Back to Reality

After managing cancelled flights and long layovers we have made it back to Pittsburgh and it truly feels like it was all a dream. It’s hard to believe that just days ago we were in 90-degree weather with palm trees and pineapples growing outside. This fresh fruit, the PHANOMINAL coffee, and all the other amazing food we ate are definitely on the list of things I will miss most about this country.

I started this trip a little apprehensive as I had never been to a country where I wasn’t fluent in the native language. Its been 8 years since I last took a Spanish class and I could barely remember how to count prior to leaving, so I was surprised by how much I was able to recall once we arrived. Although I had a difficult time speaking the language I found it relatively easy to understand what was being said to me which ended up being incredibly useful on multiple occasions. Over the course of the week my language skills improved bit by bit and I was able to effectively communicate with one of the young boys that stayed at the Amazonian lodge who had taken a liking to our group. I was able to learn about his love of video games and photography and he ended up helping us create our in-country commercial which was part of our class. Although my Spanish is nowhere near as good as many kids on this trip, I was proud to be as receptive as I was.

I went into this trip with very minimal expectations and the goal of having an open mind and taking the time to relax. I am happy to report that I accomplished both of those goals as I was able to try many new foods and face many fears (tarantulas and canoes being the main ones), as well as destress. There was only one spot in the lodge that had wifi and since I had no cell phone service in country I was truly forced to unplug and appreciate the sights around me. Although this was a big adjustment at first, I found that I was able to focus better and my sleep schedule drastically improved as I wasn’t mindlessly scrolling through my phone for an hour before bed. I truly think that unplugging from work and social media is one of the reasons I was able to enjoy the trip as much as I did.

The biggest surprise for me was the level of outdoor living we did. I love the outdoors and have spent many weeks backpacking in remote parts of the country, so I figured I would have no issues with the outdoor elements of the trip. Afterall, we were just staying at a lodge, right? Despite the beautiful living arrangements, we quickly learned that this trip wasn’t going to be a relaxing, clean resort vacation. Due to the humidity, we discovered that nothing, including quick dry pants, ever dries in the rainforest. In fact, things that were originally dry and folded nicely in your suitcase quickly became wet and everything – including us – began to smell not so great by the end of the trip. Because of this, I recommend that anyone interested in this trip be very outdoorsy and adventurous and doesn’t mind getting a bit dirty and wet as they explore this amazing country.