Posts Tagged With: costa rica

Looking back – the best of 2012

I started 2012 (and also Incurably Stir Crazy, which is nearing its one-year anniversary) with a mission. I wanted to spend this year seeing new places, chasing new experiences and packing as much life into 366 days as possible. Looking back on the year, I’d say things went pretty much according to plan. I hope it is just one of many adventure-filled years to come.  Below is a list of some of the  highlights, as a way to remember, and to be honest, a chance to share some of the stuff I’ve slacked on posting. But that’s what new year’s resolutions are for, right?

1. Skiing the Swiss Alps

Ok, so Christmas 2011 doesn’t exactly fall into 2012, but its close enough.  Plus pictures from this trip have not been documented besides in my header photo.  Although I’ve been skiing since I was five, this was my first opportunity to take on anything bigger than the mountains of Vermont.  While a week prior to the trip we were planning on changing it from a skiing vacation to a hiking vacation thanks to lack of snow, mother nature took care of us just fine. Davos, Switzerland got pounded with snow to the point of avalanche warnings and my siblings and I got our first taste of real powder skiing. This week of family bonding and fantastic skiing won’t soon be forgotten, but hopefully soon repeated.

The first day of skiing - perfect conditions.

The first day of skiing – perfect conditions.

Not every day was so ideal however, with avalanche and wind warnings cutting one of our days short. But we still felt very intense being the last skiers left on the mountain.

However, not every day was so ideal with avalanche and wind warnings cutting one of our days short. But we still felt very intense being the last skiers left on the mountain.

On the slopes

On the slopes

Valley in Davos

Valley in Davos

View from halfway up Jakobshorn, Davos

View from halfway up Jakobshorn, Davos

2. Exploring my own backyard

My final semester of college made any substantial amount of traveling difficult, but it did give me an opportunity to visit some local places that I had always meant to get to before.  This included several trips to nearby Allegheny National Forest in winter, spring and summer, and my first visit to Griffis Sculpture Park, which I’ve been driving past my whole life.  Not being able to go elsewhere made me appreciate how much there is still to see within day-tripping distance of my own home.   I’ve got several new local destinations slated for the new year already.

My hiking boots are laced and ready on one of my several trips to Allegheny National Forest.

My hiking boots are laced and ready on one of my several trips to Allegheny National Forest.

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Categories: hiking, tourism, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Aviarios Sloth Sanctuary: Slow is Beautiful

As the girlfriend of an admitted sloth obsessive, the Aviarios Sloth Sanctuary, on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, was a non-negotiable visit. While it may not have otherwise topped my list, my visit here has been the most unique event of my Costa Rican trip so far.

Happiest camper of all time

A Mecca for lovers of these adorably slow creatures, the sanctuary is home to around 150 sloths of both the two and three-toed variety. Experts conduct a two-hour tour (leaving on the hour between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.) filled with all of the sloth knowledge you would ever need to know, and then some. Everything is extremely interesting and the tour includes a canoe ride in a river running through the sanctuary, but it’s the actual face-to-face sloth time that makes the $25 dollar cost seem much more worthwhile.

Happy sloth stare

Throughout the tour we met around 10 different sloths (including babies) and got to see them up close and personal.  While you can’t hold the sloths for their own safety, seeing their surprisingly human faces up-close was absolutely amazing. Each sloth’s unique personality shines through when you meet them personally.  The most personable of all of the sloths is the grand dame of the Sanctuary, Buttercup.  This friendly lady is the sanctuary’s founding sloth, as it began with three young girls dropping her off at Judy, the sloth whisperer’s, door.  Judy nursed her back to health and has since done the same with hundreds of injured or sick sloths. Now Buttercup makes you feel welcome from the hanging basket where she holds court as soon as you step into the room.

Buttercup, the Grand Dame of the Sanctuary

The sanctuary is about 15 minutes north of Cahuita or 45 minutes north of the popular destination of Puerto Viejo (which I would highly recommend.)  From either destination, just hop on the hourly bus that heads north on Highway 36 until you reach the sloth crossing signs.  The ticket costs less than $2 each way.

