Thanks to our modern travel tools, travel is so easy now. While recently traveling on my 6th trip to Costa Rica, I found myself reminiscing back to my first trip to Costa Rica in 1994. It was my first true travel adventure. A trip outside the familiar box of Mexico resort towns. But twenty-six years ago, tripping was blind tripping. All of the familiar travel tools that help our trips go smoother now didn’t yet exist. Here’s a little taste of what it was like for The Not-Quite-Thorough-Yet Tripper back then.
Internet Now – Guidebooks Then
Now, most of us use the internet to research our trips. It’s hard to even imagine a world without all information pretty much at our fingertips.
Back in 1994, the internet was very new and few people owned computers. I heard that Costa Rica was an up-and-coming travel destination. So I went to my local bookstore and purchased the Lonely Planet Guide Book for Costa Rica. That’s what I used to plan my trip. I suppose I could have called a travel agent. But I was looking for experiential travel even back then. I wanted to research and plan it myself with the information provided in the book. I guess, in retrospect, that was the birth of The Thorough Tripper.
Google Maps Now – Paper Maps Then
Now, I use Google Maps to get me from point A to point B when traveling. It’s GPS shows me exactly where I am, so getting lost is rare. It shows me what routes are best, tells me how long it takes to get from one place to the other, helps direct me to nearby stores and restaurants. Google Maps is one of my most invaluable travel tools.
Back then, I used the sketched maps in the Guide Book. They gave me a general idea of where I wanted to be.
Vacation Rentals & Lodging Websites Now – Faith and Phone Calls Then
Now, I stay in vacation rentals when I travel to Costa Rica. They are inexpensive and have great amenities.
Back then, the concept of actually renting an apartment or house hadn’t even crossed my mind. At some point in the mid-90s, there was a Seinfeld episode where the joke revolved around whether or not Jerry could rent a villa in Tuscany. That’s the first time the concept of renting a vacation home entered my brain and it seemed like an option for only the wealthy.
Now, when traveling around the world, I depend on all the thorough information on VRBO, AirBNB, and Booking.com websites to help me make a decision. These websites show me pictures, amenity lists, and a multitude of reviews. Then I simply click a few buttons, and make a reservation
Back then, I stayed in lodging recommended by the Guide Book – a hotel in downtown San Jose, and a cabana near Manuel Antonio. The recommendations in the guidebook were short – just a few sentences at most. It took a leap of faith and a trust in the book writer. I had to actually figure out how to call Costa Rica and book them.
Restaurant Review Sites Now – Taking Your Chances Then
Now, I depend on TripAdvisor, Google Reviews, and other Bloggers to suggest the best places to eat. I want to see pictures of the food, look at the menu ahead of time if possible, know how much I’m going to spend, and be confident that the food is good.
Back then, I had to walk into restaurants blindly. Sometimes I had a good meal, and sometimes I didn’t. (It could be argued that is one of the joys of travel, but I like good food, and a bad travel meal makes me sad). The Guide Book would recommend a few restaurants in each area, but they weren’t always easy to find (or sometimes they had closed), and the recommendation was based on the one writer’s opinion.
Smartphones Now – Incommunicado Then
Now, I use my iPhone to manage my travel via all the travel apps, to take my pictures, and to easily communicate with family back home. Smartphones have made traveling exponentially easier. It’s the Swiss Army knife of travel tools. I always pay my carrier’s international daily data plan when traveling out of the country, so I can use my phone to its fullest potential.
Back then, the idea of an iPhone was Jetson’s futuristic (along with flying cars – still waiting for those). I was incommunicado.
No digital cameras back then either. I carried a camera with me. Then I had to actually wait until after I arrived home to develop the pictures and see them.
Sometimes I wouldn’t want to carry my camera around, and so missed out on some great photo opportunities. It’s so nice to always have a camera in my pocket now.
Car Rental Now – Buses Then
Now I rent a car whenever I go to Costa Rica. To fully experience the country, I want that type of mobility.
Back then, the idea of renting a car in another country hadn’t even entered my mind. I took a bus everywhere. True, that was experiential in a whole different way. But the 4-hour bus ride from San Jose to Manuel Antonio, across the winding mountain roads, still haunts me to this day. I know it’s a cliche, but I do remember chickens on the bus, along with very firm school bus-like seats, and a good amount of motion sickness.
I also remember the uncertainty of my transportation. There wasn’t anyway for me to access timetables ahead of time, so I would go to the bus station, try to figure out the Spanish language schedule, and hope for the best. At the time, that was certainly part of the adventure, but The Thorough Tripper in me far prefers being able to check everything out ahead of time online now.
Traveling to Costa Rica in 1994 was a great adventure. It helped whet my appetite for all the great adventures that have followed. Traveling to Costa Rica, and everywhere else, is much easier now thanks to exponentially better travel tools. And just wait until we finally do get those flying cars. Even better…..