Everyone had plans. I asked my roommates; they had to study. I asked fellow young ex-pat friends; they traveled the weekend before or were not up for it. So, I stopped inviting people and decided to go it alone.
Taking my first trip to Monteverde, would be a much larger step outside of my comfort zone if done alone than it would have been if I had gone with others. It would not be my first ever solo trip to a new place, but it would be the first time I had done so so since coming to Costa Rica. Any hesitation I had was not rooted in making the actual trip itself, but came from apprehension about the trek between bus stops through downtown San Jose.
As background, the outskirts of San Jose (where I am staying) present very little apparent danger. San Jose Centro, however, experiences its share of crime and includes few welcoming places for a Gringo at night. Getting from the bus stop in San Jose Centro to the terminal with buses leaving for Monteverde requires getting through a suspect part of town. Taxis are available, but I am always hesitant to use one when I can get somewhere as easily by walking. So, I had predetermined to walk through the dangerous part of downtown to the Monteverde Terminal.
I arrived at the Coca-Cola station, ascended from the bus, opened Waze and started walking toward the 7-10 station–the Monteverde Terminal. After stepping over less fortunate locals who were trying to sleep on the sidewalks, I reached my destination in 10 minutes with relative ease. The dreaded trek almost stopped me from one of the most thrilling 30 hour periods of my life. The trip was relaxing, exciting, eye-opening and fulfilling.
People I know spoke highly about traveling solo through Costa Rica, but I didn’t fully understand why. Now, I know from experience. It is more liberating than anything I had done previously to an extent that I cannot fully elaborate on through this post.
Traveling alone to a new place, whether here or elsewhere, comes with several advantages that traveling with others does not. Most significantly, you only have yourself to answer to yourself. There’s no one to compromise with; no one to meet in the lobby at a set time; no team meetings; no negotiations about what to do next; and, importantly, none of the guilt that usually arises from making plans with people that didn’t voice their preferences. You have total say in everything. For my Monteverde trip, this total freedom involved sleeping for as long and as often as I wanted; eating when and where I wanted; being ready when I felt like it; talking to who I wanted to for as long as I wanted to; and more.
Unless you are traveling to be alone, traveling alone gives you the incentive to introduce yourself to people whereas traveling with a companion may influence you to keep to yourselves. Part of the appeal of travel is not only in seeing new places but in making new friends and relating to new people. Relating to new people is more necessary while traveling alone and staying at a hostel. On my solo-trip to Monteverde, I arrived at at the Sloth Hostel not knowing anyone there and left with new acquaintances from Montreal, England; Australia and California. What’s more, I learned about the town by talking to locals. It was like going to camp.
Full disclosure, my solo trip was slightly longer than 30 hours and included a full night’s rest. I gained more memories and a different type of self confidence from by simply going on this short trip alone. I will do it again, and again, and will be elated to report back to you.