Tourist in My Own Country

Ah, last minute trips. A few weeks ago I was at work thinking I wanted to go somewhere for Spring Break. Unfortunately, I had a few unexpected expenses and whatever plans I had went down the drain. Then one Friday I decided I needed to make this happen and as soon as I got home I booked a plane ticket to Costa Rica.

It was totally against my nature since I usually plan for a while before jumping in, but I knew this was something I needed. A lot of stressful things had been happening at work and I desperately needed a break and a change of scenery. Although I grew up in Costa Rica it had been 18 years since last time I had been there. It was about time I went back.

Whenever anyone asked me where I was from I always said that I had been born in Honduras and raised in Costa Rica. Since I spent my whole childhood in Costa Rica I always claimed it as my country. It’s the country I identified with. However, that all changed during this trip. In a way I had a bit of an identity crisis.

I’m an American citizen but since I was living there when growing up no one ever asked to see my passport and everywhere I went I was a “local”. But now things are different. Things started to sink in when I realized that because I don’t have a Costarican ID there was a big chance that I would be charged as a foreigner and not a local at tourist attractions. Then there was the issue of my accent. I no longer sound like a “Tica” so even if I could get away with not showing ID, the second I opened my mouth to speak someone would know my “secret”. And then there were the many infrastructure changes all around “my” city that happened over the past 18 years. Not only was I considered a tourist, I felt like a tourist.

I had fun, I saw familiar faces and places. I ate foods that brought me back to my childhood. But at the end of the day I realized that I really couldn’t claim Costa Rica as my country any more. I am American like my passport says. I’ve lived here most of my life. Sometimes I have a better handle of English than Spanish. I celebrate American holidays and I’m no longer familiar with a lot of Costa Rican ones.

It hit me hard, to be honest. I actually cried. But I’m, mostly, past it now. Costa Rica is where my parents went to college, it’s where they met during their Senior year, it’s where I spent my childhood and made lifelong friends. I might be more American than Tica now, but Costa Rica will always have a special place in my heart.

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