Costa Rica

November 2-9, 2018

So, I decided to leave the country again. I just can’t stay still! There are so many corners of the world that are waiting, begging, SHOUTING for me to explore them. And Central America is one of them.

My first stop in this month long Central America exploration was Costa Rica.

I arrived in San Jose, spent a sleepless, excited night at an awful “airport hostel”, then rented a care. From what I could understand online, the only way to efficiently explore Costa Rica was by renting a car. I have limited time and want to see some specific places, making the bus a no go. Car rental it is! I’ve driven in foreign countries, tackled the left side of the road, how hard could it be.

It was hard.

After a rocky start (which seems to be my norm when driving in other places), I got the hang of it. Despite the stress of navigating, paying attention to the road, and battling the sometimes crazy drivers, I would highly recommend renting a car here. It saved me so much time, the scenery was breathtaking and I was able to go to all the places I hoped to see!

Uvita is my first stop. This area is home to the iconic “whale tail” beach. The pictures online are all taken from above and it looks absolutely gorgeous. Little did I know that those photos are all taken from a helicopter or something of the sort because there is no way to view the whale tail from above like in the pics. None. Don’t get me wrong, the beach is amazing, but I was disappointed by the whale tail.

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I stayed in an amazing eco-hostel that had tree houses as the bunks!

The gorgeous beach that has the “Whale Tail”; Fun fact for you yogis out there – I’m preeettty sure Steph Gongora AKA casa_colibri lives around Uvita area, she often posts videos on this beach

Manuel Antonio National Park called my name next. This is a nature park that is home to a vastly diverse animal, bird, and vegetative population. I met some lovely gentlemen at my hostel and we decided to go to the park together to split the cost of a tour guide. We seriously lucked out and got the best tour guide I have ever had any where in the world. He was knowledgable, enthusiastic, and genuinely loved the animals, plants, park, and his country. He carried around a scope thing that allowed us to see animals from far away. We walked through the park for hours chatting about the vegetation and seeing amazing animals. This amazing tour guide would be chatting and laughing and he’d start running up ahead and set up his binocular scope thing and say “come, come, look!” and there would be a freakin macaw or monkey or some other cool animal way up in the trees in the distance. He was amazing at his job and he made the experience at the park very much worth it. Check out the animals we saw:

The views from my hostel in Manuel Antonio, not bad.

Howler monkey

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A giant grass hopper – to put this to scale, it was about as long as my hand

Some different species of bats – how the awesome tour guide spotted these creatures, I will never know

Scarlet Macaw

One of many families of squirrel monkey’s we saw

A sloth, baby!!

A fun little (huge) iguana

The vegetation was so beautiful it looked damn near artificial

La Fortuna was my final destination in Costa Rica. It is home to Arenal Volcano. I did a gorg day trip out to the volcano and a neighbouring lagoon and river. The lagoon was weirdly warm, as if someone had just peed beside you, always. And the river was a full on hot spring with a hidden cave! The tour guides for this tour as well were phenomenal and really loved their job. A group of young dudes that were genuinely happy to show us their home town and hang out with us for the day.

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Arenal Volcano – you can very rarely see the summit

The pee-warm lagoon, thanks geothermal activity

Bridges in the cloud forest – it wasn’t very cloudy

A FROG

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I love me a good look out

Biggest take aways from Costa Rica are as follows:

  1. I want to live here
  2. Costa Ricans are the best people in the world, just happy to be here
  3. Nature heals the soul
  4. I want to live here

Did I mention I want to live in Costa Rica?

Who wouldn’t want to live in a country with a surplus of gorgeous waterfalls?

Next I’m headed to El Salvador to meet my gurl, Natalie!

See ya there.

XO – Kristiane

Reflections

The biggest lessons I have learnt in 2018 have been pertaining to gender roles within cultures. Gender roles are something I didn’t have to consider in my family – my parents both worked, both cooked and cleaned; my brother and I both played hockey, both had jobs from a young age, both moved away from home to attend university, and both have well paid careers.

I have always been aware that I live a vastly different life as a woman in Canada than many women around the world live. But nothing could’ve prepared me for the culture shock of gender roles. And, specifically, how women are treated.

India presented challenges. It is busy and hectic and people stare at you for no reason. Well, there is a reason. That reason is that I have light hair and blue eyes. In India it is not rude to stare – it simply shows curiosity and interest. Through this experience I learnt that I detest being looked at for prolonged periods by strangers. It may be a cultural norm in certain countries, but that is one thing I did not get used to. I would rather be left to fend for myself in the busy streets of a foreign country than have men stare at me for a while and then approach me/follow me (or better yet, yell from afar) asking – “lady, where are you going? what are you doing?” The unfortunate thing was, it did not seem to matter how modest my clothing was, it was never modest enough to keep the staring at bay. It was also common place in India for people to take photos of me, sometimes with my permission, sometimes without. Which bothered me to no end. I had absolutely no way of blending in in India and the millions of Indian citizens frequently saw-to-it that I never forgot I was a foreigner.

