I know it’s taking me a long time to post these, but I’ve been busy lately.
After our awesome rafting trip, our tour bus dropped us off at the hostel we thought we were going to stay at, the Arenal Backpackers Resort. It turns out that this place is pretty popular as it was the only 5-star hostel in Costa Rica. The place was really nice and even had a pool, which is definitely a first for me in a hostel.
Since this hostel was full, the guy working there told us we could get a room at the hotel directly across the street for the same per person rate. The only problem with this is that the room had a 4 beds and we had 5 people. 2 guys ended up sharing one of the beds for one night, and luckily it wasn’t me!
The town of La Fortuna is best known for having one of the largest volcanoes in Costa Rica (there are several). It’s called Volcán Arenal and is typically one of the most active volcanoes and the best to see. At night, you’re supposed to be able to see small bits of lava shooting out the top. Unfortunately, when we were there, the volcano had been inactive for the past 7 months. Oh well, I still got to see a volcano! This was the view from the balcony of our hotel room.
Even though we weren’t staying at the hostel, they told us we could still hang out at the bar that evening. Apparently between us we spent enough money at the bar that they told us the next morning that we could come back and use the pool as long as we were in La Fortuna! We ended up using the pool the night before anyway, though. They even had a poolside bar! After the bar at the hostel closed fairly early that evening (I think 11pm), we headed out to find a club that we were told was right down the street. This was a “2-blocks” type of situation as it was not right down the street. After wandering down the street through a dark neighborhood and with the direction of a couple police officers, we eventually found the place we were looking for. Since it was so far off the tourist strip it was all locals who went there…and us. That made for a fun night! And of course, there was a sign outside the place with the motto of Costa Rica.
From Puerto Viejo, we were trying to figure out the best way to get up to La Fortuna to see the Volcán Arenal. On a bus, it would have taken roughly 10 hours with about 5 stops in between. We decided that was not a good option. Having 4 of us, we could have taken a cab for $50 per person, which wouldn’t have been too bad. The third option was doing a half-day rafting trip which would drop us off in the area we wanted to end up in for only a little bit more than the cab would have cost. BINGO! So we got up early to catch our bus to the spot where we would begin the rafting trip.
The Pacuare River was rated by National Geographic as one of the top 10 river trips in the world, so I was pretty excited to get it going. For those of you who haven’t done rafting before, you have a guide who calls out instructions such as (paddle) forward, back, or down if you’re coming up to a big rapid and you need to get down in the boat in order not to fall out. Our team of 6 was doing pretty well until once we were coming up to a big one and didn’t hear our guide say “DOWN!” leading us to all go crashing on top of each other and one guy to get busted in eye by a helmet. Luckily, nobody actually fell out of the boat.
Our tour started off pretty calm, but then got pretty crazy!
This was definitely one of the highlights of my trip and I can’t wait to go rafting again!
From San Jose, I took a 4.5 hour bus ride to Puerto Viejo. It turns out that it’s good to buy your bus tickets more than 5 minutes prior to the bus leaving, otherwise you end up standing for the entire trip (which was not fun)! Puerto Viejo is a beach town on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica only a short distance away from Panama. Had I realized this when I was there, I would have probably taken a short detour to Bocas del Toro. Oh well, another trip I guess.
First, the hostel I stayed at was pretty unique. It was called Rockin’ J’s and backed up right to the beach. You could sleep in hammocks, tents, or cabanas. I think the hammocks were only $3 or $4 a night to sleep in, while the other ones were $7 or $8.
And since it had a private entrance to a beach, this was the view from there.
After my Italy trip fell through the cracks at the last minute, I booked a ticket to go to Costa Rica 5 days prior to leaving. I was surprised it didn’t cost me more considering it was less than a week ahead AND it was 4th of July weekend when I flew. Anyways, after a short connecting flight in Fort Lauderdale I landed in the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose.
My first impression from the plane was that Costa Rica is mountainous, green, and very lush, which turned out to be completely true. When I walked out of the airport, I was greeted by what seemed like hundreds of shady cab drivers trying to get my attention. After a little negotiation, I decided that a cab to the center of San Jose (about 25km away) was still too expensive, so after asking a couple people at the bus stop around the corner I hopped on a local bus for about $1 (compared to $20 for a cab). People on the bus were very friendly and pointed me when to get off at the main bus station, which was only a little bit of a walk from my hostel. I stayed at Aldea Hostel, which turned out to be a great choice because it was a great hostel and I met a lot of really awesome people there. Before I left, I had only booked my first 2 nights in San Jose and figured I’d determine the rest as I went. I believe this is the best way to travel so that you’re never tied down to specific plans in case you find somewhere that you fall in love with and want to stay longer, or vice versa, if you hate somewhere you can leave when you want.
When I got to San Jose in the middle of the afternoon, it was raining pretty hard. It turns out that when I went is the winter season in Costa Rica, as well as the rainy season. What this means is that, for the most part, all day is sunny and beautiful until around 2-3pm when it begins torrential downpouring for a few hours. This happened just about every day of my trip. This definitely helps bring down the humidity, but also put a bit of a cramp on my exploration plans a few times. I ended up just hanging out at the hostel for the rest of the evening and playing some card games (King’s Cup anybody?) with some people I met there. One thing that’s worth mentioning is that the cheap beer in Costa Rica is way better than a lot of the beer we have in the US. The 2 big ones are Imperial and Pilsen, and both are extremely tasty.
The next day I got up relatively early and went out exploring the capital and here are a few pics of what I found.
