Is that....pepper??? - My Family Travels
Carlos and his grandson

I looked at the Styrofoam plate that held the cheesy lasagna and closed my eyes trying to convince myself to take a bite. Oh yeah. I forgot to mention; it was covered in bugs, not pepper. I recently traveled to La Montana, Costa Rica with my two sisters, Kristen and Kellie. That is where this adventure takes place. I bet you twenty dollars that “bug covered lasagna” and “Costa Rica” were not holding hands in the back of your mind. But I am going to introduce a few travel tips that will be helpful no matter where you decide to go!

It all began at my church in Greenville, SC on February 8th, 2016. The mission’s department released the schedule for this year’s trips and my sisters and I immediately signed up to go. Mission trips are almost impossible to go into with expectations so I really had none. I am going to be honest, this made packing rather difficult, but I love a challenge! Our trip was for eight days and I tend to pack light so I take either a carry on OR a checked bag; never both. Believe me, the less you have to carry, the freer your spirit will feel. My favorite luggage ever is my 25” Ann Klein hard case rolling suitcase. It’s divided down the middle by a zipper compartment so on one side I packed things for the children we would be playing with; chalk, jump ropes, soccer balls, bubble, candy, etc.

On the other side of the bag, I packed enough clothing about 6 days. Here are 5 tips you absolutely NEED to know before you travel:

 #1. You can always wash clothes in the shower and then hang them to dry. This saves you from over-packing (yay!) Put liquid laundry detergent in a 3 oz. travel bottle. And also put a 10ft piece of twine or rope in your bag to use for hang drying. (tip: if you have an ENO hammock and plan on bringing that, ENO straps can double as a clothes line!)

 #2. For short trips, fill some extra contact lens cases with facewash, shampoo, conditioner, etc. to save space.

#3. INVEST IN A POLAROID! You won’t regret it. I have an instaxmini 8 (amazon, $50) and it was so fun to be able to share pictures with the kids and families we met.

This leads into tip #4… keep a travel journal. This can be intimidating, I know, but it is so worth it. Discover a journaling style that fits and stick to it. For me, I am such a visual person that I keep any ticket stubs, boarding passes, polaroid photos, postcards, maps, or even candy wrappers; and I tape them into my journal. Then I write two stories; one “high” of the day and one “low”. This is something PRICELESS and you can even start blogging those stories later on.

Finally, #5. Forget your expectations. Be exactly where you are and who you are. Everyone that you meet has a story and can grow you as a person in one way or another. I met a fifty-year-old Costa Rican man named Carlos. He couldn’t speak a word of English and I can barely say “hola”, yet somehow after the week was over and it was time for me to leave we were both in tears and parting as family.

Take time to learn the story of the person next to you. Age is nothing, Race is nothing, Language is nothing, bug-covered lasagna is nothing, when you let kindness win. 

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