Courtesy of Walking Tree Travel

So… I loved my trip and I’m slightly bummed that the Tico lifestyle is not my reality. Thinking about my Abuela and the brilliant, smiling faces of the Herradura children brings me to tears. Since I returned, I’ve been debating whether it would be better to stay in touch or to emotionally distance myself but the latter would be for selfish reasons such as avoiding a long distance pen pal relationship along with the burden of writing letters and not getting them in time, and the painful truth of knowing it would be a long while before I ever got to see them again, if ever.

You know how people tend to have a “fear of the unknown”? Well surely I was handicapped by fear in the past; fear of getting hurt, fear of unfamiliarity, fear of failure, fear of…what it would take to conquer my fears. But in just two weeks I surfed and rafted, neither of which are things I ever thought I’d have an interest in trying. I lived in a jungle surrounded by a vast variation of wildlife, therefore, my neighbor’s dogs, Buddy and Fiona don’t scare me anymore which chalks up the score to Precious- 1, friendly dalmatians- 0. For this miraculous victory over my fear of animals (yes, ALL animals) I owe thanks to the lizards, spiders, dogs, birds, cows, horses, monkeys, and all the other creatures that I encountered in Costa Rica.

In the past, I’ve dedicated my time and money (but mostly my time) to volunteering and trying to help people in any way that I can. But never like this. None of my volunteer work has ever been an ongoing project where I had to dedicate so much of myself physically and mentally. But the physically demanding nature of our project was greatly surpassed by the village life in general. These people joyfully welcomed us into their homes and pampered us with a genuine, loving hospitality that put my worries to rest. It was then, when I came to the realization that they were happy to have us there, that I started to make the connections between their lives and my own. I can count the differences on one hand but the similarities are endless. The most significant similarity that I noticed was that they celebrate a family based culture. The elders are  looked to for their wisdom, the adults are very respected, the men and women’s roles respectively, the kids are the parents’ source of joy, and their culture gives life to the tired proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.”

There’s a lot of this world that remains a mystery to me. To be able to leave the country with a purpose and return with such irrefutable testimonies of triumph and new experiences was the first step to me conquering  whatever it is that separates me from the world I live in. My heart has finally been exposed to travel  and has shone a new light on nature in all its captivating beauty. I’ll never forget how big and green everything seemed to me when we first arrived in the Pura Suerte jungle. Or how I spent two weeks drinking my air instead of breathing it; I would gladly choose Colorado’s dry air over Costa Rica’s thick humidity any day! Or how I attended a Catholic service entirely in Spanish. No matter how many pictures we could have taken, no matter how high the resolution, no camera could have accurately captured the breathtaking, luminous elegance of the beach sunset. This journey has stripped me of my predictable, surface humanitarian tendencies and aroused my inner global citizen.

Now… how’s THAT for culture shock?