One of the most exciting aspects of leaving home is getting away from your electronic ties.
So much of life is consumed by meaningless internet perusing, that we lose track of what’s really important- enjoying reality. How often do you find yourself drifting back to your Facebook newsfeed, scrolling through the same “happy birthday to my bestie” photo collages, generic sports comments, and pass-it-along spam stories? Maybe you flip through instagram, paying acute attention to the usual sunset photos you would otherwise ignore if it weren’t for your subconscious need to distract youself. If you’re anything like me you do this all the time, especially while trying to work on something that needs full attention.
Traveling is your golden opportunity to break that habit. Unfortunately, with the accessibility of wifi throughout the world today, escaping the web has become a personal quarrel with addiction. That’s right, addiction. It’s something called FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). It most often applies to your local social scene, but I’m gonna go ahead and assume most people are scared of missing out on their friend’s social media updates as well. That fear is what drives this social addiction (and if you check your Facebook every time you open your laptop this definitely applies to you). A thing as simple as deactivating Facebook for a few weeks of Greek sorority rush is enough to make most girls cringe in fear. The same applies to the males who are forced to dwell the empty Facebook landscapes for those weeks.
Conquering an addiction is both difficult and intimidating. It took me months to finally build the courage to deactivate my Facebook. I mean, that’s a lot of friends to cut off! But I could tell it was distracting me from truly enjoying my experience abroad. It’s a great thing to keep in contact with friends from anywhere, at anytime, however it’s distractions like this that pull us out of the moment. How are you going to enjoy that trip to Spain if your still living at home through the web?
That being said, I’d like to challenge anyone abroad (including myself) to distance yourself from social media a bit. Even if you’re at home, give it a try. Deactivate the Facebook, delete your Instagram and twitter apps, and if you’re bold enough shut off iMessage for a couple days. I’ve been off Facebook for about a month and its truly freeing. Go ahead and spend a little time in the now, be here.
If traveling in the Arenal area of Costa Rica stop in to the Volcano Brewing Company, a must do for anyone who knows what’s good.
Volcano Brewing is Costa Rica’s only official microbrewery, and they do a damn fine job. Delivering four choices sure to please anyone with a drinker’s palate, two of which are brewed right on site. I chose to indulge in a mug of Witches Rock Pale Ale, hoppy and wonderful (just as I like it). Also grabbed a sampler of all four beers. Segua Red Ale came in a close second to the Pale Ale and I decided to take off with a bottle of it for home. The Brewery doubles as a restaurant and although we didn’t get a chance to try anything out, the menu looked damn good. Most of their produce is grown or raised on the property. Awesome.
If you drink like I do, fear not, Volcano Brewery also hosts guests in their hotel. For about $90 a night you get to stay right by Arenal Lake, mess around at the on-location skate park, or take a swim in the pool. Best of all, there’s all-you-can-eat locally grown food and bottomless craft beer for guests. Need more be said? And sweet lord, check out that view from the bar. Put this one on your agenda!
From left to right: Witch’s Rock Pale Ale, Witch’s Rock Gato Malo Dark Ale, Segua Red Ale, Libertas Golden Ale
Few locations can equal in aesthetic to that of the tropical beaches of Costa Rica.
I have this strange attraction to being somewhere I don’t belong. Taking a long sweaty drive. Being out of my element. I just wish I didn’t feel like such a tourist doing it. I hate tourists. Take culture as culture, not as a novelty you bastards! But I guess we’re all tourists when in new places. All you can do is keep the gawking to a minimum, be friendly with the locals, and try to learn something deeper than what a tour guide tells you.
