An unexpected lone trip to Costa Rica not only taught me to experience life despite fear, but also gave me the confidence to try a new career path
It’s easy to say you should find a career in something you love, but everyone needs a why. I didn’t know my why until 2019. While I was set on the particulars, I missed out on so much living. High school came and went and I didn’t even have a prom or yearbook signature to show for it. Instead, I had a paid sports journalism internship and stellar grades. I thought this was great, but now that I’m prepared to graduate college early without going to a single college event or party, I’m realizing that getting to the end goal without enjoying the meantime isn’t all that.
An unexpected lone vacation to Costa Rica helped me realize this. I was originally going with one of my friends, but the night before she had to cancel. I didn’t want to go because I had never traveled alone and didn’t know if I’d have fun. After thinking about it, I decided to go — mainly because I used four paychecks to buy the ticket. I woke up at 4 a.m. to head to LAX airport to catch my 6 a.m. flight. When I got to the security line, my ticket wasn’t working. Turns out, I was actually flying out of Ontario Airport. So at this point, I wanted to cancel because I felt like I wasn’t meant to go.
When I called United Airlines to cancel, the representative said she could fly me out of LAX. So after a 6-hour layover, I landed in Costa Rica. Traveling solo was completely life-changing. Fear almost stopped me from experiencing an experience. Being by myself in a foreign country where I knew nobody forced me to be still. It forced me to be quiet. It forced me to reflect. It forced me to explore. It reminded me how important it is to leave parts of myself for myself. It reminded me how small we all are in this world.
When I left my tour guide, a native Tico, he said, “Pura Vida!” — which means ‘pure life.’ The perfect way to sum up the trip, my goals and my why.
We all have limited time here on earth, and none of those minutes can be wasted on being scared. I spent all of my teen years worried about the where instead of the going and ended up missing out on the special moments that make memories. And while I can’t get that time back, I can make time — reserve time to experience an experience. You don’t want to forget what it’s like to be 16 when you turn 17 or forget what college was even like the second you graduate. At the end of the day, everything we do in life will all be stories someday, and our pictures will become old photographs and our slang will be “old people” jokes. We all will become somebody’s mom, dad, husband, wife, aunty or uncle, some of us already are. So, why not enjoy the right now before these moments become distant memories?
Right now, we are happening — we are here. I’ve learned that while I love to cover the story, I have my own story, and I need to make it as lit as possible before I’m sitting at home telling it to my grandkids.
It was on my trip, basking in myself that I realized that though I am primed to enter the media world as a sports journalist, I’m not entirely passionate about reporting sports news. I love basketball. I loved playing and breaking down the game. I always joked that I would be a good general manager, but never took the career path seriously because it’s not a path where women exist. I was scared to take the path seriously because I knew taking that road would require breaking a few glass ceilings.
But fear shouldn’t be a deterrent. As college students, we have so much pressure on us from our impending career paths and student loan debts. According to a study by Handshake, students feel pressure to choose majors that result in high-paying jobs due to student loan debt rather than choosing something they actually have a passion for. And while money is great, it does not buy happiness. That comes from doing something you love, being open to experiencing something new and sometimes unknown. Diving into a passion, despite the fear and uncertainty it may have, creates the opportunity for fulfillment.
Granted, I am still studying sports journalism and have taken an internship as a journalist for Diesel Films. But I took a leap of faith and joined a club organization as a basketball coach and scout, helping the youth expand their game and preparing myself for a possible career as a basketball scout — one of the early stepping stones to becoming a general manager.
Pura Vida, Chai, Y.O.L.O., “getting lit” are all based on spontaneity and pure life — seeing new places, new perspectives and new situations. No matter how hard you try, you can’t prepare for living life — it’s not something that can be mastered through reading and school. Only real-life experience, emotions and tribulations help master those values. Tomorrow can show me something new, or even the next day. I don’t know. I’ll never know. And that is what my experiences have taught me. No matter where you are in life, you are not a finished product. You can not predict, retract or rearrange what life has in store for you. Pura Vida is being alive. It is being here. It is being infinite. Pura Vida happens wildly, unexpectedly and naturally. It’s a feeling. It’s a self-movement.
In the words of the Ticos, “Pura Vida!”