On October 8th, Caroline Altman, a Pura Vida participant, represented The Road Less Traveled at a Student Service Learning (SSL) fair at the Hoover Middle School. From 6:30-8 PM, she was in charge of a colorful RLT booth, filled with display posters and catalogs. She answered questions from families and fellow students about her experience on her Costa Rica community service program. It was an opportunity for her to talk about, as she put it, “how awesome RLT is.”
Inspired by her older brother who has done many environmental programs and traveled around the world, Caroline decided that she wanted to do the same. She chose the 10-day Pura Vida program in Costa Rica which combines turtle conservation and hands-on community service with whitewater rafting and zip lining – all activities that interested her.
Upon first arriving in Costa Rica she was “a little nervous because [she] didn’t know anyone.” But by the end of her orientation, designed to help everyone get to know one another, Caroline says that she had a whole new group of friends that she still keeps in touch with through Facebook.
On the group’s first stop at a turtle conservatory, they were able to witness something that was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Caroline’s leader Will Rogers recalls their night patrols and “the excitement and almost surreal experience of walking in a single-file line along the beach under a sky full of stars.” The whole group of middle schoolers, under the guidance of a turtle conservationist, came upon a huge Leatherback Turtle. As they watched the mother turtle lay hundreds of eggs “it felt as if we were watching something sacred” Will said.
After the turtle conservatory visit, the group returned to their campground nestled in a banana plantation. From this home base, they walked to a local school to do basic repairs and other community service work for a few days. While at the school, the group was also able to interact with local Costa Rican children.
“I most enjoyed meeting and playing games with the children at the school and helping them,” she reflected.
After saying goodbye to their new Costa Rican friends, Caroline and her group faced Class II & III rapids on a world-class whitewater rafting trip down the Pacuare River. They pulled into their rainforest campsite and later went zip lining. According to Caroline’s other leader Mary-Lacey Rogers, Caroline was “TERRIFIED of the zip line”, but after giving it a try, she “ended up finishing it with a smile…of course”. Mary-Lacey enjoyed having Caroline on the program, saying that she was “always smiling and the life of our group.”
With a lot of stories to tell, Caroline had an easy time getting people excited about RLT at the Student Service Learning Fair. “I spoke to a bunch of people about what RLT is and what I did on my trip.” She had so many people interested in RLT that she was busy talking all night. “I’d get done talking to one person and immediately started up again with the next.”
From all of her amazing memories of the summer, one funny story that stands out is from a night at the banana plantation campground. “We played a game and I lost so I had to serenade one of our hosts with You Belong to Me by Taylor Swift.” Despite how embarrassing it was, it kept all of her friends laughing and she will surely reflect on it with a smile for years to come.