In Turkey every guy is a Casanova. Every single day that I went out I was asked on a date. And this is not me being vain and saying “oh I’m so beautiful, everyone wants to go on dates with me!” No. Men would literally approach me on the street, sometimes follow me for a while creepily, ask me what I’m doing, why I am alone, etc. and then proceed to ask me on a date. Of course, I always declined. I don’t need to get murdered over here. But EVERYTIME the guy would not take no for an answer. If he had offered to take me for coffee and I said no, he would counter offer with an alcoholic beverage. No, thank-you. How about dinner? No. And the list goes on. One day I was sick and told the guy “I am sick, I don’t want to go for a drink” and he said “well if you’re sick I will take you to the doctor!” face palm At some point enough is enough. It makes me wonder if this is how dating is approached between two Turkish people? Is this diligence and perseverance a desirable trait in a man through the eyes of a Turkish woman? Or is it because of my clearly being a foreigner that they feel the need to behave this way? Either way, I did not like it and was made extremely uncomfortable on numerous occasions during my week in Istanbul – to the point that I pretended I could not speak English when someone spoke to me on the street for fear of them never leaving me alone.

Some countries pride themselves on the segregation of genders, and how this protects their women. This happened in India and Nepal especially. It was almost comical at times. If you disregarded the suggested segregation people think you are confused. Nope, just don’t feel the need to ride in the “women’s coach” on the local train. Just a few examples of this segregation in day-to-day life include; on the bus men ride at the back and women in the front, at the airport women must go to a separate line for security checks, in school boys sit on one side of the room and girls on the other, and I’m sure the list goes on. The effects of this gender segregation later in life result in the sexes not knowing how to interact with their opposite. In my opinion, that is where problems arise. If a man has only ever spoken to women who are his family members, of course he will lack the skills to uphold a proper conversation with an unknown woman. The segregation in these countries is meant to keep women “safe”, but really it just feeds the problem further. If women must sit at the front of the bus to avoid being groped and raped by the men at the back of the bus, wouldn’t it be prudent to simply teach boys not to grope and rape women? I understand that in some instances there are religious requirements for genders to interact separately at certain times. But, a lot of the “unspoken rules” of segregation I witnessed had historical influence, rather than current or ongoing relevance.

Being stared at from afar is one thing. Having people “sneakily” take pictures of you is annoying. But when a man stops you out in public, licks his lips, and looks you up and down – shudder – there is NOTHING more degrading and dehumanizing. I am not blind. I can appreciate an attractive person out in public but never have I ever felt the need to stop them and say “I just needed to tell you, you’re so handsome, you needed to know this”. Never. This is a PSA for men – STOP DOING THIS. We as women do not need your validation. This is completely unnecessary. What adds to the degradation when a man is openly checking you out and using forceful words to express your beauty, is when you have a look of disgust on your face and you are not appreciative of the comment and the man says “it’s a compliment”. And then, the man has the audacity to get mad at you for not taking their crude looks/words as a compliment. I hate nothing more than this entire scenario.

Some of the recent countries I have been to – India, Nepal, and Turkey – are obsessed with marriage and patriarchal hierarchies. At the ripe age of 24, it is appalling to people that my father has let me exit my childhood home and country, to travel alone, and that I have no boyfriend or husband. For all of the feminist progress that has been made in some parts of the world, there are other parts of the world that are largely untouched by this movement. Women are still at the mercy of the men in their lives – whether that be father or husband – and it is completely unheard of for a woman to live like I do. It makes me appreciate the privilege I hold just by being born in the country that I was, to have the upbringing, knowledge, and confidence to be independent. Though feminist movements are reaching to these corners of the Earth, there are some cultural barriers that may never be broken. I’m not sure that the women want the barriers to be broken – because the women I spoke with are not ignorant to feminist figures in the world, they are rather educated when it comes to feminism, which confuses me a bit. The women I spoke to about gender roles simply stated that if they don’t cook and clean no one will. That they take pride in their homes and in caring for their families. Which is noble! And I can appreciate the work that goes into maintaining a household. But even as these women were saying this, they had commerce degrees and aspirations to travel and hopes and dreams, that would not be fulfilled because this dream of being a homemaker will now come above everything. I can’t speak to every woman’s thoughts, but I sense a bit of fear of the unknown when it comes to breaking down boundaries to allow women more independence. Which is fair, if you’ve always had someone to look to for reassurance, it would be a scary thought to have no one but yourself to turn to.

