Our contributing blogger Lisa Glover returns from Costa Rica with lots of lessons learned.
If Not Now, When?
It was the moment that I stepped out of the airport in San Jose and saw the little man holding a sign with my name on it that reality hit me. I’m actually doing this. Here I am alone in Costa Rica, a destination that I’ve been dreaming about ever since I got the obsessive idea that zip lining was something I needed to do. And if I was about to go zip-lining, I was going big. What better place for a canopy tour than through the rainforests of Central America?
My mom always says that when I get an idea in my head I don’t let it rest.
“That’s how my fixation on Costa Rica began.”
I pitched nearly every one of my friends on why Costa Rica would be worth spending our precious and limited work PTO days. Despite my enthusiasm and promise that it would be “the adventure of a lifetime,” not one person could commit. I decided that one way or another, I was going to make it happen. So, I booked my first-ever solo tour travel trip (solo in the sense that I knew no one on this 14-person excursion, but would still have a group of travelers to be with). The more I thought about it, the more enticing it became. The moment I hit the “book now” button, I knew I was setting myself up for the ultimate experience, perhaps even bigger than what I originally imagined.
I had this huge smile plastered across my face the entire drive from the airport to the hotel. You know the feeling when you meet someone and you just know that your paths were destined to cross? Well, that’s how I felt about every single one of the travelers who were on this journey with me. It is as if we all chose this tour on this weekend for a reason. I spent the next seven days bonding with strangers who quickly became lifelong friends. From jumping into rivers to sharing the feeling of accomplishment after reaching the top of an extreme mountain hike, relationships were forged. The last day of the trip unfolded like a scene from a movie —everyone promising each other that their doors would always be open when the rest of us eventually made our way over to wherever that door may be: London, Australia, Los Angeles, Canada… and of course, New York City.
But out of everyone I met, Vorena, a 68-year-old Swiss lady who moved to Canada to learn English, had the biggest effect on me. The ironic part of it all is that I imagined that the very experience of traveling alone, or engaging in an extreme activity for the first time like white water rafting is what would be my breakthrough moment of the trip. But rather, it was meeting Vorena. Vorena is everything I hope to be someday. A retired, entrepreneur who founded her own travel agency, Vorena was more lively and adventurous than most 20 year olds I know. She was sweet and special in that “I’ve-had-years-of-experiences-and-aging-won’t-stop-me-from-living” kind of way. She had a twinkle in her eye that always let you know she was enjoying herself, even if she was just sipping a cup of coffee at the local café. She would say things like “oh, it’s only money!” subtly reminding us all that if the chance is there we should take it. There will always be more money to be made, but once-in-a-lifetime opportunities on the other hand… those are fleeting. During an adrenaline-driven trip like Costa Rica, it’s impossible to capture it all because you’re simply having too much fun to stop and document it. When I asked Vorena if she ordered photos of herself zip-lining (something I know I’d be bragging about to my senior citizen friends) she replied, “No, but I will always have the memory with me. That’s all that matters.”
Working in the travel industry, I am exposed to incredible destinations every day, often fantasizing about how I’ll ever get to see them all. I live and breathe travel. I’m usually planning my next trip before I’ve even returned from the one I’m currently on. I snap endless pictures until I capture the one photo that evokes a feeling; something that speaks to a multitude of emotions that words simply can’t convey. Costa Rica rejuvenated me and reminded me that everyone is in control of their own passions. I could have easily waited until one of my friends wanted to visit, but there was no guarantee if or when that would happen. Timing is everything and when it’s right, you have to seize the opportunity and embrace everything that comes with it. My photos become both my souvenirs and artifacts for storytelling, and what can’t be captured will always be a memory. And that’s all that matters.