Dispatches from Puerto Viejo

On the beach Puerto Viejo
1. There are few things sadder than a redhead on the beach. Immune to the seductive sounds of waves crashing onto the shore and the hyper-blue sky, these translucent creatures huddle miserably under palm trees, deperate for shade. Yes, it’s the curse of us freckly, pale ghosts. Thankfully (due to a combination of partly cloudy skies and ungodly high SPF sunsreen) I’ve managed to avoid getting any more than the rosy pink glow that inevitably crops up when I step outside.

Sleepy sloth
2. It’s still kind of unimaginable to be in a place that organically produces such an amazing range of flora and fauna. We’ve been eating different fruits for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Seeing coconut trees everywhere, along with a vast range otherunknow, exotic fruits, still gives a pleasant ruxh. As for the fauna part, we recently headed over to the Jaguar Rehabilitation Center, just down the road from Puerto Viejo. Despite almost passing out (a four kilometer walk is deadly for me in tne heat), it was so fascinating to see all the animals being trained to reintergrate into the wild.
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Long-term travel and the expat

Farm in San Jose

I know that there’s a lot of controversy about the term expat in some circles; however, I couldn’t describe myself as an immigrant or a traveler so I’ve come to find that it’s been the quickest and best way to describe my situation for the past four years. An expat, by my definition, is someone living long-term in a foreign country (without plans to remain there forever) and who generally lives both within and a bit separate from normal society.

So. I’m an expat. And I have to say that, as much as people rhapsodize endlessly about la vie boheme that is living abroad, expat life isn’t really that exciting. When you commit to living in a foreign country for a long period of time it becomes your life, not some endless, exotic adventure. You go to work, have drinks with friends on the weekend, get stressed about things. Usually, expat life is entirely mundane with just a dash of quirky absurdism.
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My Thoughts: San Jose, Costa Rica

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We arrived late at night, hustled through security without a second glance and unceremoniously thrust into the warm night air. In the hallowed custom of many airports throughout the world, we were immediately accosted by a horde of taxi drivers who were not put off by our pleas of a pre-arranged ride or the fact that we spoke no Spanish or English.

“Ruso?” One particularly tenacious driver shouted. “Yo can hablo el ruso! DA!”

We finally managed to work around the crowd and plant ourselves safely on a bench. In fact, we were waiting for a ride. The person in question (tastefully described to the Russky’s overwrought mother as “a friend”) was actually a native that I’d only spoken to several times via CouchSurfing. For this trip, we were totally winging it and hoping that this “inherent goodness of humanity” trope actually proved true.
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Packing List Central America

So we’re in lovely Costa Rica. You can follow along more closely on my Twitter and Instagram accounts. But in the interest of avoiding total radio silence on the blog, here’s a quick peek into the Packing List Central America Edition.

Packing, man. It’s stressful, especially when you do it several times a year and find yourself whittling your possessions down more and more. That $30 sweatshirt you had to have? Too heavy for the bag — toss. That gigantic book of Russian poetry? Is the spine even cracked — toss. The $200+ Jeffrey Campbell studded platform sandals? OK, those were totally worth it.

Now I’m no stranger to the packing game. Over the past four years I’ve lived in DC, Texas, Korolev, and five (six?) apartments in Moscow — each for at least several months. So I’m pretty good at keeping things light and limiting my life to 50 pounds (22 kilos) of checked baggage and a carry on. But this trip is a totally different game. While we won’t necessarily be ‘backpackers’ in the strictest sense (we won’t be moving super fast and we do plan to settle somewhere for a while), we are limiting ourselves to one backpack and a small bag. For the foreseeable, indefinite future. The difference between a 50 pound suitcase and a backpack is pretty staggering.
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Passport OMG: Unlocking Kiki

Hey all! As the Russky and I are somewhere hanging out in San Jose, Costa Rica, please welcome Kaelene to the blog! She’s telling the story of an experience that no expat ever wants to experience…

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Hello A Girl and Her Travels readers! My name is Kaelene, an American expat living in Iceland and blogging along the way over at Unlocking Kiki. While Polly is off starting a new adventure I am here to share the story of my first move to Iceland two years ago.

