BAGT Award: The Costa Rica Badass Award!
I awarded Elizabeth of Temporary Provisions the Costa Rica Badass Award because the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of her is her love of the country. But there's so much more to her as you'll find out when you read this post and check out her blog and social media (all of which are linked below). She's an extremely passionate digital nomad and simply a super cool gal, Im glad to be sharing her with you!
1. Who are you and what do you represent? What makes your site unique?
My goal in writing, blogging, and creating in general is not to get people to listen to me. It's to get people to listen to eachother. My purpose, as I see it right now, is to share other people's stories - especially stories from people who aren't being heard or seen enough - and to generate conversation. At least 50% of my site is comprised of contributions from other travelers, with a focus on featuring people who are underrepresented. The other half is largely made up of cultural and destination pieces, all of which include local perspectives through personal anecdotes and interviews with people who live there. I try to shift the focus of travel back to the destination and its people, and I try my best to do it in a way that's free of my own bias and judgment - because a lot of travel writing can be very ethnocentric. I never write on destinations I haven't spent a good amount of time in. My site also focuses heavily on travel outside of the Western world, (Latin America in particular), which is where ethnocentricity and white supremacy are obviously amplified in travel writing. I want to present a different picture of these places by amplifying local voices in my work and speaking about my own experiences with the people I meet in a way that is humanizing, uplifting, and relatable - not othering, not white savior-y and pitying, and not imperialistic. I like to show people who don't get the chance to travel to these places and might have some misconceptions that really, these countries and these people are just like us.
FINALLY, (whew this is long!) I don't shy away from politics and critique, and I'm very transparent about this. The whole mission of showing people back home that people in other countries are just like us comes with a caveat - they're just like us, except born with far fewer privileges into a world where their region (the Global South) has been systematically oppressed by ours (the Global North) for centuries. I try to provide historical and political context in order to convey that, and I also encourage travelers to examine their own mindset and behaviors so as to travel in a way that doesn't contribute to oppression and colonialism.
So there you have it, in a really big nutshell!
2. Why did you start traveling? What made you fall in love with it?
I studied abroad in college with a program that took us to a number of different countries in southern Europe and North Africa throughout the course of a semester. I was HOOKED, instantly! I'm someone who likes to be constantly stimulated, challenged, and presented with new things to learn about. I'm on a quest to understand more, and it's never-ending. That's travel! I was always a little nerdy and high school and college. To me, traveling is like being in a living, breathing, endlessly confounding classroom.
3. How do you save on travel?
Oh man, let me count the ways.
So, I used to have a travel job for 3 years that I ended up hating. I was a traveling admissions representative for a university. I mostly traveled in the U.S., and sometimes I went to super cool places and sometimes I went to Iowa in -40 degree temperatures. Although I burnt out after a few years, I wouldn't change it for anything because 3 years of constant travel had me racking up TONS of airline miles and hotel points. I quit to travel 3 years ago and still haven't paid for a major flight since then....Although I'm finally down to my last miles. All of that's to say, if you can get a job that requires a lot of travel, even if you aren't into the job or the locations, keep in mind that you'll rack up some sweet rewards.
I also got into credit card churning. This can be dangerous if not done responsibly, so I only recommend it if you're really good about paying off your credit cards and not going into debt (I had to stop for a while because I wasn't being responsible with my finances!).
BASICALLY there are lots of credit cards out there that offer good travel rewards, and a lot of them offer huge sign up bonuses if you can spend a certain amount in the first few months. The Delta Gold American Express, for example, often has offers for 30k miles and the Platinum for 60k miles if you sign up and spend a certain amount. 60k miles is enough for a free round trip flight to Europe. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a good one to start with, but it can be hard to spend enough to get their sign up bonus, which is 50k miles. Anyway, I apply for a card with a good offer, use it until I get the miles, and then cut it up. After 6 months I apply for another and repeat. I do that every 6 months or so. Like I said, I don't pay for flights!
With most other things, I'm your typical budget traveler...low price over comfort. I stay in hostels (although now that I'm older I go for a private room) and affordable airbnbs with the occasional splurge. I actually really love staying in airbnbs when it's just a room in the owner's home you're renting. It's usually very affordable and I get a private space, but I also get to meet a local, aka the owner. I make sure to read reviews and find owners who interact with their guests a lot. Then you basically have a built in guide! I did this all through southern Spain and paid like 15 euro a night for a private room in some pretty nice homes. The owners took me out for tapas and even took me on a road trip to the beach and invited me to a rooftop party. It was great!
