In my MTV Real World intro voice: 7 strangers decided to go on a trip… To find out what it’s like… To travel with random people… To random places…
There’s a variety of reasons I could give to explain why I decided to take Darnell Lamont Walker up on his offer. Do understand I had never met him face-to-face prior to June 27, 2016. Honestly, I was ready to go somewhere. I didn’t care where, but wherever IT was had to be out the country. A friend of mine had texted the link to Passport Required and I was hooked. That same friend was supposed to go, but then, and as, usual life happened.
I signed up with not a clue of what to expect. Now, I did do a little recognizance before giving Darnell hundreds of dollars. According to FB, we had 2 mutual friends, with a degree of separation close enough to gain me access to his people IF I needed to hunt him down if he didn’t act right with my money. You know, since I’m a thug and all. Can’t tell you how many times I revisited the site before I sent my deposit, but I finally did it just before the deadline.
Third. Best. Decision. Ever. <– a meal and a piña colada will get you the other two.
Passport Required: Costa Rica 2016 has to be the best trip to date. Yes, it was my first one and I'm biased. My hope is that through this survival guide, you'll be encouraged to take part in the movement.
Tip #1: Don’t be scared AND get out your feelings.
Know: Darnell isn’t out to kill you. At least he didn’t try to kill any of us. He’s a cool dude that spoke my language: ball-on-a-budget!
Now, raise your hand if the following applies to you:
I’m ready to travel, but __________.
The unknown can create an uneasy feeling. Please believe I was nervous as $#!+. Don’t let that anxiety keep you from experiencing life. I’m telling you, while you wait on a friend to go somewhere, he/she is living theirs. Go live yours! If I had listened to my feelings, I wouldn’t have checked off so many items from my “try-one-day list” on just one trip. Within 48 hours I had zip lined, rock climbed, seen a waterfall, driven a jet ski into the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and rinsed off what we hope was volcanic mud in a hot spring. Pura Vida!
Tip #2: “Paaack Light” ~Erykah Badu
Know: You can’t call Tyrone and only YOU will carry your ___!
I didn’t listen, and I heard that melodic voice play in my head as we trekked through airports, as we journeyed through the streets of NYC/Queens, and damn near any time we had to get ready. Once the destination is revealed and you research the weather, realize you won’t need every item you think you’ll need. We were in Costa Rica and staying in a hostel. Fashion wasn’t the priority, experience was. My wardrobe mainly consisted of Dri-Fit/workout gear and comfortable shoes. Clearance at Target is THEE BEST!
If you become a backpacker like most of us did, travel packing cubes are your friend. They want to bless you and make carrying what you need for the week an easy task. Also, I’d suggest a lock for your bag. Stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Amazon.com were places I tapped into for needed, affordable travel gear. NECK PILLOW. If the packing cubes are your friend, the neck pillow is manna from heaven. The sleeps (I know, I teach) I had on the planes were comparable to the sleep a newborn baby gets after momma feeds and rocks her. Remember: NECK PILLOW!
Tip #3: Be YOU/ Open your mouth and speak
Know: These people don’t know you.
I ran out of f!%#s back in the spring of 2014 and I’ve successfully been unable to find one since. Going on a trip with 6 former strangers to stay with even more strangers at a hostel in an unfamiliar land was an awesome experience. Planet Fitness would be proud of the no judgment zone. If there was judgment, refer back to the first sentence of tip #3.
Seriously though, I hadn’t heard much about hostels except from horror movies. Hospedaje Dodero was clean and provided our basic needs: beds, shower, and an outdoor kitchen. Took my first outdoor shower there. Mommas around the world rejoiced when we came together to cook, cleanup after ourselves, and even hung freshly washed clothes on the line. Me folding the draws (I grew up in FL) of people I barely knew makes us family now. CMB… We all we got!
In one little backyard kitchen/dining room, people from across the U.S., Canada, France, and other locales shared stories of travels, offered suggestions, ate and drank together, and played games. Have you ever heard French Trap Music? Google it. It is very real and quite interesting.
I’m an introvert at heart, but I know how to play extrovert when necessary. The stories heard and the connections made only added to the rich experience of this trip. People aren’t as isolated or standoffish as I once thought. Genuinely good folks want to explore the world and see new things just like me and you. Nike that thang!
To my fellow travelers: if you make the time and have the money, GO! Whether you’re brave enough to go through Passport Required or some other means, listen to James Brown and get up off that thing. Greater is out there. Grab your backpack ( include two weeks worth of underwear, deodorant, and febreeze) and get lost in a new place. You’ll thank yourself later.
To Darnell: I have to disagree with Kevin Durant and say that Darnell, YOU’RE THE REAL MVP! Ain’t no way in hell the me 5 years ago would’ve trusted this process, and I’m glad I’ve grown from that. Keep being you and don’t forget to keep your mouth closed on the train. The revolution will not be televised!