Tag Archives: Costa Rica

“The Best Grandma Ever”

I’m sitting here this morning listening to Andrea Bocelli sing the exquisite “Sancta Maria” from Pietro Mascagni’s famous opera, “Cavalleria rusticana”. It’s one of a handful of CDs and photographs we carried away from an out-of-town family reunion, brought together for the memorial for Cheryl’s Mom, Anne, who passed away last month.

As she had in life, Anne continued to bring together her extended family. We spent the three days renewing old acquaintances and making new ones, talking about old times we knew about, and many we could only imagine. Prior to the gathering, we had put considerable effort into digging up old photos, piecing together Anne’s family history, which seemed shrouded in

Grandma to be in her 20s

Grandma-to-be in her 20s

mystery. Like many in her era, she didn’t talk much about her often-challenging past, and like so many in our era, we didn’t think to ask about it … until it was too late.

I – and even Cheryl – didn’t get to know Anne well until she lost her husband about twenty years ago. Perhaps the two of them had “lived in each other’s shadows” for her widowhood propelled Anne into a series of new adventures: traveling solo and striking up conversations with unlikely strangers, enrolling in self-development workshops, and, of course, visiting us more frequently (all despite her fear of flying.)

It was also during this time that Grandma joined us for a spell during our half-year in Costa Rica. She and two friends toured some of the back roads with us, sleeping uncomplainingly in bug-infested mountain shelters that let the light through the walls. I recall one night when we stood on a barely cooled lava flow of Mt. Arenal, watching and listening to orange-red rocks tumble toward us from the glowing peak. I could tell that she was nervous, but she wasn’t going to let that get in the way of a good adventure.

Mount Arenal at night (This was the 2008 eruption.)

Mount Arenal at night (This was the 2008 eruption.)

Our two boys, now young men, had nominated Anne as “best grandma ever”. When they were still too young to fly alone, they began a practice of each visiting Grandma for a solo week every summer. They must have been good times as both boys continued these annual visits well into their late teens – at least one of them had his first legal drink courtesy of Grandma. (The drinking age was lower where she lived.) More so than the boys’ parents, Grandma was game for the kinds of restaurants and movies that teenaged boys appreciated: Star Wars, the Matrix, Bruce Lee, and who knows what else. They drove her golf cart and probably lived in a junk food heaven.

Grandma also collected her extended family on other occasions. In the late 90s, she discovered Maui. The occasion of her discovery was not a happy one: the favourite aunt who’d invited her passed away while out in the surf. We were quite surprised when Anne elected to return to the same condo the following year,… and included all of us: kids, spouses, and grandkids. “Do you mind that I’m spending your inheritance?” she’d ask Cheryl. No one objected.

The last time Grandma took us to Maui

The last time Grandma took us to Maui

She did this twice more over the ensuing years, hooking the family on Hawaii forever. One of our boys talks of moving there, and both of them were quite happy to join the reunion a couple of years ago, which Grandma was unfortunately not well enough to enjoy. I suspect that Maui will be a spot of choice for future family reunions.

Anne was also a thoughtful conversationalist, well read, and interested in many subjects. Always when we saw each other, she and I would start conversations about politics, or demographics, or religious fundamentalism – and then continue them for months afterwards by email. While she held strong opinions, she was always open to persuasion by a good argument.

As for her opinion of me, her son-in-law, I’d say that once she’d sized me up and decided I would be good for her daughter, she was content to trust us, and never interfered in our lives. This sizing up took place quite quickly, thirty years back, and she’d reached this conclusion despite the fact I’d appeared out of nowhere, had not yet officially divorced my ex, and Cheryl and I had just applied to immigrate to Australia. I’d like to think Anne was a good judge of character: she was “no nonsense” and would size people up quickly. She also knew that “hands off” was the best policy once her kids had left the nest: a good example for Cheryl and me with ours.

One of our earlier visits

One of our earlier visits

Whatever challenges Anne may have had in her early life, she continued to have quite a few in her later years. Her husband died young. Several members of her immediate family became increasingly ill in their later years, and relied on Anne for daily care. By the time the last of them had passed away, she was exhausted. And determined never to set foot in a hospital again. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

Like Mascagni’s sacred aria “Saint Mary”, which comes from an opera about seduction, revenge & adultery, Anne had her contradictions. Despite her generally healthy lifestyle, she was a lifelong smoker, and in the last few years, it caught up with her. Her declining health pushed her away from the activities she loved: golf, championship bridge, and time with friends. As she weakened, she resisted suggestions to move into an assisted living complex, … until it was too late, and she landed in a hospital ward instead. Over the next couple of years she bounced back and forth between the hospital and a senior’s complex. It took a toll on her “can do” attitude, and affected her family as well.

