I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
— Robert Frost
The road winded through the mountains, past colorful, tin-roofed houses crammed together along the sides. As the bus moved through the Linda Vista, the translator shared some of the community’s history.
The green field where children play soccer was once a landfill. Children used to say their parents were “divers” – a reference to salvaging items from the trash, not exploring the oceans in scuba gear. In many cases, the translator explained, the owners of the houses we passed by were squatters; they didn’t own the land beneath their humble homes.
This was the first introduction to a community where Fundación PIEDAD, one of the fly-in clients, operates a school, Escuela Linda Vista. It is not a place I would have seen had I traveled to Costa Rica on my own instead of for a fly-in as a member of Team Pura Vida ’17.
Looking back, much of what I enjoyed in Costa Rica were experiences I normally avoid when traveling.
I usually insist on eating out when I travel, although I try to favor locally owned restaurants over restaurant chains. I usually turn down offers to stay at someone’s home and eat a home-cooked meal. My view on this changed in Costa Rica.
The fly-in team ate two meals cooked by a local woman and her mother and served at their home. I enjoyed and appreciated the meals, but it wasn’t until I was back in North Carolina that the importance of that experience sank in. I can’t take full credit for the revelation. While talking with Amanda Jones (program manager for Team Inspire and Ice) about our respective fly-in experiences, she mentioned what it honor it was for my team to get to share a meal with someone in their home. I just take credit for recognizing the truth in what she said.
Had I traveled on my own, I would have chosen a different hotel, maybe one owned by a chain in different part of the city. But the first morning, I immediately took pictures of the mountain view from the window of my hotel room to share with friends and family. One of my favorite memories from the hotel is when I spent way too much time using broken Spanish and inadequate hand gestures trying to ask a woman who, I think, manages the business, if I could pet her dog. After she brought over two more people, and after several failures with Google translate, we reached a point of understanding. Petting the dog — a friendly Shar-Pei with a loud, gruff bark — made my day.
When I travel, I avoided walking for any substantial distance in unfamiliar places. The scenery around me is typically a blur from a car window instead of something I strolled (or huffed and puffed) through.
If left to my own trip-planning devices, I would have missed out on what felt like an authentic experience.
In his poem The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost describes how someone feeling nostalgic and sentimental exaggerates about the importance of a mundane decision they once made. Maybe I’m already doing that now as I reflect on the fly-in to Costa Rica, which is already almost a month away in my rear view. Either way, I do know this: I enjoyed the trip overall. I felt I got a fairly authentic sense of the country in a short amount of time. Yes, it’s silly to feel a little sentimental about wiping away layers of volcanic ash from my phone and laptop screens, but not to remember the awe I felt while watching a seemingly endless landscape of mountain slopes and caverns pass by on one bus trip. I still smile at my grainy iPhone photos and remember marveling at the pink-mottled sky above the mountains at sunrise and at dusk.
The fly-in is yet another example of how iMedia has pushed me outside of my comfort zone. At numerous times, I have had to embrace change and the unknown.
Doing so has made all the difference.