“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” -Robert Louis Stevenson
It is absolutely surreal that I’m already in my fourth week here in Costa Rica. My mind cannot comprehend it. The idea of returning to the States seems incredibly distant, yet all too near. A trip like this has a unique ability to strip you down and stretch you–to show you who you really are. I have learned so much already during my time here, and as much as I love improving my Spanish, by far, the most valuable lessons have been learned on the streets, not sitting in the classroom.
Studying abroad with my program provided me with a unique opportunity. It brought together forty-some students from all across the U.S.–students from all sorts of backgrounds, who have all sorts of ambitions and goals in their lives. They’re incredible, and they’ve rapidly become some of my favorite people on the planet. They’re my friends, my people, my community. The experiences we’ve had in three and a half weeks have brought us close in ways that some relationships do not achieve for years–or sometimes, ever. We’ve needed each other, and that has been the most beautiful part of our journey. It, I think, has forced us to be honest with each other. As the girl that is typically ready to sit back and observe before diving into anything beyond surface level acquaintances, this both challenged and refreshed me. This past year has been one of a lot of big moves for me. I’ve said a lot of goodbyes to a lot of people that I love dearly, and no matter how many times you say them, goodbyes are painful. So, a few days into the trip, I felt convicted that I was so concerned about protecting myself from that pain that I was unwilling to invest my heart fully in where I was. Instead, I constantly reminded myself that I would only be here five weeks. Jesus gently showed me that I was missing out on something incredible. I needed to get outside of my comfort zone. I needed to let myself love the culture, the experience, and the people around me fully… and that’s made all the difference.
The other day, a friend and I caught a bus to a volcano for the day, spent time wandering there, then went to a darling town nearby. We ate Costa Rican food and caught a train home when we were tired. Very little went the way we planned. I wore shorts and chacos to a volcano that ended up having temperatures more akin to those of a midwestern American winter (I could see my breath when I got out of the bus). We were supposed to meet other friends, but our paths never crossed. We had the craziest, most useless map…and riding a train was definitely not a part of the initial plan. Yet it was one of my favorite days so far here. We saw so much of the culture. We experienced a new part of Costa Rica. We looked into the crater of a volcano. We discovered the breathtaking ruins of an old church. We took a train through the barrios and countryside of Costa Rica, and it only cost 650 colones (barely $1 in American money)! And this entire day, I think, illustrates very well my life here.
Things rarely go as planned. The greatest lessons come when we least expect it. I’ve learned so much about myself, been so challenged to strengthen and own my convictions, gained appreciation for other cultures, laughed till there were tears streaming down my cheeks, and experienced things I never even dreamed before coming here. I can never see the world the same way again. Rarely do I know what a day is going to hold, but it is unfailingly an adventure. I could not be more thankful that God put me here for this time.
When the time comes to leave, it’s going to break my heart a little. But maybe that’s a good thing, because it means that I am truly here and invested. I’m learning, changing, growing. I will take the lessons I’ve learned home with me. I will cherish these dear friendships long after we say goodbye at the plane. But for now, those goodbyes are still in the future.
So, until then, I’ll continue living life pura vida, experiencing this place and loving it. I’ll continue to take adventures. I may not always know exactly where the train is going, but I know that every step along the way will be filled with beautiful moments. In Costa Rica, more than anywhere else I’ve ever been, I’ve learned that some times it truly is as much about the journey as the destination. So, while I don’t always know exactly where I’m headed (both in Costa Rica–their directions are crazy, by the way–and life), I remain grateful that I can trust my path to the Author of this great adventure.