I hate to admit it, but I'm one of those people with a rapid-fire answer to the question, "What could possibly go wrong?"
Weather unseasonably warm? There's a storm on the way.
Car won't start? Must be the transmission.
Landline ringing? Probably a robot.
So I'm mildly astonished that when I picked Costa Rica for my birthday vacation destination, my only thoughts were "Toucans!" and "Rainforests!" and "Hot springs!"
It never occurred to me to think of "Mosquitoes!" or "Zika virus!" or "Erupting volcanoes!"
That is, until I started talking with a more savvy fellow traveler who had read the fine print in the travel brochures.
"I had my vaccinations," she said matter-of-factly, "and I'm keeping my eye on volcanoes."
Vaccinations? Volcanoes? Isn't Costa Rica a "hakuna matata" kind of place a little south of Florida? I was never very good at geography.
I dived into a travel book just in time to figure out it wouldn't be like flying to Detroit for the weekend. One main difference: tropical disease.
To prevent it, there was a Hepatitis A shot and a round of typhoid capsules that had to be refrigerated and taken every other day for eight days, one hour before some unspecified meal.
Without them, possible plague awaited. But with them, according to chatroom chatter, possible gastrointestinal misery could come in the third and fourth days of the pills. Of course, said another, I might avoid this if I got the shot instead, as Savvy Fellow Traveler had done. But then, I'd already started the pills.
So on to figuring out before which meal to take them. Breakfast? That might ruin the whole day. Lunch? Maybe too soon, if the last was before dinner. Dinner? What if I forgot?
I distracted myself with the challenge of getting eight days of clothing into a weekender so I wouldn't have to check a bag, which the airline would probably lose and never deliver in a rainforest. The only solution was laundry packets and quick-dry clothes, which I happened not to own except for one shirt and a pair of zip-off pants.
So off to the jungle traveler's paradise, REI, which offered more than I could possibly fit in the suitcase but also acquainted me with the unhappy news that I should spray everything with an odorless insect repellent called Permethrin.
The bottle came with generous instructions in 9-point type for what to do if you accidentally ingest it, get it on your skin or in your eyes, or inhale it and stop breathing.
With the last typhoid pill down, I headed for the screened porch in 30-degree weather with face mask, goggles and rubber gloves for a Permethrin moment or two. An hour or so later, still breathing despite a couple of heart-stopping moments when I lost control of the sprayer, my work was done.
"At last!" I thought. "Time to enjoy the anticipation!" And off I ran to read about the tours, the hotels, the toucans. And I noticed the hotels had hair dryers but no coffee makers in the room. Egads!
Naturally, I had to find an immersion coil, an unbreakable insulated stainless-steel cup and some instant coffee.
And while I was at it, I hunted down some of those old-fashioned laundry hooks to hang over the shower bar for the quick-dry underwear.
They are not easy to find -- most travelers apparently rely on suction-cup clotheslines. But think about it: They could silently un-suction in the night.
Obviously, they were worth the effort.
How much could you enjoy a toucan if your underwear's still wet?
Balancing act author Pat Snyder is a Northwest Columbus resident and life-balance speaker and coach. Find her online at www.PatSnyderOnline.com.