If you follow my personal social media, you’ll see that there is a team of young women that I absolutely adore – not simply because they support me, but because they have all channeled whatever small bit of inspiration I may┬áprovide and funneled it in their own incredible, thoughtful, and generous spirits. Emily Sorrells is one of them. I had the pleasure of meeting Em at a speaking engagement, and she had shared that my work with UN Women inspired her to do aid work in Costa Rica. I was honestly blown away by this; to know that her excitement didn’t simply illicit a retweet, but a call to action. And the fact that she practiced what she preached was the most amazing element. I asked Emily if she would share what she learned from her volunteer experience – what the takeaway was – to remind all of us how fully soul-satisfying it feels to be of service. On a personal note, Em, I could not be prouder of you. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. Welcome to The Tig Team. ; )

From Emily

At the beginning of this year, in my AP Environmental class, I watched a video that covered global poverty and living conditions. Instantly, all I wanted to do was find a way to travel internationally and help others. After spending quite some time convincing my parents to let their seventeen year old daughter travel alone, I found Global Leadership Adventures and their Initiative for Children in Nosara, Costa Rica. I worked towards and fought for this trip and feel so proud of all that I was able to accomplish with the inspiring people I had the opportunity to meet. I learned more from this trip and my experiences than I could ever express in words, but here are just a few of the lessons that this trip and the beautiful people involved with it were able to teach me.

This world’s beauty is endless, when one chooses to open their eyes to it.

I’ve always appreciated the beauty of the world around me, but never before have I had an entire rainforest at my doorstep…literally. Waking each day to the natural alarm clock of howling monkeys at 5am, I spent three weeks more entirely immersed in nature than ever before. I learned that Costa Rica possesses 5% of the world’s biodiversity while it is just about the size of West Virginia. Just having the fortune to travel through a few of Costa Rica’s beautiful sites put me up close and personal with incredible wildlife, gorgeous waterfalls, and everything in between. My experience taught me to stop, unplug, and appreciate the natural beauty around me, and it offered me an understanding of the importance of protecting this biodiversity from dangerously growing levels of tourism and deforestation.

Pura Vida

‘Pura Vida,’ is used most commonly as a greeting, a salutation, a state of being, or a life motto, but it can truly mean whatever you interpret it as. To me, it is the decision to face life’s challenges with an attitude of positivity and confidence and with the goal of overcoming and continuing on. Pura Vida also goes hand in hand with the saying, ‘Tico Time’ — the tendency of Ticos (Costa Ricans) to be late. Throughout my trip, I came to appreciate that this lateness is actually a characteristic of Ticos’ immense respect for each other and their ability to live in the moment without being preoccupied by where they need to be next. This is a lesson many of us, including myself, could stand to learn and integrate into our fast paced and all over the place daily lives.

No fear is unconquerable.

I am not always proud of the long list of irrational fears I know I have, but taking this trip brought me face to face the many of these little fears that I was ready to conquer. I never expected to feel so proud of what I would overcome in the short span of my trip to Costa Rica; including being alone in multiple airports, touching a snake (in a controlled environment!), using a bathroom that was home to the biggest spider I had ever seen, committing to being myself in an entirely new environment, doing my best to use my sub-par Spanish skills to communicate with the sweetest locals, jumping from a waterfall, and running into the ocean and riding some waves in an afternoon storm. I spent three weeks looking my fears in the eye and telling them that I win, and that has to be one of the most empowering and rewarding feelings I could ever imagine.

Sharing is caring!

My lesson of sharing extends to my new GLA family and the community of Nosara, Costa Rica. At home base, I lived with five amazing roommates and learned to share everything from my killer dance moves and my deepest emotions to our nightly PB&Js and chips and salsa. In the community of Nosara, I learned from visiting the home of a local named Marleny, that many Costa Ricans truly appreciate what tourism has brought to their country and they are more than willing to share their beautiful land with anyone who wishes to see it. Since locals are happy to share their home with us, it is more than important that we know how to share as well; this means contributing to the local economy by visiting authentically local shops and restaurants instead of remaining on an all-inclusive resort for the entirety of a trip to a new country.

Embrace your crazy passions, you never know what they could bring.

Those who are closest to me would say that I can talk endlessly about the things I care about, like the people and things that inspire me and the excitement I feel towards new experiences and chances to help others. In the past, my instinct has been to hide my craziness when it comes to the things that make me happy, out of fear of what could come from others’ judgement and opinions. Thinking about it now, I cannot imagine what I would feel or where I would be, had I not chosen to embrace the things that make me happy, however crazy or overly excited I may seem. What I now know is that if I did not embrace my passions and fight for my chance to chase them, I wouldn’t have met the group of people I now think of as a family and I wouldn’t have spent three weeks experiencing the beauty of an entirely new culture and environment. If I hadn’t embraced my passions, I wouldn’t have found the strength in knowing that I can mix and push wheelbarrows filled with cement to build a driveway for a local school, and I wouldn’t feel the true happiness and accomplishment that fills my heart today.

Images via: Emily Sorrells