So you are planning for a volunteer trip to this beautiful Central American country named Costa Rica and, like a sensible traveler, have done a lot of research before leaving. Costa Rica is an ambit of tropical rain forests, mighty tall volcanic mountains, turquoise water, golden beaches, and some of the best delicacies you will find in the world. Volunteering in a destination like Costa Rica is definitely a magnificent experience with all these natural beauty spots to venture.
However, there are certain things/facts which no one would tell you, and you'll only experience them while you volunteer in Costa Rica.
It’s Certainly Not Just a Vacation!
As a volunteer, one has to spend an average of 5-6 hours per day on a project. This leaves them with a huge window for sight-seeing and doing other activities in and around the city. But, it is to be understood that the primal objective for a volunteer is to be focused on the project. So, let’s assume that you are a part of a childcare volunteer program in Costa Rica where you spend a lot of time with the little ones and the rest of your evening is free to go around the town and explore. However, there are times when you might have to extend the working hours at the project center and stay put for longer than regular hours. Such dedication and sincerity towards the project will not only bring you closer to the people at the receiving end, but also will earn you a lot of respect from fellow volunteers.
Simultaneously, if a volunteer chooses to go through any of the international placement agencies, they are mostly accommodated in volunteer houses or with local host families. The accommodations have rooms which are allotted on a sharing basis. The food you get to eat is either what the host family cooks on a regular basis or what you cook by yourself from the monthly allotted ration. Be ready to brisk out of your comfort zone and live the life of sharing and caring; you will end up making friends for a lifetime!
In short, a volunteer needs to be pretty flexible in his/her approach and be ready to embrace whatever comes up! This usually will never be similar situations like that of a vacation where you can do all that your heart calls for and relax.
Interacting with the Natives Will Be Very Interesting and Help You to Learn a Lot!
Yes, you will be teaching children, or you'll be contributing towards wildlife conservation and other community-building activities, you will have a lot of time to explore the location, and can go for a weekend trip exploring the famous areas; but what is going to help you the most in executing your volunteer program successfully is, an active participation in local cultural activities and interacting with the natives. Remember that your purpose of the visit is to bring about positive changes in the society and the best way you can do that is by understanding the core necessities and problems of the natives while interacting with them.
Living with a local host family is a good idea in this perspective. You get to see and familiarize yourself with the daily routine of a common Costa Rican. You get to learn about the basic etiquettes, cultural differences, food habits, and a lot of other things which you would not know otherwise (and may not even find it on the internet)! They'll also tell you about the hidden trails to explore, where tourists never go!
Also, what will definitely push things up for you is a little grip on the Spanish language. People simply love it when someone from foreign land speaks with them in their own language. This can be a good way to bond quickly with the locals and make them speak their heart out with you. And it'll also help you in your career ahead, by adding some brownie points!
You are bound to skip a beat at least once...
…Or maybe two, I can’t guarantee that! But what is guaranteed is the number of mind-blowing views you will find and jaw-dropping encounters you will have with nature; a pack of quintessential experiences. Come face to face with any of the volcanic mountains and you will have a whole new definition of volcanoes. The Arenal Volcano, especially, is one of its kind active volcano peaks that will certainly remain in your memory for a long time (maybe longer than it remains in the memory card of your DSLR).
And just when you thought that this is all that is there to cherish, wait until you get a chance to visit any of the gorgeous National Parks. If you are a hardcore nature lover and enthusiast, then being inside some of these parks is, certainly, what you would want to skip not doing. Tenorio Volcano National Park is where you will find the Celeste River, a perfect wallpaper view of the forest with the turquoise blue water body. Most of these picturesque spots are located at a short travel distance from the capital city of San Jose, where you'll mostly be volunteering!
And your heart might break for once, too!
The normal time span that a volunteer spends on a project in Costa Rica is around 2 to 4 weeks. And while you learn a lot of things about the culture and traditions of local people, you get a chance to learn about the culture and lifestyle of other countries as well from a fellow volunteer. By the time you finish your program in Costa, you end up making friends for life, not only with the locals but also your fellow mates who traveled from different parts of the world, with whom you shared the room, ate with, explored the locations, and felt being with a family away from home. Bidding adios to each of them (fellow volunteer friends and the local people) would certainly be a tough job.
Volunteering in Costa Rica will surely be an exhilarating experience, indeed! But to understand the real feel of these words, you need to visit this place and witness the gift of nature bestowed on this region by God. I hope this helped in providing some useful and extra information about the volunteering endeavor you're looking forward to, and that it would help you in executing your project in a better way.
Article author : Riyanka Roy