Arenal Volcano Costa Rica Vista - JoeBaur

Readers might recall my intention to turn my year in Costa Rica into a travel memoir. You see, there isn’t much in the way of travel literature when it comes to Costa Rica and its surrounding Central American neighbors*. Sure, you can grab some fine guidebooks. But that’s not what I’m interested in doing.

What I’m interested in doing is telling the various historical and anecdotal stories I came across throughout my year of traveling around Costa Rica that included a few hops over into Central American neighbors, like Guatemala, Panama and El Salvador. You’ll get historic context when I talk about Puerto Viejo, but you’ll also get me hearing my mama Tica talking about the neighbor’s amigo con derechos — friend with benefits. There will be deep thoughts and there will be self-doubt as I recall trying to find my place and purpose through a Central American setting.

Oh, and did I mention that this all happened a few weeks after getting married? Yep. That happened. And may Odin’s Gungir spear bless my wife’s so very patient yet adventurous spirit to follow along.

The book is tentatively titled Talking Tico: a gringo’s meandering search for purpose in Costa Rica, but will inevitably change when focus groups tell me to.** In order to stay on track I’m using National Novel Writing Month, which asks for about 1,700 words per day to hit 50,000 by the end of the month. That’s somewhere in the 250-page range depending on type, size and all that jazz.

Keeping up will be difficult. Not merely because of the word count. I know I’m already writing well-over 1,700 words per day when I think about emails and other articles. It’s just a matter of refocusing and prioritizing this novel first thing in the morning everyday — at least I think.

The real issue is that I will be in Japan for two weeks in the heart of the month — November 10 to 24. Because Japan is really far — barring any massive geographical shifts I’ve missed in the news — I actually need to leave Cleveland the evening of November 8. So I’ll have plenty of flight time to crack out some words, but I’ll also be busy touring Okayama, joining Walk Japan halfway through their Nakasendo Way hike to Tokyo and working with the Cycling Embassy of Japan for a Streetfilms project. Will I really have the time and energy to do Talking Tico justice?

Maybe not. But I have to at least try, right? One thing I do have going for me is that I did take extensive, stream of consciousness notes after many of the experiences that I’ll be including in the book and I have an outline ready to guide me. Hell, I even have some chapters written! Remember my epic battle with mothra? ONE CHAPTER DOWN!

If interested, you can follow my progress (I think) at the National Novel Writing Month website. I might also use a chapter or two as one of my three weekly posts here at The only way you’ll know is if you keep coming back!

*My Rust Belt compatriot Robert Isenberg did his part to contribute to Costa Rican literature with his recent release of The Green Season, published by our mutual former employer — The Tico Times. Check it out!

**There will be no focus groups.

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Joe Baur
Joe Baur
Joe is a travel author (Talking Tico) and podcaster who's constantly looking to get off the tourist trek in search of new stories. He enjoys few things more than a hoppy beer and chorizo in good company. Give him these things and he will be your friend for life.
  • It is true that 1,700 words per day isn’t that much when you’re already writing consistently. It is also true that when you get to the third week there’s a 73% chance you will be very sick of looking at the SAME DAMN PROJECT without interruption. Since your project is more of a collection of short stories, that could help a bit with the monotony. Might help it seem a little fresher.

    • Joe

      Good point. Perhaps I’ll know your torment if I ever jump into fiction.