herself. However, because we still take naps, I don’t think that I will be looking at Couchsurfing or using Airbnb. The hosts might wonder why we are going in and out of the house so much.

This is always my conundrum, how much cultural interaction do I want? For this particular trip, I think that we will choose something like a guesthouse. I have seen a few that look interesting. They seem to be a budget hotel with a twist of home. The ones I have seen have a free breakfast and that is always a plus. Bean can meet as many people as she likes. We can come and go as we please without it seeming awkward. I can relax! This will be our first stay in a guesthouse and I am looking forward to it!