Getting Free Accommodation: My Workaway in San Jose, Costa Rica

Workaway.  An easy way to experience the culture, community and language of the place you want to go. Not to mention, a free bed, and near instantaneous travel family. When I found the site, I immediately began to type in the names of cities I wanted to visit and countries I had never been. I paid the $30 registration fee (it’s good for a year!) and started perusing the site see what would pique my interests.

I found one Workaway in Coffs Harbour, Australia, and another one in San Jose, Costa Rica. Each Workaway job and location is different. I knew I wanted to work in hostels, so I searched specifically for postings needing volunteers to help in hostels.

In Coffs Harbour, I volunteered for about two hours a day with 3 or 4 other travelers. We were responsible for cleaning the hostel. After only two hours in the mornings, we were finished with our work and were able to explore the areas around us. This was perfect, as the hostel was close to beaches and hiking trails. We worked everyday, and the hours were somewhat flexible. We shared rooms with the guests, and we were able to blend in.

Here, in San Jose, the Workaway is different. First and foremost, I am at Aldea Hostel in San Jose. This hostel has a restaurant and bar: The Corner Pizzeria. There are four volunteers and we share a dorm together. We have our own bathroom facilities, and our own space. We work about six hours four consecutive days a week. Our first two days, we work the night shift, and therefore we don’t need to be back until 3 or 4 pm.  Our last two days we work the morning shift. Our hostel is attached to a restaurant and we are able to work there at night; whereas, during the day, we clean the hostel and make beds.

I’m a big fan of the schedule I have in San Jose. The three consecutive days off are able to be used to explore new places in Costa Rica. The hostel is only a twenty minute walk to the bus station and San Jose is centrally located. The Workaway at Aldea is different: working is actually a lot of fun, and the staff are friendly.  I’m really enjoying my time here, and it feels like I have a home base here in Costa Rica.

Although I do have to pay for the accommodation I need when I take my weekend trips, (so far, I’ve been to Tamarindo, and La Fortuna– keep an eye out for these upcoming posts!) I can choose to stay in San Jose on my days off and my accommodation is included. I get a thirty percent discount on the food and drinks in the restaurant, and there’s a kitchen I share with the guests. This Workaway has been a great experience so far, and I highly recommend it.



On Being Home: An Apology

Going from the summer weather in New Zealand to the freezing Winter temperatures of New England jarred my brain.  Almost as soon as I landed, my newsfeed on facebook buzzed with articles on both the wacky New England weather patterns, and political polarity plaguing the United States right now.

And, although this is usually a blog dedicated to travel, adventure, and personal growth, I want to take a post to say: I’m sorry.

I’m sorry. 

I’m so sorry that the figurehead of my country has been swapping insults over twitter with the leader of North Korea. I’m sorry that he speaks of women as if they are objects. I’m sorry that he continuously speaks in an uncouth and blase manner about race, poverty and inequity.

Most recently, his comment about ‘* * * *hole countries.’ As a traveler I am both appalled and disturbed that his words are being broadcast into the world and that this is what Americans are being presented as. I’m sorry that this is happening.

And, although I am powerless to do anything on a macro-level to change what he says or what the American government does, please know that on a micro-level there are many Americans, Americans just like me, who’s jaws drop in shock and dismay when we hear about President Trump’s newest tidbit of wisdom.

Furthermore, I understand that as a white, heterosexual female, I have been part of the problem and have benefited from privileges in the USA associated with being white and female. I want to admit that. And I want to say, that even if I do not know all the answers, I hope that someday the USA will be a bastion of opportunity- real opportunity- and that all citizens will have access to that opportunity.

And, I hope, that if you are reading this, you can take this as a sincere apology from one horrified American, to the many people that our President is offending on a regular basis.


Singapore: The Basics


Gardens. Clean streets. Organization. Wide roads. Sedans.

This was as different from Indonesia as could possibly be.

My budget for my entire for days in Singapore was $100.00 USD including accommodations.

Naturally, I booked an uber. My hostel was $12 USD a night, leaving me with $64 USD for the rest of the week.


In Singapore, they use Singaporean Dollars. Ten Singaporean dollars is about $7.30 USD. This meant that after the Uber, I had about 80 Singaporean dollars to spend.


After the initial Uber, I either walked or took public transit. It was efficient and effective. Additionally, I was able to see a lot of Singapore. My hostel also arranged free airport transfers.


Singapore, compared to both Bali and Seoul, felt very western. It was clean, well-lit, and organized. The place I stayed was the cheapest place I could find. I would recommend splurging for a nicer place.


In Singapore, everyone spoke enough English to communicate effectively.


I ate in every night. Coincidentally, another American offered me 5 Singaporean dollars to cook for him, and for the rest of the time, I was able to cook for people in the hostel, which covered my groceries for the duration of my stay.



