Why It’s Important to Travel…At Least Once A Year!


Photo: Jason Gebauer Photography

I’ve had the bug since I was three months old. My father was in the military for twenty years, and shortly after I was born I was off to Germany. Though I can’t recall any moments from the trip, it set the stage for my future.

Fast forward 30 years and I just landed back in Denver, Colorado from a wonderful trip in Costa Rica. Ten days in Costa Rica during the rainy season is enough to bring anyone to their knees, and for me it changed everything. A large part of my travels have always been your typical “touristy” trips; museums, the big cities, that sort of thing. This was different…much different. The trip took us from coffee plantations, coastal sunsets, and volcanoes to rock climbing with the locals. One of the members of the trip had been to Costa Rica before and had made several friends, and with these friends we left the capital of San Jose, driving to a coffee cooperative. Here I learned the real ins and outs of what goes into producing coffee, how hard the work really is, and got to spend time in the beautiful town of San Marcos, which rarely gets visitors.


The view above San Jose, Costa Rica (Photo: Jason Gebauer Photography)

After leaving the coffee-rich region near San Marcos, Manuel Antonio National Park was next on the list. The drive there was out of this world, with jungle mountain tops masked in clouds, jungle sounds with the smell of fresh rain, and our crew in a car, on our own on the back roads of Costa Rica. No tour guide, no safety net…nothing. A few hours later we arrived in the beach town of Manuel Antonio. This is definitely a tourist destination, but the park here is beyond compare. We set out at 6am, hitting the park and its beaches before anyone else arrived. The feeling of warm Pacific water, sounds echoing from the jungle-lined cove, was incredible. The fact that not one other person was there with us made it too unreal.


The sunrise in Manuel Antonio National Park (Photo: Jason Gebauer Photography)

Two days later we were back in the car heading north, stopping at roadside stands buying fruit and trying all sorts of fruit drinks and snacks. Our destination was La Fortuna, a small town that sits in the shadow of the Arenal Volcano. With it being the rainy season, the clouds were socked in and visibility was poor. With no chance of seeing the amazing sites, we took to the car to just drive and see what we could find. We lucked out: amazing coffee shops, butterfly sanctuaries, and locals telling us about their lives.

After our jaunts through the jungles we set out back to San Jose. Our two friends had gone their separate ways and it was just me and my boyfriend. We were going to meet his friend who was a local, or “tica” in Spanish. We spent four days with her, eating and drinking beer with the locals, checking out sites that no tourists travel to, and salsa dancing ’til the wee hours of the morning. It felt good. We didn’t need to be treated like tourists, as we ate with the ticos and enjoyed the company of friends while learning the culture of Costa Rica.


Jamming out with the locals (Photo: Jason Gebauer Photography)

The last and final adventure of the trip was climbing in Pico Blanco. My boyfriend and I are both climbers, so when he reached out to other climbers in Costa Rica we were beyond excited. Pico Blanco is simple and nothing special to the eye; however, it overlooks San Jose and is a beautiful piece of rock. My boyfriend Jason (of Jason Gebauer Photography) arranged a trip with Paloma Filloy, a climber living in San Jose. She was more than excited to take us to the spot and climb with us–and we were even more excited as we found out we were the first Americans to climb it! Setting out at 7am, we drove up a mountain, hiked through a steep cow pasture, and arrived at the newly developed climbing area, the Pico Blanco crag.


Rappelling down Pico Blanco as the clouds roll in to the rainforest (Photo: Jason Gebauer Photography)

One of the most amazing moments of the trip occurred on our descent from the climb. Walking back through the rainforest it started to rain–and I mean heavy rain. Walking through this lush green land with warm rain, slipping in the mud, sliding down the hillside…it summed it all up. It wasn’t about just visiting a country, it was about exploring a country. Yes, we were wet, covered in mud, and had a long walk back to the car, but it meant something more: it put why I travel into a whole new light.


Photo: Jason Gebauer Photography

Over the years, the people I’ve met and places I’ve traveled to have impacted me. Through learning their stories, their culture, and their way of life, it has made me more open. It attracts me and drives me to see more of the world. I know that renting a car and driving down jungle roads isn’t for everyone, and yes, it can be scary, but when its all over, the experience is something that no one else has. That experience is unique to you, and I guarantee you will never, ever forget it. So, the next time you think about traveling, find your adventure and don’t look back.

Have you had a life-changing travel experience that you would like to share on the WinterWomen blog? Let us know in the comments below! 


What’s your next adventure? (Photo: Jason Gebauer Photography)


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Heather is a Pennsylvania native raised near an old coal-mining town. She has been traveling the world since she was 3 months old. Her destination was Germany and the list continued from the great Swiss Alps to the stunning Taj Mahal. In visiting these countries at a younger age – the wilderness, camping, climbing, and skiing was not in the picture, but she knew there was always something missing. It wasn’t until her mid-twenties when she returned back to her of roots of PA that it clicked and everything came full circle. Heather now resides in the grand state of Colorado (which every person should) to take on the mountains and climb every face CO has to offer.

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2 Responses to “Why It’s Important to Travel…At Least Once A Year!”

  1. Maya in Miami June 30, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

    I could not agree with you more! I have a similar life story: I was born in Germany and my parents move to the States when I was a few months old (well, I guess technically it’s an inversion of your story!). We lived in numerous cities and always made time for travel. It was such an enriching way to grow up! When I was in college, I had to scale things back a little bit, because I also worked while in school. However, now that I have my degree, I am ready to reinstate the travel habits of my childhood. I feel like something is missing without it!

    Reading this post was very inspiring to me, because I feel like THIS is what travel is all about. Seeing how the locals live, being the first Americans to do something, seeing what life is really like in a given culture… So amazing! Here’s to making sure my next trip is the same way 🙂

  2. WinterWomen
    Jackie July 9, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    Thank you for sharing- We’re very happy this inspired you! Yes, go out and enjoy this world, even if its only an hour away from where you live. Find some place you’ve never been before, and experience the raw beauty that presents itself. If you do have a travel story you would like to share with us, we would love to hear about it (we might even post it on our blog!). Feel free to message us at support@winterwomen.com 🙂

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