There really aren’t any words to describe how great my 4 months in Europe were. I’ve seen so many amazing sites, seen almost all of the major cities in Western Europe and, more importantly, met so many amazing people from all over the world. Since I’ve been back, the first thing everyone asks me is – what was your favorite city? What I’ve come to realize over my trip is that you can see all the cathedrals, museums, and monuments you want, but what really determines whether you like a city or not are the people you meet there. Whether you like a city or not is usually based on your experiences in that city, and the best experiences come when you’re hanging out with interesting fun people, sharing stories, and just enjoying their company. It also helps that you meet so many like-minded people as you, many who have gotten sick of the same-old boring 40-hour workweek (or what is now more commonly the 60 or 70-hour workweek), quit their jobs, and decided to travel the world for a while. After hearing people’s stories of all these amazing places they’ve seen, it makes me want to become a professional traveler. Too bad there isn’t too much income associated with traveling.
Another thing I’ve realized is that traveling is infectious. Once you start seeing different places, it only makes you want to see more. You have your entire life to work and sit in a cubicle, so why be in such a hurry now? I know I’m definitely not. There are way too many people in America that are too job-focused. It feels like people live to work instead of working to live, which is where there is a major cultural difference between the U.S. and Europe. I recently saw a statistic that boggled my mind. 80% of Americans don’t have passports!! Now I know that there are a lot of places to see in this country, but there’s so much more as well. I traveled around Europe for 4 months and barely scratched the surface. There is a guy who, by the age of 30, has visited 100 countries. I think that’s a pretty reasonable goal, considering I’m at 14 after this trip.
I’ll be honest. Living out of a backpack for 4 months is great, but it also gets a little tiring after a while, wearing the same clothes all the time, sleeping in rather uncomfortable hostel beds, and eating spaghetti and sandwiches for almost every meal to save money. Even though being a backpacker is a very different lifestyle to get used to, the pros far outweigh the cons and I can’t wait to start planning my next trip!!!
From Malaga I flew into London to fly home, but I made sure I timed it so that I would be able to go see at least one day of Wimbledon. I went on the first day of the 2 week tournament and even then it was crazy! How it works is that after they have the general lottery for tickets, they have a certain number of tickets available to buy the day of. I think there was somewhere around 6,000 grounds passes available, which give you access to courts 3 through 18 or however many courts there are. Then there’s about 200 each for Center Court, Court 1, & Court 2. So I got up really early (probably the earliest of my whole trip) and caught the tube down to Wimbledon! The trains were packed as expected, and I got talking to a old man who had been to every Wimbledon for the past 60 years and used to be aa chair umpire for the tournament.
They even had the tube stop decorated like a tennis court!
Just to show how crazy it was there, I arrived a little after 8am and this is what it looked like already…
To get tickets for the 3 main courts, you pretty much have to camp out overnight. It’s a good thing is was the end of June and it was nice out. I did meet some cool people in line, though. I finally got in around 1:00 in the afternoon right around when they were kicking off for the day.
How it works with the grounds pass is that you can just walk up to any court (minus the 3 main ones) and wait for a seat to open up or just stand and watch. I saw a lot of good tennis on the first day even though I really didn’t get to see any of the top players, but I did get some good action shots of the players I did watch. I can’t remember who these players were though.
More from the same match…
The most famous players I saw were Tommy Haas playing Alexander Peya and Tommy Robredo playing Luka Gregorc. This was a hell of a match, and Robredo ended up winning it. Here’s a couple pics from this match.
After getting my fill of tennis for about 7 hours, I headed back to my hostel and went out with my friends on my last night in Europe. Then I flew home the next afternoon, connecting in Chicago, and finally landing home in Detroit.
A GREAT END TO AN AMAZING TRIP!!!
Nearing the end of my European Adventure, I caught a bus from Cadiz to Malaga, even though I didn’t really want to leave. I had to go to Malaga to catch a flight up to London, so I basically had a day to spend in the city. What do you do when you only have a day to spend in the city? Well it’s a beach town and also the birthplace of Pablo Picasso. First, you start out by going to the awesome Picasso Museum and walking around the center of the city.
Then of course, you go to the beach, which was conveniently located across the street from my hostel.
Then once you’ve had your fill of sun, sand, and sangria, you pack up and try to catch a bus to the airport so you don’t miss your flight. This was by far the toughest part of my day. My flight left around midnight that night and I just barely made it. I was relieved to make it on my flight, arrived at London Stansted around 2am, and fell asleep in a 24-hour coffee shop in the airport.
Pretty much my whole time spent in Spain can be summed up in these 4 words: tapas, beach, siesta, party. That was my experience in Spain in a nutshell, and Cadiz was no exception to that. Cadiz is a small beach town on a peninsula in the southwest corner of Spain. They have some of the nicest beaches I’ve been to, and one of my favorite hostels I stayed at was here. It was called Casa Caracol, and it was awesome! They had hammocks on the roof for a nice afternoon siesta, beach less than 5 minutes away, and I met a lot of cool people here. I guess this is why before coming to Cadiz I had only planned to stay a day or two and chill on the beach, but I ended up spending almost a week here! Here’s a couple pictures of the hostel. This first one is a doll in the hostel and everytime they have a costume party (about once a month) a article of clothing gets added to it. It’s pretty funny!
And the hammocks…good for a little siesta after a long afternoon at the beach.
Here’s the beach where I spent a most of time in Cadiz.
One afternoon when I got tired of laying on the beach (just kidding!) I walked around the city for a couple hours and took a few pictures here and there.
A random pic next, but I like it!
And finally…hanging out on the beach once the sun goes down. Good times!
As I continued to explore Sevilla (in the evening as the sun started to set), I came across Plaza de Espana, one of the most impressive sites in the city.
That night, a guy at my hostel was making a huge batch of Paella for everyone. It was awesome! See what you think!
Walking down the river at sunset was really nice.
This was the big bull fighting arena in Sevilla. Bull fighting, as well as Flamenco, originated here.
The random kayaker!