The Flight To Singapore and My Irrational Fear of Flying

I hate flying, especially in Asia. It seems like this is at odds with my wanderlust, but there’s just something about what would happen in the unlikely event of a plane crash.

I’ve googled it. Bad things would happen. None of these things are in my locus of control. I’ve briefly considered purchasing a parachute, as ridiculous as this sounds, but really, the odds of me jumping out of a falling plane successfully are definitely slim.

“Alycia, if you miss the flight to Singapore, then you miss Thailand, and then you miss Australia and New Zealand, and your carefully-crafted plans… well they go to shit, don’t they?” I continued to reason with myself, “You know, a plane crash is statistically less likely than a car crash, and you drive cars all the time without this irrational fear. Also, the pilot wants to get home to his family, what motive could he possibly have to not do a great job being a pilot?”

So, eventually, I got on the plane. I tried not to think about the recent ride from Perth, which was forced to turn around after dropping 20000 feet. Tried not to think about the plane that disappeared in the ocean. Belatedly googled scoot airlines. They are apparently a subsidiary of Singapore’s airline. Bad entertainment reviews. But, higher ratings than AirAsia. I had heard horror stories about AirAsia.

I have a flight with them coming up. I try not to think of it.

Singapore’s strict though. You get fined for chewing gum, littering and they have the death penalty for drugs . I figured it had to be one of the safer airlines in Asia.

Still, my heart skipped a beat as the plane took off. I start to pray under my breath. Recite Bible Verses.

“Fear is the opposite of faith.” I say to myself, trying not to think about the drop that would occur in the event of a sudden engine failure.

Man, I hate flying.

To make matters worse, the plane lurched while we were in the air.

The loudspeaker crackled on. I look at the flight attendants. They are unfazed. No fear in their faces. I check the overhead. No oxygen masks. A good sign, I presume.

“I’m sorry for the turbulence.” The pilot speaks some more, “A plane has flown over us, and I am checking in with air traffic control now.”

I really don’t understand why I can’t just sleep  through these flights. I count the people. I estimate there are at least 130 people on this engine. And children. These children are less scared then I am. I take a look back at the kids behind me. They are smiling.

I just close my eyes and try to fall asleep.

Even so, I am beyond relieved when the plane touches the ground I quickly google ‘turbulence,’ on my phone. Apparently, this is a normal part of flying.

I am relieved to have my feet on the ground.

Ubud: Food, Silver, A Hindu Temple and The Monkey Forest

“I was bitten by a monkey.”

“WHATTTT!?” my eyes widened.

My friend Michelle and I had met in Boston, at my kickboxing gym. She was kind enough to invite me out in Bali, and as she is a native Indonesian, she knows things about the country that I don’t.

Like, for example, this monkey forest. Also, the beautiful restaurant we were in, and the following restaurants we would visit later.

“I mean it really wasn’t that big of a deal, I went to the doctor’s got some shots or whatever, and, like, it’s fine. We were also advised not to bring any snacks or whatever in our bags.”

In front of us were three deserts. Something caramel, a molten chocolate lava cake, and ice cream with raspberry sauce. I had shown up late (taxis in Indonesia can be tricky, and the traffic, horrendous).

I knew I had to see this place. The place where monkeys roam.

Monkeys from the Monkey Forest in Ubud

After a night of festivities, I went back to my hostel and asked around.

“Have any of you been to the Monkey Forest in Ubud? How much is it? And how far is it away?”

Every single person at my hostel had been to Ubud. It was about 500000 rupiahs to rent a car for a day and head there.

My entire budget was about $200 USD. I couldn’t justify going solo, so I consoled myself with a surfing lesson.

About seven days later, I ended up in Kuta.

This is where everything began to fall into place.

When I arrived, everyone was exhausted from Sky Gardens. This time when I asked, I got seven people to agree to split the cost.

This was the best-case scenario.

Me posing with frog statues outside of the Silversmith.

In the end, six of us ended up going to Ubud, with the destination being the monkey forest. Me, and the ‘Mad Lads,’ a group of dudes who had spent the past six months harvesting bananas in Australia.

Six months of harvesting bananas could drive anyone mad.

So, the next day, we piled into a car with a hired driver, and began our journey to the monkey forest.

As we pulled onto the highway, we passed a motor-scooterist texting and scootering.

“This place is another world.” I muttered.

“I’m glad I’m not driving,” someone from the back said.

The Entrance to the Silversmith.

Our driver pulled off and showed us a factory where native Indonesians hand-crafted jewelry. No one wore safety goggles.

Then, we piled back into the car, and went back into the unpredictable traffic. Another scooter driver drove on the edge of the road, clearly on the wrong side.

“I’m so glad I don’t have to drive.”

The Entrance to the Hindu Temple

We stopped at a Hindu temple, and wore sarongs to get in.

