Whenever I embark on a new journey, I feel like I’m on top of the world. Flying high up in the sky, looking out at the curvature of the earth has that effect.
In addition, I find that there are few things more distinctly new than the attendance of a place unknown. A sense of novelty follows from it and helps keep things fresh and new in your life.
The nature of the unknown means you don’t know what is coming. You get the good with the bad, the bad with the good. It’s that volatility — traveling without a plan — that lends way to many a variant and an unmatched experiential potency.
For me this is what keeps it so exciting. Maintaining freedom and surrendering control are part and parcel of traveling and exploring. Because really, is it considered exploring — if you already know where you’re going and what is to come?
Suspending those expectations and giving way to the unknown goes a long way.
The implications of this though can sometimes make for wild transgressions as well place you in less than ideal situations. However, as it is in life, it’s rare you get to enjoy all of the benefits without bearing at least some of the costs. So embrace the uncertainty, and travel abundantly, both solo and with companions, and lean into that unknown with some vigor and enthusiasm.
And then be prepared for the times that it backfires, as it did for me here. The start of my Costa Rican travels could not have been much worse — ok well, I suppose they could have, as anything can always be a whole lot worse — but still, all things considered, my travels got off to a pretty turbulent start.
So here I’ll tell the story of my opening travails in Costa Rica (& it’s incredible conclusion in the third part of the entry) while leaving you with this: The second you get too comfortable, and believe you are secure in your surroundings, is the same second you become the most vulnerable to potential attacks. This is especially true on the road. That’s why it can be good to remind yourself that danger (in some form or another) may lurk around every corner. Cover your tracks, and you are less likely to succumb to the allure of rainbows and unicorns or the Witch of Hansel and Gretel.
It marked my first night in Costa Rica.
I had spent it out with some travelers in the metropolis of San Jose, returning to my hostel a bit buzzed and planning on continuing the good night with newly formed international friends.
When I arrived back to the hostel though, I was bombarded with text messages informing me from friends and family that my credit cards had been compromised.
I couldn’t believe it. I had been sure to lock my wallet in my locker before going out. When I went up to check though, I found that — while my wallet was sure enough there — it was missing my credit cards as well as $200 dollars. That clever thief… I thought.
I tried to rack my mind as to how and when it could have happened. I concluded it was nuts…
I had been writing at the corner desk hostel, and had left my wallet out in plain sight. This thief must have been cooly watching me, waiting for their moment to pounce, and got it when I had gotten up briefly to grab some nuts from upstairs. I had gotten too comfortable…
They then took the credit cards and most the cash and left the wallet there, hoping I wouldn’t notice anytime soon. They we’re right…
I was in disbelief. I then sat down at a nearby couch and took out my phone to assess my bank account and the damage done.
Nearly $1,000 dollars had been spent, it read. I scrolled to see what it was spent on.
KFC … $200.
It took awhile to fully process … $200 bucks… at a Kentucky Fried Chicken… in the middle of Costa Rica. Seriously?
First of all what a chicken this thief was — because they stole, which is an act of a chicken — a coward! And second because you are what you eat, and this thief just managed to eat $200 dollars worth of fried chicken so, I rest my case.
I then tried to envision just how preposterous an order it must have been. The poor KFC cashier faced by such gargantuan an order, the beleaguered kitchen, the line frenzy that must have formed in its wake, etc…
Then I sat there wanting to believe the money was spent on the maximum amount of people. Perhaps feeding the whole family — or the entire block even, given the sheer magnitude of the order.
But then I realized that in good faith I could never wish for that. For to wish that, I would have to acknowledge that I’d be wishing rancid oil-caked, quite possibly antibiotic-fed, most definitely caged, KFC trademarked chicken on the people. And never in the most treacherous of dreams would I want to do such a thing. Just imagining their stomachs raving as the fullness of KFC’s carcinogenic potential was once again realized, proliferating and wrecking joyful havoc on the biochemical states of the poor unassuming block-party bodies was just altogether too horrid a thought.
So if I can’t even wish for that, I thought fecklessly, I hope this bloody miscreant then scarfed it all down, all $200 of it — that’ll bloody well show ‘em why gluttony is so deadly a sin.
Of course, after a series of thoughts like this, I realized that such psychological menace was doing me more harm than good and was getting me nowhere fast.
I tried to counteract it and with some good thoughts — but it was difficult. I was staring at a purchase of over $600 dollars from a nearby mall now, where this damn thief had apparently gone on quite a shopping spree.
My entire Costa Rican experience had been hereby compromised. Everything I had seen had been tainted, and San Jose, with its litany of fast food restaurants and overstuffed mauls, gave me nothing but disdain for the place.
Did all of our American crap have to have spill over here? Is this really a necessary part of our progress? By the looks of it, consumerist fast-food America had devoured this Costa Rican land faster than Joey Chestnut consumes his hot-dogs, or this thief downs their chicken. Further thoughts of grease-filled horror filled my psyche.
Figuring then, that there was no sense of me persisting in such dreadful a state, and decided I’d do best to call it a night.
I quietly crawled into bed, closed my little surrounding bed curtains and tucked myself into my equally small bunk bed, saying not a word to anyone — not wanting to burden anyone with such trifles nor arouse any unneeded sympathy.
Thus, I concluded the night feeling a mere speck the size as what I had when I boarded that flight out, high and mighty.
Well — Yin & Yang, I told myself, while falling swiftly asleep.
Yin & Yang.