How an Abandoned Trip to a Costa Rica Souvenir Shop Transformed a Couple’s Lives

At its best, travel offers the chance to expand personal horizons through new experiences and the forging of connections with people in unfamiliar destinations. It just doesn’t always play out that way. Sometimes your life can change on the way to the souvenir shop.

In 2005 as a second-year undergrad at the University of Virginia, Lyndsay Anderson traveled to Costa Rica on a spring break trip with 16 other students. Toward the end of the excursion, she and two friends set out to shop for souvenirs before heading home. They broke away from the group and stopped for lunch at El Coconut, a beachside bar and restaurant, where Lyndsay noticed a young man wearing a UVA shirt and a Yankees cap.

“I was like, those are my two teams,” she says. “Who is this guy and how have I never met him? I introduced myself.”

Steven turned out to be a recent UVA graduate visiting for a friend’s wedding. They struck up a conversation that proved to be quite consequential. “Seven hours later we hadn’t moved,” Lyndsay says. “We never bought souvenirs. I was supposed to use the payphone to call my brother, but I didn’t.”

They ran into each other again at the airport and ended up spending more time getting to know each other. “He bought me a hotdog and beer with his last $1.50 and I remember thinking if this was our first date, we’ve got a lot of room for growth,” she says.

They agreed to keep in touch but didn’t expect their spring break connection to develop into anything serious. “It was just cool that we could talk about UVA sports together,” she says. As it turns out, they were quite wrong.

Though Steven was living two hours away from Lyndsay in Washington, D.C., the two stayed in touch and eventually started dating. Today they’ve been married for nine years and have two sons — all thanks to a chance encounter at a beachside restaurant thousands of miles from home.

IMG_5287Lyndsay and Steven have returned multiple times to the town of Tamarindo, a popular beach destination on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, and have enjoyed drinks on the beach at El Coconut. “It’s really fortunate that the little restaurant we met in still exists,” she says.

The couple now live in Sacramento, California, but continue to experience new destinations, including trips with their children. “That’s one of the reasons why my husband and I work so well — because we both love traveling and exploring,” she says.


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