As my Latin American adventure comes to an end, I can’t help but look back on who I was when I stepped off that plane and who I am now. Before I came to Costa Rica, I was caught up in the daily grind of university life – hardly taking time to eat or sleep, let alone let myself enjoy all that was around me. I was so worried about passing with a stellar GPA or understanding the fine-tuned, linguistic inter-workings of Spanish that I hardly allowed myself to speak two words without tripping over my own thoughts. Now, I sit here watching the enormous sun slowly set, I can only think about how far I have come.
I am proud to say that I now, at least for the most part, speak Spanish without hesitation and unabashedly. I am no longer caught up in the passing or failing, but rather have opened myself up completely to learning a new language and culture. Speaking of culture, I think about how many different experiences that have showed me that everybody has a different story to tell. I have gotten the opportunities to meet a group of Quakers, who founded their own school in the mountains of Costa Rica. I have climbed up the side of a mountain with an aspiring musician and baker. I have walked through the rainforests and jungles of Costa Rica with people from all over the world. I have ground chocolate by hand with the indigenous communities of the Limón. If nothing else, my travels have taught me to embrace the differences that seem to divide us, to take the time to learn what lies behind the façade of each individual, and to appreciate everything the world has to offer. And perhaps even more importantly, I have learned how to step away from the stress of life, let my curls fly free, and just breathe – to take in the air, the mountains, and the forest with my whole heart and actually enjoy being young.
While I am sad that I am departing from this small Central American paradise, I am ready for a new adventure – a new opportunity to experience life and see how much more I have to grow.