Tag: theft

The not-so-nice side of international travel Part Two

I was going to follow on from the previous post with some cheery old bollocks about how despite travel sometimes involving stressful or unpleasant events It Was All Worth It In The End (sounds of heavenly choirs).

However, the loss of money from the scam in Costa Rica was just one of a string of problems.

Having made it to Cahuita I was keen to try the life style I’d always wanted: tapping creatively away at my laptop in an open air café, enjoying sunshine and the occasional cocktail.

And, for the couple of days in which I was able to do this, it was great!  Exactly as I’d dreamed of. Finally I was writing and writing regularly. The feminist Hemingway. An ageing digital nomad.  This was how my life was supposed to be.

Cahuita was tropically, stickily, hot. But hey, that’s what I wanted right?  A change from British weather.  So why complain?  Just get on and write.  And I did.

Until the flip side of the hot weather reared its ugly head.  As I walked back to my Air BnB early one evening the heavens opened.  I had never experienced precipitation like it. I was instantly soaked to the skin.

It was a ten minute walk back from the centre of this tiny town to the cabin by the beach I was staying in.  There was nowhere to shelter on the way so I just kept plodding on.  No problem, except later when I tried to use my MacBook it typed gibberish, totally unrelated to the keys I was hitting.

I had to cut my trip short and return to San Jose to find an Apple store (known as iCon in Latin America should you ever need to know).  The helpful assistant said I could either wait around for a few days while my Mac was sent off to an engineer, or I could just buy a bluetooth keyboard for $100.

I decided to go with the latter option.  The assistant felt I had made the right choice, as there was no guarantee my Mac’s keyboard could even be fixed.  His initial diagnosis?  That (despite being inside its own carry case and a small backpack) the Mac had been penetrated by the  torrential rain and was extremely unhappy about it.

I found it difficult to juggle using the blue tooth keyboard and watching the screen on my Mac at the same time.  Pathetic I know, but my writing dwindled to a halt.  Any excuse.

As well as these two incidents in Costa Rica I also experienced (in no particular order of importance):

  • Losing my dental bite guard (probably during an over-enthusiastic search of my hand luggage when flying out of Mexico City).
  • How incredibly tiring travelling actually is, as I constantly tried to see as much as possible in a short space of time while simultaneously planning ahead and booking my next flights and destinations.
  • The loneliness of a being a single traveller (or more accurately an older single female traveller).
  • The loss of one earring of a pair I’d bought in Mexico and was looking forward to taking home.
  • The MacBook suddenly made a full recovery and the keyboard was working again! Yay!
  • BUT THEN – the apartment I was staying in was burgled and my beloved MacBook, its charger and  pink neoprene case were stolen, together with my Tesco Hudl (a tablet, in case you’ve never heard of them).  The burglar did manage to miss the bluetooth keyboard.  I still have that.
  • The burglary took place the day before I was due to fly back to the U.K.  The police officer who came to the apartment swore he would have a copy of the police report delivered the next morning before I left.  No sign of report before I finally had to set off in order not to miss my plane.
  • The very expensive travel insurance (world wide, for a year) I paid for will not pay up for the loss of my MacBook without a copy of a police report.  The claim is currently being dealt with by the underwriters. I am not hopeful.

After all this I was depressed and felt the Fates really did not want me either to travel or to write. Maybe I just wasn’t cut out for this lifestyle?  Then things got worse.

When I returned to England I only expected to spend a month here. My flight to Thailand was already booked.  I intended to travel around sightseeing but also popping into ESL colleges touting my wares. I hoped to find work so I could stay on longer than the month allowed on a tourist visa.

While back in Blighty I visited my GP and discovered I have probably had a heart attack some time (or times!) in the last few years.  I was given medical advice not to travel and had to cancel my flight to Bangkok at the last minute.

So suddenly instead of being a blog about someone following her dreams and travelling the world, this became a blog about someone waiting for an NHS appointment. No wonder I didn’t feel inspired to write anything.

But in a couple of days I finally get to see the cardiology consultant and find out whether I get to travel again or not.  Having made a bullet list of my woes while travelling they look a bit petty, really.

So if the medics give me the go ahead to go abroad again, will I?  Too bloody right I will.


The not-so-nice side of international travel Part One

Ok I might as well admit to this straight out.  I just got conned, stupid gringa tourist that I am.

There is a scam by “taxi drivers” in San José, Costa Rica where they tell you the transport workers are about to go on strike at noon for four days and you will be stuck in San José for several days with everyone charging massive fees for overnight accommodation.

Very convincing, involving lots of “helpful” phone calls to try and assist you book transport out of the city, even allowing you to speak to someone who speaks English and says there are no seats left.

They then offer to drive you all the way, or part of the way, to where you are going at an inflated rate.

In my case because I had just arrived in Costa Rica the night before and hadn’t got to grips with the local currency, Costa Rican colones, (which is one of those confusing ones where you are pretty much a millionaire as soon as you go to an ATM and then you spend thousands on a cup of coffee) they scammed me out of about $440 (£337; €375).

I am such a GULLIBLE IDIOT.  Mainly I am just so angry at myself for falling for this and not being able to stand up for myself.  One of my very British problems was that I began to suspect fairly quickly that this may be a con, but did not want to confront this nice and helpful man and make a scene.  He even had his schoolboy son in the cab with him.

He put in lots of masterful touches: holding my arm as I crossed slippery ground to the ATM; advising me to always keep my luggage with me on the bus as he dropped me off and finally giving me a typical Latin American hug and kiss goodbye as he wished me luck and bade me farewell.

There is even a part of me (the former criminal defence lawyer part) that has a certain admiration for how well-crafted the scam was.  I blame myself entirely.  I don’t subscribe to that “fool me once, shame on you but fool me twice, shame on me” rubbish.  Fool me  once and it’s completely my own fucking fault.

Plus it has, of course, seriously messed up my budget for this trip round Latin America.  And my faith in taxi drivers, who up until now have been a pretty regular component of my means of travel.

But on the positive side I was not hurt (another thing I liked about the grift, no threats or violence just pure charm), I did get taken in the direction I wanted to go and then after a couple of bus journeys I reached my destination safely.

My destination was Cahuita, a tiny townlet on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.  I have never seen the Caribbean before other than on movies.

And the first people I met here were three lovely ladies, who restored my faith in human nature, two American ex-pats living here and a local café owner. They took me to the nearest ATM and made sure I got to my Air BnB Ok.  My Air BnB hosts are also great and were most upset about my bad introduction to their country.

So now I’m back in positive international traveller mode, although I am rethinking some of my travel plans as a result of this incident.

However, I have been mulling over in the last few weeks the aspects of travel I really don’t like and this has reinforced those thoughts, of which more in a later post.