For my first trip abroad, I tried to go in with as little expectations as possible and I think it’s how I kept my sanity. I like things to go as planned and I tried to let go of that for this trip. I want to let go of that need in other parts of my life as well. I think my travels in Costa RIca were a great first step.

My original project involved and black and white photo of each person I met accompanied by a summary of an interview with said person. However, using my film camera turned out to be  much more difficult than using my digital. In addition, I only had time for one formal interview, which was saved to my phone, which is now broken. While I do believe I can recover the file, this is where having no expectations for the final result of my project will help.

I am disappointed that I can’t present the experiences I had on my trip the way I originally planed. However, I know that I have plenty of quality digital photos that will express the unique stories of the people of Costa Rica. I have faith that my blog posts will inspire others to take a leap into the unknown in order to learn about others and the world around them. I want to share the story of the garden keeper and the three-year-old boy and the passion the town had for soccer and so much more with everyone at home. I firmly believe I can do that.

Overall, my trip to Costa Rica has definitely made me want to travel more and more. I saw so many wonderful things that I just want to go anywhere and everywhere to experience more of them. I think this trip has started me on a really great path of self-awareness and personal growth, also. I know that I can push my limits and not only be okay, but a better person than when I started. I wish that every person could experience this and I am so grateful that I was able to.

(Sydney Kramer) read more →

What surprised me most about my trip to Costa Rica was how welcoming and friendly the people were. They were so willing to care for me and the rest of my group. In a country that is so different from what I am used to, this friendliness was much appreciated. I am so thankful that the people of San Gerardo made my first real international travel experience  such a good one. They definitely implanted the travel bug into me. I am already planning a trip to Greece and Italy with some of my friends for next summer. I learned that, in order to really understand a country’s culture and people, you must go beyond just the touristy things. Of course, staying at the beach and souvenir shopping the last couple days was fun, but I really learned about the culture and about myself when I was in the small village, fully immersed in the Costa Rican lifestyle.

Being that my final project is a documentary, I am having difficulty cutting and editing the clips. Transitioning from one topic to another smoothly is more difficult than I had initially imagined. There are many technical difficulties that I have come across. However, for the most part, the project is coming together nicely, and I am pleased with my footage. I do wish, however, that I had taken a video tour of my host family’s house. I only have a few pictures of the bedroom I stayed in. I think an entire video would better portray the lifestyle.

My project’s topic has changed drastically. In Costa Rica, I was inspired by my sister Rosibel’s story. I decided to focus my entire project around her instead of using the more broad and general theme that I planned to implement. read more →

I started my journey with the Wandering Scholar expecting it to be completely life changing. It wasn’t quite as drastic as I thought it would be, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t inspire me to continue to explore and take leaps into the unknown. I saw another world that made me want to see all the others out there. I experienced a loving community and a new desire to meet more and more of them.

My favorite moment remains to be the second day in Costa Rica. My group and I were staying in Pura Suerte. In the early morning we hiked to a near by waterfall for a swim. I was not ready for what I saw because this waterfall made my jaw drop. I literally could not close my mouth. It was so stunning! The natural beauty of it was breathtaking and I stared in awe over how Mother Nature could create something so spectacular. Even after an hour of swimming in the warm waters of the pool at the base of the waterfall, my eyes were still wide open, taking in as much as they could. I would fly back to Costa Rica in a heartbeat to in those waters again.

The only thing that could have made that moment any more special was sharing it with my loved ones. That was really the only thing that could have made the entire trip any better. I missed being away from them and I wanted to share every exciting experience with my mom, my dad, my brother, my best friends, and everyone else.

My trip to Costa Rica feels like it came and went but I will always cherish the memories I made there. The Wandering Scholar helped me to keep an open mind. I learned that what is different in the world can be scary at first, but absolutely lovely when you take the time to understand it and appreciate it. In addition, working with my mentor, Katie, prepared me to travel with no expectations and learn to be aware of what was around me and myself. I am now a lifetime Wandering Scholar and I could not feel more blessed for being able to go on this adventure!