Buttercup checking out her surroundings

The Sloth Sanctuary should not be missed by any sloth fans. However, if you are just casually interested, note between travel time and waiting for the tour to begin you may be in for close to five hours from Puerto Viejo.  But for anyone who wants a guaranteed sloth sighting, especially a close-up encounter, this place is a must-see.  If anyone needs inspiration, check out these Animal Planet “Too Cute” clips, filmed on-site.

Categories: environment, nature, photography, science, tourism, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Costa Rica So Far: The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful

A bold monkey in Manuel Antonio

Ok, so I’ve been here in Costa Rica for two weeks thus far.  After extensive time in San Jose during the week broken up by weekends in two diverse, yet equally beautiful places (the beach at Manuel Antonio and the rainforest/volcano landscape in La Fortuna), I feel adequately informed to share my findings, both on the pro and con side.

The Good

  • The People: Costa Ricans, or Ticos, as they call themselves are wonderfully good natured and hospitable. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone laugh as often or as heartily as my host mother, and that seems to be the trend amongst all Ticos.  Their generous hearts and big smiles, as well as their eagerness to show you this amazing country they call home, makes it easy to see why so many people fall in love with Costa Rica
  • The Food: The most common meal here, called a casado, consists of hefty portions of rice, beans, a tortilla, salad, some form of meat (either beef, chicken or fish), and my favorite, fried plantains. These delicious platters are extremely cheap (around $6 generally) at Costa Rican cafes called sodas, which can be found around every corner.  Seafood of all sorts is obviously exceptional here and the huge variety of fresh fruit is unbeatable.
  • Ease of  Transport: Although I am stuck in class all day Monday-Friday, CR’s unbelievable inexpensive transportation, combined with the compact size of the diverse country makes getting the most out of the weekends so easy.  Buses leave to desirable locations several times a day, beginning in the very early morning, which accommodates head starts on the day.  Three or four hour bus rides can take you to diverse parts of the country including the beach, rainforests or volcanos for well under $10, making short trips sensible and affordable for everyone.
  • The Colors: Of course CR’s landscape showcases an array of colors, but so does everything else here.  Fences, walls and buildings are generally painted vibrant hues and even in a hazy city, the pops of color raise your mood.  The festive paint jobs all over reinforce the laid back vibe you already feel here.

The Bad

  • San Jose’s Pollution and Trash: For a country as green and environmentally friendly as rainforest-covered Costa Rica, the state of San Jose will be a surprise to most.  Lack of trash receptacles around the city leaves most streets littered with garbage.  Also the air is thick here as is the traffic, and suffocating exhaust clouds as you walk down the sidewalk are not uncommon.  San Jose is definitely worth seeing and has a lot to offer for students etc., but if your goal is ecotourism, a day should be more than sufficient.
  • No Addresses!?: The rest of the world may follow the number, street, city formula, but Costa Ricans seem not to want or need them.  Locations are described instead by a distance from an intersection of two roads or from one of the many Catholic churches throughout the city.  While this may be more than sufficient for one familiar with the city, visitors should be aware and make sure they have a detailed description of where they want to go.
  • Cab Scams: Especially in San Jose, but throughout all of C.R. you must be careful of what cab you get into.  Only cabs with triangular yellow stickers on the front and top as well as a lighted taxi sign on top are official.  Take only these cabs unless you wish to pay obnoxiously inflated prices.  Other cab drivers will be waiting at bus stops and try to convince you to ride with them. Unless they have the appropriate cars and reset the meter to the standard 585 colones start point, do NOT go with them. It may be necessary to walk a little ways away from the tourist trapped bus arrivals.