Grandma with our niece

Grandma with our niece

The last time I saw Grandma, she had made it out to visit us at Thanksgiving. She and I were discussing the idea of cohouseholding, one of the themes of this blog that Cheryl and I are investigating for our retirement. Anne turned to me and said, “You know, Paul, here’s what I wish I’d done 15 years ago. I wished I’d gotten together two or three of my widowed friends, and all moved into a big house together. I wouldn’t be in the condition I’m in today.” I had to agree.

In preparing for Grandma’s memorial service, I learned things I’d never known about the impact she’d had on our boys. One of them, now a producer of marketing videos, put together the DVD for the celebration of her life. He was relating to me one of his favourite memories about Grandma, one that was unfamiliar to me.

At the time, he was 12 and Grandma was traveling with us in Costa Rica. We were on a tour of a number of smaller locations around the country. All the arrangements for these two weeks had been made by our guide and driver, Alexander. This particular day, we were staying at a hotel run by an expat who thought himself above the “help”. He had put Alex in the “servant’s

Already the "world's best grandma"

Already the “world’s best grandma”

quarters” and hadn’t invited him to join us for meals. My son told me that Grandma would have none of that. She insisted that Alex be treated as part of the group, … or else, … and offered to pay extra if necessary. She must have had her way because Alex ate with us for every meal.

Clearly this had a deep impact on my son, and he clearly still sails by her sense of fairness a dozen years later. Such is the impact that the “world’s best grandma” can have.

When and if our turn comes, may we rise to the task.

PS. Here’s a link to my post about my own Mom.

 

 

 

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Back from Costa Rica, into the “Real World”

In the previous two posts, we talked a little about why and how we came to spend half a year in Costa Rica with our two boys, aged nine and 12, and touched on the irreplaceable education we all four acquired from this experience.  Here Paul talks about the aftermath.

All good things must end.

We ran out of money in Costa Rica perhaps ten days earlier than we’d planned, and so booked our travel back home around the time of the first few showers of the impending rainy season.  Including our air fare, as well as various tours and admissions, our average cost of living for the entire six months was about half of what it would have been had we stayed home.  Since we’d canceled our lease and put everything in storage, we had few other expenses during that time.  However, there was other financial fallout.

We spent one morning "helping" make caramelized sugar the old-fashioned way

We spent one morning “helping” make caramelized sugar the old-fashioned way

We quickly rented a new home, but before we’d even had the storage containers delivered, we learned that our company had suffered a major crisis in recent days.  My partners had taken the unprecedented step of laying almost everyone off – including themselves, Cheryl and me.  So there we were with a new lease and no jobs.  I won’t say it was easy to recover, but things did work out.  Cheryl, who had been the work-at-home Mom, eventually found a full-time job outside, and she still works there ten years later.  I picked up the slack at my former company by sub-contracting there part time, allowing me to take on more of the at-home parenting role for the next few years.  The company never fully recovered and we wound it down a few years later.

We had originally thought we might buy a house again, but the experience of being mortgage-free – together with our employment uncertainty – had us defer the purchase.  By the time our finances looked better, the real estate market looked overpriced and we stayed out.  We still rent – not a bad thing, as it turned out.

Packing up after our whitewater rafting adventure

Packing up after our whitewater rafting adventure

Despite all this, Cheryl and I never wavered.  This was one of the best things we ever did for our kids.

Still, I thought I’d best verify this again, and so I asked our two boys, now in their 20s, how they would sum up their experience.  (They had not yet read the earlier blog posts.)

Al, the younger, said emphatically that it was the best thing we’d ever done as a family.  It wasn’t just all those exciting adventures, including all those new animals he “never knew even existed.”  Most important, he said, was just that “time out of time”, when he and the rest of us could escape from the relentless schedule of everyday life, and for a few months, follow our spirits and our curiosity.