(Sydney Kramer) read more →

At the end of each day, everyone on the trip announced their highs and lows of the day. Not once was their a low that outweighed the abundance of incredible highs we all experienced. My lows were trivial little things, like the lack of hot water. But my highs were life changing. Some of my personal favorite highs include seeing and swimming in the most beautiful waterfall, becoming so close with my host family, and being accepted into the tight knit community of San Gerardo.

On one of the first days of the trip, we went on a long hike. I have never been hiking before, and being from Long Island, mountains are not something I see everyday. I do not know what exactly I expected, but I do know that I could never have imagined something as beautiful as the waterfall that was waiting for us at the end of our hike. We all stood in silence and awe as we stared at the breathtaking beauty that nature had created. The sounds of animals and insects overlapping the sound of the water rushing down the waterfall all created a harmonious symphony, creating a feeling of pure joy. It was by far the most beautiful site I have ever seen.

By the end of the trip, I felt a real connection with Rosibel and Mariellos. They welcomed me into their home, treating me with love and kindness. In the beginning of the trip, the other participants and I called our host family members, host mom or host dad or host sister and etc. However, as we developed stronger bonds with our families, we quickly dropped the “host,” in their titles. Rosibel became my real sister, and Mariellos became my real mom. For 10 days, I felt nothing but love from my family. And I could not be more grateful of that.

The village of San Gerardo is very small and very tight knit. I am honored to have been accepted so smoothly into their loving community. It was evident how accepting the community was at the moment we arrived in San Gerardo. The people waited for us on the soccer field, not one person was without a smile on his/her face. They looked so happy and excited. Besides just our host families, the community as a whole was completely accepting of us. They were eager to make us feel at home. We were invited to join the teenagers in their nightly soccer matches, and although our skills were not quite up to par, they continued to pass us the ball and encourage us to participate. Little things like this really made me feel at home.

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From the second I stepped off the airplane in Costa Rica, I knew my trip would be an experience I would never forget. And I was not wrong. The people I met, the experiences I shared, and the adventures I embarked upon were nothing short of truly amazing. As I walked along the palm tree lined airport road, their was something substantially different in the air – and it wasn’t just the humidity. It was a certain feeling, almost a premonition; I knew something great was going to come out of my 10 days in this beautiful country.

Our first stop in Costa Rica was at a little breakfast buffet style restaurant. After an entire day of traveling without a proper meal, I was starving and more than excited to have my first Costa Rican meal experience. However, it did not go as smoothly as I had hoped. This was the moment in which I realized how difficult communication really would be – not being able to speak Spanish was a real hindrance. Being unable to ask what was what and what things were made of, I just pointed at random things and watched nervously as the server filled my plate. The foods I had for breakfast that day were very hit or miss – the cheese enchilada was a hit, the obscure bean-banana dish was a miss.

A couple days into the trip, we made our way to the village of San Gerardo, where our host families were. I stayed with Rosibel and Mariellos Gonzales. Rosibel is a 17 year old girl, just like me. She speaks English relatively well. I was very thankful to be in a house with an English speaker. I was even more thankful to be in a house with Rosi. Being with a girl my age really allowed me to put things in perspective. Rosi’s 17; I’m 17. We should be doing the same things, living similar lives. But Rosi’s life is very different than mine. Rosi has cystic fibrosis, a chronic illness that requires immense medical attention. Her hospital bills are extremely expensive. So much so that Rosi can no longer afford to attend school. Hearing Rosi tell me this was truly heart breaking. Here I am, complaining about all the homework I have and taking school for granted when just a plane ride away, Rosi is sitting at home fantasizing about being in a classroom. If I could bring one thing back home with me, it would be Rosi. She deserves to have the opportunity to go to school and pursue a career. She told me her ultimate dream is to become a Spanish teacher in the United States. I wish I could bring her home with me so she could make that dream a reality. read more →