I had only one real goal as I embarked on my trip to Costa Rica- to have fun. And I was pretty confident that I knew what to expect. The trip was with my Spanish class and my mom, the Spanish teacher, had gone many times before. Each time she had returned with souvenirs, leftover excitement, photos and stories which left me hungry for more. In spring 2008, I finally received the opportunity I was waiting for- to go to Costa Rica and experience for myself what I had already heard all about. And I had heard enough to know one thing- I would have fun. But I didn’t realize how much more than “fun” this trip would become. No amount of forewarning or preparation could ready me for the trip of a lifetime.
The trip entailed nine days spent traveling coast to coast in a country both beautiful and exciting. We traveled by bus through the impressive BraulioCarrilloNational Park to reach our first hotel in Tortuguero. The days there were spent exploring wildlife such as caimans, frogs, ants, and spider monkeys as we hiked a mountain and sped a boat through a canal, watching birds during an early morning kayak (which also involved a splash fight and a sunken boat), and visiting a family of howler monkeys which lived just outside the door of my cabin. We went white water rafting and took dancing lessons. We braved the darkness to take a night tour and see nocturnal animals. After being forced back to the bus many times by heavy rains, we finally watched the active Arenal Volcano erupt. We climbed an infinite number of stairs to see La Fortuna Waterfall and swim below it. We relaxed in natural hot springs before traveling three hours by horseback to Monteverde. I explored the canopy of a cloud forest via zip lining. And then, suddenly, we had reached the welcoming sands of FlamingoBeach- our relaxing last day…
When that last day came, I didn’t want to leave. I wasn’t homesick, because Costa Rica felt like home. How could it not, with so many of the best moments of my life there, in that tiny paradise of a country? I had seen animals I’d never imagined existed with my classmates nearby, watching it all with the same awe. I, who never could stay in shape, hiked an entire mountain to catch sight of the gorgeous scene beneath. I had defied my own fear of heights to zip line rapidly from tree to tree. I’d tried foods whose names I didn’t know, and liked them. I’d conversed in a foreign language, though at home I was often too shy to even speak in English. I’d talked and laughed and had a blast with my friends, while observing curiously the world around me, filled with wonder. I had been prepared for fun but the rest of it had taken me by surprise. I had been prepared to experience what I already knew everything about, but instead it was a trip full of discoveries- I discovered a place more spectacular than I had realized, relationships stronger than I could have known, and qualities I never knew I was bold enough to possess.
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