Tag Archives: Costa Rica

Home vs. Costa Rica

This is the last post about Costa Rica.  I promise.  When you embark on such an epic adventure like the one we went on, it’s hard to stop telling stories.  But I assure you that these are the last ones.  

I’ve learned this summer that there is great danger in traveling to other countries.  I’m not talking about the danger of armed robbers or drinking the water and getting explosive diarrhea.  I’m talking about the danger of comparison.  It’s dangerous to go to a country and compare it to your home country.  Dangerous because it can taint your trip and/or your time back at home if you focus on what the other place does better.

It’s easy to encounter inconvenience in another country and think, “This would never happen in America.” Likewise, it’s easy to return home and think, “I wish America was more like such and such place.”

Having traveled a bit, I’m learning that the key to comparing countries is to focus on what you appreciate rather than pointing out the crappy aspects of a nation (because let’s face it, we’ve all got major crap in our country).  And when I return home, I’m being intentional about not griping about what America lacks and instead focusing on the great things we do have.  That being said, the following are 10 areas I can’t help but compare when considering Costa Rica and Southern California.

1. The roads

Home: Sure, we have crazy frustrating traffic and aggressive drivers who are quick to throw the bird, but we also have an efficient road system with clearly marked signs, paved roads, and addresses.

Costa Rica: Okay, so yeah, it would have been a touch easier if our destinations had actual addresses, but then we would have missed out on the adventure of looking for a “giant blue billboard” which was our cue to turn right.  And rather than complain about the windy mountain roads, we found joy (and a little bit of terror) in crossing rivers like this:

2. The flora

Home: I love the palm trees.  Admittedly, I probably love them a little too much.  I’ve lived here all my life and still take pictures of them lining the freeways.  I later delete them so people won’t scroll through my camera roll and think, “Wow, Katie’s life is so pathetic.  She has tons of pictures of freeways and her cat.”

Costa Rica:  I’m not typically one to take picture of plants and flowers, but holy moly, the variety in this country is astounding.  The following were all found in the yard of our rental house:

3. The churches

Home: I love my church.  Really love it.  There’s something cool about going to the church you grew up in.  I can still see myself in the pews playing tic-tac-toe and eating Mambas with my siblings while some boring old man droned on and on about Jesus.  (The boring old man was Chuck Swindoll.  Gosh I wish I had been old enough to understand him!)  The teaching today is just fantastic, so if you’re ever looking for something to listen to while you drive or run, check out Mike’s sermon series HERE.  I highly recommend the most recent series about the Holy Spirit.

Costa Rica–  In the first town we stayed in, we were serenaded every night by a tiny church of about 15 people singing worship songs for hours.  Literal hours.  You guys, they sang , “This is the Air I Breathe” for no less than 40 minutes.  I’m not exaggerating.  What they lacked in ability, they made up for in endurance.  It was truly quite impressive. The Christians in Drake Bay proved that they are seriously desperate for Jesus.  We, on the other hand, were desperate for them to sing a new song.

In the second location, I woke up at 5 AM on Sunday morning because a woodpecker tricked me into thinking we had visitors knocking at the door.  Since I was up, I went for a early run and discovered the town church:

The doors were locked, but that didn’t keep me from snooping around and taking pictures of the view:

The bench obsession continues

4. The car washes

Home- I love those $5 drive-thru car washes.  Does anyone else still get super excited every time you go through one?  When my friend Nirupa was visiting from India, I took her through one of these because I think they are that cool.  I realize now that it was probably a strange thing to do.

Costa Rica–  Costa Ricans don’t need fancy technology.  They improvise:

Parked in the middle of the stream washing both the inside and the outside of his car.  Brilliant. 

