I love that I saved a lot of money by returning my rental car in Quepos and hitchhiking my way down the coast. You seriously meet some of the coolest people while hitchhiking. My only regret is that I didn't know more Spanish.
I love that I had such an amazing five weeks in Costa Rica and Panama. Viaja Sola!
But one of the most incredible parts of my journey... was the other women I met along the way. They were an inspiration -- and definitely way cooler than I am.
For example, there's:
The woman who broke her ankle her second day of her trip -- then hobbled around Costa Rica for two weeks instead of going home.
Costa Rica is a lot of things -- but "accessible" isn't one of them.
Which is why 40-year-old Marissa's travel insurance company was shocked when she turned down a free flight home after she broke her ankle.
"Why would I want to go home?" she asked me -- moments after an excruciating and awkward boarding process onto the Nature Air L-410 that did not feature stairs or ramps.
It took a few minutes -- and it definitely did not look comfortable.
"I spent a whole month planning this trip, and I don't know if I'll ever have the chance to come back here. So if I have to see Costa Rica on a broken foot or not at all -- well, I think the choice is obvious."
I'm sure it helped that she had a friend from home along on the trip, but for the most part, this country wasn't doing her any favors.
She's not your stereotypical "badass" traveler. She was well-dressed. She wasn't alone. She wasn't an adrenaline junkie. She was hardly "roughing it" -- she stayed in a gorgeous hot springs resort at Volcan Arenal and dined in all the best restaurants.
But she and her companion are definitely more badass than I am.
After all, as her travel insurance company told her (repeatedly), "There is no shame in going home. Most people would want to be on the next flight back to the States in your situation."
The 80-year-old widows who didn't let age, or being single, or being women, stop them from seeking new landscapes.
I didn't get a photo of these women -- but I should have! I met them on my flight from Bocas del Toro to La Fortuna, and it was one of the coolest moments of my whole trip.
It was inspiring to see the spirit of excitement and adventure radiating from their timeworn faces, and curious to think what it would have been like to meet these viragos in their prime.
Once again, nothing about their trip was stereotypically "badass" -- but everything about them being in Costa Rica together was.
The recent graduate who was running away from a problem.
In Green Screen: The Lack of Female Road Narratives and Why It Matters, Vanessa Veselka laments that when men travel alone, they are solitary -- and when women travel alone, they are alone. They are marked. People ask men why they travel -- and there's always some cool reason. I love traveling. It was my destiny to climb this mountain. I trained for a year to do this.
People ask how women travel -- as in, how could you be doing this? How come you aren't scared? How come your boyfriend didn't want to come? How bad was your life that you are running away from it like this?
I get it -- that is true, to a degree. And there is a major lack of female travel narratives, which might be why Wild was so popular last year. (I didn't finish the book, but I did start reading it a few months ago -- it's definitely a well-written story about a very unique woman).
I spent a day sailing with a young woman I met in Panama. She was beautiful, energetic... and a little lost. She told me she had gone on this trip to escape from something (she didn't say what), and she wasn't sure what her next move would be.
But, for now, she was focusing on the present. Making money by working at a hotel on a jungle island in Panama, traveling till it ran out, then taking a new job, perhaps in Colombia.
Is there anything wrong with that?
In fact, I think this girl is a supercool badass for dealing with a setback not by ruminating or feeling sorry for herself. Not by going to therapy or moving back in with her parents. But by saying, "Life gave me lemons, and I'm going to see the world."
Sure, I would love to see more stories about women like me, who are driven by an intrinsic love of travel and aren't constantly afraid of being murdered. I guess that's an important distinction. But I also see no problem with female travelers who are "running away" from something.
I could go on all day about the amazing women I've met while traveling -- though, admittedly, 90% of the people I meet during travel are men. But the point is, "adventure" comes in all shapes and sizes. Anyone who "travel shames" another person for not traveling in one specific, "more authentic" way... is a self-focused, narcissistic asshat.
Do you have a female traveler you admire? Tell me about her in the comments!