New car, new running shoes, new leather jacket – lots of new things carry nice aromas; the kind that routinely make people exclaim “There’s nothing like that new ____ smell!”
All those smells are nice, but as Patrick intimated oh-so-many-posts ago, there’s nothing for us like that new passport smell.
I just received mine about a month ago, a somewhat somber occasion marking the end of the trusty little blue book that had accompanied me on every Uncommon Caribbean adventure thus far.
Grenada, Bequia, Martinique, Dominica, Turks & Caicos, Aruba, Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad, Curacao, Barbados, Anguilla, Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, Cayman Islands – the memories emblazoned in each of those passport stamps (and here on our site) will live with me forever.
No doubt, my old passport contains stamps for nearly all of the 39 Caribbean destinations I’ve been privileged enough to visit thus far in my life, which is why I wanted to make sure that the first stamp in this new one was from someplace completely new to me. After all, a large part of my inspiration for doing Uncommon Caribbean is derived from my lifelong dream to visit and experience every corner of my home region. No better time than the present, then, to check into Costa Rica.
I’d never really known that much about The Land of the Ticos, aside from its reputation as one of the happiest places on earth. “Ticos just seem to have something figured out about life that the rest of us in the States just can’t understand,” a friend once told me. “It’s all summed up in two words: pura vida.”
The Spanish colloquialism is as synonymous with Costa Rica as anything else you might find here. I always wondered, though, if this happy-go-lucky sense of life always being great really permeates society here? Is the pura vida movement real?
Well, if the lady who put that first new stamp in my brand new passport today is any indication, I’d say absolutely, yes.
As any even occasional international traveler knows, customs and immigration staff aren’t typically the friendliest people in the world. Brooding, cranky, and generally put out by having so much as to look at you, they don’t exactly roll out the welcome mat.
The customs officer I met today, though, couldn’t be more different.
When I told her it was my first time visiting Costa Rica and I was excited to have her country’s stamp as the first one in my brand new passport, she smiled real wide and excitedly shared the news with another colleague nearby. They both welcomed me warmly in Spanish like I was a long-lost cousin.
Then, very carefully and deliberately, she stamped my passport neatly in a conspicuous corner of the very first page.
Looking up at me after the stamp was imprinted, she smiled again, wished me a enjoyable stay, and added: “I hope this will be the first of many visits.”
So far, I’d say that’s guaranteed.