The summer after college I had the urge to go somewhere new, somewhere different. I honestly didn’t really care where- I just wanted to get away. I did some research and talked with a few friends about a volunteer organization called IVHQ and ended up going abroad to volunteer with them. I found the cheapest flight out- which ended up being to Costa Rica, so I booked it. I didn’t know anyone else going, I didn’t know anyone in CR I didn’t know who was picking me up from the airport, I didn’t know where I was going to be sleeping..and I loved it.
When I arrived I was picked up in a van by some woman and I basically just got in it and went where I was told. There were so many spanish words being spoken around me I couldn’t keep up. I was in the van with someone who had won an abroad version of American Idol and he was here on a sponsored trip. He had a packed bag and a guitar. We spoke the whole time while everyone else was speaking a very fast spanish.
I was dropped off at the home IVHQ base in San Jose, Costa Rica and they gave me my new home for the next two weeks. Side note- when I say address, I mean a description of where I was to live. The address looked something like this in English..
The Blue House
Across From the Red House
Next to the Yellow Plant
If you think I’m making this up, I’m not, I was just as confused as you are now.
This would be my host family for the next two weeks. I would eat my meals with them and speak with them only in spanish. This was definitely the ‘something different’ I was looking for. I ended up having a roommate, Amanda, who was in the same program as me as well. We planned all our trips and worked in the orphanage together.
Since this was a volunteer trip for me I volunteered 5 days a week at an orphanage where I played and made lunch for 5 boys.
The weekends though, that was the time to travel. The first weekend we went to Arenal, the volcano. This was AMAZING and I highly recommend going to anyone who goes to Costa Rica. If you are looking for something active, definitely try and hike the mountain it is so worth it. There are amazing waterfalls you can swim in and beautiful sights.
If you are looking for something more low key, I recommend checking out the Baldi Hot Springs this is a great place to relax in all natural volcanic water.. they even have a swim up bar and you can put a volcanic mask on your face for super smooth skin.
We all spent the day at the volcano and the volcanic hot springs then headed back to our hostel for an even larger adventure the next day.
We headed up to Monteverde the next day to hit the ziplines and little did I know… go bungee jumping. We went to MonteVerde Extremo Bungee which was the most adrenaline filled day ever. We were ziplining through the rainforest which was amazing in and of itself.
Pictured above is the Tarzan Zip Line where you jump off a platform and just free fall until the rope catches you.
After zip-lining for three straight hours it was off to the bungee jump. Little did I know that this as the largest bungee jump in all of Central America (143 meters). This was possibly one of the scariest moments of my life. SO to give a quick synopsis… someone is telling me to jump of a ledge that was railed out to the middle of the rain forest and just expect a piece of rope that is around my ankles to save my life. Long story short, I had to ask the nice man who proceeded to tell me that instead of coffee in the morning, he goes bungee jumping, to push me off the ledge. I literally couldn’t make myself jump (video is on facebook).
The next weekend we did a short trip to Tortuga Island surrounded by the warm waters of the Gulf. This was a beautiful island where we had a catered lunch and went on a snorkeling tour.
Okay and ONE LAST point about Costa Rica…I promise. Their living mentality of ~Pura Vida~ is a phrase that I believe everybody should live by. Pura Vida means full life. Everyone should be living their life to the fullest and a trip to Costa Rica will only remind you how important exploring and living really is.
Have a great day, and PURA VIDA!