Dennis, who was still 11 when we were planning the trip, even wrote me something:

New friends visiting at our Costa Rican country house

New friends visiting at our Costa Rican country house

I remember vividly the day my parents told us we would be moving to Costa Rica for six months.  We were walking through our favourite city park when they dropped the bombshell on us.  I remember being pretty upset at first, especially when they said I couldn’t bring my Game Boy.  Fast forward 13 years later, and I can safely say I have absolutely no regrets regarding the trip.  I got to be surrounded by warm weather, awesome animals, cheap delicious food, and learn the Spanish language.  We lived on a farm, in an apartment, in the house of a Costa Rican family, in hotels, motels, inns on the mountain, bungalows by the beach, you name it.  I have dozens of interesting stories to tell from that six-month period, and it was definitely an experience I hope to repeat someday with my own kids.

Whew!  (I hope he still says that after he sees the picture in Part 2.)

Yes, it was worth it.  If you are reading this, and considering creating your own family adventure, and holding back … just go for it.

The beach at Manuel Antonio Park is busier than most we saw - and that means spunky monkeys!

The beach at Manuel Antonio Park is busier than most we saw – and that means spunky monkeys!

After I’d returned from Costa Rica, with the failing fortunes of our business partnership, I found myself years later confiding in one of my favourite career counselors.  I had the impression that my peers in the high tech industry looked askance at me because I had other interests – because I was willing to put my job on hold for half a year to go traveling with my family.  She told me that, in her experience, many parents work their whole lives, hoping “one day” to be able to do what Cheryl and I had done … and many never do.  It was good hear her acknowledgment.  Since that time, even some of my peers have admitted to taking inspiration from what our family did.  Some have admitted to envy.  Some have even compared me to the

A cemetery in San José, Costa Rica

A cemetery in San José, Costa Rica

fabled Mexican fisherman in this story.

I was reminded again of my priorities and Cheryl’s when I read “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”, a short review of a book by the same name.  The author, a palliative nurse who worked with the terminally ill, had made a short list of the things she heard most frequently from those who were running out of time:

  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  • I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  • Amazing butterflies seemed to be everywhere

    Amazing butterflies seemed to be everywhere

    I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

  • I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Referring to the second point, she went on, “They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship.”

During our family’s six month adventure in Costa Rica, we truly experienced each other’s companionship, our children’s youth – and, truth be known – our own.

What do you want to experience?  What will you miss if you don’t?

What our Family learned during our Season in Costa Rica

When we mentioned our half-year visit to Costa Rica with our boys, nine and twelve, people often asked us wouldn’t the kids be missing school.  Well, they may have missed school, but they certainly got an education.  Here are some of the many things we all learned.

People make the journey.  We met many friendly people in Costa Rica.  Two stood out.  One was Jorge and his family, themselves expats from the US and Asia.  We both belonged to the

Traveling under sunny skies in beautiful Costa Rica

Traveling under sunny skies in beautiful Costa Rica

same international organization, and a query to the president in San Francisco had put us in touch.  Jorge immediately invited us to crash at their place while we got our bearings.  All they asked was for us to deliver the airbed they were going to offer us, and the wine for a toast.  Their girls and our boys hit it off as well, so it was a great start to our adventure.

Our second find was Alex Martinez who ran a small B&B and ecotourism operation in the Caribbean Lowlands.  We met Alex through another B&B & tour operator that we found on the Internet.  Alex was a wonderful guide and host, and the boys loved him.  To top it off, he shared a first name with our younger son.  Costa Rican custom allowed them to call each other “El Tocayo” or “Toca” for short.  We all called Alex “Toca” although only Al was the namesake.  We ultimately took a couple of two week trips with Alex, covering much of the Southwest and Interior of the country, and staying in small-scale accommodations run by agricultural coops and other local operators.

The boys eventually got photos of all four species

The boys eventually got photos of all four species

Do one good thing every day.  We learned this lesson in “slow travel” while staying for a month in a dilapidated country house on a forty-acre farm near the village of La Garita de Alajuela.  We shared it with a single-mom from back home and her two kids, friends of ours.  Plus one pair of emaciated dogs, a flock of scrawny chickens, and more insects than we ever knew existed.  There was one bus a day if we wanted to go anywhere.  Sometimes we didn’t.  We could lie under a mango tree beside the small pool out back, and watch the neighbours harvest sugar cane with bull-drawn carts.  Or chat with the woman who ran a tiny chicken shack down the road about how she was helping her daughters through college in the US.  When we took the bus and went on day trips, we were tempted at first to schedule a full day:  “In the morning, we’ll go to the snake farm, in the afternoon to the ox-cart display.”  This always had us rushing to make the second appointment, and kept us from following our hearts with whatever came up in the morning.  So, we resolved only to do one thing a day.  It was one of our most important lessons in Costa Rica.  Even now, when life feels rushed, we remind ourselves of this one.

