All the itineraries and research in the world could not have prepared me for all the beauty and experiences I had in Costa Rica. A typical day was to get up at the crack of dawn and going off on a new adventure. This ranged from seeing a volcano, to being at an animal sanctuary tucked into waterfall gardens, to climbing into mountains to lodge, to agricultural lands and wetlands, to being at the continental divide. Most days we were stuffed in our bus with our excellent guides to travel to a new climate of Costa Rica, luggage all on top and boots in tow. The guides grew up there and truly shared their culture with us, by the end of the trip, everyone is one big exhausted family. They taught us etiquette and history and led us straight to birds, 85% of which I would have walked straight by and even when they pointed them out…I still missed many.

From the beginning, we got in three full meals a day; I cannot say I ever manage to do the same at home. Our teacher warned that we should eat all the food on our plates out of respect or not get it because the people are extremely hospitable even if it means them eating less. I took that to heart and cleared my plate almost always along with seconds and other peoples. Not to mention all those meals tasted and looked so amazingly fresh. I still am not sure how long until I can eat rice again but I brought back Salsa Lizano, this mouthwatering savory sauce, and I could probably eat it straight.  The food was all so natural and local, it was shockingly gentle on sensitive stomachs too. By far, my favorite Costa Rican food norm was the natural juices everywhere, mango, strawberry, pineapple, blackberry and a new fruit to me, guanábana. Another norm is coffee with each meal and wow, suitcases were filled with Monteverde rich bean roasts.

There were countless photo opportunities. I was nervous about bringing my mom’s nice camera on the trip and worried about the hassle of carrying it…worth it, the pictures I have are canvas worthy and I will forever take pride in saying I took them. They also serve to remind me of where I was because they are so location specific, if I were to go back I would actually learn how to use the camera fully for sure. I am investing in my own sometime soon just because of how much I enjoyed capturing people smiling as we walked down roadways followed by strays, or seeing them freak out at the tarantulas. Not in a million years would I have thought a salt field could be majestic. I have action shots of us playing soccer and running up hills, jumping to get the classic frozen in the air shot, caterpillars crawling we convinced ourselves were poisonous, caiman crocodiles swimming all in Cana Negro, escaped cattle, and hummingbirds’ wings frozen in time. For someone with a memory for the worse, seeing these pictures brings me delight each time.