I missed my connecting flight in Costa Rica and lived to tell the story

I missed my connecting flight in Costa Rica and lived to tell the story

It was my first time traveling to another county completely solo. Sure I had flown to Germany before but I would meet up with my best friend the next day.

My trip to Costa Rica was solo from O’Hare to San Jose and back again. I planned the trip to Manuel Antonio perfectly, or so I though.

I sat next to a frequent Costa Rican visitor on the plan and explained how I would take the connecting flight from San Jose to Quepos and a bus from Quepos to my hostel.  She warned me about how early you had to be to the gate long before takeoff.  I shrugged it off because there wasn’t a choice.  This had to work.

Sure I panicked. I didn’t research a backup on how to get to my hostel. I got off the plane and into the line at customs. Oy vey. I didn’t plan on this.  It took forever.  Everyone around me was complaining about their connecting flights and being the passive person I usually am, I decided to keep mum.

I was through customs with five minutes to spare. Needless to say, I didn’t make it to the gate before the plane took off, much less the required hour before.

Now what? Well I took five seconds to breathe and panic and breathe again. I even shed a few “what the flip am I going to do now” tears. But this wasn’t my first rodeo. This was my eighth country.  I’m a world traveler, damn it. I was going to figure this out while determined to use my cell phone as little as possible.

After I chilled, I headed to the bathrooms where I changed out of my February in Chicago outfit into nineties and super humid tank and shorts. Boy was I happy when I got outside!

The ATM was broken so I took a walk around and found the currency exchange to obtain some Costa Rican Colon. Now time to make a plan.  How was I going to get to Manuel Antonio?  The bus.  I headed to the bus stop. I asked a few locals how to get to Manuel Antonio or Quepos, but no one knew.

I watched bus after bus come through. None of the drivers were going to Quepos or Manuel Antonio.

After 15 minutes, a couple of Americans asked me if I was lost. Not technically. I knew where I was and where I was going, just not a clue how I was going to get there. After talking for a bit about their experience in Costa Rica, what I should try to see and a receiving large warning that I should not, under any circumstances, drive, they told me to grab a cab to downtown San Jose.  There I could catch a bus directly to my Hostel.

She warned me about setting a price for the cab and not to pay more than a certain fair. I found a taxi and made it to the bus station for the fair I asked.

I ordered a bus ticket with my limited Spanish. It wasn’t for another three hours. I ordered some food. I panicked a little every time a new bus pulled up.  I didn’t completely understand the lit up signs on the coach buses.  If I got to nervous, I would show my ticket to the person at the ticket window.  She would assure me I was okay and I would sit back down and wait.

At two minutes until my buses arrival time, a coach bus pulled up. I knew, somehow, that this was my bus. Maybe, ya know, the time helped?

I got in line, jumped on the bus and we took off. The bus ticket stated the arrival time to Manuel Antonio and there was a clock near the front of the bus.  I settled in, knowing it would be a while.

We passed coconut trees, banana trees, and small little villages.

A passenger asked me where I was staying and I told her Hostel Vista Serena. She spoke little English but understood what I was saying and nodded.  About fifteen minutes before our arrival time, the lady said something to the bus driver.

The lady turned to me and told me to get off at the next stop. I wasn’t sure what to think, but then saw a sign for my hostel. When the bus stopped, I grabbed my small carry on, and jumped off.

I backtracked, uphill, in the dark, on the side of the road for a little less than a quarter mile and found my Hostel. I was about seven hours late, but I did it.  I did it sans cell phone. Check me out!

But this is what is great about traveling alone. No, really I didn’t do that much. With the help of a few friends during my journey, I found a way to travel 100 miles. But accomplishing something like that on your own, in a place you’ve never been, where few people speak the same language as you, feels really amazing.

Photo of Map is Courtesy of Google Maps

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