Costa Rica Changed My View On Life

Andy Ung
January 16, 2024

Under30Experiences Trip to Costa Rica

My first international trip was in November 2014 with Under30Experiences where I joined their Starter Costa Rica. The last thing I would expect would be my world perspective to change during that week.

Meeting fifteen strangers from different parts of the United States was clearly out of my comfort zone, it was just not me. But it became a place of bonding, where we created deep and lasting friendships. Till this day, we have been planning trips together, travel companions for life.

Under30experiences-Costa Rica-trips
My Costa Rica crew. Look at all those beautiful faces.

As much as I got along with these amazing people, a part of me needed to take an adventure of my own. My adventurous side needed to be fulfilled.

The last full day we had together, the consensus was made to go on a party cruise. I was anxious and worried about telling the group that I decided to go on a ten activity adventure day trip. The thing is…I usually make decisions where I place other people’s happiness before my own. What terrified me the most was what they were going to say. What I did not expect was the encouragement and acceptance.

Sometimes, our mind play tricks on us, creating this illusion of negativity. This is when I knew this group was something out of the ordinary and these people are better friends than friends from my past. This was the first profound moment of the trip. 

Only knowing these people for five days, they had become more accepting than most people back home. Jennifer, who became like a sister, said words that help validated my decision, for myself and for my own happiness. 

Simple phrases like, “Just do it. You need to build happiness for yourself and if this makes you happy then just do it.”  The messages were simple, yet powerful. This was just the beginning of a more reflective experience that would change my world.

Morning Conversation

I ventured out to start my ten activity adventure day. The tour company provided breakfast for all the customers that signed up with them, which was nice. I sat at a table, eating my rice and beans when a man looked over at me. Noticing how I was on my own, he asked if he could sit down with me. 

I didn't mind the company and very much enjoyed his presence. His energy was vibrant and full of life. 

Turned out this man, Hector, was the owner of the adventure company.

Rappelling down this cliff...Easy

Our discussion started off with general introductions and questions that most people would ask when getting to know someone. However, I learned quickly that he was a very spiritual man. This is where we started to delve into deeper conversations about life and happiness. We talked about how life is connected to spirituality and everything we do is linked to who we are. It was an interesting conversation, but it was taken to a whole new level when we started talking about happiness.

Costa Rica is not as modernized as other countries in the world, but it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth. What I notice is how happy the locals were even if they did not have what we have in America. They found happiness in the simplest form.

So I asked, “Why are Costa Ricans so vibrant and happy? No offense but the living conditions and the country seems poor.” I was blunt and narrow minded. 

Hector laughed, smiling at me as if he knew what I needed to hear. He puts the pepper shaker in front of me stating, “When we want one thing, object, person, or anything that is formed from our desire…We are temporarily happy for a day, week, month, or year. Eventually, the happiness will fade away due to wanting something new, our desires are not met. The cycle continues over and over again until we realize the true meaning of happiness.”

Realization of what it means to be Happy

I questioned him, “True meaning of happiness?”

With a smirk on his face and a pat on my shoulder, placing the salt and pepper together. He said, “We all know how salt and pepper have this relationship that is universal. These 2 spices go hand and hand. In life, our relationships and bonds are the best gifts. Building a community where people can come together and accept one another without judgment. This creates happiness.”

In Costa Rica, we are a community, helping each other grow, supporting the goals and decisions, and inspire us to live life. Our friends, family, and significant other will always create the best memories of your life. Never take them for granted, always be grateful of their presence.”

“Most of all, love yourself and build a relationship with yourself. When that happens, you will find happiness in all forms.”

Gratitude leads down the path of Happiness

This was the moment that was life changing. It made me realize the most important aspects of my life are the people I connect with, starting with myself. I needed to make a change, and this was the trip that started my transformation to create something within myself and with the bonds I made with my friends, family, and eventually with the person I end up loving.

But how do we create new bonds? How do we create a connection with people? How do we create the best gifts in life? All of us have a story behind the masks. The best way to build a relationship with others is to have the courage to be vulnerable and understand that everyone is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.

Andy Ung
Andy is an Adventure Leader and Photographer. He has backpacked throughout Central America and parts of South America. His passions lies in dancing, fitness, photography, and creating connections with people. 


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