By Bob Corbett
4 PM on Wednesday, and I am astonished, I am fully packed and ready to go. In the afternoon I started to put some things in my backpack to see how it would go and before the hour was out it was fully packed. I'm delighted. I could have caught a 3 PM plane!
I have a nice backpack, not a "frame" model, all cloth, but larger than a normal book bag or day sack. This bag I will check on the airlines. In addition I have a small "fanny pack" which will hold my book, a note pad, tickets and my valuables.
That's it. Just the one back pack and one small fanny pack which will be my only carry on.
[Added note on July 10, 2006. That fanny pack was a disaster that caused me to lose everything of value and to have the first occasion in somewhere around 70 + international trips that I was robbed. More about that in the last couple of notes in this journal.]
There is a history to this pack. In summer 1983 my Arab students from the Persian Gulf invited me to come visit their countries as their guest. I accepted. They not only gave me my plane tickets and hosted me, but gave me this marvelous Jensport bag. It had a life-time guarantee.
I took very good care of it and used it often. Later when my son Brian was a teen he about destroyed it on one of his mountain climbing trips, and he sent it back to Jensport for repair. It must have been nearly 10 years after I'd gotten it, and they sent me a brand new one.
That one (which is this one) traveled the world. Eastern and Western Europe mainly. I don't think I ever took this pack to Haiti since in my many many trips there I usually carried my clothes in a tiny carry on and used my two checked bags as huge duffle bags filled with medicines and other valuable supplies.
The back pack fell on some hard times in recent years, and the two shoulder straps were pulling apart from the bag and it wasn't safe for me to use. But, it has a life-time guarantee. I sent it back, and just a few weeks ago with a plea to get on it, I was leaving very soon.
In about 10 days it was returned and the back straps which had worked loose were fixed in what appears a rock solid fashion. The rest of the pack is in great shape.
I love it. It has several side pockets and hidden pockets and is very sturdy, dark blue. Lots of history between me and the bag!
I got on the scale, weighed, then got back on with the pack. It is exactly 30 lbs. No terrible weight, but not light either. Inside that pack is another back pack, empty, but a smaller "day bag" size in case I'm ever carrying food and water and such which wouldn't fit into the fanny pack.
I have nice bright pieces of green and red ribbon on the bag to make it easier to find when it comes off the airline carousel. I've found that really helps me with the bags.
I have a list of "Things to Bring on a Trip" and several times in my list I remind myself: bring very little clothing, just rinse it out in your room.... and that's my plan. That's also why I only need the one bag.
I do have 9 books with me. That's not a lot, though some of them are quite thick and all of them are what one would call "challenging" books, serious literature, much of it by Latin American authors.
My plane is at 6:30 AM. tomorrow. St. Louis to Miami, and then on to San Jose, Costa Rica. I will arrive by mid-afternoon. My Let's Go guide, only travel book I'll have, gives me good directions for getting the airport bus into town for about $1.00 or less. And I have directions to the "east side of the park (San Jose City Park) which has some hostels. Says here I can get a room in a dormitory for about $8.00 off season.
I will cash some money at the airport into Costa Rican colones. The guide books say one can use U.S. dollars and that they are even welcome, but I've never been able to do that, it always seems a bit disrespectful to the independence of the host nation, so I will change my U.S. money and spend colones. I just got onto Google and it tells me that one U.S. dollar is worth 487 colones, we'll see what rate of exchange I get.
Since I will be stuck with the horrid, skimpy and unhealthy airline food all day tomorrow I will probably splurge tomorrow night and have a dinner of fresh fish, a nice way to start my trip.
I may well stay an extra day in San Jose, but I'm not anticipating it will be a very attractive place. Still, with 7 weeks and no rush, I can walk around town, see what's what, get my bus ticket for the next day, and then, on Saturday take the bus down to Manuel Antonio, my first stop, one of Costa Rica's famous rain forests, on the Pacific Ocean about 140 km from San Jose.
While I read and hear from a friend that the near-by town of Quepos is more crowded, cheaper, but also more touristy and loud, I will probably go right on into the tiny village of Manuel Antonio and again my Let's Go guide, which I've had very good luck with over the past many years in looking for cheap housing, tells me that if I walk from the flat where the bus stops UP the hill toward the forest, about 1/2 up are some less expensive hostels. That will be my destination. One of the young men who works at La Dolce Via, a favorite coffee house of mine here in St. Louis, visits Costa Rica often since his mother lives there. He says the places on ocean level and up the hill at the rain forest, are quite expensive in Manuel Antonio. But he confirmed that 1/2 up the hill are the bargain back packers' hostels. I have directions and will find them.
Once there, well then all changes. I will then just go by "feel," whatever moves me. I might stay there one day or the whole 7 weeks. I don't really care.
If this list is working, and when and if I find affordable e-mail, I'll try to keep you posted of my progress.
Even if I can't do it by e-mail, I tend to always keep a daily journal and I will be sharing it with you folks as I can.
Bob Corbett firstname.lastname@example.org