Escape Travel Outside Your Comfort Zone – “Pura vida”, Costa Rica!

by Rolands Ratfelders


Part 1: Escape travel – leaving the comfort zone

Are you at crossroads of your life? It is time for an “escapery”!

Some years ago a friend of mine asked me if I could write about this crazy escape travel trip to a digital women’s magazine. I hesitated in the beginning. To be honest I was not sure if I was ready to reveal all the details of this three men adventure to the public. Besides, two of these men (including me) had recently divorced. Our lives had just turned upside-down. Thus, looking for the new meaning of life was a kind of priority.

The fact that I do not tend to be short worded does not help as well. All magazines ask a limited amount of wording. “Try to be as short as possible,” my friend asked me. “Short” isn’t for sure my second name by any means. I am both tall and I do not express myself shortly as well. But I will do my best here.

I also didn’t want to limit my story only to the so-called “correct moments”. Turning into a blog post on “how-to” or into a boring fry “guidebook” is my last intention for this “escapery” story here. Yet, as in any travel story, you will find some good travel tips in it as well. Still, the most important part of my story is people and real-life travel experiences. Keeping your attention only shortly or scamming is not what I want to achieve here. And you are still reading this, right?

On the other side, if I will be too open…well, this will be better than being boring. I’ll risk!

Anyway, I hesitated only shortly. This means I agreed not only to share our three weeks’ incredible adventure to Costa Rica. I also want to encourage you to go for your own escape travel trip. I want to inspire you to find your own off-the-beaten-path, and here is the result.

Meaning of “Pura Vida!”

“Pura vida!” is a combination of the words that people use for saying “Hello!” or “Bye!” in Costa Rica. Besides, you will hear these words so often only in Costa Rica. Local people use them instead of traditional Spanish “Hola!” and “Adios!” there.

In translation “pura vida” means “pure life”. I must say this saying is not without the real content. Life in Costa Rica is pure indeed, and here is why. Costa Ricans live in a beautiful and green (well, mostly green) environment. And most important, they are aware that nature is their greatest value. Hence they take care of it.

Escape travel and eco-tourism paradise

When you google the word “ecotourism” or “eco-travel”, Costa Rica is one of the first results that come up. This says a lot.

I come from the Nordic European country Latvia, which is also one of the greenest countries in the World. We are the country of the European Union with all the good things that come from that for our environment. Yet, I would like to see that we go the way Costa Rica has chosen for eco-tourism.Escape travel _ Costa Rica _ tree frog

Latvians and our neighboring other Baltic States love nature. We like to present ourselves as green countries. We like to visit countries rich with pristine nature too. I am sure that in the close future we are to become Nordic Costa Rica for eco-tourism. But more about this in another story.

The same as Latvia, Costa Rica does not have almost any valuable fossil resources to give us a quick big buck. It will sound strange but this is good. We are not so interesting for large greedy international resource-consuming corporations. Thus, we have to develop greener industries.

Costa Rica has no fossil resources but it has forests, mountains, and volcanos. It also has the Pacific Ocean to the West and the Caribbean Sea to the East. This all makes this land unique.

The standard of living here is much above the average GDP’s level in Central America. And Costa Ricans are proud of this.

A country without an army!

Costa Rica has no its own army! They are not planning to attack anybody. They also do not think that anybody has any reason to attack them. Costa Ricans joke that nobody needs their monkeys, snakes and other creatures. The vast rainforests of Costa Rica, indeed, are abundant with wildlife.

Planning the trip

And, finally, we come to the trip itself.

Do you think that planning a three-week personal trip to Costa Rica is a difficult task? Yes, I must confirm that it is. Yet, it has plenty of advantages compared to using the services of a travel agency. First of all, it is, of course, a great satisfaction at the end of the trip.

To be honest we were very lucky with the flights. We got a good deal “out of nowhere”. Well, actually it is not that typical, but “out of nowhere” was from a tour agency. The deal was half the “normal” price for that kind of destination, and we jumped in. The right things always come at the right time. Today this “out of nowhere” would mean such web resources as TravelFree and Fly4Free. There you can find great flights’ deals to close and exotic destinations. This is on the condition that you are ready to follow their news on a regular basis.

Taking off to escape travel

Arrival in San Jose

I will not go into many details about our international flights. Shortly, connections were somewhat like Borat’s journey to USA. The format Riga-Frankfurt-Atlanta-San Jose was not the most convenient. We had to stay one night near Frankfurt’s airport in the area. This is not the coziest place in the World. Yet, we already were wandering in the jungle in our minds some weeks before our trip. Thus, no difficulties could spoil our mood. American Airlines served supersize wine glasses on our flight from Frankfurt to Atlanta. This made this long (10 hours) “torture” much more enjoyable. The crew did the utmost to keep those glasses full and the life was great.

The flight from Atlanta to San Jose was windy and bumpy. At least that is what my friend Edgars said. He was obviously jealous of my ability to sleep on-board. We are both tall guys and most long flights in economy class make our lives miserable. I was so tired though that I did not feel any bumps this time. Strange, that even if you think that you have not slept, you actually have. “It seems that I fell in short sleep”, I said. “It seems?”, grumped Edgars. “You slept like a bear during the wintertime. You missed scared passengers’ faces in this wonderful bumpy flight”.

Late San Jose

It was late evening when we stepped on the land of Costa Rica. San Jose both surprised me and caused some worries. It was the end of January but we were expecting well-known hot and humid weather in a tropical country. Not a close. San Jose met us with around +18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit). There also was a very strong wind that aimed to wipe us off our feet.

Mess with the car booking

I cannot say that I did not expect something like this, but the first adventure began at the airport. We tried to get our 4×4 wheel drive car, which we booked well in advance. Ok, I hear now voices saying, “Hey, Rolands, 4×4 wheel drive cars are not very eco-friendly. They are not very cheap to rent either”. I agree with that, they are not, and we tried to avoid it. Yet, roads in Costa Rica are far from ideal. We considered different options on how we could get to our chosen destinations. Actually, we had no other choice.

The car rent clerk announced that they gave away our booked car to somebody else. Explanations and the reasons for this were somewhat foggy. So, we dug into our booking documents to defend our opinion. The clerk left an impression of a very sneaky and cunning guy. it was clear that he was very experienced dealing with arrogant “gringos” like us. Thus, I was quite surprised that the detailed survey of booking e-mails helped. Plus very emotional Edgar’s reaction and discussion with the clerk resulted fruitfully. Suddenly, “our” car became available.

To be honest as from now our first not so positive impression radically changed. The car rental company was very professional and quick dealing with the rest formalities. Besides, they did that in perfect English. We understood that the first strategy of the company was to “surprise”. They checked if we would agree with a better deal for them. This strategy did not work. So they switched to a normal civilized business model mode. Haven’t we already experience this somewhere…? I can only suggest always to save and pick up with you your booking documents – always! You may need them for sure.

Our third friend that lives in Chicago joined us the same evening. So our adventure team was ready to go.

Part II, part III, part IV and part V of the adventure story you can find here, here, here and here.


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