Beach in Costa Rica

I Traveled Internationally During the Pandemic, Here’s How it Went

At the beginning of this year, my friends and I decided to plan a spring break trip to Costa Rica kinda sorta on a whim. I never thought that my strict Cuban parents were going to let me go, but when they gave me the green light I knew this was a one of a kind opportunity that I could not pass up.

Leading up to the trip, my friends and I were all keeping up to date with the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the situation regarding travel bans. The week before we left, President Trump announced the UK travel ban which left us all nervous about a possible travel ban to Central and Latin America. We were concerned about flying, but we knew that if we were responsible and followed CDC guidelines, we could still make the trip happen.

My friends and I in masks at the airport

One of our main concerns was not so much traveling to Costa Rica, but getting stuck there and not being able to travel back. As a precautionary measure, we all registered with the U.S. Embassy in San José, Costa Rica just in case of an emergency. Little did we know what would happen later during our trip…

We traveled using N99 and N95 masks, which is what the CDC recommends for protecting against airborne virus particles. Surprisingly, the Orlando airport wasn’t as empty as we thought it might be. However, our flight to Costa Rica wasn’t completely filled and we weren’t the only ones on the plane wearing masks or gloves, which was calming knowing other people were taking this as seriously as we are.

outdoor food market

Once we got to Costa Rica, it was incredible. The views were incomparable with beaches and jungles full of life with monkeys, sloths, parrots and much more. The food was insanely good with unbeatable prices. The roadside fruit markets were full of so much fresh fruit and local snacks that we stocked up the first day and made fresh fruit smoothies every morning.

I made memories that I will never forget and adventured far out of my comfort zone by jumping off of waterfalls and getting tossed in gnarly 12-foot waves (sorry I didn’t tell you that part mom).

Everything was fine and dandy until our third night. We decided to make dinner at home and went to the local Maxi Palí grocery store to get some ingredients. When we walked in, we were asked to sanitize our hands and cart, which we hadn’t been asked to do before.

playing frisbee on a beach during sunset

Then, we saw it. The line to check out wrapped around the entire store and the shelves were empty. Non-perishables and paper goods were hard to find. We had no idea what was happening and why everyone in the city seemed to be panicking. Luckily for us, the lady behind us in line informed us of the news we had obviously missed.

Just a few hours before, when we were at the beach without signal, the Costa Rican government announced a national state of emergency and that they would be closing the borders Wednesday at midnight. This was the most worrisome part since we were scheduled to leave Thursday morning. We called the U.S. Embassy in San José immediately the next morning to make sure we were still safe to leave Thursday, and luckily, we were. There were still concerns about our flight getting canceled so we were definitely feeling the stress.

Mountains landscape

Thankfully, our flight home wasn’t canceled and we were able to get back to the U.S. safely. The last few days there were stressful to say the least and all of our families were concerned. Experiencing a national state of emergency in the U.S. was enough, so experiencing a second one in Costa Rica was actually terrifying.

To say I’m happy to be back home in the U.S. is an understatement. The trip itself was amazing and I am so thankful we didn’t cancel. We got lucky since we were always safe in Costa Rica seeing as we were staying isolated in a house 3-miles up a mountain. Traveling amidst this pandemic craziness was something I had never expected to experience in my lifetime and it is certainly a trip I will never forget. Now, back to my quarantine binge of Outlander.

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