I’ve always had a big heart for animals. That heart has only grown fuller as I’ve traveled more and seen the amount of animals that need help around the world.
From the many stray dogs I saw roaming around Greece, to the homeless kittens in Thailand, and yes, even dogs who were rotting from the inside out in Myanmar, there is plenty of help that is needed around the world and right here at home.
I’ll be the first to say that before this year I had never volunteered at an animal shelter. And to be honest, I initially did it for selfish reasons. I was going through a difficult time in my life in Thailand, and I just wanted to feel that unconditional love that animals are so good at giving.
Snapshot memories is a new weekly series, giving a visual glimpse into different destinations and unique ways to view them. It’s also a way for me to look back on travels that occurred before and after I started this blog, and to give each place I’ve traveled the attention it deserves.
This week my memories go back to Costa Rica.
The trip that in a way started it all. My wanderlust, my insatiable need to have new travel plans and a destination in the near future at any given time. Although I wouldn’t travel again until a few years later in college, Costa Rica was the starting point of my love with the world.
I was a fairly innocent 18 year-old when I set out for my 2 week trip, traveling the country from the Caribbean coast to the Pacific coast with two of my best friends from school.
My dad had the idea that Costa Rica was too dangerous a place for his daughter of 18 to go gallivanting on her own with only two young women of the same age for company.
He was dead set again it, I wouldn’t take no for an answer. I worked countless shifts at the local movie theater in my hometown, knowing that I would be the one funding my own trip.
Even with my dad in a worrisome state of mind, I managed to still make the trip happen, showing up to the airport in the wee hours of the morning with my two other friends.
Although I knew there would be trials and tribulations, it was a much harder trip than I thought it would be. I should’ve assumed that would be the case, I had no idea what I was doing, and it was my first time jumping into the deep end of traveling with no parental guidance.
Our first morning in Costa Rica, while on a bus to Tortuguero, the first thing that popped into my mind was how incredibly GREEN Costa Rica is. Everywhere I looked was lush rainforest, life at every end of the eco system spectrum, and beautiful shades of green, green, green.
I saw baby turtles hatching in the middle of the night on the island of Tortuguero, I slept under mosquito nets, took malaria pills, and washed most of my clothing by hand.
I hitchhiked, partied in the discotecas of Puerto Viejo, and got buzzed for the first time off Smirnoff Ice. I learned what it means to be a foreign woman in Latin America, and how scary unwanted advances can be. I burst into tears at the slowest internet I’ve experienced in my life, specifically when I lost an email I had been writing for the better part of the afternoon to my boyfriend at home.
I also realized how petty and privileged some aspects of my life really were.
I spent an exhausting and terrifying night in the capital, San Jose, where it sounded like someone was being murdered outside the window, and my travel companion had to sleep on a urine-scented couch. I saw some of the best sunsets I’ve experienced in my life, shared a lot of laughs, and realized sometimes you can’t travel well with everyone.
I held baby frogs, looked up at boa constrictors above me, found myself in a boat that was a foot away from a crocodile, and dealt with mischievous misbehaving monkeys.
I went skinny dipping, swam under waterfalls, picnicked on the beach, indulged in my love of smoothies, and realized how much I needed to still work on my Spanish.
The trip was everything I needed to find my spirit of independence before moving out of the house I grew up in to go to college.
Besides being a life changing trip for me, what I took away most from my time in Costa Rica was how colorful of a place I found it to be, as it seems a lot of Latin America is.
That trip was 6 years ago and the colors are still what I remember most about the country. It seems only fitting that my snapshot memories of the week are separated by the colors of Costa Rica.