After nearly 6 years of being together, I realized one very important thing about me and my fiancé: we had never taken a trip together, just the two of us. See, I got pregnant within about six months of our relationship. Our first trip was to Miami to visit my family for a weekend. After our son was born, we had a few trips home for the holidays. When we moved to Florida, we started going on some family trips—St. Martin/St. Maarten and Cuba with our kids, road trips to Memphis and across the Southeastern US. We’d even taken trips without each other—I have been to a few conferences for work, he went to London for his birthday, I also went to London for my birthday (though this was at a different time). Still, newly engaged, I wanted to take some time to be with my man, just the two of us.
I scoured Groupon Getaways and Living Social Escapes, searching for a deal that could fit within our salaries while also not taking away too much time from our respective jobs. I didn’t have too many specifications. I just wanted to visit a place neither of us had ever been to, preferably in another country. Low and behold, a deal to Costa Rica came up. I immediately booked the 4 day, 3 night trip, and paid for it all upfront (there’s really nothing like a sunk cost). Luckily, my fiancé’s mother graciously offered to babysit the kids while we were away. After a few months, it was finally time for our Valentine’s Weekend trip.
The first day of the trip started at 3:00 AM. We decided to fly out of Ft. Lauderdale airport, a 4.5 hour drive away from our home. Most people would look at that time and refuse, but as seasoned road warriors, we simply saw it as a way to save $400 in plane tickets. We arrived to the airport with plenty of time to spare, lugging a couple of backpacks filled with basic essentials for our weekend.
The flight itself was short and pleasant. We flew Spirit airlines… and we liked it. Expecting the worst, we were pleasantly surprised by the polite flight crew and clean aircraft. We ordered some cocktails and toasted to our new found freedom. It was the first time we had flown somewhere together and not had to worry about crayons and coloring books and story time and snacks and who was hitting who. We could just be. I read an old paper back that had been sitting on my shelf for way too long while he listened to some new mixtapes he’d been meaning to get to.
We arrived in the afternoon in San José, ready to get to the rental car station. After an hour wait through customs, we made it to the agency with fresh stamps in our passports and a desire to venture into the city after a long day of sitting. We ate lunch near a casino at the recommendation of one of the agency’s employees then set off to our destination, a boutique hotel just outside of Jacó. We arrived just after dusk, the winding roads trailing off into dirt trails and pulled into the hotel’s parking lot. Behind us, the ocean roared against the wind, while just across the lot was a herd of cattle grazing in the moonlight. We checked in, changed into our swim suits, and ate, drank, and swam beneath the stars. Once we’d had our fill, we rested in our room, the ocean beckoning us to sleep.
The next morning we set out early to drive up to Quepos where we took a kayaking tour of the monkey jungle. I was reminded of my Florida childhood, paddling around mangroves while watching crabs scuttle off tree trunks as birds pecked around. Then, towards the end of our tour, we came across a troop of white-faced monkeys (also known as Capuchins). Though my fiancé attempted to take a few pictures, his slippery camera case made it difficult. We then realized this was a sort of blessing, to be forced to experience this moment without the need for immediate documentation. The monkeys snacked on discarded bits of lime and watermelon thrown into the canal by the local humans. We smiled as we paddled on, thanking our guide as we drove into Quepos looking for a hearty meal after the two hour tour.
We found a restaurant that again reminded me of the sort of place I’d eat at near a beach in Florida. I ordered a delicious meal of rice and seafood while he ordered a burger. We sipped (or rather chugged) sangria. After our meal, we rented a cabana on the beach so we could soak up the sun, napping and drinking, holding hands and swimming. We watched the sunset, something we can rarely do living on the east coast. We then packed our belongings and survived the seemingly treacherous roads back to Jacó.
That night, we decided to tour a few of the local bars, stopping in at a kitschy tiki bar that was hosting a reggae night. The cocktails were delicious and we admired a bridal party that danced while bathed in indigo and lavender light. The band sang many songs I grew up with, and their rendition of “Could You Be Loved” took my back to my childhood, sitting in my papi’s Jeep while we drove down to the Keys for our weekend camping trips. Once again we drove back towards the hotel, the ocean drawing us towards a restful slumber we were rarely afforded with two children under 5.
Upon waking, we ate a hearty breakfast. Our last full day in Costa Rica, we were going to take our very first surfing lessons. Sure, surfing is a fairly popular sport in North Florida, but given our busy schedules, we rarely had time to do something as extravagant as spending two hours surfing. Our instructor taught us the basics, helping my clumsy self find various ways to pop up on the board. After about 20 minutes, we were off, clumsily scraping our legs against board and sand, finding our rhythm in the natural sanctuary. Ever the athlete, my fiancé was standing on his board in no time, riding waves like he’d been born near the ocean. I on the other hand… struggled. My lack of coordination and larger size made balancing a challenge. I could get my knees on the board, but I couldn’t stand up in time to catch a wave before I found myself toppling over. Then, after switching out my board and teaching me some breathing techniques, it clicked. I stood up, listened as locals cheered me on, jumped off my board and popped back up to find smiling faces. After two hours, several scraps across my legs and thighs, and a deepening exhaustion in my bones, we finally called it quits, thanking our instructor as we limped to our car, looking for a meal and hydration.
We stopped at a local restaurant that served all kinds of fare. I settled on sushi that had thin slices of maduros (sweet plantains) on top. It was surprisingly delicious. We ate and drank in a little booth on the beach, beneath a shady tree and umbrella, our bodies cooled by a refreshing breeze. We watched local surfers chase waves, their friends huddled under makeshift huts. After a couple of hours, we limped our way back towards the car and called it an early night, our sore muscles demanding an evening of rest.
That last morning, before our flight, we ate our breakfast while facing Playa Hermosa, where our hotel stood. We breathed in the fresh air, enjoyed our final meal of rice and beans, maduros, eggs, and sausage. We checked out of the hotel and made the drive to the airport, being sure to stop at a road-side “Soda” (small restaurant) to pick up some snacks before our flight. After turning in our car and clearing security, we sat at a gastropub near our gate, immediately making plans for our honeymoon and vowing to take a trip like this, just the two of us, at least once a year.
Perhaps our trips won’t always be whirlwind international getaways. And they probably won’t consist of any more tropical locales for a while. But we will make time for each other, just each other, running wild across the world, with love in our hearts and passports in our pockets.