How not to do your Year Abroad: Part 3

To finish off her year abroad antics, Kateryna Pavlyuk takes us to not-so-sunny Costa Rica

Kateryna Pavlyuk

Not to rain on your parade but...check it's not monsoon seasonKateryna Pavlyuk

After three months spent lovingly embracing my radiator over the Chilean winter, during which I was subject to a near-lethal animal bite and nearly developed frostbite, I was craving sun more than a Sunday Life reveller craves cheesy chips. So, I bought a one-way ticket to paradise (see: Costa Rica). And it was exactly how it looks on postcards – only, it was monsooning. Travel brochures somehow fail to depict this in their promo photos despite the fact that the skies release the contents of Niagara Falls daily for half the year. I, naturally, did not learn from my previous errors and duly make meteorological considerations, and so arrived in the middle of the wet season. I will never* complain about British drizzle ever again.

(*Or less often, at least).

My evening routine was somewhat simpler: take an ice-cold shower (temperature not a personal preference but the only option)

I also arrived to a tropical country with two suitcases of winter clothing. But no fear, I’d simply leave my jumpers safely stored away in my luggage in the corner of my room for six weeks. As if. As if it would be that easy. The obscene humidity of the deep jungle meant that within a week, every single item of clothing I owned was covered in a fine, fluffy coating of blue-green mould. Every morning therefore involved hanging out a new batch of clothing to air out, often to only then be soaked by a downpour at some point during the day. Viva dampness.

My evening routine was somewhat simpler: take an ice-cold shower (temperature not a personal preference but the only option), wipe down the mini turquoise forest that every day sprouted anew on my most beloved and expensive leather sandals (Dune shoes, it transpires, are not cut out for actual dunes or bogs), and conduct my nightly cockroach killing spree (I am very much a pacifist, but it was either me or them in the bed and after a day spent working in 35+ degree weather, I was somewhat unwilling to negotiate diplomatic sleeping arrangements).

If I make myself sound like Beatrice Grylls here, I perhaps ought to mention that prior to coming to Costa Rica, I had such bad arachnophobia that if I didn’t shit myself on seeing a spider, I would almost certainly nonetheless eject something. Usually a pathetic but powerful scream. But both my arachnid fear and Chilean dog encounter very quickly became laughable as my days saw me catching glimpses of sharks when snorkelling, wading through completely opaque crocodile-infested rivers, and, one afternoon, finding a boa constrictor two metres away from my front door. I don’t claim to suddenly now have balls of steel (or any actual balls at all, for that matter), but my daily rendezvous with the animal kingdom certainly made me less of a heap of white-girl fairy-dust.


Mountain View

Sabre swiped from Christ’s May Ball

Of course, my Costa Rican experience wasn’t all character and body-building (I consider walking uphill in tropical conditions a form of severely strenuous exercise). For starters, I definitely would not recommend slamming down on your coccyx the day before a 20km jungle hike. Going horseriding the morning after a deluge akin to the one Noah had to build an ark to escape from is equally ill-advised, where I managed to get my horse knee-deep in a river but had much less success getting us out. But these mishaps were minor and any such cons were easily cancelled out by the infinite list of pros of being in a country that was, albeit hellishly-humid and insect-ridden, the closest to paradise I’d ever been.

After the various small-scale shit-storms faced over my Year Abroad (including the literal one; see ‘Part 1: Spain’), ending it in the jungle, where, no lie, I would read by a waterfall on my work break, was definitely a more than decent way to finish up. You win some, you lose some. And on that note, I’ll leave you with my personal Costa Rican Lost & Found list:

Things I lost:

  • My penknife (why, why would I put it in my hand luggage)
  • All fear of legitimately dangerous animals (but I admittedly maintain severe disdain towards dogs after Chile)
  • The capacity to write an essay (producing my Year Abroad project in under a month was nothing short of labour)
Not pictured here: the horseKateryna Pavlyuk

Things I gained:

  • An afro (not even the tightest of French plaits could tame what became more of a mare than a mane)
  • A much-needed sense of perspective (the obscenity of the levels of stress Cambridge induces becomes scarily apparent when you see an entire nation smile and say ‘pura vida’ in the face of any and every difficulty)
  • The capacity to embody Bob Marley’s wise words and seriously not worry about a thing (Costa Ricans are so unbelievably zen, they put Canadians to shame)

And my final words of wisdom for those departing on their Year Abroad travels in the coming weeks and months? If you happen to go ziplining, for the love of God, don’t put your GoPro on your helmet backwards.