Still looking for that perfect gift?  Welcome to our gift guide, where we’ve curated the best in travel (and travel-themed) essentials for the Wanderers in your life. Follow the links to purchase via Amazon and your gift gives twice – with a portion of your purchase proceeds donated to The Wandering Scholar.

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For the First-Time Wanderer, who just got his passport and is counting down the days until he can put the inaugural stamp in it. We’ve got him covered, from the plane ride to his return stateside.

 

GETTING THERE

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Baggu Canvas Backpack, $38: This lightweight but durable backpack will work as a carry-on, an everyday bag while on the road, and the perfect place to store souvenirs.

 

Infinity Pillow – Design Power Nap Pillow, Travel and Neck Pillow (Grey), $39: With economy seats getting smaller and smaller, it’s harder and harder to get comfortable enough to fall asleep. This versatile travel pillow, made of breathable bamboo fabric, can turn even the most uncomfortable middle seat into a dreamland.

BEING THERE

Field Notes, $9.95: To record every sight, smell, sound and inspiration.

Fuji Instax Mini Camera, $99.99: For taking high-quality pictures and beautiful color prints on the spot.

STAYING CONNECTED

Photo Credit: Everyday Ambassador

Everyday Ambassador: Make a Difference by Connecting in a Disconnected World, $11.99: This book provides a roadmap for building bridges in a disconnected world. Using four core values – empathy, patience, focus, and humility – Otto’s book helps turn ordinary people into change-making global citizens. 

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Wow! It’s so crazy how time flies by! Just little over a month ago I was enjoying the Costa Rican Lifestyle. Now I’m back home doing the same crazy routine of working and getting prepared for school.
Before the trip, I never thought that going to another country would change my point of views for the rest of my life. Once I arrived in the village of San Salvador, I was worried about the condition of the home were I stayed in but the people were so loving and caring, the conditions of my host family’s house did not matter one bit after. Since i’ve got back home, I keep on referencing Costa Rica because the experience was SO incredible!
Since the trip, I have become more grateful of my family because I know they will always be there for me no matter what. I also really appreciate my home and all that I have in life. Back in Costa Rica, the people in the village were very appreciative of their family. They showed me that family will always be around no matter what the circumstances are.
What inspired me the most while I was in Costa Rica was seeing how happy the people were. Everyone in the village got along and they just appreciate life so much. They appreciate every little thing they have, which I think is drastically different from what I have.
My favorite memory in Costa Rica was surfing. We had so much fun that I don’t think anyone took pictures. I really miss my host family because they always kept a smile on my face. They really made me feel like I was part of their family.
Once I got back home, it was surprisingly really easy for me to adapt back to everything. I think that was because I was kind of looking forward to my bed where I didn’t have to worry about any insects crawling over me in the middle of the night.
Overall, this trip was an AMAZING experience and if I had the opportunity to do it again, I TOTALLY would. read more →

It has now been almost TWO weeks since I’ve came from Costa Rica. Two weeks ago, I was in a different country, with people who I had never even met in my life. It’s crazy how time flies! I am SO honored that I was chosen to take the trip to Costa Rica. I can honestly say, the trip has dramatically changed my view in life. I was able to gain not only physical but also mental strength. In addition, I was able to do MANY things out of my comfort zone.

About 3 days into the trip, we hiked to a beautiful waterfall. Now hiking isn’t my type of thing but I was open to do it. Little did I know, how crazy scary and dangerous it was. Hiking down to the waterfall, I felt like I was in a movie because the hike was such an adventure. Every step I slid on the mug because it was so wet and sticky. There was also a time where I almost broke down in tears because I had to cross on a pah that was so high and I have a fear of heights.

Once I reached the waterfall, as I was just about to dip m y feet in the water, I stubbed my toe against a rock and my whole to nail lifted. I didn’t notice at first until I looked down and noticed a stream of blood on the ground. I then started to feel my whole foot hurt. Seconds later I started to feel my toe sting. I was able to get to one of the leaders and tell them about my foot. I then hiked BACK up with a RIPPED off toenail.

