Jose was supposed to pick me up at 5 pm.  A million questions went through my mind as I stared at every single car that went by.  

Was I at the right bus stop?  Had Jose forgotten to pick me up?  How bad did I stand out at a bus stop with my hiking backpack in downtown San Jose, Costa Rica?  Was couch surfing a huge mistake?  Where would I go if my couch surfing host never showed up?

1st of many soccer games in Latin America

It was senior year in college and it was my first real trip outside of the U.S.  I had not grown up in a family that traveled internationally so my international experience had been limited to crossing the border with my family to Tijuana and Vancouver.  Honestly I was terrified.

Waiting in line for the autobus

Costa Rica was supposed to be an easy country to visit, however this was completely out of my comfort zone.  

I grew up in the suburbs of Sacramento, California and had barely taken a bus ride.  I had taken two jam packed, sweaty buses to get to a random bus stop where my host would pick me up.  I was frantically scanning for a blue ford that just never seemed to arrive.

Local bus strike

Just as the sun was starting to set an old blue ford pulled up with a young guy who hollered out, “¿Eres Brian?”  

I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I hopped in the car with Jose.  With no cell phone, wifi, or data, finding a place to stay would have been a challenge.

Staying in a hostel later on in the trip

Off we went heading to the outskirts of San Jose.  Immediately I regretted not having studied harder in my two years of high school Spanish and one year of college Spanish.  

I had gotten nearly all A’s, however within five minutes I felt like I had used every word that I remembered.  Jose was 22 years old and the speed at which he spoke made me feel like I was under a tidal wave.  I asked him about family, sports, and food, which were topics I felt I could at least understand a bit.  Mentally I was drained.

Streets of San Jose

When we got to his house he unlocked one gate to get inside the property and then another to get in the front door.  

I wasn’t sure if these gates were intended to make me feel safe or not, but I figured that night I wouldn’t be going out unless his family gave me the ok.  Jose took me inside to meet his mom and brother, both of whom spoke no English.  The house was extremely simple.  I was led to a tiny bedroom with a bed that had a styrofoam mattress that squeaked every time I rolled over.

Dinner with Jose and his buddy the following night

Jose’s brother and mom were very kind.  During our dinner of rice, beans, chicken, and some papaya, they asked me all kinds of questions.  

Here I was halfway through my senior year in college, and due to my knowledge of Spanish I felt like I was a five year old again.  I had to be humble.  My mind raced a million miles an hour to get out responses to their barrage of questions.  I just hoped I wasn’t making a fool of myself.

Getting ready for my 1st night of couchsurfing

After dinner Jose asked if I wanted to go out with his friends.  I was absolutely exhausted so I thanked him for the offer and retreated to my bite-size room.  Despite being so tired, I couldn’t sleep.  I was too excited, nervous, and out of my comfort zone to drift off to sleep.  

Once I did go to sleep, I would wake up every hour with the sharp squeak of styrofoam scraping against the wooden bed frame.  When I awoke the next morning I jumped out of bed wondering where I was.  I had left home 24 hours before, however it felt like 24 days.  

I had no idea traveling was going to be so hard, nevertheless I felt truly alive, excited and anxious for what the next week would bring.  My travel life was underway.