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FIERCE ANTICIPATION: The Michael Gutenplan Edition II


a substitute blogumn by Michael Gutenplan

It is rumored that Ryan Dixon is trekking to the South Pole, tracing the steps of famed explorer Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen. So in his absence I will be sharing with you the joys and occasional sorrows of a family vacation to Costa Rica and the newfound joys of unemployment.



Photo Credit: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Photo Credit: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

A few weeks ago I received word from my boss that my last day of work is going to be April 16th.  Let me clarify — I have been looking for a new job since August and have had a few good interviews, and I told my boss that I thought it would be a good idea to set an end date, but I was thinking a few months — not a few weeks.  Well, all good things must come to an end, so two weeks ago my replacement started and since then I have been enjoying my life.

I am anxious to find my next job. After all, unemployment will cut my income in half and I actually like working, but I am making the most of my newfound life.  I have made a pledge to enjoy every minute of unemployment.  Whether it’s traveling California, catching up on TV and movies or exercising, I will not let this time go to waste… but right now I think I’m going to just relax and thank goodness I had a family trip to Costa Rica already planned- what a great way to start my pseudo-retirement.

You should want to do this- it was awesome!

1A family vacation is never something to jump up and down about.  There is always going to be fights, frustration and (if you’re the only son that’s not married) sharing a room with your grandmother. But, on the other hand it is always nice to spend some quality time with the family.

My mother, after copious research, had booked my family (my brother and his wife, mother and step father, me and my grandmother) for five nights at the Paradisus Playa Conchal Resort in Costa Rica.  This all-inclusive resort is huge, over 2400 acres, eight international dining options, five bars, a huge and spectacular lagoon-style pool with and a separate adults only Royal Service pool.  In addition there is a golf course, spa tennis courts and daily activates.

At check in, my family was excited to learn that we had been upgraded to the Royal Service section of the resort.  This is the adults-only area which includes a separate pool, a dedicated bar, a special restaurant for lunch and the most unique part, an actual butler!  With mango and Champagne cocktails in hand and a smile on everyone’s face, our week of relaxation had begun.

You should book your tickets now!

Conchal_Hotel-BrasilitoI can understand the fear of booking a trip to an all-inclusive resort.  Lots of people, including myself, enjoy exploring the country they’re in but I have to say, just relaxing was, well, relaxing.  Every day I would wake up, eat a breakfast of fresh fruit and juices along with delicious Costa Rican coffee and than spend the day relaxing in the pool, walking the beach, enjoying the 80-degree ocean water, exploring the resort or talking to fellow guests.  As mentioned earlier, I like to explore, so one day I walked along the beach to the sleepy town of Brasilito where I had a beer with the local American ex-pat’s.  It was interesting to talk to the one American who had left his life of union labor to enjoy his new slower-paced life.  I also enjoyed the free water-sports. I tried to windsurf, but couldn’t even get the sail up, so I switched to a small sailboat and soared over the ocean for about an hour. Sunburn aside, it was the most relaxing thing I did the whole trip — nothing compares to the silence and joy of sailing on the ocean.

You should book your tickets now!


One of the highlights of the trip was our riverboat ride on the Tempisque River along the border to the Palo Verde NationalPark.  Monkeys, Crocodiles, Bats, Iguanas and all sorts of birds were viewed up close on this unique look into the Costa Rican jungle. Don’t think that this was an scary, exploration… that it was not. I would say it was one step more real than the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland.  The crocodiles swam right up to the boat and the monkeys posed for pictures.  Wild- yes. Adventurous- no.  Nevertheless it was a thrill to see my grandmother pose with a monkey and see a wild crocodile.  The best part of this portion of our trip was not the riverboat ride itself but what happened before we got there.

Arriving 45 minutes before the other group that would be joining us, our tour guide had set us up with a local to show us some of the real wildlife in the jungle.  What a treat it was to be driven to what appeared to be some random area only to discover a group of wild Scarlet Macaws.  Eating their lunch of fresh mangos from the tree, these majestic birds took our breath away with their amazing colors, massive size and awe inspiring presence.  I’m not often speechless but words cannot describe how exciting it was to see these birds in the wild.  In addition to seeing the birds, a few bats and some monkeys our tour guide gave us a few wild mangos from the floor. After a moments thought my whole family started to eat the mangos and they were the most juicy, tastiest mangos we have ever had.  I can never go back to my Trader Joes mangos ever again.

All good things have to come to an end…

Notwithstanding the few moments of frustration that will always come during a family vacation, this was a wonderful relaxing trip. I actually do love spending time with my family, but only a limited amount of time. However, all good things must come to an end and on the last night of my trip, after packing up all my belongings and preparing for the very long flight home, I found out that someone had broken into my hotel room while I was at dinner and stolen the money from my wallet and my camera.

All the pictures of my trip were now gone.

The memories of my grandmother with the monkey, the sunset over the beach and the iguana perched on the rock now only live in my mind. I understand that the person stealing my stuff is in a rush but couldn’t he/she have taken out the memory card from the camera and left it with me. If I stole your camera I wouldn’t steal your memories with it.  Sure I filled out a incident report with the hotel but they also had me sign a sheet of paper that said in big bold letters: NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR LOST OR STOLEN ITEMS.

So, my money and camera were gone, but my memories are strong.  Who needs pictures and money when I have the memory of total relaxation surrounded by my family.