Over the summer, we invited all our Alumni to write a short essay, 300 words or less, about how their Costa Rica Outward Bound experience affected who they are today. Several people, of all ages and from different parts of the world, submitted really touching essays. Thank you all! And know that all the essays submitted will be shared later on this blog, but this particular blog is all about Bianca Soto—because after a CRROBS-wide vote, we selected Bianca’s essay as the winner!
Thank you, Bianca, for taking the time and effort to share your thoughts, feelings, and insights with us. You will be receiving a $50 gift card from REI shortly! Bianca Soto participated in a custom-course with us and her company, SUNY New Paltz, based in New York. Here is Bianca Soto’s essay:
I never imagined going to Costa Rica until this year of spring 2010. The New Paltz athletics department was planning a seven day expedition to Costa Rica. As I came across this email, and saw the subject titled “New Paltz plans a trip to Costa Rica”, I instantly thought of a beach with white sand, green water and huge palm trees. I was definitely going on this trip until I later found out that it wasn’t going to be an average typical vacation. It wasn’t the kind of vacation where a person normally spends his or her time at a beautiful resort, drinking wine coolers while laying out catching the sunrays. Instead, we were going to be exploring and hiking through the tropical rain forests of Costa Rica, staying at a home stay, learning how to surf, and going white water rafting.
At the first general interest meeting, the coordinator; Keith Kenny, made it clear to us that we would be hiking about twenty seven miles with a fifteen pound backpack for the first three days. Before he continued any further, I already had second thoughts about participating in this adventure. I’ve never engaged in any of those activities before and I was more than willing to do so with the exception of the hiking phase. The sound alone, of hiking up and down hills for twenty seven miles seemed discouraging, so the thought of actually doing so, seemed impossible to me. After contemplating for about a week and discussing the trip with friends and family, I decided to participate. I was aware of the possible struggles and discomfort during the voyage, however having the opportunity to experience a different country was enough to convince me that my time in Costa Rica would be worth it.
To my surprise, the most memorable moment of the entire trip was indeed the hiking phase. Although it was extremely dreadful and exhausting, after completing the twenty- seventh mile on the third day, I had never felt the sensation of triumph like the way I did at that particular moment and despite the fact of the several bumps and bruises I had, the accomplishment made it all the more rewarding. Because I often doubted my physical capability, way before I even attempted this voyage, to this day, it all seems surreal.
Hiking through the rainforest I came across orange sewage, leaves the size of me, several birds and distinct insets, and much more. The presence of the nature and being alienated from the computer and television, allowed me to embrace and be mindful of our natural surroundings. In addition, this particular location has contributed to my sense of self in ways that have allowed me to explore my strengths and weaknesses. By being exposed to outdoorsy environments I developed a passion for the wilderness and I was able to appreciate the advantages that I have in which others may be unfortunate of.
Going on this trip has been one of the best opportunities I’ve ever had. Being in the heart of the mountains, surrounded by all the beauty of the rain forest was so invigorating and fulfilling. Every place we went to had its own charm and wisdom and taught us a little something about the world and more importantly, about ourselves. On a larger scale I was able to experience how simply life can be lived and how simplicity does not imply unhappiness, but in fact nurtures happiness.
Costa Rica, with all the beautiful places and people, taught me that there is so much beauty around that if we disconnect from our modern lives, we are able to take in and appreciate the world for what it is. Although I was far from my comfort zone, I am glad that I was pushed beyond my standard individual limits. It forced me to try new things and from this I learned to never underestimate my capabilities of achievement. Traveling to Costa Rica increased my passion for traveling and experiencing different cultures.
All in all, it felt like an entirely different world. It was extremely refreshing to be away from my cell phone, laptop, and all the other technology that plagues us. The trip itself was a huge learning experience and had a major impact on my life and the way I view the importance of nature and family. Compared to families in some parts of New York City, unity is so strongly influenced in Costa Rica; it is almost shocking to believe that families of twenty three manage to remain connected and content without any forms of technology. Although I encountered obstacles along the way, I overcame my sense of doubt which had shaped me into becoming a stronger individual.