I’ve been aching to get in some road-tripping and hike time. We decided to make our way from the comfort of Cuidad Colon down to the Pacifico. The Destination: Manuel Antonio. Though the town of Manuel Antonio is rather small, the area contains amazing beaches quite different than those of California. The sand sometimes fine and white, other times rough and dark, gives way to warm waters embraced by the jungle overgrowth. Two beaches worth a peep are those reached through the Manuel Antonio National Park. A small fee allows you access to several short side-hikes off of the main pathway leading to the beaches. Many tour groups squawking at the sight of monkeys and birds may be a nuisance, but the destination is well worth it- hang in there. The more popular beach is reached from the main trail, however a smaller and more private area can be reached via a small jungle trail that splits off where the main trail takes a sharp bend to the right. Many White-Headed Capuchin monkeys prowl the beaches here, so if the tourists don’t quickly scare them all off you may just get a chance to see one up close. Be mindful not to pull out any food around them though, they can get aggressive when it’s snack time. In all we got to see the capuchins, a howler, a couple iguanas, and some crocodiles.
One of the cooler parts of the visit was the views available from the road. Miles of coastline and jungle made for some seriously cool sights. The crocodiles we spotted were basking by a river crossing we took. As always, the visit ended with a cold guy at a hillside restaurant constructed out of an old U.S. military plane. Two toucans perched in the distant foliage, unfazed as a slow downpour began. I’d like to think they were lovebirds.
While walking through the Houston airport I briefly observed an airline captain. I thought to myself about the rational behind trusting a complete stranger with your life. Who is this man to take my well-being into his hands? To think that a black suit and little gold cap is enough to trust your life to someone is crazy, but I’ve jumped out of a plane strapped to a random dude, so I digress. Either way, I’m getting on that plane and not looking back.
After about nine hours of total travel time, I’ve made it to Costa Rica. A popular vacation destination for many-a-white-folk, but for me it will be home for the next month. It was dark when I got in, but the fiasco was still going on outside the airport. Crowds of waiting people, buses being packed with gringos like sardines, cab drivers eager to give you a ride- this is it, I couldn’t be more stoked.
Someone stole the tripod of my backpack along the way from California to here, but hey- tranquillo. I woke up to see how truly amazing it is here in the daylight. I’ve been begging for some lush greenery in my life and now I have an overload. I’ll be staying at my mother’s house in Ciudad Colon for the next 30 days. I enjoyed breakfast on the porch, overlooking the rolling green mountains (pictured above). There are banana trees in the back yard that give way to dense green jungle abundant with life. I took a brief hike up the steep road our house is on to check out the local scenery. Through a raised fence on the side of the road you could see an entire valley of trees speckled with patches of open grassland. You can’t ask for more than that. I climbed up the slippery clay bank to snap a picture on my black and white minolta- the D800 stayed at home for this trip.
Later I sat back and had a local beer- Rock Mono. Sweet Baby Jesus these things good. Bomb local beer and awesome views out my bedroom window- I’m all about it. Since it’s the dry season it gets hot during the day, but the night gives way to cool winds and the jungle comes alive. It could definitely take certain people a little adjusting to sleep through the constant bug chatter. For me, it’s just a great change of pace. Oh, and what’s that? The neighbor’s rooster crowing at 3am. Tribal, and I love it.
I’ve always had a nomadic calling deep within myself- an internal urgency driving me to explore and keep moving.
It began when I was a kid and the family would take trips to Taos, New Mexico. We would all pile into the 4Runner, celery sticks and Recharge drink aplenty, and head east from Arizona. The sense of adventure, seeing new things and places, is what I loved so much. Getting away from home was my favorite thing to do.
The bug bit again when I was in high school, and after getting a 4Runner of my own I was off. I threw a full size futon in the back, bought a map, and headed toward California. I made it from San Diego to San Francisco over a three week period- all while sleeping alone in my car. While this was one of the most freeing things I have ever done, it also got a bit lonely. The capacity to get inside one’s own head while alone on the road for weeks is both revealing and depressing. I was forced back home, but the need to get out was encompassing.
That trip made me fall in love with California. Three years and another costal trek later (this time with company), I find myself a “permanent” resident of Orange. That travel bug wasn’t just a childhood fascination however, and to this day I have trouble calling any place home for too long. Nearly any location makes Tucson look drab, but enough time spent in one place can make me dry out imaginatively.
And so it begins- the start of my travels beyond U.S. borders, in search of cultural offerings greater than my own. Costa Rica, Australia, and anywhere else the wind sweeps me. It’s about time I get out of California and the bubble that is Orange. Buen Viaje.