I don’t know if I’d get the WORST traveler award, but I’d come in a close second or third. I forgot my running shoes and only sun dress at our last Airbnb in Panama. I forget things all the time. I get lost. I rarely plan anything. Recently another “travel fail” happened that is too good not to share. (lol)
We are traveling from Panama to Costa Rica by land. I have crossed multiple borders by land. I have plenty of experience. I should be expert level at border crossing, but I’m not. We get to the border and I see a large sign that says “must have proof of departure.” I freeze. Most countries require proof that you will leave their country. You know what I forget EVERY SINGLE TIME I go to enter into a new country? Proof of departure. I think I’ve remembered maybe once out of the last 10 times. Luckily some countries are just happy you are visiting. Others (like Costa Rica) do not budge. We are in line to get stamped into Costa Rica and I break the news to Darien. “Darien, we are fucked.” He gives me that look. The look of “why do we always do this?” I may be a poor planner, but thankfully I am great at thinking on the spot. I remember I bought a fake plan ticket for our Colombian visa. I look on my phone and see that I still have the e-mail. The subject reads “Expedia Travel Confirmation – July 30th,” which is tomorrow. Perfect. The immigration worker looks at Darien’s passport and immediately says “where is your proof of departure?” I but in and explain I don’t have wi-fi so my e-mail isn’t loading, but here are our tickets. We leave tomorrow from San Jose, I explain confidently. He looks up with annoyance and stamps Darien’s passport then stamps mine. YES! We got through!
For some reason, I decided to check out the visa stamp. I never usually look at it. I see the stamp and inside of it he wrote “05 days.” That JERK! I get a sinking feeling in my stomach once again. Five days means we are only allowed to stay in the country for FIVE days, because well, our “flight” is for tomorrow.
Fast forward to San Jose. Our second day we decide to go to Immigration office to fix the problem. I buy a ticket to Chicago from San Jose for September 30th. Our plan was to claim we changed our ticket because we love Costa Rica so much. We want to stay two months, not one day! Whoops. By the way, I always buy tickets on Expedia because you can cancel them within 24 hours for no charge.
We take a 30 minute Uber and get to the Immigration office midday. There are lines and offices everywhere with people who look like they’ve been waiting for hours. The workers walk around with pissed off faces, annoyed by human existence. We find the office for visas and wait for about 20 minutes in a short line. We get to the counter and explain our issue. The woman says we have to go to a different office “Certifications” and writes a little note to give them. We go to the other office and wait another 20 minutes. At the window the lady shouts “NO! Visa office!” I try to explain we had just come from there but she did not seem to care about what we had to say.
We go back to the Visa Office and wait another 15 minutes to speak to the same woman. She says “well, we do not deal with border issues here, you have to leave Costa Rica in 5 days and come back.” She counters that by saying “It really doesn’t matter. Go to the beach! Enjoy Costa Rica! They won’t care!” I asked her for some type of note or signature, she again claimed we are fineeeeee! Pura Vida!
We leave with nothing accomplished. We decide to just risk it and not leave the country after 5 days. I would not recommend doing this, we may have to pay when we leave the country, but we shall see.
We leave the office and realize we have no WiFi to call an Uber and no cash for a taxi. Perfect. We start walking the long walk home while bickering the entire time. A taxi backs out of a drive way in front of me and just for fun I ask how much. The taxi driver responds “$15” (FIFTEEN US DOLLARS). Costa Rica is so expensive, I laughed. I remembered Darien had $3 and told the driver all we have is $3. He says “esta bien!” and motions for us to get in. Apparently I am good at bargaining. The taxi driver is extremely nice, asking us where we are from, about our journey. After 25 minutes, we arrive home at our Airbnb. I go to hand him $2 (Darien actually only had $2, not $3) and some Costa Rican change that added up to a dollar. He rejects the money and says “No, it’s okay, enjoy Costa Rica!” How effing nice. What an angel.
Two days later, we are headed to the rain forest with our Airbnb host. He invited us to go with him and his friends to his family’s farm about 2 hours away. During the drive, all of a sudden, I gasp. I cover my month, not wanting to tell Darien. I remembered I never canceled our flight from San Jose to Chicago, our “fake” flight to prove we were leaving the country.
At first I was angry with myself. How could I have forgotten, it’s a $200 penalty to change or cancel a flight after 24 hours. That is like two weeks at an Airbnb for us or more than a weeks worth of food. I felt so stupid in the moment. Again. WHY DO I ALWAYS DO THESE THINGS? WHY?
After some thought, Darien said “maybe this is meant to be.” It took me back into the present moment. There is no reason to freak out about mistakes. There is a reason or a lesson behind all things that go wrong. Maybe it’s meant to be, maybe we are meant to stay in Costa Rica and end our trip here. I’m not sure to be honest.
I’ve learned so much while traveling. And the more I travel, I realize I may never master it. I’m going to make mistakes. And that’s okay, because I am living my dream right now. I am doing exactly what I want and am exactly where I want to be. I will never claim to be an expert traveler (maybe in 20 years) and I will never claim that traveling is perfect. It’s annoying. It’s hard. Some days suck and I question my motives. I catch myself day dreaming about a comfy bed and a home to come home to. I day-dream about comfort, but I know in my heart that will not make me feel full.
I love you. Thanks for reading about my unedited clumsy journey. ❤