Why It Is Important To Push Yourself Out Of Your Travel Comfort Zone
How My Adventures in Costa Rica Inspired Me to Adopt the Pura Vida Lifestyle
In my senior year of high school, I took a school trip to Costa Rica. I was excited about the chance to experience a new culture and see a beautiful country, until I saw the itinerary. I’m not a sporty person and kayaking, hiking, zip lining, and horseback riding made me nervous, not to mention the thought of insects. Despite my apprehension, I decided to take a chance and step outside my comfort zone.
We started our adventure in Costa Rica’s Arenal region. The natural beauty of this area immediately struck me. Our hotel rooms were rustic individual wooden cabins at the base of the imposing Arenal Volcano. We woke to the sounds of singing toucans and enjoyed a delicious breakfast al fresco that always included traditional rice and beans and fresh fruit. Our first full day started on a relaxing note as we spent it at one of the areas luxurious hot spring spas. The spa had a series of pools heated by the volcano’s geothermal activity. We felt pampered as we enjoyed swimming, a massage, or just chatting with friends while sipping smoothies by the swim-up bar.
Adventure began the next day when we went kayaking in Lake Arenal. It was my first experience kayaking and after quickly getting the hang of it, I was able to take in the breathtaking scenery. Upon reaching our destination, we jumped in for a swim before heading back. Getting back onto the kayak was a quite challenge and at one point, I was unsure I could manage. However, I persevered and finally succeeded. The next stop was La Fortuna Waterfall. As our arms had received a good workout rowing, our legs were to get equal treatment as we covered a total of 942 steps on our trek to the base of the falls and back. The hike was well worth the impressive views and offered another swimming opportunity at the fall’s base. Although my day was physically challenging, it was fantastic! The following morning, we were given a memorable farewell as the Arenal Volcano spouted ash, impressing upon me that it is one of the world’s most active volcanoes.
Next, we visited the beautiful Monteverde region. This area was much warmer than Arenal and the scenery became lush rainforests. We toured the Santa Elena Cloud Forest and learned about the native flora and fauna of the region. We also took the time to plant young trees in a reserve. We often take for granted everything nature gives us, so playing a small role in giving back felt good as was the thought that I made a small contribution in preserving the beauty of Costa Rica. We quickly changed gears and spent the next two days in full adventure mode, the part of the trip I had been dreading. Before leaving home, I had debated whether I should try zip lining. I did not want to leave Costa Rica with any regrets and so one minute I was reluctantly being harnessed in the Xtreme Zip Lining office and the next I was flying over tree canopies as well as an enormous canyon. To this day, I count that experience as one of my life’s most awe inspiring and memorable and hope to do it again someday. I conquered my fear and felt stronger because of it.
The following day was horseback riding. I was originally much more nervous about zip lining, so after enjoying that, I thought riding would be a piece of cake. I was unaware that this was also an “Xtreme” activity that would have me riding on the edge of cliffs and galloping for two hours. I had never been on a horse before and frankly it was much more difficult than I would have imagined. However, in the end, not only was I rewarded with spectacular views, but I felt quite accomplished and glad for the experience. Before leaving the region, a small group of us signed up for a night expedition. We hiked through a small forest and spotted various animals native to the region like armadillos, raccoons, and coatis. To my surprise there weren’t nearly as many insects as I had imagined, proving that sometimes there is no cause for stress.
Our last leg of the trip was spent in the hottest part of the country on the Pacific coast. Our hotel was on the ocean and we enjoyed sumptuous meals with fantastic views and captivating sunsets. The highlight of this region for me was Manuel Antonio National Park. With the trained eye of our guide, we spied sloths and even the iconic red-eyed tree frog before arriving at the picturesque sandy beach flanked by more greenery. There, we were greeted by monkeys and raccoons. Our guide was kind enough to stand guard over our belongings against mischievous monkeys searching for food while we swam in the warm, crystal clear ocean.
Looking back, I can’t imagine not going on this trip because of my fear and apprehension. Exploring Costa Rica and pushing myself to try new things changed not only the way I travel, but how I live my life. The biggest lesson Costa Rica teaches is their Pura Vida lifestyle. It technically translates to ‘pure life’ but to the Costa Rican people, it implies a simple life full of appreciation for the people and nature surrounding you. I learned to tackle challenges that seem scary and marvel at the world around me. Living life this way leaves no room for regrets, only happiness and fulfillment- that’s Pura Vida to me.