5. The breakfasts

Home– Breakfast is my favorite meal.  I love sugar cereals and some of the only things I know how to make in the kitchen are omelets, french toast, pancakes, and smoothies.  When I transferred high schools, some kids knew me as “burrito girl” because I brought a giant breakfast burrito to class every Wednesday.  So yes, breakfast is kind of my thing.  And I’ve had some memorable ones this summer.  The girls cross-country team had a pancake breakfast after practice that was both fun and delicious:

Another breakfast highlight this summer came while eating my CTC (Cinnamon Toast Crunch) and seeing this in the backyard:

My grandpa reading the bible to my grandma.  

How sweet is that?  Grandma, bet you didn’t realize I snuck a picture:)

Costa Rica– Breakfast is made exponentially better when Tatiana comes to your house to prepare it and serves all the local favorites: 

which we devoured while enjoying the view:

Well, everyone but Katie enjoyed the view.  She kept her eyes closed the entire time. 

6. The restaurants

Home- I love eating out.  I do it more than most because cooking for 1 sucks and Chipotle never gets old.  When my friend Christy returned from 3 years in Madrid, she went on and on about how great it is that there are so many good places to eat so conveniently located.  I may have mocked her for being so excited about restaurants, but I too appreciate all the good, cheap food.

Costa Rica– I loved eating at local dives like this pizza joint where there is one worker who made the pizzas on his grill:

At the second spot, we discovered that the only restaurant in town serves AMAZING food and offers an AMAZING view of the entire valley.  Sure, Trent discovered a shockingly large beetle in his rice, but that didn’t slow any of us down. Our cook was also our waiter and the owner of the joint and we were certain he must be cousins with the “most interesting man in the world.” 

Isn’t the view breathtaking? 

7. The swimming

Home- I love swimming in my parents’ pool with my nephews.  This summer I taught Vander my old synchronized swimming routine:

because everyone had one of those, right?

And I laughed every time Logan did the dead man’s float:

Costa Rica- The water was almost warmer than a bath and turned out to be a perfect place to hang out and do hand-stands:

And who doesn’t love a real-life lazy river? 

8. The porches

Home- I love sitting on my parent’s front porch.  There’s something comforting about watching the sun set in the place you’ve watched it set for nearly 30 years.

Costa Rica- Both houses we stayed at had pretty insane porches.  The kind of porches on which you want to fall asleep:

and cut fruit:

The kind of porches from which you can see volcanos:

and lay in hammocks while enjoying the view: 

9. The beaches

Home- California beaches make for some prime people-watching.  So many tattoos in so many wrong places.  It’s wonderful.

Then, if you hang around long enough, the people will clear out and you can climb the lifeguard tower and watch a fantastic sunset:

And if you’re in the mood for whale-watching instead of people-watching, you can board a boat and see blue whales and dolphins:

Costa Rica– This is not the ideal spot for people-watching, but if you like that whole “beautiful, isolated, they-should-film-the-Bachelor-here” type of beach, you might enjoy them too:

Our house in the one with the pointed roof on the right.  We didn’t hate it.

10. The company

Home– It’s no secret that I enjoy my family.  We live in a 10 mile radius of each other and get together all the time.  This is why the 14 of us spent a week together in a cabin at Bass Lake and never got annoyed.  Check that, my mom did get a bit annoyed when we kept talking about the cd my dad found in the player called “Erotic Moods.”  But apart from that, we got along wonderfully.

Costa Rica– This country was crazy beautiful, but it would not have been nearly as much fun if not for the weirdos in the group.  We created a surprising amount of inside jokes in just 7 days and memories that will last till we’re old and grey.  Here they are, both the red and blue teams, my traveling companions and Costa Rican family:


“S yeah!  Head butts happen. Nice to meet you, Heather. Here comes the BOOM!” (all said with zero inflection in voice)

Cran Sauce 

The official scum of the earth (known for her love of dogs and hatred of fast horses)


Our presidente, fish-fryer, translator, planner, and jelly-fish-stings-don’t-hurt-me-bad-ass.

El Chupacabra

Our photographer, navigator, holder of things, and official grass spotter. The most low-maintenance gluten-free gal you’ll ever find.

