What I Learned on My 10-Day Hike in the Costa Rican Rainforest

Lessons Learned on a 10-day hike in the Costa Rican Rainforest

As my feet take their first steps on the gravel trail in Santa Maria de Dota, I can think of 10,001 reasons why I will not be able to survive the ten-day hike through the Costa Rican rainforest that I’ve just embarked on with Outward Bound Costa Rica.

I am not “Jungle Jane.” I am not Katharine Hepburn in the African Queen. I am not Princess Leia in Star Wars.

I am merely Lauren Salisbury, a 26-year-old who has never before been on a backpacking trip and is not as brave as I sometimes think I am or pretend to be.

At this moment in time, I think of those famous female explorers of fiction and their real-life counterparts from history: Sacagawea, who led Lewis and Clark through the American West; Stacy Allison, the first American woman to climb Mount Everest; Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space; and endless others who paved paths forgotten about by most history books.

Standing on this path, in borrowed hiking boots and carrying an 80-litre backpack for the first time, I realize I don’t begin to understand how brave these women were and are.

What I Learned on My 10-Day Hike in the Costa Rican Rainforest

Lessons Learned on a 10-day hike in the Costa Rican Rainforest
My borrowed hiking boots

And yet, my feet move.

For ten days I hike with a group, and at first heavily rely on the energy and enthusiasm of my comrades to get through the hours, placing much weight in the small victories of making it to the next water break.

Onwards we move from the rolling valley hills to the cloud forest, a tropical forest nearly always covered by low-level clouds and filled with steady, drumming rain.

For the first three days, my pack feels heavy, digging into my shoulder bones and stomach as we roll up and down the small hills in the valley, entering the Reserva Forestal Los Santos, a 150,000-acre reserve where we will spend much of our hike. My mind is dark and my body sore. I collapse into a deep sleep as we set up camp for the evening.

What I Learned on My 10-Day Hike in the Costa Rican Rainforest

Lessons Learned on a 10-day hike in the Costa Rican Rainforest
Tired and sore along the trail

In the next days, onwards we move from the rolling valley hills to the cloud forest, a tropical forest nearly always covered by low-level clouds and filled with steady, drumming rain. We ascend and descend, weaving toward Piedras Blancas, a remote village where we will be doing homestays with local families to learn about Costa Rican traditions and customs.

The families exude kindness. Their warm homes provide welcome shelter from the rain, and their warm meals fill my belly with substance and hope. Learning about their customs and way of life distracts me from the pain of walking.

And then somewhere along the trail—I can’t say exactly where—the pain fades away. I stop counting down the days, minutes and hours until the hike is over and begin to actually enjoy the act of walking and taking in the beautiful rainforest. My wet clothes don’t bother me anymore, and my pack doesn’t feel so heavy.

But I move slower, looking back at the trail and taking a moment to say goodbye and thank it for all the lessons it taught me.

I rappel a waterfall and find myself soaked with fresh water and adrenaline. A river rushes loudly below me as I cross a bridge that looks like something from Indiana Jones or some otherworldly adventure. My heart pumps fast as I reach the summit of a mountain trail and pause to look at our entire route stretching below, seeing exactly how far I’ve come in these days.

What I Learned on My 10-Day Hike in the Costa Rican Rainforest

Lessons Learned on a 10-day hike in the Costa Rican Rainforest
I rappelled a waterfall in Costa Rica.

On day ten of the hike, the mountains give way to an uninterrupted view of the Pacific Ocean. We ascend and approach the van that will take us away from the trail. My fellow hikers fling their backpacks down, removing their hiking boots, pulling out water and snacks.

But I move slower, looking back at the trail and taking a moment to say goodbye and thank it for all the lessons it taught me:

  • How to hike with a backpack—to tighten the straps and to clip on water so that it swings less
  • That yoga pants and a non quick-dry tank top are terrible clothes for hiking
  • The names of dozens of plants and animals
  • That you can wear wet hiking shoes and socks for ten days straight and not get blisters

I learned a million little things on my 10-day hike in Costa Rica and they all added up to this – even if I do not always feel brave, I am much stronger and capable than I ever thought I was.

 

What I Learned on My 10-Day Hike in the Costa Rican Rainforest //  10-Day Hike in the Costa Rican Rainforest * 

About Lauren Salisbury

Lauren SalisburyLauren Salisbury is the founder of Something in Her Ramblings, a travel blog aimed at inspiring women and solo travelers to explore the open road. A California native, she has found the best way to get to know a region of the world is to live there, and with that in mind has worked in four countries.

While earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland, she wrote for NBC News and spent six months living in Melbourne, Australia. After graduating, she moved to Florida to work in Public Affairs at Walt Disney World Resort. In 2013 she took a leap of faith and left her settled existence in the United States behind to teach English in Madrid. During this year she fulfilled her goal of visiting 25 countries in her 25th year of life.

Lauren’s next adventure takes place in Costa Rica, where she is currently living in the rainforest and working as Social Media & Marketing Manager for Outward Bound.

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