I wrote in my pre-departure reflection that I didn’t want to go into this trip with distinct expectations, “I kind of want to just let it all unfold.”
I think it was that same trust I had in the experience–resting assured that the Costa Rican adventure would teach me something–that allowed the experience to teach me how to trust myself. This is the most important lesson I learned from field reporting, both on a personal and professional level.
I’ve been told before that I have a tendency to overthink and overanalyze things, particularly academically and professionally. I often spend a lot of time theorizing about a task and not enough time executing, and when I do get to the execution, I often second guess myself.
While field reporting in Costa Rica, however, I had little context to cling to, and we almost had no choice but to go along for the ride. Not knowing much about Costa Rica’s economy and not having much time between activities, it would have been impossible to plan to create a micro-documentary style piece examining some of the intricacies of the effect a pervasive tourism industry has had on the coffee industry. I think that by going into the story with a fairly blank slate, I was open to understanding the shades and facets of the issue, thus allowing the story to grow organically.
The fact that our itineraries were so packed, and the nature of our activities (chasing monkeys?!) made it impossible to know what to expect. I had to learn to let my instincts take over. As it turns out, because of the technical training and practical wisdom I’ve accrued (i.e. don’t forget to charge your camera batteries), I didn’t cause any kinds of catastrophes (I hope). In fact, I’m pretty happy with the clips I came out of this trip with.
I’ve also gained confidence in my ability to adjust to new environments quickly. This was the first time I was in a completely foreign country without my parents as a buffer, and it gave me confidence that I would be able to travel more by myself. It was quite a freeing and relieving experience, really.
By boldly accepting any experiences that came my way—essentially because I had no choice, I realized that there’s not really much to be afraid of. Nothing horrific happened on the trip, and even minor setbacks were dealt with constructively, like getting lost on the Costa Rican mountains with my brother: I learned how to use the resources I had available, use a map and ask for directions. It sounds silly, but “what if I get lost?” has always been a fear of mine—particularly given I have pretty much no sense of direction—but we did get lost, and we were fine.
Even in meeting locals, I was glad to find that not only I, but my classmates as well, were able to connect with strangers, let alone strangers from such a different culture from our own, so easily.
Being immersed in unfamiliar surroundings, and constantly learning so much about unfamiliar nature and culture helped me gain a better perspective on my own personal nature and culture. Realizing that the trip is over is fairly devastating, but I can’t wait to travel abroad again.