And of course, The Beautiful

Arenal loomsAll of the stereotypical things you’ve heard about Costa Rica are all true.  The landscapes and wildlife here are so diverse and easy to access.  The country is smothered in green foliage, splattered with brightly colored flowers and accented with white-sand beaches and perfect blue-green ocean.  I’ve seen more new sorts of wildlife here in the past two weeks than the last six years of my life combined.  Sloths, monkeys, lizards and exotic birds are all likely to show their quirky faces to you at one point or another during your visit.  The waterfalls and volcanos will not disappoint. In fact, Arenal may provide the most perfect prototype of a volcano on earth with its smoking top and misty, forested sides. And of course, anywhere you want to zip, bungee, canyon, raft or ride, Costa Rica will make it possible with the friendliest guides you could imagine. Even with its reputation as an ecotourism jackpot, Costa Rica will probably still exceed your expectations.

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La Pura Vida in Costa Rica

So I have had an admittedly long hiatus.  But with graduation from college came festivities, and after festivities came new found free time to spend outdoors and after that came preparation (including extra hours at work for extra $) for Costa Rica.  Which to get to the point, is where I now am, taking a class for certification as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language.

I now write stationed from my room in San Jose where I live with two Tica (native Costa Rican) women, who are marvelous.  While San Jose is far from the lush, volcano-speckled ecotouristy landscape that this country is often associated with, it has a character of its own and serves as a great jumping off point to the regions of Costa Rica that offer the outdoor adventures that I seek.

While I spend most weekdays in class, experiencing the Costa Rican culture with my 
host family and the Costa Rican environment on my first weekend of travel at the popular destination of La Fortuna, home of Arenal Volcano has been amazing.  Posts on both will be following for soon. But for now, as school work is calling once again, a few pictures will have to do.

View of La Fortuna Waterfall before walking straight down 1/4 mile to the base

My boyfriend, Chris, poses in front of a mosaic created partially from recycled dishes in downtown San Jose

Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna

The most rabbit-like cow I have ever observed

Categories: travel | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

To Begin…

Then what?

As a college senior I am sure I am not alone in thinking that these two words have become the most terrifying, stressful, and frankly just plain irritating phrase that has been bombarding me from all directions recently.

Even for those who are sure of what they would like to pursue, the answer must be tough, because the economy and job market don’t seem so sure that there will be an opportunity for them to do so.  And for those of us who aren’t sure, “I’m still figuring that out,” doesn’t seem to satisfy or impress the interrogators when graduation is a mere 100 days away.

Usually I would make something up.  Whichever of my most recent life-plot musings seemed like it would please the asker most. But as of today, I am finally excited for someone to ask me that question, because as of today, I finally have a concrete, in-motion plan.

This summer I will be setting out on a trip to Costa Rica to become certified in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, and then actually teaching abroad.

This is something I had thought about for the past year or so.  A few months ago, I told my dad to brace himself for yet another one of my brilliant life plans, which are proposed to him and my mom on about a bi-weekly basis.  When I told him wanted to teach English abroad after I graduated, his response confirmed I might be onto something.

“Well if you’re going to go off and be a gypsy, at least you have a way to support yourself while you do it.”

To some people that might not sound like the go-ahead, but coming from the one who has always been the first to put my ideas in check (and for good reason since they are usually ridiculously impulsive and unrealistic), this was overwhelming consent.

So I began further research on the best means follow through on my plan, and for once, instead of just talking about it, I took the initiative and put my idea into action.

I’m not naïve enough to think I’ve figured it all out.   I’m unsure of what career I hope to find myself in 25 years from now, or maybe even five years from now, but I’m not sure that’s really the most pressing matter.

Photo credit:

Someone whom I respect very much recently told me the most important thing isn’t to start in the perfect place or in the perfect long-term career; it’s just to start somewhere and to always keep moving forward at full speed from that point.  I was struck.  What if we’re all so concerned with trying to figure out how to get where we should be 10, 20 and 30 years from now, that we are too afraid to pick somewhere to start now, in case it’s the wrong place?

In reality, the “then what?” question probably won’t be going away anytime soon.  In fact it will probably be looming overhead for my entire life. But, for now, I’m happy to have picked somewhere to start.

So to begin, Costa Rica. Well, completing this semester of college, then Costa Rica. And after that, full speed ahead, wherever that may be.

Categories: travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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