This was our insect-friendly home for a month in the country - and many memories

This was our insect-friendly home for a month in the country – and many memories

Don’t ignore the bugs.  About two-thirds of Costa Rica’s half million species are insects.  We were sure that ants comprised one quarter of all animal biomass in the country.  Apart from the more mundane activities – marveling at unusual beetles, walking sticks, and the ants swarming on the kitchen counters or carrying leaves along an ant highway – we had some more exciting adventures.  An ant bit Dennis while we were trekking through the rainforest to swim in a jungle

Dennis contemplating the bite of the Bullet Ant

Dennis contemplating the bite of the Bullet Ant

pool.  Fortunately, it wasn’t the fabled Bullet Ant.  Our most notable insect adventure had us chased through the mangroves by a swarm of Africanized honeybees – otherwise known as killer bees.  How many kids can say that?  Both boys were stung a few times, but managed to outrun the rest of the swarm.

There’s a naturalist in every child.  “Toca” was an avid birder and bird watching guide.  He was engaged in conservation efforts for the Great Green Macaw.  Before long, he had our nine-year-old hooked; Al spent six weeks of pocket money to buy the definitive Costa Rican bird guide, and logged more than 150 species over the next six weeks.  Al was waking me up before 6AM to look for the Oropendula in the grounds of the pre-Columbian ruins at the Guayabo National Monument.  On our flight home, he struck up a conversation with a professional bird guide returning from Belize – it was amazing to hear them comparing notes about their recent field experiences.

We are lucky and we have so much.  Our friend Alex took us to visit a poor family near his place.  Like many of the poorest in Costa Rica, they were refugees from the recent proxy war in neighbouring Nicaragua.  The father had recently passed away, and the oldest boy of thirteen had to leave school to help his mother support her five children by carving wooden key-chain fobs.  It was eye opening to our boys to see how this family lived in a shack with earthen floors.

Simple accommodation provided by an Agouti Coop

Simple accommodation provided by an Agouti Coop

Closer to home was the single mom and her kids who lived in a small house on the farm we inhabited for a month.  The landlord employed her to keep an eye on the place and do cleaning, and she would do laundry for us at a very low price.  When we first moved into the house, the absentee property owner had asked her to tie up the dogs at night.  Big mistake.  That very first night, while she was at a nearby New Year’s Eve party, someone broke into her place and stole her TV.  This was a very big loss to her.  After that, we encouraged her to let the dogs run free.  As mean as they sounded and looked, within a few days, they had befriended the children and were gentle as puppies.

Treasure your family.  Despite the many adventures we had in Costa Rica, some of our best

Our weekly trip to the Internet cafe - now disappearing

Our weekly trip to the Internet cafe – now disappearing

memories just came from hanging out together.  After years of always working family time around work commitments and school schedules, it was wonderful just to be able to kick around together, even when there was no agenda.  Wandering around the neighbourhood.  Playing cards at night under a dim fluorescent bulb.  Or talking about what we’d just seen or what we wanted to do next.

We also stayed for a month with a large family in the capital, San José.  A small newspaper ad from a homemaker offered rooms plus meals to students in the area near the University.  We applied for a month, and ended up with two rooms, two meals a day, and all laundry for about $700 for the month.  The matriarch of the household was nearing 80, but she still cooked for a family that appeared to number about 50 people in total.  There were smaller buildings out back where two of her daughters lived with their families.  They would often come in for meals.  One of her sons drove a city bus, which he’d stop outside the house so he could come in for mid-morning coffee.  It was a lively place.  If we lingered at the table after breakfast, we would be treated to a stream of visitors and constant conversation.  Our Spanish improved immeasurably.