I also take advantage of promo codes. Airbnb, Booking.com, and Hotels Tonight all have deals where you can get $15-$40 off your first stay. I use those and then if I can find a way to make a new account and get the promo again, I do! If not, I give my promo code to a friend I'm traveling with to book our first night - they get money off and then I get a credit once they book, which I use for our next booking.
For transportation I often go for whatever is cheapest, unless it's wayyy unsafe or horribly inconvenient. In Europe, I went with Flix Bus and budget airlines all the way. In Central America, I ride the public bus to get around in most places.
If I'm traveling for more than a week, I book a place with a kitchen and eat in at least one meal a day. I also carry around this nifty cold brew water bottle that makes iced coffee - you just stick the grounds in a filter, stick the filter in the bottle, fill it with water, and let it sit overnight in the fridge. Voila! Iced coffee in the morning, instead of going out and spending $4-$5 on coffee to go.
One of the best general tips for cheaper travel is to pay attention to what locals are doing. Where are they eating? How do they get around? Where do they go for fun? Whatever they're doing is almost always cheaper than tourist-geared stuff.
4. Have you ever come face to face with some extra-ordinary experience? What was it ?
This is tough! Most of the most extra-ordinary experiences I can think of involve nature. Hiking through Zion National Park for 5 hours and that moment when you turn a corner and finally see that magnificent view of the canyons stretching on as far as you can see. Walking through the rainforest in Costa Rica and all of the sudden a pack of 20 spider monkeys and their babies crosses the path right in front of you, or a bunch of red, blue, and yellow scarlett macaws fly above you, or a full rainbow appears suddenly in the mist. Okay, this is getting cheesy.
I think, in reality, I've had so many extra-ordinary experiences that I didn't realize were extra-ordinary in the moment. It wasn't until reflecting upon them later - thinking about all the people I met on that one trip, or thinking about the two years I spent in that job I hated, or thinking about that time I went out with my best friend in a new city - it wasn't until that reflection that I truly realized how special all those moments were. As the saying goes, we so often sit around waiting for the good times only to realize later that we were already in them.
5. Favorites! Food? Country? Color? Thing to do? Music artist? Movie?
Ahhh, pressure! Okay...
Food - Champagne? Does that count? If not, pizza as my I could eat it any time any day food, and a giant plateful of Lebanese food as my last meal. I've never been to Lebanon (on the list!) but my favorite restaurant in the world is still this little hole in the wall Lebanese place in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. (It's called Nicholas'...GO!)
Country - Costa Rica. I'm obsessed. I mean, I did move here! And I'm not bragging, but I did win the Costa Rica Badass award. Just sayin'.
Color - BLUE!
Thing to do - lay in bed. Seriously. Haha, but also, go on walks in new places. And write/read.
Music artist - Radiohead. Always has been!
Movie - Oh no. I don't know. Ummm. Mullholland Drive, I Heart Huckabees, There Will Be Blood, Being John Malkovich....buncha weird shit. Jackie Brown and Kill Bill. Guardians of the Galaxy but I saw that when I was on mushrooms so I'm pretty sure it's not as cool as I think it is.
6. What is your favorite thing about traveling and your lifestyle?
The freedom, for sure. Feeling like I chose my life outweighs all the difficulties and negatives. And having friends in little corners of the world, even if we don't always keep in touch. I love knowing that I've made connections with people all of the globe. That's pretty spectacular!
7. If you could go back and change anything in your past would you? What would it be?
I've kind of been trying to live my life in this "everything happens for a reason" kind of way for the past few years. Even though I don't actually believe that, personally. I'm not religious and I do think that a lot of times shit just happens. But I've found that operating as if it's all leading to something else, as if it couldn't have been any other way, is a healthier and more productive outlook. I think traveling has changed my perspective in that way, because you're constantly having serendipitous moments or "it's a small world" moments, and you do start to feel like this is the way it had to be. You start to see the pieces come together and it's hard to imagine a different course. So, I wouldn't change anything in my past. I'd focus on the present and future.