Honestly, I am happy that I went through that pain because it greatened my strength and also, who else can share a story about their toenail being ripped off in Costa Rica?

Staying with my homestay family made me SO much more appreciative for what I have. The conditions that my host family lived in were drastically different from the conditions I live in but I was not as disturbed by them as I thought I would be. Once I arrived at my homestay, it was easy for me to settle in and I instantly adapted to the family’s way of living. My host family was also extremely nice and welcoming. They made sure I was comfortable and was enjoying my stay. I especially enjoyed my family because they reminded me of my own family. I remember on the first night I arrived, there was a spider climbing down the wall and I looked up to a nest of spiders right above my bed. My Walking Tree buddy explained to them my fear of spiders and the next day, all the spiders were gone. That one little act showed that the family cared about my stay.

Everyone in the village was extremely welcoming. Everyone was so welcoming and kind. I felt like I joined a little family. It was amazing how closely everyone within the village were. They would live MILES apart but still know each other and know where each other lives. Staying in the community showed me how a community is suppose to be. They showed that no matter what happens, they will always stick together. I also learned the importance of family because no matter what, anything can happen to the one you love so I am now very appreciative of everyone in my life. My trip to Costa Rica was very eye opening for me and I wouldn’t have traded my ticket for the world! Thank you Wandering Scholars! read more →

The events of the past two days have passed in as rapid of succession as the quick stream of words I struggle to follow in my host family’s conversation.
I write this as I flounder about in the viscous fluid of sleepy confusion which seems to thicken with being in an unfamiliar space. I have just woken up to the symphony of San Salvador. The infinite loop of chattering birds and their differing calls paint vibrant hues on the canvas of the mind, with the occasional growl of a motorbike hurtling forward on gravel roads, and the white noise buzz of (what sounds like to my American ears) cicadas, all accented by the proud crow of a rooster in some coop not so far from where I sit. It is gorgeously distinct and it’s poignancy hits me hard today as I prepare for my first day of service work.
On Thursday we were fortunate enough to visit the stunning paradise that was a coffee plantation in Pura Suerte. As the bus coasted by the towering, magnificent array of foliage and fog my jaw fell slack in awe. All I could do as my eyes darted about from one thing of beauty to another outside my window was mouth “Oh my God,” which is a phrase I usually like to replace with “Oh my goodness” or “Oh my gosh”, but in that moment it was if I was looking at God in a way I hadn’t before and it was very different.
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We were in a rainforest, the types of rainforests that I was so enchanted just to read about in simple textbooks in second grade. We learned about all the levels of a rainforest, the different types of plants and animals that lived there, the environment, and it was all a distant thing of mystical wonder to me. And now as a Wandering Scholar my second grade dreams are towering right above me in the vines and trees, right here in real life.
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There is such an undeniable richness and vibrancy to Costa Rica in every place my eyes alight. It is as if the constant rain and humidity have made everything they touch perfectly saturated with bursting life and color.
As we hiked to the waterfall yesterday and my feet slid about in the bright red clay I gazed upon its fiery hue and wished I was an earthworm or at least a little ant, so that I could bury into it and seek reprieve in its coolness. When we passed valleys I looked at the clouds which rested atop them and wanted to be a bird, soaring freely through the dips and rises of the hills below. And when I sat on the rocks by the waterfall and looked down at my feet in the cool, crisp water, I wished I was one of the dart-like little fish shooting around from one pebble to the next. It is this sort of inspiration and dreamy beauty that has come to define my experience in Costa Rica so far, one that seems to align with those who call this gorgeous country home.
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Roy and his wife showed us around his plantation, allowed us to try their delicious, fresh coffee, and even let us try milking his cow, Pulga (“flea” in Spanish)!
We rode in the bed of a truck on the way up to the waterfall from the coffee plantation, a mass of people dripping in sweat and tiredness but buzzing with excitement for what lay ahead. Roy, the owner of the paradise of a coffee plantation we stayed at, was wonderful company and conversation on our bumpy journey. In Spanish I asked him many questions, like “¿De qué países vienen las turistas a tu finca?””¿Puedes ver un comportamiento común de los americanos cada vez?” “¿Qué es tu cosa favorita de Costa Rica?” and “¿Ya está cansado de las vistas de las montañas después de tantos años?” And to all of this his kind and patient answers were “¡Todas! Francia, China, Alemania…”; “Siempre hay alguien más activo, o más tranquilo…” “La naturaleza. Es muy tranquilo.”; “Nunca.” I am so grateful that he welcomed us so warmly into his paradise with such kindness and patience.
The hike to the waterfall was horrendously difficult and, in turn, exhilaratingly fulfilling. 
The inclines and declines were almost vertical, and the rain soaked mud made it nearly impossible to find sure footing, but after much effort (which made me quite proud of my noodle legs), we finally arrived at the waterfall. 
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Being at the waterfall was fantastic evidence of the fact that each and every individual has their own definition of adventure. While the rest of my group spent their time jumping into the water, swimming, laughing, and talking, I sat aside in a nest of rocks and silently gazed upon my surroundings. The lights and shadows of the layers of foliage adorned by a bright pink flower or a teal butterfly fluttering contentedly in the water-flecked breeze filled me with a sensation of utmost contentment and awe.
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To sit and observe was my adventure, and it was thrilling. But this difference in experience within the same setting does not make my choice of spending my time nor my group members’ greater or lesser; I know that had I gone in with them at that moment I would not look back at my time there feeling fulfilled because that is not what felt right to me. It is a beautiful thing that each individual finds their contentment differently.
This trip is revealing to me inner truths that are so significant to the journey of self-improvement. I am so appreciative of all of the kind people and gorgeous places I have been blessed with so far, and can’t wait for what’s more.