Ginger Jelly 

” Livin’ the dream”

Lone Ranger 

“Oh yeah!  Si se puede!” 

This was the type of group that strangers want to hug:

I can’t say I blame them.

The truth behind vacation pictures

I don’t know about yours, but my Instagram feed this summer has been kind of ridiculous.  I have been constantly seeing pictures from around the world- Stonehenge, Mona Lisa, Machu Picchu, Filipino rain forests, Hawaiian waterfalls, Costa Rican sunsets- you get the idea.  I’ve sat in the dentist office scrolling through pictures of sailing trips, surfing trips, and Portland trips with Voodoo donuts (that look life-changing by the way).  Apart from all the “throw back Thursdays”, and baby pics, my feed has mostly been comprised of beautiful beaches, majestic mountain peaks, and peaceful pools.  Well, there was this pool too:

While pictures from concerts and vacations are certainly interesting and I “like” them, I really do, I also find myself battling with my old friend Lady Envy.  Have you ever met her?  She’s horrible.

I know that it’s silly to envy other’s trips- especially since I’ve been blessed with a fun and full summer of my own.  But I still can’t help but look at other people’s Costa Rica pictures and think, “Wow, I wish I had seen that waterfall.”  Ridiculous, I know.

However, I’ve also been learning that pictures do not tell the whole story.  We post what we want people to see and don’t always mention the story behind the picture, but it seems there is ALWAYS a story behind the picture.

My friend Lesley reminded me of this truth when she posted THIS MOVING STORY about the picture of her husband and daughter taken shortly after he was diagnosed with cancer.  My friend Christy reminded me of this truth when I asked about her trip to Austria that looked absolutely amazing.  She laughed and admitted that it was beautiful but she failed to post any pictures of the kids crying in the car for five hours.

So do pictures lie or do they tell the truth?

I think they do both.

Pictures give a glimpse of one real moment and tell one small piece of a story.  But it’s a small piece of a large story.

The stories behind the picture are sometimes sad, sometimes surprising, and sometimes downright funny.  So in honor of telling the whole story, allow me to share a few of my summer pictures and tell you the whole story behind them, the REAL story if you will.

Let’s start in Alaska…

I felt a bit like a phony when I posted this on Facebook:

Because while I did indeed encounter this bear while in Alaska, the moment was not nearly as cool as it appears.

If you could see this picture from the bear’s point of view, you would laugh.  Not only was there an electric fence between us, there were about 30 of us tourists, squeezed shoulder to shoulder oooooohing and ahhhhhing as the bear came near.

So while I made it look as if I was alone in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness, armed only with my courage and my iPhone, the real story is that I was holding Jenny’s boy Asher and laughing with the German next to me about how we hoped the fence was turned on.  Jenny was nowhere to be seen because she was racing to the toilet with her daughter Lola, who was still mastering the control of her bladder.

Which leads me to my next picture…

I posted this on Instagram and let everyone believe I was on a beautiful, peaceful road trip with one of my best friends in the world.  That part of the story is true.  It was beautiful and it was peaceful and Jenny is the type of friend who will lend me her toothbrush and her underwear.

But the rest of the story?

The part that I only shared with our close friends?

Well,that part is not quite as picturesque: 

This is the reality of what road trips with potty-training toddlers actually looks like.

Next, some pictures from Costa Rica.  Sorry if you’re sick of these by now.

First picture: It appears that we are on a beautiful, relaxing ride through the rain forest and down to the beach…

But shortly after this picture was snapped, the three of our horses took off trotting and left the group.  They knew they had a bunch of suckers on their backs so they turned onto the beach and broke into a gallop.  This was fun, albeit slightly terrifying since there were low-hanging branches and decapitation seemed like a very real possibility.

