Today’s blog post comes to us from UW-La Crosse student & API blogger Savannah Stanley. She’s studying abroad with us this semester in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Let’s start by saying that there is no such thing as a perfect balance.
There’s no such thing as “perfect,” period.
Of course, this is my personal belief and by no means do I expect others to see life like I do. The thing is I am an idealist and believe that life is capable of bringing us ideal situations.
Throughout the last month in Costa Rica I have met a lot of different humans with unique ways of perceiving the world we live in. Because of them, I am able to express my own ideas in completely new ways. Instead of telling you all what IS the ideal, “perfect” balance, I am going to tell you how I stay true to myself in a foreign country while taking (almost) every adventurous opportunity I encounter. The goal is not to tell others what they should do, but to inspire others to find their own journey toward tranquility, happiness, and meaning.
Power in letting go
Upon “preparing” myself for living in a new culture, I knew I had to let go. Let go… of what? We all have a sense of control that expresses itself in our day to day activities, despite those curveballs life tends to throw us once in a while. In the U.S. I choose when I want to eat breakfast because I make it myself, I walk everywhere alone AT NIGHT, I eat peanut butter in unhealthy quantities, I run wherever I want, I communicate fluidly with other English speakers meaning I usually get what I order at restaurants, etc. In a sense, I had to relinquish these certain independences.
Once I accepted that I can’t control every aspect of my day, I opened more room in my heart and brain to love and understand the cultures within Costa Rica. I may not have the ability to eat endless amounts of peanut butter or run in the dark, but I have gained so much by incorporating myself into this beautiful culture. My Spanish speaking skills improve everyday with the conversations I have, my host Tia and exchange siblings have become a real part of my family, and I travel across the country on a bus nearly every weekend. I imagine myself like one of those fancy old-fashioned scales, when one side of me feels unbalanced I reflect on what I’m missing, but the most important thing is to look at what I’ve gained.
Stay true to you
Wow that was super cliché. But it’s 100% la verdad (the truth). We are all unique in one way or another, and living in a new culture doesn’t constitute loosing everything that makes us who we are. No matter where I am or who I am with, I love to run. I’ve been running since the 6th grade and grew up watching my mom compete in road races. It’s a large part of who I am, how I identify myself, a way for me to think and push my own limits, so without the ability to run I feel incredibly lost.
This brings me to my first point: just because living in Costa Rica means the act of running is more challenging than in the U.S. does not mean I have to call it quits. While it’s not particularly comfortable in various aspects, such as the wicked crazy drivers, barbed wire lined side walks, the endless hills, and the stares/catcalls, a part of me loves the challenge. Every run is like a real life version of Super Mario, jumping over ditches and dodging cars. I’ve even found a friend to take on this daily challenge with. FYI, she loves it as much as I do.
Besides moving my body, I also make sure to write almost every day. I’ve always been able to express myself better with written words than spoken. Especially when I feel uneasy or anxious, writing anything that comes to my mind brings me a sense of comfort. No matter how I’m feeling, the act of writing organizes my own mind so that I can process the world around me. Without it, I’d probably have a significantly high rate of mental breakdowns.
Accepting the adventure
Life here is one big adventure composed of little moments of bravery and uncomfortableness; such as everyday tasks like ordering a coffee in Spanish & setting out to find the cheapest place to buy mangos in San Jose to surfing in the Caribbean or dancing the salsa on a stage in front of an entire crowd. Each morning, I accept that I’m most likely going to be uncomfortable at least 4 different times that day – seriously, my life is full of awkward laughs.
Aside from stepping out of my comfort zone, accepting the challenge of living in a different culture and speaking a foreign language is the reason why I have so many amazing (& just downright weird) memories. A few of my favorite memories include stargazing at 3 am on the beach, sitting on the floor of a bus bonding with friends on a 5 hour ride to the Caribbean, cheering “sí se puede” with my host parents for my exchange sister when we were eating sushi with chopsticks at dinner, having a successful conversation with an Uber driver, surfing (obviously), and playing soccer with my Costa Rican family.
The most important thing
…is to remember that each adventure is a lesson in itself, good or bad. It’s been an interesting process learning how to endure each of these challenges and remain sane. Each day I grow more and more, but I don’t give myself the ability to lose who I am in this process. For me, it is incredibly important to remain doing the things that make me who I am. Because of this I continue to run and write, knowing that this is where I feel closest to myself and my family at home. There is no perfect balance. No specific equation one must follow in order to feel the best and become their best self. Instead, I’ve realized that we’re all unique and have to assess what makes us feel happy or fulfilled. With this, I can make the most of the daily weird/crazy/funny/amazing moments that I face in Costa Rica.