- Take advantage of [but don't go overboard] on free food. While traveling, unless you're in a home-stay with a predictable three meals/day schedule, there's often no way of knowing what or when your next meal will be. For instance, in Monteverde the hostel provided breakfast for no fee. While Lindsay took one approach and, as she calls it, "ate for hibernation," I went the other route and made myself a peanut butter & chocolate cereal sandwich for the road. It came in handy.
- Eating out can get ridiculously expensive. Then again, cooking takes time and energy....
- Alcohol is usually involved in meeting people. Therefore, plan on drinking at any and all moments [and budget that into your expected spending].
- Most locals are quite nice and want to help travelers out. I can't tell you how many times people have offered to guide us places upon being asked for directions, or how accommodating people can be if there's a problem. Or just how thoughtful people can seem when you're overwhelmed in a foreign post office collecting a package, and they offer you a piece of candy because you look completely lost/bewildered [I know this goes against the whole "don't accept candy from strangers" wisdom, but different circumstances call for different types of advice].
- Bank schedules differ all over the place, so make sure you leave plenty of time to deal with money transactions that need to occur in a bank. Luckily, most ATM's are 24 hours.
- ALWAYS have your passport [or a copy] on you while traveling. Very important. You really don't want to spend a needless five hours in a police station trying to convince the officers that you're not here illegally- you just left your passport in your hostel. <- I´m not speaking from personal experience here, but I did have a close call in Puerto Viejo during my first weekend trip. Luckily, the policeman glanced at Dean and Lindsay´s passports, and overlooked me. I guess I just don´t have a face that screams "I´m a fugitive." But seriously, I doubt getting deported is on anyone´s to do list.
- Reading generally deters people from trying to interact with you, so by all means do so if you really don´t want to be approached. However, if you´re trying to meet people, a book could also be used as a tool, because you can set it down once you feel ready to begin socializing.
- Having no set plans generally leads to the best time traveling, experience-wise. By not having a concrete schedule, you allow yourself to be more open and available to spontaneous opportunities that eventually make really good memories/travel stories. Though doing a bit of research about the locations in which you will be stopping also helps for moments of boredom, or should other opportunities not surface. [I think a large part of why I had no fun for my half-day in San Jose is due to the fact that I had no idea what there was to do there. If I went now, I know to go visit the National Theater and the Gold Museum.]
- Taking the laces and soles out of wet tennis shoes helps them dry much faster than they would´ve otherwise. Like, overnight.
Those are a few of the lessons I´ve learned/picked up/been shown. Many more to ensue, I´m sure.