December 25, 2018

1 Week in Costa Rica

Howdy, everyone! This post has been a long time coming, but don't worry, the long time away is because I am now a world traveler. Yup, you read that right, I have traveled the world this year. 10 countries to be exact! I've always wanted to travel and since my freshman year, I was determined to make that happen.  I am so blessed that my University offers a variety of study abroad programs for my major. While I knew about the semester abroad in Germany (post on that coming really soon) when I transferred to Texas A&M, I had no idea about the week-long trip that is offered to juniors to Costa Rica! Best part? The school pays for the trip!!!

  So did I go to Costa Rica in May? Why yes, yes I did!

The experience was nothing short of magical! Costa Rica is beautiful.  In fact, it hosts 5% of the world's biodiversity on a relatively small landmass. One week in this beautiful country was hardly enough time to really appreciate how amazing and wonderful it is. Not to mention every person we met was also incredibly kind.  Overall, it was a group of six girls (myself included), one of my favorite professors, and the worlds greatest academic advisor (honestly, she goes above and beyond to help people)  that went on the mini-study abroad trip to Costa Rica for a week.

While it is hard to summarize an amazing adventure into one blog post, I wanted to give a rundown of the top itinerary activities we did in case you ever find yourself wanting to explore the rainforests of Costa Rica.

Hiking Through the Rainforest:  This is going to sound really cheesy, but when I was in Kindergarten I got sick at school and my mom had to pick me up early.  That same day my sister's fifth-grade class had a presentation on the rainforest and eco-responsibility and since I was out sick, my mom had to take me with her.  Considering I still remember it 18 years later, it made a lasting impact, and since then I love learning about the rainforest.

In Costa Rica, the University's facilities were right in the heart of over 250 acres of rainforest. We had an amazing tour guide who took us on both a daytime hike to a waterfall and nighttime frog hike.  He knew the answer to literally any question you could possibly think of and was just an overall great person!

The hike during the day to the waterfall was breathtaking (literally, as previously mentioned, I gained weight last year due to mental health reasons and an unhealthy coping through food and I was not ready for that hike), everything was so green and gorgeous! We saw strawberry dart frogs, eyelash pit vipers, and a lot of other insects and creatures.  The nighttime hike was really nice because of the sounds and Tree frogs! Tree frogs are so cute!!

We also went to a park where there were suspension bridges to walk across and gave a view of the rainforest from above. While the views were awesome, the best part of that excursions was hands down when my friend got poop thrown at her by a monkey.

Ziplining:  Ok, I thought I was going to hate this, and by hate, I mean so terrified I'd pass out!  While ziplining HUNDREDS of feet in the air is very terrifying, it's also super fun! I even kept my eyes open to see the tree canopy below. Now, this was my first-time zip lining ever and what I didn't know is how hard breaking is. The first line I did, I came in so fast because I couldn't figure out how to break... But by the last one, I got it, so it's all good! If you make it to Costa Rica Ziplining is a must!

La Fortuna:  So the university facility we were at was about an hour from La Fortuna.  La Fortuna was definitely a touristic town, and we went there to primarily get souvenirs, but the town center is also very nice.  The square in the center looked like a tropical take on the quintessential Hallmark old town movie square. Of course, I can't forget to mention the beautiful Arenal Volcano that you can see from the town center.  We actually got to hike one of the old lava flows of the volcano.  The view was out of this world gorgeous! My photos really don't do it a lick of justice. Don't worry though, the volcano is dormant.  We were lucky though because there wasn't any real cloud coverage so we could see the tip of the volcano!

Baldi Hot Springs:  Y'all, hot springs are amazing!! Like the definition of relaxation happens there. Hot water, drinks, and tropical plants, does it get better? We went to Baldi Hot Springs & Resort after one of our hikes, and it was fantastic.  It started to rain while we were there and that might sound like it would make the experience less wonderful, but the cold rain mixed with the hot spring water was the perfect combo.  I didn't take my camera with me for the hot spring (because water and all) so these photos come from Baldi Hot Springs website:

Bonding:  Bonding with all the other people on the trip definitely the highlight.  At the end of the day, human connection and social conversations are what make a trip so amazing. We played card games, decorated journals, talked about deep conversations, and light-hearted laughs.  At the Soltis Center, there is a tradition of painting the dining halls walls with a design for every group that shows up.  We painted "Pura Vida" in block letters and painted our group inside! I love how it came out!  Oh, and of course we did all this while doing a project!    "A journey is measured in friends, rather than miles"- Tim Cahill.

Project: I know with all the fun activities I've been listing you might have forgotten this was actually a school trip! Don't worry, we did do a project.  Our task was to develop a concept for a master plan for the Soltis Center where we were staying.  It was a lot of fun to develop the concept! We didn't have much more than paper and colored pencils, so our final result was sketchy, but for a week of work, it was fun! We added ropes course, natural pools, hammocks, and entrance enhancements.  This was one project that was zero stress and a lot of fun!

Overall, this was the perfect trip to kick off my year of travel! Costa Rica gave me my first stamp in the passport (If you're an old reader and remember the trip to Canada, they did not stamp my passport) and a once in a lifetime adventure! I didn't even mention the best part: The school paid for the trip! 

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