View into the crater of Poás Volcano

View into the crater of Poás Volcano

Volcanoes are amazing.  We visited the top of Irazú once, and Poás twice, both still steaming.  We passed Turialba more than once.  The best by far was Arenal, one of the most active volcanoes in the world.  We were fortunate to visit at the tail end of a period of higher activity, with remarkably few clouds – it was amazing to watch the smoke puff from the top, followed by booms like muffled canons.  Most memorable of all was the evening we spent on a recent lava flow on the flank of the volcano.  Not only could we see the orange-hot rock sliding down from the peak, we could actually hear it.  Grandma was with us that evening, and despite her nervousness, stood her ground.

We never seemed to have the camera when Arenal was blowing its top

We never seemed to have the camera when Arenal was blowing its top

In half a year, a family can have a lot of adventures.  We took a fisherman’s open boat through the mangroves and the surf to a deserted bay.  We had lunch in the home of an indigenous chief.  We huddled in primitive cabins while the roar of the Howler Monkeys reverberated

Al making friends with the local chickens

Al making friends with the local chickens

through the valleys.  Broke bread with the Israeli consuls.  Adopted a baby turtle.  Saw every museum in the county.  Stalked the elusive Resplendent Quetzal on the Mountain of Death.  Walked across a river into Panama, on a rickety train bridge high above the crocodiles.  Went zip-lining and whitewater rafting.  Just to name a few.

Some of the other lessons we learned in our “summer” in Costa Rica included:

  • The world is getting smaller.
  • Politics suck.
  • Tourists are annoying.
  • Join the local economy.
  • Pay it back, and forward.

The most important lesson our family experienced while slow traveling around Costa Rica?

The world is your school.  Go get your diploma!

We spent three days snorkeling in Bocas del Toro, Panama while renewing our Costa Rican visas

We spent three days snorkeling in Bocas del Toro, Panama while renewing our Costa Rican visas

In our next post, we’ll talk about the legacy of this trip.  What did we take away from it – the good and the bad – and was it worth it?

The herpetologist assured us it wasn't poisonous

The herpetologist assured us it wasn’t poisonous

What do you think?

While what we learned about Costa Rica more than a dozen years ago likely won’t help you, here are a few starting points for your own exploration:

Take your Kids on the Trip of a Lifetime

When our two boys were in elementary school, like many parents we knew, we had a dream of taking them on an extended trip overseas, the Trip of a Lifetime “one day”.  If this sounds like you, we hope Paul’s account of how we created our own family adventure inspires you to realize your dream.  Time is fleeting.  Make it happen!

The conversations at our place started about the time our younger boy hit grade one.  With the oldest only eight, we still had a few years to plan this, we thought.  Yet the years go by quickly, in a whirl of school calendars, baby-sitters, holidays, childhood crises, friends who need attention, and the demands of busy careers.  We had also taken on an ambitious project to create a small low-cost cabin on an island – a task that took four years to complete.  It would have been so easy to sail right through our parenting years without ever getting away on our dream trip.

The view from Paul's favourite spot on the windjammer (it wasn't the tiller)

The view from Paul’s favourite spot on the windjammer (it wasn’t the tiller)

Happily for our dreams, we had built a small network of friends and acquaintances who encouraged us in our ravings and fantasies.  We kept on dreaming, and talking about our hopes.

I had always had a fascination with sailing, and those who went on long voyages driven by the willful wind.  Real and imagined accounts like “Two Years before the Mast” and “Swiss Family Robinson” had been youthful staples.  Naturally enough, my first idea was to take the family on a yearlong sailing trip.  What could be more romantic and adventurous?  I’d even been sailing a few times, although Cheryl’s exposure was limited to a couple of Windjammer cruises in the Caribbean.

If, in those days, we’d had WikiHow, I might have been taken in by their two-page FAQ “How to Sail Around the World”.  A reality check convinced me that the full-time sailing life was not for us.  My skipper friends suggested that the business of sailing might not match my romantic notions.  One of them reminded me that Cheryl had already had a nodding acquaintance with “mal de mer” on the placid seas around the island of Sint Eustatius.

Did sailing in light airs off Sint Maarten give Paul a false sense of security about a round-the-world trip?

Did sailing in light airs off Sint Maarten give Paul a false sense of security about a round-the-world trip?

I discovered that the teenager who mowed our lawn had actually been on such a trip, sailing around the world over a two-year period with his family.  He and his mother even wrote a book.  Reading their account of Mom & Dad manhandling the tiller through hurricane conditions – with the two kids lashed to the mast and doped up with Gravol – had me see the dream could well become a nightmare.