As I said my goodbyes to my family at the airport that day I was stress free and looking forward to an exciting adventure abroad with my Viking.
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My Viking and I in beautiful Iceland

As I was checking into my flight I was surprised when the flight attendant asked for my return ticket or visa permit. When I began explaining that I would be receiving my visa once I arrived in Iceland I was informed that in order to board the plane I needed proof that I would be leaving the country within the allowed time period or that I have a visa.

Enter panic mode.
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Travel Tuesday: Hogwarts at Universal!

For an expat blogger, sometimes I feel that I don’t fully take advantage of all the coolness that occurs in the online expat community. To rectify this, I’m jumping in to the Travel Tuesday linkup this week and hoping to scope out some new reads.

My humble contribution to this link up is our trip to Florida last week and, more specifically, our trip to Hogwarts at Universal. Yes, I loved all of the Harry Potter books (the first book came out in the US when I was about 11 years old, so it was a pretty great time to follow along with the story) so this was a great treat to see that world come alive.

Hogwarts

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American Road Trip 2014

Our American road trip was totally awesome and we totally didn’t kill each other! It was truly a trip of firsts for the Russky: first time meeting my extended family, first time going to Universal Studios, and the first time seeing the ocean. Good times were definitely had by all.

Excuse my radio silence as we try to get everything together for our big trip (we leave Tuesday!) and accept these photos in lieu of a wordy post. I know you all like the pictures anyway! (Click on any of the pictures to make them bigger.)

A girl and her long-term travel plans

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I was in Moscow a long time. This is about the most warm-weather picture I’ve got!

I know I haven’t blogged too specifically about our travel plans because, honestly, we just don’t have that many plans beyond ‘long-term travel’. As it stands, we have two backpacks, two one-way tickets to San Jose, Costa Rica, and two bus tickets out of Costa Rica about 30 days after we enter. We have no real plans beyond that except to explore as much of Central (and hopefully South) America until our money runs out, all while juggling the various limits on our time there as an American and Russian citizen.

So.

I wrote this post in August of last year, outlining the differences between the ‘Midlife Crisis Traveler’ versus the ‘Already Expat’ and arguing that it was basically impossible for an Already Expat to travel the world forever. Now about a year later, I definitely haven’t progressed beyond the humble Already Expat and I’m getting ready to travel indefinitely. I’m not sure what about my mindset changed. I’m not sure if my mindset changed.
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Travel with your partner, murder-free

There’s something about travel that really makes you want to throttle your significant other, isn’t there? Or is it just me?

The Russky and I just drove down to Florida to see my extended family and it was a great preview of things to come on our long-term trip to Central/South America. It went pretty much as one might expect: the Russky was calm and clueless, and I was the high-strung dictator. Like I said, not a surprise. But no one ended up dead, so we’ll count it as a win.

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The thing about travel with your partner is that you just never know how everything will pan out until it’s actually happening. We can all wager guesses depending on personality, but traveling can bring out the best and worst in everyone. And no matter how well you know someone, in the end it’s really a crapshoot as to how well your personalities will mesh when things really go wrong. Who will be the one crying or screaming when you missed your connecting flight again? Who will calm the other one down when something gets stolen? Who will have the most restrain and not mow the other one down with a rusty machete? All very important questions I’m mulling over as we get ready for our big trip.

I’m not totally worried about it because, let’s be honest, I’d definitely be the one to reach for the machete first. But also, we’re pretty good partners. So as we head to Costa Rica on April 8th, traveling around the area indefinitely until money runs out or we find somewhere great, I’m pretty confident that we might actually both finish out the trip alive.

Because that little uptick of positivity at the end was so not my style, can you please tell me your worst partner travel story, be it husband/girlfriend/best friend? I’ll go first. My ex and I went to Puerto Rico and within a few days he got incredibly sick. We ended up having to go to the hospital. At five in the morning. With no cash and what we discovered were frozen bank cards. I managed to beg a taxi driver in my terrible Spanish to bring us to the sketchy hospital which we ended up staying at until we left the country early. Thankfully (?) illness took over before we would have inevitably fought with each other for some other stupid reason!