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  • Writer's pictureperrinconrad

Stung by the travel bug in Costa Rica

When I was young and single some, uh, years ago, I moved home to South Carolina from Atlanta because I had quit a job in a moment of I-can't-take-it-anymore. My parents had bought a franchise and opened a travel agency, and my dad expressed a hope that I would come to work with them. Okay, I said, it would be fun. And I literally had nothing else on my plate at the time.

One of the trips I took over the next couple of years was specifically for travel agents to check out Costa Rica. I went alone, not knowing a soul on the trip, and agreed to room with a lady I had never met. As it turned out, she was a super nice agency owner from Tennessee, and I was lucky to be paired with her.

As an only child, maybe I was more accustomed to doing things on my own, but I was also sheltered and taught to watch my surroundings, to protect myself. My son recently said to me, "Mommy, why are you so helicopterish?" I answered, "I learned from the best." True story. When I was warned by my parents against certain activities, it was always with the threat of the worst case scenario occurring.

So after spending the first night of the trip at the Blue Bay Papagayo resort, we were loading into the bus to head to the next destination. I saw what appeared to be a reddish wasp floating through the line in front of me, and then he disappeared. An instant later, I said, "Ow!" a little too loudly, as I was sure a dagger was being driven into my thigh. I looked down to see the wasp diabolically glaring up at me, with its backside planted in my flesh. I swatted it from my leg to the ground then stomped the life out of it. But man, it hurt. That sucker made a hole and drew some blood. Concerned but not alarmed, I boarded the bus and took my seat next to my roommate.

About 5 miles down the road, my roommate and I agreed something needed to be done about the swelling and pain that was increasing. And then it hit me. I've been stung by a mysterious foreign bug, and I'm going to have to be treated at a local hospital, and I speak no Spanish. I'm going to die here, on the Pacific coast of Central America. Because I think like that, thanks to my parents.

But my roommate remembered that tobacco can draw the poison out of a sting, so she asked our tour guide (cute, single guy, but I had ruled out any romantic possibilities because he smoked like a chimney) if he could spare one of his cigarettes for first aid. We tore it open, used my bottled water to wet the tobacco, and I held it on my sting for a while. And darn if it didn't just save my life. Well, it worked just like it would have on an American wasp sting at home, anyway. The swelling went down, the redness went away, the pain was gone, and I forgot all about that wasp for the rest of my trip. Magic! No local hospital trip needed.

But if I had needed that local Spanish speaking hospital, I thankfully had travel insurance to cover it. Crisis was averted for that time, but I like to be prepared. And I do have particularly vivid memories of the places I visited on that trip, so who knows? Maybe it was because Costa Rica is PURA VIDA, just like they say? Ow maybe that venom had something a little bit trippy in it? Based on pictures I have seen, I think it was an executioner wasp, which has a more painful sting than the murder hornet. Whether it was actually from a wasp sting or the amazing scenery and energy in Costa Rica, that was definitely a time in my life where I came to see travel as oxygen. I have to go places, and I have to do it regularly. Can't wait to get back out there. Who's with me?

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