I’ve traveled around the world for decades, but I’ve never felt quite as incompetent and uncomfortable as a traveler as in my first few days as a professional traveler.
Our Costa Rica map and travel guide company can finally afford to pay it’s first two employees a little, so on this research and update trip Suzanne and I are making money visiting a country we love.
Some of the discomfort must come from complete unfamiliarity with this style of travel. Things like having required destinations, fixed goals and a rental car are quite foreign to this free wheeling-who knows where we’ll be tomorrow-couple.
Heredia and Alajuela are at fault as well. It’s hard to muster great enthusiasm for dirty noisy cities when your real interest lies on pristine beaches and in virgin rainforests. Cities are important though, especially for travelers whose flights arrive late or depart early necessitating a night spent near the airport.
It’s important for a Costa Rica guide to consider this and find reasonable accommodation options, but a series of forced choices between the lesser of evils doesn’t hold much promise of praise for exceptionally good advice. Heredia and Alajuela haven’t left this professional travel adviser feeling terribly competent and San José looms even dirtier and noisier in the future.
This afternoon though, something happened that made me realize a lot of the feeling was coming from inside.
I was in the Banco Nacional de Costa Rica and the teller had just returned from a hushed conversation with the manager. It appeared, he explained politely, that my passport bore no signature and the bank would be unable to confirm my identity or cash my traveler’s checks.
I’d felt clever when I noticed the impending expiration and applied for a replacement well in advance. I didn’t feel so clever now that it was pointed out to me that I’d neglected to sign the new passport when it arrived.
I signed the passport and produced credit and debit cards, my drivers license and a number of other documents bearing the identical signature but the teller said he was sorry and there was no way the bank could know it wasn’t all part of an elaborate check washing scheme.
It was quite ridiculous, but it was also quite obviously my fault. As I left I felt like there was a caption hanging over my head “professional travel writer runs short on cash and abandons trip because no one will accept his traveler’s checks.”
After walking a block to the Scotia Bank to cash the checks with my freshly signed passport I was comforting myself with the fact that they had a better exchange rate by 2 colones and didn’t charge any commission when I realized that before I was a “professional” traveler I would have found the situation quite amusing.
Much of my unease was coming from a sense that everything should be perfect from professionals. Of course that’s a load of crap.
Opportunities to make the perfect recommendation are rare so we strive for clear, fair, honest, practical and perceptive instead. Mistakes are learning experiences and if they’re ironic or humorous they can be entertaining as well.
We are competent and will do the best we can to provide accurate helpful guidance. Since we’re not perfect, we also ask that you pardon our errors, and if you can, provide us with the information to correct them.