Q: You recently celebrated a very special birthday in Costa Rica with family and friends. How did this come about?
A: I wanted something very different to mark my 60th and I wanted it to involve travel. A sister of mine spent two weeks in Tamarindo last year and said we could rent houses there and it would be just like going to the cottage in the summer but instead it would be the tropics in winter! In fact, one of her colleagues had rented a house there and raved about it. So I threw out her suggestion to other family and friends and immediately about 10 people said they were interested. That number increased significantly as we got closer to the date.
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Q: Did you have particular concerns?
A: There was a real mix of people and some did not know my family at all or at least not very well. There was also a great range in age from infants to grandparents. They were coming from different parts of Canada so flights could not be coordinated. Some were staying longer and travelling further so opted to fly to San Jose, while others were flying to Liberia, which is about an hour’s drive from Tamarindo.
A number were very experienced travellers while others had never gone beyond an all-inclusive resort. Most are very independent people so the group thing had to be minimal.
Q: So what did you do?
A: I contacted the woman who looked after the recommended properties and she really made it work for me. First of all, she has an excellent website that contains pictures and a description of her house, Casa de Valencia, as well as the other houses on the property. There is lots of information on her website about how to get there and what to see. As questions came up she was quick to respond by email. When our numbers increased and we needed to rent places outside that compound, she helped with that also.
Q: How much responsibility did you take in organizing this?
A: I felt very responsible for I wanted it all to work well. People were putting out a lot of money and I wanted everyone to be happy. However, I had to be reminded that there was only so much I could do. So I focussed on providing others with links to information and letting them decide for themselves.
Q: What worked best?
A: Staying in houses and condos really was a great choice. It gave us maximum flexibility. And the only two events that were scheduled were a catered celebration in one of the houses and a birthday dinner at an inexpensive restaurant on the beach. Other than that, everyone could do what they wanted to do.
Some were there for one week, others for almost three. Some evenings a few of us got together and had a barbeque by the pool and it felt just like we were at the cottage. Some cooked most of their meals while others preferred to eat out.
The beach is just across the street so easy to get to. It only takes a few minutes to walk to town if you go along the beach. There are lots of taxis around if you have a load of groceries to bring back or it is too late at night to walk.
I would get up early each morning to walk the beach and often met others and we’d stop for a cup of coffee and occasionally bring back fresh croissants from the bakery for all to share. We played scrabble, took surfing lessons, swam in the pool, read novels, and just hung out. A few were off on regular expeditions while others stayed close to home.
Q: If you were to change anything, what would it be?
A: This was the first time I did anything like this and if I were to do it again I wouldn’t worry so much. What is most important is to identify a destination that will suit the group and can be reached fairly easily and for a price that is reasonable. Then look for properties. If others say they’re interested, start digging deeper and provide everyone with information to help them make informed decisions.
It was a wonderful birthday filled with many special memories. Actually, if I were to change anything I would have stayed longer than two weeks. I will certainly return.
© Riding the buses 2011