Traveling to a foreign country can be overwhelming, even for a seasoned traveler. It’s easy to get caught up in all the saving, budgeting, planning and packing – and to be stressed out and frazzled before you even touch down.

1. Disconnect

Ok, this one is misleading, because the actual goal is to CONNECT. Disconnecting is more like the first step. You can’t make new local or national friends if all you are doing is spending your time telling your friends back home what you are up to. I definitely support a journal and you can’t get around taking pictures of the surrounding beauty (which is literally everywhere you look), but don’t let it be your main activities. If you are disconnected, you’ll be more approachable and open to connect with interesting strangers.

Javi the Frog leading the boat in the rapids, La Fortuna
Javi the Frog leading the boat in the rapids, La Fortuna


2. Be Brave

Disney thinks that being ‘brave’ is important enough for a movie and Sara Bareilles sings about how much she wants you to be brave. So do it! While you are in Costa Rica, do at least one thing that you wouldn’t normally do. Say ‘yes’ to at least one thing that you’d normally say ‘heck no!’ to, for example Canopy over the rain forest. Give in where you would normally resist. You won’t believe how liberating it will feel, and how much it can change you for the better.

Canyoning near La Fortuna & Arenal Volcano
Canyoning near La Fortuna & Arenal Volcano


3. Be Spontaneous

If you spent months planning your trip down to the minute, then congrats – you are very well prepared! Now, toss all that planning aside! Ok, not all of it, but at least some of it. If you have plans to go on a hike, but you notice that your hotel is offering horseback riding, be open to the idea of doing something that you hadn’t planned. Part of being in a new place is having the freedom to explore and discover. While there are definitely many amazing adventures that you CAN plan, don’t forget that there are some epic adventures awaiting you that can’t possibly be planned.

Guide giving a bit of history before a hike into the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Guide giving a bit of history before a hike into the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve


4. Arrive At Your Destination Fresh and Stupid

Arrive at each new place “stupid.” Meaning, don’t research yourself to death before you arrive. Let the place and the people tell you about the history and the present. Learning too much can close your mind to the newness of it all; arriving stupid will leave your mind open and spacious, ready to absorb everything that you see, hear, taste and feel.

Hot Stone Massage at The Springs Resort next to Arenal Volcano
Hot Stone Massage at The Springs Resort next to Arenal Volcano


5. Fudge Your Budget

Yes, budgeting is a huge part of traveling, and sticking to a tight budget while you plan may be the only reason that you are able to travel at all. I get it. And I also don’t care. If you are so worried about exactly how much money you are spending, you may rob yourself of some great experiences. Met a cool local or funny fellow traveler, at dinner? Stay for that extra drink and keep the conversation going. Discovered a tour or excursion that you didn’t know existed but sounds really amazing? Do it! Need a massage after a long day of hiking? Take advantage of your hotel’s spa. See a unique souvenir that you just have to have? You have to have it. These are once-in-a-lifetime decisions; don’t be over burdened by your budget. Chances are that you’ve padded your costs anyway and it will all work out.

Coffee plantations in the Orosi Valley
Coffee plantations in the Orosi Valley


6. Live Like A Local

Pay attention to your surroundings and live like a local. Do they walk to local spots or drive? How do they dress? How do they spend their days? Some tours will expose you to everyday life, like a tour of a coffee plantation. Why not see if you are able to shadow one of the workers? Talk to the locals you meet – even if you can’t live like one, you can get a sense of what it is like to be one.

Learning Spanish in Heredia, Costa Rica
Learning Spanish in Heredia, Costa Rica


7. Learn The Language

If you aren’t fluent in Spanish before visiting Costa Rica, you can still survive. You should try to learn some of the basics before you arrive, but even if you don’t, you should definitely pick up everything you can from the local use. Pay close attention to the local’s lingo, and try to pick up as much Spanish as you can. There is nothing like learning it ‘in the field’ from the experts!

Waterfall at Rio Celeste
Waterfall at Rio Celeste


8. Photograph Something Unique

Costa Rica is ripe with unique flora and fauna, that you cannot find anywhere else in the world. Make it a goal to do activities and take adventures that will expose you to all that Costa Rica has to offer, and be on the lookout for those indigenous photo subjects. Go on a hike, jump in a white water raft, take a crocodile excursion...just get out there with your camera. Of course, all the obvious things should be on your list too, like surfing, hiking and watching a sunset. Whatever goals you have, Costa Rica is an amazing place that can change the way you look at the world, so enjoy every second that you have in this beautiful country.