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It is the most humbling experience to witness one’s expectations being supplanted by reality; the images blurred by ignorance that are conjured by the mind to explain the unknown are so rarely accurate and dangerously undependable, a fact that will become more and more apparent as my ideas of Costa Rica will be replaced by its realities throughout my trip.
I packed an arsenal of entertainment for my flight to Costa Rica with the expectation that I would be so dreadfully unenthused by the experience of reaching my destination that I would be entirely dependent on movies and television episodes in order to pass the grueling hours. However it turned out that being present was the very thing I would need during those long hours.
I spent a majority of my flight simply sitting. I sat with my hands folded, fully immersed in the universally agreed upon silence that every individual carried onward. Even the baby next to me seemed aware of the softened stillness so sacredly preserved in the cabin, and kept his wailing soft and rare. There was a heavy feeling of focus in the plane; maybe not focus, but fixation from every party. Hundreds of eyes glued onto the screens before them as visually pleasing images swept away the listless hours. I would occasionally observe the people around me and the entertainment they had chosen for themselves–a gun enthusiasts’ magazine, the movie Frozen, or the view out the window. It was a truly fascinating display of how humans cope with a situation in varying ways. Simply being. On my own, I was still and silent and at peace.
It became apparent that traveling to my destination was almost as instrumental a part of the experience as being there.
While in some ways I would describe myself as an independent person, in my day to day life I am quite dependent on the presence of others in the process of decision making and action taking. Most often I find myself turning to my wonderful mother for guidance, but on this trip I am not able to look at her with imploring eyes for the answers but instead at myself to find them. Getting to Costa Rica was just the beginning of a journey of me figuring out how to rely on me, and I am so excited.
 Finally I am in Costa Rica.
We spent our first night in a small hotel in Alajuela, where the people were infinitely hospitable, gracious, and warm. We had a delicious breakfast of rice and beans and eggs surrounded by the blanket of morning fog, and as I write this we are on the bus on our way to a coffee plantation.
I am so grateful for this trip every moment that I live it, and it hasn’t even been one day yet. I can’t wait for what’s to come.

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