I wrote most of this post six months into my travels. I decided not to post this for fear of sounding bitter, feminist (with a negative connotation), and, above-all, scaring my family and friends. Men harassed me more times than I can count. I had to say “no”, “stop following me”, “no”, “my friend is waiting for me around the corner” (a lie), “no” more times than I can count. I had, what felt like, millions of eyes on me, preying on me, waiting for me to have one drink too many, get a little bit lost, drop my phone. In hindsight, I have no idea how I made it through some of the situations that I was in without being kidnapped, taken advantage of, hurt, etc. I went to countries with vastly different cultures than Canada. I wanted to be put in uncomfortable situations. And damn, was I uncomfortable sometimes. Being a solo traveling woman is hard.

Copenhagen, Denmark

August 4-5, 2018

Kobenhavn, as the Danish would say, I have arrived!

While traveling, I have started measuring my enjoyment of destinations in two ways;

  1. “I could live here!”, this doesn’t always mean that a city is great for tourists though. For example, when I was in Zurich I was shitting my pants over how much everything costs and it isn’t necessarily a super friendly city for backpackers due to that, BUT I could definitely see myself living in that beautiful city (if I made a Swiss wage and could afford to be alive) OR
  2. “This is cool for a visit, but I could never live here”, these cities/countries are those that are very interesting, have great opportunities for fun tourism, and are great for a short while, but that I couldn’t really imagine living in this place for any length of time (ie: Nepal – just too different!)

Now, where does Copenhagen fall on this scale? It’s kind of both, honestly! I feel like I could easily move into a hippy communal flat in Christiania and never come out again and live an extremely happy life. BUT there are also lots of beautiful places in the city that are great for tourism and that you could spend a short while there and then be ready to move onto a new country/city/go home afterwards. Copenhagen can do both.

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Berlin, Germany

July 31-August 3, 2018

Berlin is edgy AF. And just as cool as everyone says it is. It is PACKED full of history, from the Nazi related history, to the Berlin Wall, plus all of the current amazing graffiti, cafe culture, and over all too-kool-for-school style, there is never a dull moment here. (like I’m literally not even cool enough to be in Berlin, I’m pretty sure)

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Cologne, Germany

July 30, 2018

Now, for a quick stop over in Cologne in the West of Germany on our way from Amsterdam to Berlin. Cologne was heavily bombed during WWII (about 262 air raids, yikes) and large parts of the city were destroyed, therefore much of the architecture here is a mish-mash of random styles, colours, heights, etc. But that just adds to its charm.

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Amsterdam, Netherlands

July 26-29, 2018

LET’S DO THIS, AMSTERDAM!

We saw the usual sights – the Red Light District, the I Amsterdam sign, etc. As well as spent hours wandering the canals and reading in parks. Unfortunately, the heat persisted for the first day and a half that we were in the city – a historically record high for temperature, I am told (yay, not) – then thankfully cooled off to a normal temperature for the second half of our visit. We did the indoor activities during the unGodly heat, and ventured outside only when the weather became more permissible.

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Brussels, Belgium

July 23-26, 2018

ENTER RAF! Meeting up with another friend from home! Yaassssss. There is something so so comforting about familiarity. As good as it is for me to push my boundaries and expand my horizons, having some normalcy is refreshing. Just simply speaking to someone and not having to strain to understand their accent feels amazing.

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Prague, Czech Republic

July 20-22, 2018

We are on the move people! Quick stops, quick stops. Lately, every time I pack my bag I leave another unnecessary item of clothing. It’s just to gosh darn heavy to have two different jean skirts when you carry every single item that you own on your back every few days.

Hey Prague. You beautiful city, you. I hit the touristy things first. And immediately regret it.

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Budapest, Hungary

July 16-18, 2018

Budapest is just as cool as everyone says it is and I’m so glad I squeezed this city in. Hungary has a dark history of communism, similar to Slovakia, that only turned to democracy in 1990! That is so recent. There were numerous bombings in the city of Budapest (and all over Hungary, I’m assuming) during the Soviet Communism terrors, which left many buildings and areas destroyed. Due to this, a lot of the buildings currently in Budapest were reconstructed rather recently. None-the-less, I was very impressed with this city. Check out what I did!

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Bratislava, Slovakia

July 15, 2018

Bratislava is a pleasant surprise. I would venture to say that it is a lesser known tourist destination in Central/Eastern Europe. But I am glad that I took the time to come here. Though my time in Slovakia was short, it was sweet.

Check out the sights, sounds, and tastes of my Slovakian secret.

(Okay, no sounds, it’s only pictures, afterall)

(No taste for you either, I suppose..)

But you catch my drift!

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