What to do when your favorite place gets a paved road

I grip the handle on the back of the seat in front of me, the blood has stopped flowing below the knuckles and they are turning white from my death grip on the plastic handle screwed into the vinyl seat. Our driver seems intent on killing us as he desperately tries to make up time lost in a traffic jam. Based on his speeds he apparently has no concern for life inside or outside his white minivan. I am searching my mental map of the area, trying to remember where exactly the road ends and he will undoubtedly have to slow his reckless speed. Surely he won’t be able to keep this speed on the half washed out gravel road that we grew to love on our last trip.

Turn after turn I think to myself, “it has got to be around this next curve”, that is as long as we don’t roll this van. Finally he slows up, however, it’s not for the anticipated bumpy gravel road, but for the town. Shock and terror now fill my thoughts, this time unrelated to driving, but rather the death of one of my favorite towns.

Ohhh no, They Paved the road…

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Has there ever been a place that you connected in a deep way with, a way that makes you want to keep the place a secret so you don’t risk destroying it? If I had a place like that it would be this one. On our first trip to Central America, several years back, we spent a few nights on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica in the town of Puerto Viejo. A small cluster of beaches connected with a rutted gravel road where the main means of getting around was a two-wheel beach cruiser. Either side of the gravel was lined bright green vegetation, thick with palms and banana trees. It had a feeling of being undiscovered. A feeling of a diamond in the rough. It was a place that was a must on our RTW itinerary. We had to go back and re-live the good times we had here last trip. But it was different, way different.

Costa Rica Caribbean Beaches - puerto viejo

I have asked myself this question many times about the places I have been: Is it the place that changed or was it me. Sure, physically the town had changed with the addition of some pavement, but I think it’s more than that. I think we have changed as travelers. The first time I was here in Puerto Viejo I wasn’t a budget traveler, I was on a 10 day vacation to a country I had come on a whim to travel with friends. I didn’t know it at the time, but that trip would help shape the life of travel I now live.

Costa Rica Caribbean Beaches - playa grande

As changed as we are as travelers, the road had something to do with it. We recently returned to Puerto Viejo to find a very different place. Fresh asphalt replaced pothole filled tracts. Quiet stretches of beach roads are now filled with the sound of construction crews building new properties. Worst of all, the budget traveler barely has a place here. We have come to realize you’ll never have a first time in a city again, the exploring, the way you connect, all of the other ‘new-itities’ that come with a new-to-you destination. For us Puerto Viejo posed the question, can you ever go back, can you return to a place you loved, and love it the same the 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th time.

cahuita national park - Costa Rica

Puerto Viejo ended up being a city that we just didn’t have a good time in on our RTW trip. It was different, we were different.

So, what to do when your favorite place gets a paved road? The town will be forever changed, there is no going back. So my suggestion is to go forward. Forward to the next destination with a bumpy gravel road, and a good vibe.

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4 thoughts on “What to do when your favorite place gets a paved road”

  1. Paved roads? Cell phones? What’s the world coming too Adam? LOL just j/k here…..as the locals may say, it feels a bit better to not have to experience a jarring ride, or, to make more money as more folks can travel thru, or, they may feel just like you do. I for one almost drove off of the road here in Bali on my motorbike tonight after monsoon rains. With the mud and rocks, I wouldn’t mind a paved road much 😉 But I do hear you, and can appreciate your point….as you said if this rustic scene vibes with ya, on to the next town.

    Thanks for sharing Adam!

    Ryan

  2. They are paving the Annapurna Circuit – its so sad for tourists, but they feel its good for their economy as the trail trekkers love is actually a commerce route over the mountains. I see it both ways, but the wilderness-lover and adventurer in me is saddened. Great post.

  3. While I understand where you’re coming from, this seems a little selfish – I’m fairly confident the people who live there on a daily basis appreciate the opportunities a decent road brings them in terms of generating income.

    That said, I can’t help but feel same about the plans to pave a road around the whole Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. It’s already rather overrun during peak season, and this isn’t gonna help.

    As much as I hate the phrase, this may be a case of us (Western travellers as a whole) “checking our privilege” 🙂

  4. Thanks for sharing your honest opinion on PV. We kept going back and forth between if we should settle in PV or San Juan Del Sur in Nica… ended up meeting several groups of travelers who we connected with, and they all told us PV, PV, PV! So here we are 🙂 We don’t know it any differently, so at first glance (we’ve been here all of 6 hours) it seems legit. But I completely respect your point of view and definitely “get it.” We often wonder if those places we loved last year would feel the same going back a 2nd or 3rd time…I do think there may be more ‘party’ here than I care for, but only time will tell. We are also staying near Cocles so excited to check out la playa. XX

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