Costa Rica Travel, All Expenses Paid

When the opportunity came up earlier this year to write for International Living, I jumped at the chance to land my first travel writing gig. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, but one article followed another and now I’m a regular contributor.

The best thing about being a freelance writer is that you can work from anywhere—so I packed up and moved to Costa Rica. It might seem like a brave move, but it was also a sensible one. The cost of living is low here—so paychecks go a long way. Plus, my family gets to experience another culture.

Talk about a dream job—IL pays me to explore this remarkable country. Take my recent trip to the Lake Arenal region of Costa Rica.

The nearby volcano has been drawing tourists for many years and just like any tourist, I checked out the famous volcano-fed hot springs…hike the national parks with naturalist guides…and stay in hotels with fabulous volcano views.

But as a travel writer, my trip was slightly different (and not just because my expenses were paid). With my travel writing hat on, I needed to approach things from a different perspective. I’m acting as “boots on the ground” for thousands of readers, so I dig deeper when on assignment.

As it turned out, one of the hot springs is tour bus central. I found another which was altogether more Zen-like—not to mention cheaper. The region is famous for its bird-watching and I discovered that one of the best vantage points is actually on a dirt road that runs alongside the national park.

Of course, I was also obliged to check out that perfect sunset spot I’d heard about, just 20 minutes off the main road but unknown to most people.

Getting these details benefits the reader—but it also means I have a much richer travel experience myself.

As I explored the countryside, I enjoyed the perfect weather (75 degrees and sunny with a slight breeze) and vistas of verdant green hills leading down to the brilliant blue lake.

I met artists, B&B owners, real estate agents, fishing guides, and others. Because you have an obvious interest in their way of life, people quickly warm up—expats and locals alike.

In the name of your story, you try local delicacies—the tropical fruit tarts at Café y Macadamia on Arenal’s western shore are to die for. You also sometimes need to get outside your comfort zone. On one hike I found myself on a swaying suspension bridge 150 feet up—but it was well worth the view. And you end up talking to the most interesting-looking people in the room because, well, they’ve got to have something to say.

Immersing yourself in a whole new way of living…that might be the best part of being a travel writer.

I don’t trade positive coverage for freebies but I’ve noticed something magical happens when a front desk clerk or restaurant owner finds out what you do. That lake view room suddenly becomes available, and it’s the same price as the standard. And the bartender makes sure you never see the bottom of your glass.

Not a bad reward for a day’s work.

Editor’s Note: If you’d like to learn more about ways you can pay for your life or travels overseas, sign up for Fund Your Life Overseas, a free e-letter from International Living. Sign up here and we’ll send you a free report: Fund Your New Life Overseas With These 5 Portable Careers.

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