8. On your blog you are very open about mental illness and therapy (thanks!), what advice do you have for people who suffer from mental illness that want to travel?
This is such a tough one! Mental illness is such an individual thing and everyone who struggles with it will respond to travel differently. I never want to promote travel as some kind of cure that will fix mental illness, and I know that for people struggling with certain types of mental illness, like extreme anxiety, travel can be very difficult. But I've also seen, through my own experience and the experiences of other travelers I've featured on my blog, that travel can also be incredibly rewarding. It's never a cure, but it's ALWAYS a learning experience. My advice would be this: you don't have to fit any mold for what a traveler should look or feel like, and your experience doesn't have to fit any mold for what travel should look like. This is YOUR experience and you have the right to embrace it with honesty instead of trying to push and stuff it into some box of Instagram perfect mid 20s I quit my job to live my best life stereotype. Because stereotypes are just that - flat, one-dimensional, false. There's always more to the story. You don't have to pretend, and you're never alone. Humans have a lot more in common than we give ourselves credit. Live your truth, whatever that looks like in the moment. If you're in the destination you've dreamt of for years and you feel horrible, let yourself feel that way. Give yourself time and space and then, when you're ready, get back out there and experience the world in the way only you can, because there's only one YOU. The last thing I would say is to seek other travelers online who struggle with similar mental health issues. Read about their experiences in blog posts and reach out to them. Find a traveler community online, through Instagram or Facebook groups, and make a post about what you're going through. If you can't find a community that fits your own struggle with mental health, start one! That's the beauty of social media.
9. Tell us all about why you’re a self proclaimed “Anti-blog blogger” and what it means?
I just threw that in my bio cuz it's catchy and it sounds cool. Ha! No, there is some sincerity to it. Well, I basically wrote a whole post on what it means...
I quit blogging for over a year because I was so tired of the blogosphere. I think the massive rise in influencer marketing, sponsored content, and Instagram celebs really just watered down the whole community into one big homogenous blob...of mostly privileged white people. It's all the same stuff now! Google things to do in X country and you'll find a whole page of listicles with the same recommendations. Look at a popular travel hashtag on Instagram and the top 9 photos all look the same. And they're not even REAL, even if they do throw i #liveauthentic ...they're all staged. Everything is boiled down to how pretty and "curated" it is. I didn't want to be superficial, shallow, follow trends, or write click bait or shallow SEO stuff. I wanted my blog to be a place where I could just create what I feel moved to create and share what I think the space needs, without worrying about followers. In order to do that, I kind of swore off a lot of the typical blog stuff - no top 10 things to see lists, no hotel reviews, no sponsored content, no press trips, none of that stuff. I don't write on things unless I know them well - the blog world is very guilty of spreading false info because a lot of bloggers cover topics they don't really know much about just to get more clicks. I still haven't monetized and I don't want to throw money into the mix until I'm sure of my voice and direction AND I've found a way to monetize that doesn't compromise or water down my message (so, no sponsored content!).
10. What is your “motto”? What is your #1 mission or crusade you’re fighting for?
If I HAVE to choose one thing...
I want to help people in the western world see Latin America through a different lens (and the entire Global South for that matter, but this is where most of my travels and knowledge lie). I think that Latin America and Africa are the most misunderstood regions in the world, and those misconceptions have caused so much damage. People in the western world have this image of the Global South as nothing but poverty, corruption, and crime. I want to show them something different. I want to show them that these places aren't "shitholes"! They have this image of people in the Global South as uneducated, simple minded, and incapable too. They're all one-dimensional stereotypes. This has led to all the misguided foreign aid and the white savior barbies who go to volunteer with no skills and do more harm than good. It's also led to horrific foreign policy - throughout the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, the United States installed countless ruthless military dictatorships in Latin America that committed genocide and started civil wars, and these countries are STILL recovering. I think that ultimately, this is where ethnocentricity, white supremacy, and racism, both explicit and implicit, are grown - this belief that non-white countries are inherently inferior. I think that a world in which the non-Western world is given the same level of respect and allowed the same three dimensionality that the Western world has always had would be a HUGE step toward ending oppression.
Extra credit: Do you believe in aliens?