Costa Rica: Into the Woods


“A place is only as good as the people you know in it. It’s the people that make the place” – Pittacus Lore

When I signed up for the Costa Rica trip I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into; I had no idea what to expect, mostly because I didn’t read the itinerary. This trip practically dragged me out of my comfort zone and made me face fears I didn’t even realize I had. For me, traveling to a foreign country that is 51% rainforest wasn’t scary until I realized we would be in the rainforest – AT NIGHT. I come from a concrete jungle- what even are trees?! The trees weren’t the scary part though; it was the animals that lived on them and underneath them. Despite how scared I was, I learned to have a new appreciation for wildlife. My fear sparked curiosity, and even though I was crying internally (maybe externally too) I was also kind of excited about what I could encounter.

I wasn’t scared of staying with a host family in Paraiso until we were driving over to be dropped off. Being with the group was my safety net, and now it would be Fiona and me by ourselves. I got so nervous, and I really have no idea why. Ultimately this fear drifted away when my host mother welcomed me with open arms and immediately began referring to me as “mi hija,” which means “my daughter” in Spanish.

Being in Paraiso was great, but it was the people who made it amazing. Everyone always had a sincere, warm smile on their face, and listening to their stories brought me joy. I chose to go on this trip because I desperately wanted to experience something new and go somewhere with classmates that I had barely spoken to before and didn’t know. Being with a group of Blair students that I wasn’t exactly close with made the experience a lot more interesting. It’s not everyday that you get to make friends while you’re on the verge of tears in a rainforest because you’re scared some animal is going to eat you. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

I left Costa Rica with a new appreciation for life and for different kinds of people. People are often afraid of things when they don’t know what to expect or what could happen, but focusing on the negative possibilities takes away from and ruins what could otherwise be beautiful experiences. By the second day I realized that I was letting the fears that I had of being in a different environment take away from what would be an amazing trip, so I decided that I had to go into every experience with arms open and just laugh off the awkward moments. I loved everything about this trip: the people I met, the places I saw, and the experiences I had. I don’t think I can really explain to anyone how I felt while I was in Costa Rica, for it is truly something that one has to experience for themselves. Whether I return to Paraiso or not, I know I will carry those memories with me forever. It was all really just, as they say in Costa Rica, Pura Vida.

(Copyright 2016 Helen Mercedes)