As much as I love to solo travel and trek by means of group and tour-led excursions – and trust me, I will be happy to tell you all the wonderful things about it, and why I do it – there are some things that about it that don’t often come up in conversation. Several of these things arose on my latest trip to Costa Rica, and it all started right after the trip “officially” began with the airport drop-off.
I hadn’t checked a bag in years, but this time I really went out of my way to pack smartly. One bathing suit and change of clothes, along with my cameras/electronics and a book in my carry-on (as always, my backpack Elvira), but everything else checked so as to make the airport travel easier. Clothes and other essentials in my check-in. I did not, however, pack the check-in very well for what was about to happen.
I really didn’t remember there being any time limit to check it in bags. It makes sense- they have to have time to get it to the plane or it will get lost (as has happened before, hence why I don’t typically check bags). But the first thing I noticed after getting dropped off at the airport were the inordinately long lines. Let’s just say that by the time I got to the kiosk, it was too late to check my bag. Oops.
Luckily, I live very close to the airport and have an awesome friend who came back to pick it up for me. Unfortunately, that only gave me a few minutes to shove whatever I could into my backpack. I’d rolled my clothes and didn’t want to unroll everything right there in the airport, so I took my best guess at what I’d need and what I might be shoving in.
I did ok- came away with some shirts, pants and shorts. I had my hiking boots on and grabbed my water shoes. No matter the time of year, I always travel in hiking pants (they have the best pockets with zippers) and a sweatshirt, though I was pretty sure I wouldn’t need it once I arrived. I was wrong; I was extremely grateful to have it for a few of those cold nights.
So, yeah. No socks, which is a huge problem for trekking. First-aid kit missing. Energy shots bought specifically because I knew I’d have a hard time eating on the trail were still sitting in my suitcase where they were of no use. No underwear or cute dress or anything to wear after the hike. None of the extra books or the journal I wanted to bring. No knife I wanted to carry.
Luckily, there was time to buy some socks and a couple shirts before we left for the trek. Everything else I could live without, I decided, but socks were an absolute must and so I went in search of them and had my first buying experience in Costa Rica. The socks weren’t exactly a good fit, but I only had a few blisters, so I counted them as a good buy. I looked for a knife, but didn’t find one to carry. I did pick up a couple bras, which also came in handy once I adjusted them properly (it’s mortifying to learn of this later in pictures, by the way). And I bought a backpack so I didn’t have to bring my camera – I could safely leave it behind with the tour group.
My trekking backpack was a bit heavier than I’d originally intended, but I ended up loving the extra weight and the added challenge along the trail, so it all worked out. I only cussed at it a few times along the way. I think it really helped that I have learned to continuously adjust my backpack on these types of excursions- it makes a huge difference in the amount that you can comfortably carry.
There were only a couple of times I wished I had my extra suitcase. Like when it came time to leave all extraneous items behind for the trek and I didn’t have a place to leave things like my heavy, extra camera. Or on the trek when I got my period and didn’t have any extra underwear and just really needed to get to the lodge. Or when we all got together for the last dinner and I was the only one in clothes that had been packed in a backpack for a week. I’m sure my travel seat-mates enjoyed the ride home, too. I’d tried to wash the clothes I wore home, but I’m pretty sure they could tell I’d not been close to a close washer for more than a few days, even though the hotel-provided soap and shampoo did smell wonderful.
As far as travel hiccups go, this one was about as minor as you could get. It really just taught me the value of packing correctly and for extenuating circumstances. And to get to the airport earlier if I have a bag to check.