At this very moment, I’m reaching the tail end of my flight to San Jose, Costa Rica. Before I land, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the whirlwind of a travel day this has been.
My travel day began with waking up at 05:45. I packed up my belongings and folded up the blankets I had used during my sleep on the couch. As quietly as possible, I grabbed a quick breakfast and headed out the door with my giant backpack and two checked bags. To passerby, I must have looked absolutely ridiculous walking down the streets of Chicago like a pack mule to the metro station.
Once I hopped on the metro, I turned on my podcast and got comfortable on the first 30 minute leg. Eventually, I switched metro lines from brown to orange. With no elevator in sight to bring me to the top of the stairs to switch platforms, I braved myself for carrying both suitcases up the stairs. To my surprise, a young man offered to help me out. Thank goodness! On leg two of the metro ride, I continued listening to my podcasts and arrived at Midway airport.
I went to the self check-in kiosk for Southwest to encounter a visa issue. Long story short, I had to go to the customer service counter and an associate had to rebook my return flight. With my exchange program, Sol, students enter Costa Rica on a tourist visa. Later in the semester, we leave the country so our tourist visa “resets.” Because my return flight happened to be a few days over the visa stay, Southwest’s system wouldn’t allow me to check-in. Of course, I’m panicking and texting my mother during this time as any person would do. Luckily for me, Southwest does not charge customers for flight changes, so I can switch my flight once I’m in country. With my boarding passes in hand, I made my way through security and waited at my gate for my 11:10 flight to Houston.
Flight number one of the day went on without any issue. Southwest had the most efficient boarding of any airline I’ve ever flown with which thoroughly impressed me. I was a fan of the open seating system and the free snacks given out during the duration of the flight.
In Houston, I grabbed some lunch/dinner. Like the American I am, I selected a guacamole burger the size of my face. I figured the beef patty would be the last one I eat for a while.
At 17:10, I hopped on my second Southwest flight for San Jose. Currently, I’m sitting in a window seat with the whole row to myself. I’ve napped a bit while listening to Rachel Hollis’ RISE podcast.
As I type, the sun is setting, I’m listening to Taylor Swift’s new album “Lover,” and I cannot believe I will soon land in country #19 that I have visited (#17 of the year). Please know I write those numbers not to brag, but purely out of amazement that at age 21 I have traversed a small portion of the world with host siblings, family, and as a solo traveler. My time as a Rotary Youth Exchange student played a pivotal and transformational role in my life. A younger version of myself would not have dreamed of traveling to far off places by herself with growing up in small-town Indiana. I feel so unbelievably thankful for another opportunity to study abroad in a third country. Costa Rica is going to be the biggest challenge I’ve taken so far in my short life, but I’m thrilled to experience growth in my language skills and personal life.
Between flights, I messaged my sister, Delaney, who is my best friend in the entire world. Two years ago, she went to Peru to study. I’ve relied on her for questions and advice on what to expect culturally and linguistically in Costa Rica. I asked her, “Is it normal to be excited and nervous? I’m questioning what I’ve gotten myself into.” Her response of “YOU CAN DO THIS” is what I needed to hear.
I hope, dear friends, you stick around for the adventures, mistakes, and growth that are sure to occur these next few months. Knowing me, there will be moments to laugh about.
¡Bienvenido a Costa Rica!
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