A note from the Publisher: The Costa Rica Blog Network has chosen to feature the following article for its acknowledgement of “courage”, “teamwork”, “perseverance”, “gratitude”, and “happiness” as key life lessons learned through the process of travel. Thanks to Jenna for submitting her personal account to us. The best souvenir you can take away from Costa Rica is a life-altering (dare I say, “pura vida”) attitude, and it appears you packed your suitcase full of it. Pura vida!
Featured Author: Jenna Cheng
What adventures do you seek to experience? I just returned from the most adventurous and memorable trip of my life. From the pristine ocean floor in Belize to the mesmerizing volcano mountaintop and cloud forest in Costa Rica, my husband and I traveled across these two countries in ten action packed days.
Below are key life lessons from all these outdoor adventures that I’d like to share.
1. COURAGE: While I’ve enjoyed snorkeling before, the thought of scuba diving in deep ocean waters was a daunting challenge for me. In order to dive, I studied for a rigorous two day course at Aquatic Discovery, which involved watching six DVDs, reading a training book, taking a long final exam and practicing skills in the swimming pool. A few weeks later, I practiced my diving skills in the gorgeous open waters at Ambergris Caye. By getting certified as an open water diver, I learned to overcome my fears of diving underwater. It was a thrilling experience to swim with tropical fishes, sea turtles, giant stingrays and nurse sharks. I’ll definitely treasure the memories and can’t wait to dive again!
What dreams do you hope to fulfill in 2014? I challenge you to pursue your passions today and live without regrets.
2. TEAMWORK: After traveling in Belize, we moved onto a three city trip in Costa Rica. Our first activity was whitewater rafting with the Desafio tour group in Arenal. I was both excited and anxious about venturing into Class 4 Rapids for the first time. However, our guide was an excellent leader and taught us the essential skills to navigate the river. Our team of six tourists coordinated rowing movements and trusted our guide’s direction, which led to a safe yet adventurous ride. The experience of rafting as a team was a very rewarding experience. As our tour guide said, the three rules of whitewater rafting are: be safe, have fun and get wet!
Do you trust your team members and leverage each other’s strengths? Everyone has unique skills to contribute and teamwork is essential to success.
3. PERSEVERANCE: On our 2nd day in Arenal, we embarked on a strenuous hike at Cerro Chato, an extremely steep volcano estimated at 8km long (4-5 hours) round trip. Unlike various other hikes that I’ve tried, this climb through the jungle was especially tough because of the rocky trails, sprawling tree limbs and highly elevated steps. While the views were absolutely breathtaking, I did consider turning back at some points of exhaustion! Fortunately, we persevered and continued to the top viewpoint of the famous green lagoon. It was very fulfilling to reach our final destination and see the beauty of Chato volcano, despite our aching legs from hiking! This experience reminded me to set high goals and not give up just because of roadblocks on the way.
Have you set personal goals for 2014? Remember to envision success and not give up on achieving your goals.
4. GRATITUDE: After traveling in Arenal, we drove to Monteverde to visit the cloud forest and experience the longest and fastest zip lining in the world. During our three hour journey, we drove through extremely bumpy, unpaved roads in the dark for about one third of the ride. This experience made me appreciate the excellent infrastructure in the U.S. that we often take for granted. I’m also truly grateful for the natural beauty of Costa Rican rainforests and the breathtaking views. In particular, I loved the beaches and forest views at Manuel Antonio.
What are you grateful for in your life? Take time to appreciate the simple pleasures and beauty that surrounds us everyday.
5. HAPPINESS: Throughout our travels, Belizean and Costa Rican staff members were very hospitable, friendly and polite. One term that caught my attention was “Pura Vida,” which means pure life (e.g. life is wonderful) in Spanish. Costa Ricans embrace this saying in their daily lives and happily share it with tourists. Their positive outlook, warm smiles and friendly greetings were contagious and made me feel very welcome. From the airports to the restaurants and hotels, we received first class service and a plethora of Hola! Buenos Dias! and Gracias! from local staff.
Do you strive for happiness everyday and live with an attitude of gratitude? A smile or kind gesture can truly brighten someone’s day.
In conclusion, my adventurous travels in Central America were not only fun, but also great learning experiences. Hope you get the opportunity to visit these beautiful countries someday. Which life lessons can you relate to? How can you apply these to your 2014 New Year resolutions? I look forward to hearing your stories, comments or questions.
Jenna Cheng is a travel enthusiast, global marketer and active blogger. She has traveled across Europe, North America, Asia Pacific and Central America. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter @JennaCheng.
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