How Traveling To Costa Rica Gave Me A New Outlook On Life

How Traveling To Costa Rica Gave Me A New Outlook On Life

Traveling is one those hobbies that can never get old. What's your best travel experience?

Traveling is one major way to help free your mind and take a break from the stress that we experience on a day to day basis. Ever since I was in high school, I have done quite a bit of traveling and don’t intend on slowing down whatsoever. Some of the places I’ve been to so far include New Jersey, California, Georgia, Tennessee, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Costa Rica. That list isn’t that long yet, but over the course of my lifetime, I want to go to as many places as possible, interact with many different cultures, learn about those cultures, and spread good energy everywhere I visit.

One of the best places I’ve visited so far has been Costa Rica. During my senior year of high school, my Spanish II teacher, English teacher, her husband, and my senior class went on a mission trip to San Jose. Our English teacher told us that we’d be visiting an orphanage out in San Jose to be a friend to these kids (they were between the ages of 2-11). I remember mostly everything about this trip because it was such an impactful journey; not only for us, but for the kids we spent time with. We bought them toys, clothes, and tried to speak the best Spanish we could to learn about them. Not only did we visit an orphanage when we were there, we went zip-lining along a volcano valley in San Jose. It was both exhilarating and absolutely terrifying, but I would do it all again any given day of the week.

Any time I go somewhere new, I try to make a positive impact on anyone I may come in contact with. It’s important to spread good energy wherever you go because we have no idea what people go through on a daily basis. Being from America, people from different countries think most of us are full of ourselves. Whenever you’re traveling, try to leave a little bit of good energy behind. You’ll be amazed at what itcan do.

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A Trip Of A Lifetime: Discovering Myself In Costa Rica

How I rediscovered who I was by traveling to Costa Rica in February 2016.

Traveling is quite possibly the only way one can discover the true abundance of opportunities that the world has to offer. No wonder why so many college-aged kids choose to go abroad for a semester or for shorter faculty-led trips. Some students don’t even travel with their schools at all, rather creating an individualized immersive experience for their own needs.

Regardless, travel is incredibly beneficial for developing minds and expanding one’s identity. Due to its nature that fosters independence, travelers become in touch with parts of themselves they had never known before and return to their home countries a changed person.

Volcán Poás

In February 2016, I traveled to Costa Rica with my high school biology class for almost two weeks. These two weeks peaked my interest in travel and my love for the environment. For such a small country, Costa Rica has a huge impact on "going green." One of the most noticeable changes for an American in the beautiful Central American country was the bathroom practices. In every public restroom that I went to, there were reminders to turn off the lights and to make sure that the water was not running to conserve energy and water. Though it may sound weird, they even have different routines for toilet paper! The “tee-pee” goes in the trash when you're done using it to keep the septic system cleaner and preventing any natural waste from getting stuck in the system.

It took a few days to get used to these things, but the changes were so easy to make that it inspired me to start practicing more environmentally friendly traditions in the United States. Recycling has become a daily habit for me and I encourage all of my friends to save their bottles for me to return at their expense. Every little change counts.

La Fortuna Waterfall

Traveling along the hilly-countryside and the tropical beaches also awoke the love of nature that I have had since I was a kid. My grandma taught me all of the different types of birds that we have in upstate New York. When I played outside in the woods in my backyard, I was able to pick out the different calls that rang all around me. Finding deer and bunny tracks were quite normal, but finding fox or raccoon tracks was like hitting the jackpot. Somewhere along my tumultuous teens, I became more enamored with the idea of moving to the concrete jungle: New York City. Like most teen girls, I wanted to find love amongst the tall buildings and an infinite number of coffee shops.

This was a dream of mine, all until I went to Costa Rica, when I was brought back to my roots.

View from Café y Macadamia

I had never experienced so much green. Not even in my childhood room that I had picked an awful mint-green for, not in the pines that filled the coniferous forests in New York, and not in the miles of farm fields I drove by on my way to my high school. We hiked in rainforests that were complete with toucans, red macaws, and all. They were quite possibly the most magical places that I have ever explored. I thought of my grandma and how she would have loved to hear the almost frog-like sound of the toucan call. I thought of the pines and how their height could not compare to the ancient rainforests’ massive trees. I was brought back to my youth, and suddenly I was hooked on getting outdoors.

Pacific Coast sunset on one of our last nights

When I traveled to Costa Rica with my high school for almost two weeks, I was brought to a state of happiness that I hadn’t had since childhood. My experience in Costa Rica was one that I will carry with me forever. It arguably changed my view of environmentalism in the United States, made me appreciate the opportunities that I have had, and started my passion for being in the outdoors. Without this experience, I may have never discovered my love for hiking, backpacking or travel.

Since exploring Costa Rica, I have many more plans to travel. After reading my life-changing experience, I ask you: where will you go?

Cover Image Credit: Shelby Kislowski

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The Dominican Republic Is Nothing Like You Think

A Country That Has Two Faces

When people think about traveling to the Dominican Republic, what is one thing that comes to their minds? Maybe it's the beautiful beaches or the amazing getaway from reality. The sad thing is that travelers that go to this amazing country do not know the pain it holds from its people.

Last week, I was given the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic for an immersion trip. Not knowing what to expect or what expectations to set, I left with the hole in my heart because of everything I saw. This location is much more than its beautiful beaches. The history of this country is filled with pain, blood, and ripping away the nationality from people of Haitian descent.

During the years of conquests, the trade of Haitians coming to the Dominican Republic were supposed to be for the sugar cane farming.They were told they would be allowed to stay until they were told to leave when the work was done, but if they wanted to stay - they could have. The descendants of those families that stayed are now being treated as if they were nothing.

People of Haitian descent are being ripped away of their nationality even though they identify as Dominicans and were born and raised in the Dominican Republic. The government is recognizing them as “foreigners” and “illegals” instead of who they are, Dominicans.

Within years, there have been many communities that are not aware of the situation at hand nor know their rights. People in organizations such as Reconocido (English Translation: Recognized) are fighting for the rights of those who are of Haitian descent and make it aware to other communities about what is going on within the government and their communities. Other organizations such as Caminante (English Translation: Walker) is a shelter for children that are on the streets that also help the children they encounter and help know their rights and what they can do.

It is crazy to talk about my experience when the people I speak to are always shocked about the discrimination that still occurs in other countries such as the Dominican Republic even though its known as paradise. Tourists go into these countries thinking about enjoying the beaches, getting some fresh coconuts, and trying some of the typical Dominican meals.

Sadly, people only see one side of this beautiful country’s story, but learning more about the problems within this country can help people be more aware of the situations going on and help the country change for the better.

Cover Image Credit: Ashley Perez

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