I Traveled Alone for 9 Days & This is What Happened

Have you ever just wanted to get out there in the world and do your own thing? I feel like that every single day, and recently I had the opportunity see a corner of the world in my own way.

Travel has always been something I love to do, but in the past it’s been on other people’s terms. This time it was all about me, and it didn’t hurt that my birthday fell at the end of the trip. I started planning my trip back in early fall. From the start, I knew this trip was going to be different. This time, I was going to be in charge. I looked for a place to go that was affordable and safe; the country I ended up choosing was Costa Rica.

I knew I wanted to travel by myself, even though family and friends persistently tried to convince me to go with a companion or through group travel. This was something I had to do for myself. I wanted to pay for it all with my own money, go to places I wanted to see and do everything myself; it was like the ultimate form of independence for me (though I did receive spending money from my mother and grandmother as a birthday gift).

Day One

What a lot of people fail to mention is the day you arrive and the day you leave, you mostly just spend traveling to your destination. All I did today was travel from Dulles International Airport to Juan Santamaria Airport in San Jose, via El Salvador. I hit the sack as soon as I checked in to my hotel.

Day Two

I took a bus to Monteverde, a drive that took several hours along bumpy roads and through beautiful countryside. I stayed in a gorgeous wooden cabin-like hotel and spent the first few hours just relaxing and exploring the town. I did a two-hour night hike at sundown and saw bats, green pit vipers (one was literally three feet from me), lots of birds, a tarantula, tiny frogs the size of your pinky fingernail, a scorpion that glowed under ultraviolet light, a kinkajou and various insects. It was super cool.

Day Three

In the morning, I went on a coffee/sugar/chocolate tour called "El Trapiche." It was an amazing tour where we got to see how they made coffee, sugar and chocolate. We even got to try some! They also showed us some authentic Costa Rican moonshine, which I am proud to say I survived drinking.

The afternoon, I went ziplining for several hours. If you’re a thrill seeker and love heights, then you’d love the ziplines in Costa Rica, which is rumored to have some of the best ziplines in the world. The longest and highest of the ziplines was a “Superman,” which is where you’re hooked to the cables from your back, leaving you facedown. This zip line was almost one mile long and 656 feet high. It was terrifying, yet amazing.

Day Four

I left Monteverde and took a bus to a lake, where I then took a boat across the lake and then got on another bus on the other side that took me to La Fortuna. The first sight you were greeted by as you entered La Fortuna was the Arenal Volcano—still active. When the clouds part, they reveal a small and steady puff-off smoke coming from the top of the volcano; it was magnificent.

That evening, I went to the hot springs, which were more heated pools with mineral water from the volcano. The experience was very much what you’d expect from a fancy spa, complete with a natural sauna and two swim-up bars. It was nice, but not what I expected.

Day Five

Today, I went white water rafting (class two and three). I was dreading being stuck with a group of people I didn’t know, but I ended up being put with a group of Canadians who happened to be visiting to compete in a volleyball competition. They were pretty cool people and fun to hang out with. I had a lot of fun and got to see some sloths, iguanas and sleeping bats just hanging out in the trees on the side of the river.

Day Six

Today I took a bus to Samara Beach on the southwest coast. I arrived mid-afternoon and just spent the day exploring the town and chilling on the beach. I found a bar called the Flying Taco. Pretty sweet name, if you ask me.

Day Seven

I was at the beach for most of the day and checked out a local artist’s clay and woodwork. Nothing crazy, just a relaxing end to the vacation.

Day Eight

I took a bus from Samara back to San Jose, explored the city a bit and took it easy.

Day Nine

I flew from San Jose back to Washington Dulles International Airport via El Salvador.

Costa Rica is a beautiful country that I would love to visit again, given the opportunity. "Pura vida" (pure life) isn’t just a saying that the Costa Ricans use, it’s a way of life for them.