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The Truth about International Travel

Like many other high school students never having traveled outside of the country before, I always fantasized at the idea of it. So when our monthly Spanish club’s meeting rolled around, the idea of taking a trip to Costa Rica was suggested, and I was nothing short of ecstatic. Immediately, I knew I had to attend. I started brainstorming everything down to the last detail. What outfits was I going to bring? What tourist attractions we were going to? Even what Instagram pictures and captions I was going to post.

Trip Planning!

As the day of departure crept closer, I felt a feeling I didn’t think was possible, since this was such an amazing opportunity. I began to feel nervous, having never been on a plane for an extensive amount of time. Even though I took Spanish classes in high school, I didn’t know the language very well. Above all else, I had never traveled outside the country.

At last, the day rolled around, and my exhilaration won over my anxiousness as I said goodbye to my parents. As I boarded the bus, I had never felt more independent. I was even with some of my best friends and we were about to fly to one of the most beautiful places in the world… what could go wrong?

The Truth about International Travel

Turns out, a lot could go wrong in a very short span of time. The unfortunate series of events started when our flight from Chicago was delayed five hours, causing our group to miss our connecting flight in Austin. When we finally arrived in Texas, we were forced to wait hours in the airport until the staff could find us a hotel. Luxurious, right?

Wrong. As our shuttle pulled up outside of our presumably fancy hotel, our hearts sank as we came to the realization we would be sleeping in a less-than-ideal motel. I wish I was joking about this part, but seriously, there were toads in our rooms, along with what looked like to be blood on the sheets and walls. It’s safe to say that none of our group received a good night’s sleep, and by the first light of dawn, we were ready to get out of there.

We were already half a day behind schedule, and when we returned to the airport, there was more bad news. The staff couldn’t find enough tickets for the same flight, meaning our group would have to split up. Half of us would fly straight to Costa Rica, while the other half would make stops in Guatemala and Panama City before finally landing at our final destination. Take one guess at the group I was put into.

Make Good out of the Bad

Following two long flights sitting in between two strangers who didn’t speak English, and consuming some sketchy Guatemalan McDonald’s nuggets, we had finally arrived. Nothing more could go wrong, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Some of our luggage had been lost within our group, and I was one of the lucky few to still have mine. I spent the first few days in Costa Rica rewearing outfits, borrowing from my friends clothes, and doing laundry in various bathtubs.

While this may seem like a cautionary tale that details why I’m never going to travel out of the country again, it was actually the opposite. Amid all of this bad fortune, I had the time of my life. Staying surrounded by my best friends who always keep a smile on my face definitely helped. Not to mention, I was always surrounded by some of the most spectacular sights in the world. It’s hard to be unhappy when you’re ziplining above the rainforest, cooking dinner with locals, or hiking among exotic plants and animals.

Take Precautionary Measures

There’s a lot than could go wrong when you travel internationally (In my case, most of those fears came true). No amount of misfortune could overpower the amazing experiences you’ll have. I have so many stories about my trip to Costa Rica, and I’ll be telling them for years to come.

If you have the opportunity to travel out of the country, it’s okay to be nervous – it’s normal, and apparent from my experience, justifiable. Don’t let that scare you away from making some of the best memories in your life.


Click here to read how you can prep for a first time flight if you haven’t been on a plane before.


Shannon Angel is studying at the University of Alabama and is doing an internship this semester at GirlSpring.

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