“If you never have, you should.
These things are fun and fun is good.”
— Dr. Seuss
A few weeks ago I was on vacation with 9 of my university friends in beautiful Costa Rica. The 30+ degree Celsius weather was a welcome escape from the frigid temperatures in Canada and the week away from my cubicle was a welcome escape as well. We stayed at a 5-star resort called the Riu Guanacaste, on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, very close to the Nicaragua border to the north. This was my first time at a resort and the luxury took some getting used to.
My traveling style is typically backpacking and sketchy hostels where running water is a luxury. The opulence and excess of the Riu—with its marble hallways, endless buffets, swim-up bar and beautiful beaches—was a bit much to take in for a simpleton like me.
In addition to lounging poolside and drinking mojitos at ten in the morning, we took a number of great day trips that included activities such as zip-lining, horseback riding, snorkelling, ATV’ing, and one of my personal favourites—a ride down a 400 metre waterslide through the jungle.
Jared took this video with his waterproof camera of his waterslide adventure (I make a cameo appearance at the beginning).
The video cuts out at this point as Jared apparently turned the record button off by mistake. So there’s some missing footage in the middle of his ride. Here’s where things pick back up…
So the question that begs to be answered here is what happened in that missing time? Now, I’m not saying for sure that Jared was attacked by a pack of howler monkeys that kidnapped Jared and replaced him with an imposter wearing his swim trunks… And I’m not saying for sure that they’re using Jared’s identity to infiltrate our society and take over the world… All I’m saying is that there are definitely some subtle differences between the Jared who started at the top of the waterslide and the “Jared” who popped out at the bottom.
For starters, he throws his poo at people more than he used to. He seems to REALLY enjoy playing Donkey Kong Country. And when he’s in a heated debate his arguments will often degrade to a loud, bellowing howl while he pounds his chest.
I’m not saying we should just assume he’s a howler monkey in disguise. I’m just saying that we shouldn’t automatically assume he’s not, simply because he’s still got great fashion sense and remembered Janele’s birthday.
Monkey conspiracies aside, the whole trip was an absolute blast. If resorts is your thing I highly recommend the Riu Guanacaste resort—great staff, clean facilities, good food (not mind-blowing, but good), and plenty of well-organized and exciting tours to take.
That said, resorts still rub me the wrong way and as fun as it was I’m not sure I’d do it again. While a stress-free, simple and safe way to do a trip, you’re getting an extremely sanitized travel experience and you miss out on the value of being immersed in a place and culture. Also, as awesome as it was hanging out with 9 of my closest friends (even post-waterslide Jared was a good time), traveling in a large group does lead to a pack mentality and can make meeting new people more difficult.
There’s also the ethical considerations of a lot of these places where your resort is a fenced in pocket of massive wealth and excess while across the road are slums and poverty. I didn’t experience this dichotomy in Costa Rica but I have heard others talk about it in other places.
If you want to get a real taste for a country, consider more independent traveling. Backpacking, building your own itinerary or better yet, having no itinerary at all are great ways to sink your teeth into a place (Hostelling International is a great way to find cheap but reputable accommodations worldwide).
Volunteering abroad is another immersive way to see the world while getting your hands dirty. I spent a couple months volunteering on a refugee camp in Ghana a few years back and it was an incredible experience. I organized my trip through Global Volunteer Network (based out of New Zealand) but there are others.
Working overseas is yet another way to immerse you fully into a new country or culture. My friend Ashraf is a teacher and has worked his way all over the world including New Zealand, England, Nigeria and Costa Rica (he came to visit us when we were there which was awesome). I taught English as a Second Language (ESL) in Taiwan for 6 months after university and it’s a great way to see the world and get paid at the same time.
If you do get a chance to go on the giant jungle waterslide in Costa Rica, it’s a friggin’ blast. Just keep an eye out for howler monkey body snatchers as you go rocketing down the concrete chute.
Been on a 400 metre waterslide through a jungle? Check.
Duane Elgin, author of “Voluntary Simplicity”, talked about the “invisible wealth of experiential riches.” My “I’ve Never Club” is inspired by this idea and chronicles my reflections on the novel things I’ve done recently.
Funny stories. Good advice. Josh Martin is the author of the book “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.” Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy.