07/19/2013 04:54 pm ET Updated Sep 18, 2013

Costa Rica: My Journey

Last summer I sat on the train home from New York City, texting my friend. I got frustrated because she was telling me about how she was getting the new iPhone within the next month. I didn't have an iPhone and felt like I was the only one in my whole school without one. I was so annoyed but as I sat pitying myself I realized, "What was I doing?" I was feeling sorry for myself because I didn't have the latest phone? There are people all over the world who live in poverty and struggle just to find food. I needed a reality check, bad. I realized how ignorant I was and I made a decision that day. I wanted to travel and help people and get a perspective of what the world was like for other people in other places.

This summer I went to Costa Rica for 10 days with an organization for teens wanting to work abroad called Global Leadership Adventures. I went to my mom with the URL and told her that is what I really wanted to do but she said I had to pay for part of it myself. I babysat my way and paid off my portion.

However, before I left I was so nervous. At the airport I thought I lost my luggage no more than 10 minutes after I checked it but luckily another girl on the trip from New Jersey was traveling with me and she was able to remind me that I checked it. We landed in Liberia then rode a bus to Eco Playa, the hotel where we were staying.

When we got there we got our room assignments and roommates. I was assigned with Hannah and Iris. Hannah was really nice and we got along all 10 days and Iris was great too but she was scared of bugs so every night we moved her bed in between Hannah's and mine and we moved it back every morning. It was really funny. Also we got in "families" and every day we met before dinner and discussed what happened that day. My family (The Guerreros -- Spanish for "warriors") got really close and was led by Gina, one of the mentors. It was amazing to share this experience with her and my family.

We began service on Monday. I worked in La Cruz which was about 45 minutes from Eco Playa. Gina and Kees (another mentor) headed the La Cruz site and there we painted a classroom for an elementary school and when we took breaks from painting we got to play soccer with the kids and got to practice talking to them in Spanish. Also in La Cruz, half of us would stay to paint while the other half went to the local bilingual high school and went to a class to talk to the students and see what the school in like. At one point, we did host-family visits where a group of three other girls and I had to communicate with this family that didn't know a lot of English making us practice our Spanish. Gina was fluent in Spanish and always helped us when we couldn't translate for ourselves. The week of service was so fun and it was so rewarding when we finished painting the room. When we invited the kids in to see the finished paint their faces brightened up. At the other service sites lead by Mateo and Madeline the people said they also felt rewarded to work with the kids and make a difference.

People are made to connect and develop relationships. I have made it a rule to always enter a situation with an open mind and a kind heart. It's silly how I had to travel to a different time zone to realize this even though many different people have told me to do this throughout my life. I have a better sense of who I am and that my comfort zone should always be expanding in every new encounter I have. There is always an adventure waiting. Now I must implore you; my reader to open your life and look for ways to help in places likes La Cruz Costa Rica or even your town. One family time we had Gina gave us a website called Idealist that is a good place to find volunteer and job opportunities.

One night the mentors took us all out for pizza and the pizzeria where we ate was a house that was turned into a restaurant. We went into the backyard and there we had the best view; we looked out and while I looked out it finally felt real. The experience I had was real and better than anything I could imagine. Sometimes an experience you have doesn't seem as impressive as someone else; when I described the trip to my family and friends they said it sounded like I went on vacation rather than a service trip but standing and looking out I reflected on the relationships I made with the other kids there with me, the mentors who were so instrumental in my trip, and the community I worked in. Spencer said that when he looked out all he wanted to do was fly but it wasn't until I got home and recovered from the extreme jetlag did I realize that I had flew. I was at peace in Costa Rica and living in the moment and for me that is my definition of flight and balance.

My trip was June 15 through the 24th but it took me through July to write this blog. It took me this long because I didn't know what I wanted to say or how to explain what I did in Costa Rica. I still hadn't processed what happened. On the plane ride home I talked to my friend Amanda who was on the trip with me and we got close over the 10 days. We talked about how when we got home we didn't know how to explain what happened. I have a better sense of my trip and myself now. If I were to do the trip over I wouldn't change a thing. Costa Rica was the best experience of my life. I have learned more about myself in 10 days then I have in 16 years and I am so blessed that I got to experience Costa Rica this way with the people I was with. I will never forget it and want to participate in more programs like this one in order to become a more involved Global Citizen.

My Trip To Costa Rica