Not wanting to give up on the round-the-world part, we edited the foundering sailboat out of the dream and started looking at commercial airfares.  While good packages existed for traveling around the world, we were still looking at a substantial outlay.  Meanwhile, the pencil ticks on the boys’ doorframes crept relentlessly higher, and their scheduled homework grew longer term-by-term.  We imagined a shrinking window of opportunity before our older boy hit his teens, and school and peer pressures derailed our plans.

We made our first real step when we sold our house to follow our kids’ schooling opportunities – the second such sale in five years.  Thinking we should “stay loose” if we were serious about traveling in the next few years, we returned to renting.  Paying off the mortgage and seeing money in the bank gave a big boost to our plans.

Island life around the cabin kept us busy for a few years

Island life around the cabin kept us busy for a few years

Our plans also continued to evolve.  We replaced the idea of spending most of our travel budget on airfare, and much of our travel time in airports, with a plan for extended “slow travel” in just one country.  Why not really get to know a place?  All we had to do was pick a country, … and set a date.  Ah, the dreaded commitment, that moment of stepping onto the roller coaster!  We hesitated.  The boys turned eight and eleven.

That year, we had our second break when a friend told us she wanted to do something similar.  Her kids and ours were playmates so doing something together might work out.  Our friend also inspired us to take the plunge.  If a single mother on a lower budget could do this, then what excuse did we have?  “What do you think about Costa Rica?” she asked.

Costa Rica appealed to us.  It was different enough yet not too scary: one of few Latin American countries that had never had a violent overthrow of government.  It had a good medical system, so we weren’t too concerned about the kids getting sick without help, or a bite from the deadly Fer de Lance far from anti-venom.  (Parents worry about such things)  Even in 2000, mosquito-borne diseases were limited to a few sections of the country, and we learned you could drink water straight from the tap almost everywhere.  Compared to my travel in Brazil in the 70s, this seemed quite manageable with kids.  I could get by in Spanish, so we could escape from English yet not be all at sea.  Best of all, we loved the focus on eco-tourism and outdoor adventures.  Oh, did I mention it was warm and sunny during our winter?

Paul and his two partners about a year before we left

Paul and his two partners about a year before we left

Cheryl and I held our breath, and made the commitment to go during the following school year, a little less than a year distant.  We began announcing our intentions and making arrangements.  Over the following six months:

  • We negotiated open-ended unpaid leaves for both Cheryl and me.  At that time, we both worked in a company in which I had a part-interest.  We had been talking about doing this for three years, so, it was relatively easy.  In hindsight, it turned out to be harder than we imagined, but that’s a story for later.
  • We gave notice on our lease.  Rather than keep our home – and a place to fret about – we chose to put everything we owned into a couple of portable storage containers.  Moving all the furniture and belongings from a typical four-bedroom house into some containers in the driveway sounds like a lot of work – but in the excitement of the impending trip, it didn’t seem so bad.  We arranged to spend the last few weeks before our trip at my parents’ place.
  • We formally registered our boys for homeschooling that school year, which would be grades four and seven for them.  In prior years, we had been part of a parent-managed Montessori school, and we chose it as our formal school partner for this registration.  The teachers offered us a few helpful suggestions, mostly around not worrying about it too much, with perhaps a bit of work on mathematics and Spalding Rules for spelling.
  • We all signed up for some elementary Spanish classes – not that the boys paid much attention.
  • We arranged to handle the finances that we couldn’t put on hold.  This primarily consisted of a good conversation with our bank manager, and enrolling my Dad to fill in any gaps.
  • We visited the local travel clinic and had all our recommended shots … and then some.
Our first discovery in CR was a local Montessori school

Our first discovery in CR was a local Montessori school

The Internet was just coming into its own as a place of travel research, so research we did.  We also canvassed our contacts for helpful ideas:  best flights, where to go in Costa Rica, what to see, what to do, best time to visit, and where to start?  By the time we said good-bye to my parents and boarded the plane for San Jose, we were about as ready as we could be.  In a future post, I’ll talk more about the planning for the trip, and the trip itself.  The unanimous vote:  it was the best six months of all our family years!

What’s your travel dream for your family?  What are you doing to make it a reality?