We then stopped for a brief lunch.

Finally, we made it to the monkey forest.

This place did not disappoint. Monkeys were everywhere. We stepped into the forest and large sculptures greeted us.

Monkeys flew from tree to tree, and little monkeys screeched for their mothers.

Jordan, one of the lads, figured out that he could get a monkey to sit on him by holding food in his hand.

“Quick take a picture!” I snapped a couple.

Keven quickly followed suit.

Remembering my friend Michelle, I suspected this was risky business.

I sat next to a group of monkeys.

“Hey, get a picture of this!” I sat down, and tried to face the camera.


A monkey jumped onto my bag.

“Eeek!!” I screeched, and sat back down and chuckled nervously. They hadn’t gotten me, but I was still thinking about rabies. My brain is strange like that.

We piled back into the van after about an hour and a half of playing with, and watching the monkeys.

“Want to go to Sky Gardens for dinner?”

We quickly agreed that this would be our course of action and piled back into the van.

It was a day well-spent.



Kuta: If you Want to Party…

Kuta gets a bad rap.

Nobody I’ve spoken too has been thrilled about Kuta.  It has a reputation for being wild, drunken, and rowdy.

I decided to stay for two nights, because it’s close to the airport, and I wanted to see for myself if the rumors were true.

I booked a proper party hostel, with a pool, located right next to sky gardens. What is Sky gardens?

Either the best or worst idea ever to come to Bali.

For a measly 120,000 Rupiah, from 5pm-9pm it is all you can eat and drink. That means essentially for less than $12.00 USD all of your food- and drinks- are covered. It was located about 5 minutes from my hostel.

What happens at Sky Gardens?

So, the food is decent enough. I had fresh fruit and vegetables, along with shish kebab while I was there. There are themed nights. Everyone gets together and hangs out for a while while they are there.

There is a decent selection of drinks there as well. When I first got there, I assumed that there would be only wine and beer. That’s available. But, so are cocktails. The only limit between the hours of 5pm-9pm is that you can only grab two drinks at a time.

The restaurant/club has several floors. Both nights, I started at the highest floor. each floor has different music types, and therefore; different types of people.

If you love dancing, Sky Gardens in Kuta is definitely the place to go.

But what if I don’t want to Dance?

So, Kuta is good for dancing. It’s good for going out with friends. It’s good for eating, shopping, and drinking. The beaches are beautiful, but they are very crowded.

All in all, two days is plenty of time to experience Kuta.

Canggu: Land of My Favorite Beaches

Beach at Canggu

Canggu is a section of Bali that is less touristy than the rest of the area. It’s cheaper than Kuta, and the beaches are far less crowded. This is where I stayed every night for a mere $2.00.

Additionally, surfing lessons with board rentals, wetsuits, water, sunscreen and instructors cost about $25-30 USD.

While I was in Canggu I spent literally everyday at the beach, soaking up the sun’s rays, learning to surf, and sipping water from coconuts.

An amazing meal I had for about 80000 Rupiah

Food was cheap as well. Every night, I spent less then $10 USD on food, and was filled the entire time.

I highly recommend Canggu for people who want to relax and go to the beach.

Bali Basics

When I was first traveling to Indonesia, I knew nothing about it. In fact, I only faintly suspected it was safe after hearing a bunch of Australians rave about the wonders of Bali.

Plus, I got my frequent flier ticket through Delta Sky


miles for a solid $5.80. And, 45,000 miles. This was about 15000 miles less than a ticket to Sydney, Australia.

So, if you are like me, and no nothing about Bali, here’s some basic knowledge to help you out.


Bali is insanely cheap. I spent about $150.00 USD for the entire 8 days I was there. And, if I had known what I know now, I could have spent even less. (I spent about $540,000 Rupiah on taxis, before I knew about Uber, Grabcar and that haggling was culturally acceptable.

In Bali, the currency is Rupiah. 1 Rupiah is 0.0001 USD. So, every 10,000 rupiah is equal to $1.00 USD. In context, this means that you can literally buy a meal in Bali for about fifty cents in USD. Even the most expensive places I went did not exceed $10.00 USD.


Bali is funny with transit. I assumed that I would be able to get a taxi, that roads were normal sized, and that it would be easy to navigate.

I was wrong.

In Bali, everyone drives on the left side of the road, like Australia and the United Kingdom. Roads are narrow; some are only six feet wide. Additionally, there are no sidewalks.

The only way to get around Bali effectively is by renting a motor scooter.  This will enable you to access everything you need. You can rent one for an entire month for between 400,000-600,0000 Rupiahs (about $30-$45 USD) or by day for about 50,000 Rupiahs: a little less than $5.00.

Uber and Grabcar are available in certain areas; however, the taxi drivers in Bali aren’t excited about these new services, to put it mildly, so be cautious about who you ask about it.


