The meaning of life.
I made a mistake.
I had it all wrong.
For a long time, my life was a series of events driven by the desire to achieve more, be more, acquire more, and constantly compete. The culture that surrounds the mentality of, “go big or go home,” or “sleep until your dead,” etc., can torment my mind. Although this “hustle hard,” culture has shaped who I am today, my most recent #VolunteerandTravel adventure in Costa Rica has helped me to embrace a more beautiful, quiet, gentle way of life. The main Costa Rican saying is, “Pura Vida,” which literally translates to “Pure Life.” More than just a phrase, it is the Costa Rican way of life. To live simply. It sounds cliché because it is so often said. But it is so often said, because the essence of it is so damn true.
During the project, Build Abroad and Maximo volunteers helped to build a small laundry shed for a girls rehabilitation residence on the hill-tops of San Ramon, just 40 minutes away from Costa Rica’s capital city, San Jose.
Thanks to our supporters, the young girls of the Hogares Crea community in Costa Rica have improved facilities. Donations to our #ProjectCityLove movement assisted in the completion of much needed construction labour for their home.
Our view everyday was breath-taking. Although many tasks are labour intensive, it was balanced by the care-free attitude of Costa Rican people. Volunteer time was four hours at the most, with frequent breaks. There was more downtime than I first thought.
The stark contrast of the busy, North American, “hustle-hard” culture, and Costa Rica’s care-free attitude has helped me to hone in on some of my favourite philosophies in life that can be summed up in three simple quotes:
There is no meaning in life except for the meaning you give it.
Change the way you see the world and the world changes.
Expect nothing. Appreciate everything.
While these words might sound trite, keep an open-mind and you can interpret these in your own way. For me, it simply means: keep calm, always stay grateful, and there is absolutely no right or wrong path in life. What matters most is what you hold in your heart as significant. This is an amazing thought because only YOU have the power to decide that.
My only regret during this trip was being unable to take photos with the young girls whose home we helped build. Understandably for privacy issues, this was forbidden.
The biggest highlight was meeting many other volunteers, who have become my friends for life. Volunteering alone in a foreign country has brought me close to these amazing people, in a way I would not have if I had just traveled Costa Rica as a typical tourist. This has really made me value potentially life-changing travel through meaningful experiences of volunteering abroad, and giving back to communities in need.
With a lot more down-time than I imagined, I was able to enjoy exploring many areas of Costa Rica including their rainforests and beaches.
For more information on how to volunteer abroad you can visit Build Abroad for construction-specific projects or Maximo Abroad for a variety of programs including conservation, construction, animal care and teaching English abroad.
This has been a very rewarding and humbling #VolunteerandTravel experience. An experience which I hope inspires others to contribute to communities in need by volunteering in similar, mutually beneficial travel experiences. Although the primary goal is to help those in need, you also learn a lot. It has filled my heart and soul in ways I did not imagine. One of the big benefits of community service is that I was able to understand the Costa Rican culture on a much deeper level than I would as a tourist.
Thank you again to all our supporters! We hope to participate in another Volunteer adventure in the new future. Our main goal is to continue to inspire people to participate in meaningful travel through Volunteering abroad!