Describe a little thing — one of the things you love that defines your world but is often overlooked.

There is one thing that I always need to do no matter where I am traveling or where I am living, and that is to find time to sit down and enjoy una taza de cafe. Everyone who knows me knows that I can’t function without my morning caffeine. However,  Coffee is about more than just the energy boost when I am abroad.

Sometimes it is about the taste. When I would wake up and enjoy a nice cup of Costa Rican coffee with my friends in the morning, I knew it was going to be a good day. There is just something about drinking a cup of coffee outside, amidst the tropical morning breeze, that makes it taste so much better.

Sometimes it’s about the company. When I studied abroad in Spain, I couldn’t go off to class without sitting and enjoying my cafe con leche while telling my host mom my plans for the day. The tazitas de cafe in Spain were so small and quick to drink. It was just enough time to practice my Spanish with my host mom and not be late to class.  Those times helped me build my confidence when talking to my host family. It’s such a small thing, but it’s those conversations and that cafe con leche that added so much to my study abroad experience.

Sometimes it’s about the variety. In Peru, my host family only had instant coffee. At first, I was let down because I thought my morning coffee would not be good for the 6 weeks that I lived with my Peruvian host family. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the taste of it. It was still cafe peruano, but in a little glass jar ready to be stirred into a cup of hot water and condensed milk. Sounds gross, but it had a unique taste that I tried to imitate when I got back to the states, but the instant coffee here is definitely not the same.

Sometimes it’s just about the time that drinking a cup of coffee gives you to sit and think about life. When I lived in the Dominican Republic, after a big family lunch, my host mom would give me a cup of black Cafe Santo Domingo which I would take with me to the rocking chair on the balcony and just relax before the afternoon activities. Most of the time I would look at the view of the city and think about how lucky I was to be studying in the DR while it was snowing back home.

And sometimes it’s just about having something to do on the subway. When I’m home, I don’t take the time to sit and enjoy coffee on a daily basis. I am usually in a hurry for work every day so I drink my coffee on the go, and it never tastes as good that way. Take the time to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee from time to time!


Pura Vida!

Because I am a Spanish teacher, my friends tend to always let me know when they plan to travel to a Spanish-speaking country, I think, in hopes that I have some good advice for them. While I’ve only been to 5 up til now (someday I hope to hit all 22), I still feel like I can always give some type of helpful advice. If it’s a country I haven’t been to, it’s usually one I really want to go to, so I usually have something to offer up. (I did purchase 3 Lonely Planet guidebooks without actually having any immediate plans to travel to them.)

I recently had a few friends tell me they plan to travel to Costa Rica this summer. This is a place I can talk forever about because I’ve been there AND I really want to go there (again). I went to CR with 2 of my good friends in 2010. I planned the short spring-break trip really well (if I do say so myself) and I remember it like it was yesterday. Talking about this trip made me reminisce the experiences I had there. Costa Rica is definitely a place that everyone should cross off their list. There is something for everyone. If you are adventurous but traveling with somebody who is not; while that somebody is relaxing on on the beach all day, you could be zip-lining in the rainforest less than an hour away. It’s a great place to go with a group. Some may choose to hike around the active volcano while others rest on hammocks outside your hostel with the volcano in the background. Or maybe chillin’ in the hostel’s pool with a swim-up bar. Only in CR can you find a pool with a swim-up bar at a hostel that sleeps guests for 10 bucks a night. It’s great.

Costa Rica is just such a happy place. You can tell that Ticos (Costa Ricans use this term to refer to themselves) genuinely love life. They even say so at least once per conversation. Instead of hola it’s “Pura vida!” In response to gracias it’s “Pura vida!” Even to say goodbye, if not used as a greeting, it’s “Pura vida!” They say that Latin Americans generally are happier, but in Costa Rica you can really see it all around you. You will have an amazing time here – mark my word. Just don’t make the same mistake I did – go for longer than a week.

This first photo is during a pit stop on the ride from the airport in San Jose to our hostel in La Fortuna. Our personal driver (works for the hostel) stopped to buy a machete, then took us into the rainforest. Scared us a little until he started cutting a watermelon and telling us that the hostel likes to give its guests a cultural experience on the way to it…


First waterfall visit in CR.


Hammocks in front of the hostel with a view of Volcan Arenal.


No need to go 5-star resort. This sweet “resort hostel” had it all.


Can you find the toucan?


La Colina villas, Manuel Antonio. If monkeys running on top of your roof bother you at night,  this might not be the place for you. Otherwise, it was awesome.


You can get up close and personal with some of the animals. I watched this one steal a granola bar out of someone’s sac on the beach.





Canopy Tour – halfway through. Do not leave CR without zip-lining! If you are in Manuel Antonio, check out La Selvita. They were awesome!


Downpour mid-zip. Coolest feeling ever.