How an Awkward Childhood Photo Won us a Trip to Costa Rica

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“Stop giving your information out,” groaned my husband as I entered yet another contest online. “You’re never going to win.”

Fast forward to two months later. “VRBO messaged me! I think I won!” It actually happened to me. I won myself a $5,000 stay in a VRBO of my choice anywhere in the world.

Back in October of 2020, I was scrolling through Instagram as usual, since the pandemic had consumed my social life and sucked all the excitement from my world outside of my phone screen. Traveling was a distant memory, but I was hopeful. I knew that soon enough, we’d get the chance to go abroad again.

I saw a post on VRBO’s account about their 25th anniversary. They wanted to celebrate it by awarding 25 people the chance to stay in either one of their favorite VRBO’s they hand-selected, or one that we chose ourselves. The winners could stay somewhere for up to $5,000 total. VRBO’s rules mentioned posting an old travel photo with your family and emphasizing the importance of family in your caption.

WOAH. I immediately perked up. “I have the perfect photos.” Unfortunately, these photos were perfect thanks to the self-deprecation I would have to put myself through as I posted my most awkward childhood photos on the internet. I proceeded…and hoped it would somehow be worth it.

My family had a unique story to tell, for sure. Here was what I wrote in my Instagram caption:

My love of travel was started by my parents. They always encouraged us to get out of our comfort zones, to see more than just Western Pennsylvania. It wasn’t easy for them to take us overseas – I remember during this trip my dad’s wheelchair tire popped on the cobblestones and we had a hell of a time trying to get him a replacement. Finding countries with accommodations for people who are disabled was hard then, and still can be hard today.

My dad hasn’t let his disability stop him from many things even if he wasn’t always feeling 100%. My mom inspires me tremendously too, staying organized and on top of everything even in foreign countries where we don’t speak the language. They both knew the importance of those memories.

I know my mom and dad now live vicariously through my brother and I in our most impulsive or reckless moments in our adult lives. To be able to still take a trip yearly with them is a huge treat for us all.

VRBO messaged me to notify me that I was a winner.

After a whole bunch of freaking out, and ensuring my husband admits he was wrong in exchange for a spot on the vacation, it was time to find a rental! The options were endless, some in the United States with lots of potential, some abroad. It ultimately came down to where we would be able to travel safely after COVID restrictions lifted.

Unfortunately, my dad would have had a difficult time traveling to Costa Rica in his wheelchair so my parents encouraged me to invite my brother and some of my friends instead.

This was the villa we chose to stay in for 2 weeks in Uvita, Costa Rica.

The villa was perfect. It was clearly out of our meager millennial budget; somewhere we’d never get the chance to stay without a stroke of dumb luck. After the catastrophically stressful year we had in 2020, I wanted a place we could extend the $5,000 so we could actually get away for 2 full weeks. This one in Uvita, Costa Rica, priced at $350 per night on VRBO, made the most sense.

The villa had an infinity pool overlooking the famous “Whale’s Tail” in Uvita and was up a steep mountain road that was only accessible by 4×4 vehicles. Every trip up and down the mountain was an adventure. We explored a lot that Costa Rica had to offer – ziplines, deep sea fishing, ATV rides, waterfalls, hiking, surfing, and beach days. We even got massages at the villa right next to the pool!

It was the vacation of a lifetime, and we were lucky enough to share it with two groups of friends that came along.

I’ll forever be grateful to VRBO for the opportunity to experience Costa Rica with my loved ones. If anyone wants to send me on a free trip again…I’m ready.

And my husband will never doubt me again….maybe.