Kylee was not okay with this and could not get her horse to stop, so she proceeded to swing her leg over and then JUMPED, TUCKED, AND ROLLED onto the beach as her horse sped down the coast.  We certainly weren’t laughing right away because it was freaking scary.  But after about 5 minutes I couldn’t hold it in any longer and burst into a fit of the giggles that continues every time I replay that jump in my mind.

Our next adventure was a boat ride out to an island in order to snorkle:

Katie snapped this picture moments before we met Heather.  Oh Heather, that wonderful woman walking towards us in the oversized red t-shirt.  I saw her coming and jokingly broke into a rendition of “Lady in Red”, not realizing that said lady in red was about to be joining our snorkel adventure.

Imagine a person who knows everything about just about everything and has zero social awareness.  That, my friends, was Heather.  She certainly made for a memorable afternoon adventure.  I mean, come on:

How could she not?

This next picture is pretty deceptive and really only tells a very small piece of the story:

I know, I know.  I look like a cougar laughing it up with a college kid.

For the record, I was laughing because I felt my friends laughing at me as I talked with Mike about the mystery meat we were about to eat.  Mike rode in our van to the river where we rafted and it never even crossed my mind as being strange that he never removed his sunglasses.  Until he did…

Guys, there were audible gasps from our group.  Poor Mikey had developed some kind of terrible tropical infection and his left eye had swollen to an ungodly size.  It still makes me cringe just thinking about it.

Finally, I like to think I’m fairly brave so I really must explain the story behind this picture:

What you are witnessing here is a snapshot of me giving in to peer pressure.  Our guide was a little crazy and made us do some crazy things.  (ie- wear war paint under our eyes and leaves in our helmets and go down rapids with our eyes closed or while standing up).  Mauricio also thought it would be fun to make us each sit on the front edge of the boat while going down rapids.

This was great fun when everyone else was going.  But when it was my turn, I screamed louder than I think I ever have.  Right after this picture was taken, a giant wave sent me flipping backwards with so much water up my nose that I think it came out my ears.  I glared at Mauricio who said, “Whoops, I didn’t think the drop was going to be that big.”  How comforting.

My last trip this summer was to Bass Lake.  It was full of fantastic memories like this one with my sisters:

But what this picture doesn’t show is that I was still a bit irritated with my brothers which is why I was eager to hang out with my sisters instead.

Earlier that morning Trent threw a pancake at my face so hard that it made me cry.  It was awkward for everyone involved- even for Travis who was secretly video-taping the whole thing.  Sure, I had thrown egg at Trent’s face earlier, but that did not warrant a hard slap in the face with a dense pancake.

The last picture is one I forgot to post on Instagram. 

I relaxed in the front of the boat while my uncle Tom took us for a ride around the lake and my cousin Brady entertained us:

However, if we had gone before 1 PM and taken pictures, you wouldn’t have been able to see the mountain or much of the water.  What my clear pictures fail to show is how each morning the air was so thick with nasty smoke from a nearby fire that it was hard to see and breathe.

Clearly, pictures only tell a small part of a large story.  I hope I can remember this as I see more vacation pictures and as I go through each day.  Because each day, even if it seems boring or mundane, truly is just a small part of a much larger story.

Unseen things

One of my favorite things in life is when the unseen things are finally seen- when surprises are revealed and things that were once hidden are discovered.  Costa Rica was full of such wondrous surprises.  They were lurking behind leaves and concealed around corners- surprises just waiting to be noticed and marveled at.

For instance, one might look at a tree and see only a tree.  But if you really looked at it, really studied its branches, you would find this guy: Continue reading

The Runs in Costa Rica

No, not THAT kind of runs.  I mean, we did drink the water, and there were some moments we were so scared we nearly crapped our pants, but this is not a post about that.

See, I spent last week in Costa Rica on a trip that can best be described as an epic adventure/laugh-fest.  Our group of seven spent a week exploring beaches, waterfalls, ocean depths, rivers and rain forests. We tromped far from the beaten path where we rarely encountered tourists or even English-speakers. Continue reading