I stayed in a small, clean and well-kept hostel called Beachbums Berawa ten minutes walk from the beach. The cost per night was $1.74-$2.10 a night. Thus, I spent about $14.00 for six days at this hostel in Canggu.

I stayed in Kuta  (Captain Goose Hostel) for two nights as well; however, Kuta is more expensive, touristy and busy. My hostel in Kuta had a pool, and was located near many shops and restaurants. It wasn’t quite as clean as the first hostel, but offered a lot for activities.


If I could go back and do it again, I would spend a month, not just in Bali, but in Indonesia. There are so many things to do, and places to see. I spent my time in 3 main areas: Canggu, Kuta and Ubud.

However, there are so many places to see. The Gili Islands, Komodo Island, and Flores are supposed to be beautiful. Which brings me to my next point.


Indonesia is better if you spend extra time in the country, and plan when you get there. The thing is, it’s difficult to pre-book the boats necessary to get from place to place, and on top of that, some places deserve more time than is allotted.

Most of the places I learned about were learned about once I arrived and not before arriving.



Indonesia: The First Night

The humidity smacked my face. South Korea had been chilly, not the finger-numbing type of cold that New Englanders suffer from throughout the Winter, but chilly enough to make use of my jeans and a T-Shirt.

Indonesia, not so much.

I took out 500,000 Rupiahs (about $36.00). Hopped into a taxi. Closed my eyes.

Oh wait. In Indonesia, they drive on the left side of the road. I probably won’t die.

Scooter drivers flew, clocking speeds that would make my mother flinch. This is one country I would not be driving in.

Typical Road in the Canggu Region of Bali.

After a harrowing hour-long driving through the chaotic streets, I finally arrived at my hostel, which cost a whopping $2.91 a night. As I walked in, I noticed geckos on the wall. Apparently this is a sign of good luck.

I remembered that from a trip to Miami three years ago.

I walked upstairs to my room. Tossed my stuff on the floor. Changed into a dress, because I had worn leggings and a sweatshirt on the plane, and that wouldn’t work in this humidity.

Roads in Indonesia, are narrow. This is why everyone drives a motor scooter. Food was on the itinerary. Luckily, less than four meters away, there was a small shop selling fried rice, costing about $1.00 for a large portion. I had that.

Upon ingesting my fried rice, I fell asleep in my cheap, clean and bright four bed dormitory.

Switzerland: The Basics


The View from the Bürgenstock in Lucerne, Switzerland

Switzerland. The land of banks, watches, and the Alps. It’s definitely worth a trip, particularly if you are in love with hiking or have grown up watching the Sound of Music.



Railroad Tracks from The Tram


The Prices:

The exchange rate from Swiss Franc to USD is about 1:1. That being said, Switzerland has a high standard of living, and the people who are waiters, waitresses and bartenders make a livable wage. While this is great news for Swiss people, it does make going out to eat very expensive. I passed one restaurant where it was $70 for a steak! Additionally, everything else is very expensive too: a ride one-way on the tram is about $4.40. When you come to Switzerland, expect to pay for it.


The Swiss use the Swiss Franc. They don’t have as many cent pieces: I saw a 1/2 franc and then a ten cent piece. Other than that, I did not see anything.


View of the opposite bank of the Linnat River in Zurich.


Overall Vibe:


While there are places to go out in Switzerland, it is more of a charming and idyllic place for outdoor recreation and relaxation than anything else. There are many places to shop and, the Swiss Alps are in the distance wherever you go. Additionally, a lack of open container laws means an outdoor picnic with wine alongside the Linnat River.


Tram ride in Zurch



The Public Transit system in Switzerland is easy to navigate, although expensive. I was lucky in that I was visiting my friends and they had a car for part of the trip. Although the transit is expensive, we tended to use that more often then the car. The trams and buses are effective, and relatively quick.


I was in Zurich, so most of the people I encountered spoke either German or Swiss German. Almost everyone could speak English and was very polite and accommodating. However, other parts of Switzerland speak completely different languages. Other regions of Switzerland speak French and Italian.


The riverwalk in Zurich


In Switzerland I was very lucky in that I had absolutely free accommodations and was able to save money in that way. I also had the advantage of hanging out with locals (mostly, students and twenty-somethings), and so I got to experience a very authentic version of what Switzerland has to offer.

Traditional Swiss Fondue
Traditional Swiss Fondue

Foods you Need to Try:

While in Switzerland, enjoy the bread, chocolate and cheese. Truly I have eaten more of these delectable morsels here than anywhere else. Additionally, I was lucky enough to have authentic Swiss fondue and it was incredible.

Fun Fact:

If you see little bars coming off of a house, it means that the owners are seeking to do renovations. They must mark what they are doing before beginning any new (exterior) projects so their neighbors can let them know if the new renovations will ruin their view.

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