Travel Tips for the Wallflower

A father and son enjoy shaved ice on the warm Saturday morning in the park.Our recent trip to Costa Rica was, well,… AMAZING to say the least. We laughed, we learned, we explored, but we were also challenged. We were challenged to be vulnerable and to really put ourselves out there.  Now, I wouldn’t necessarily label myself as a “wallflower,” but I’m definitely one who enjoys observing more than participating, and enjoys listening rather than talking.  That being said, when we first arrived in Costa Rica I was immediately faced with my first challenge of the trip.

My first real challenge happened in a park in the center of town. Many locals were sitting on the benches and enjoying their Saturday morning talking to each other, playing board games, people watching etc. It’s definitely not something you see often here in California. It was such a relaxing environment to be around and it felt like no one had any worries. Not only that, but there was a music festival happening as well. A live band came to play in the park where a rather large crowd of people gathered around to listen, dance, and enjoy the music. It was beautiful. I loved watching everything that was happening around me, but that was just it: I loved watching. I loved seeing the vibrant colors everywhere, listening to the music playing with laughter in the background.

It was a perfect Saturday morning when…

Locals began asking girls from our group to go up and dance with them in the center. As this was happening, I immediately thought: RETREAT, RETREAT! Oh man, there is nothing worse than getting up in front of a group of people, local people nonetheless, and showing off your non-existent dance skills. So, I watched as all of our girls one by one got asked to dance as everyone was calling each other out. Everyone was having a really good time, even those that reluctantly got up to dance had smiles on their faces.

I could tell the locals were having fun dancing and watching people from our group dance with them. There was nothing but smiles on everyone’s faces. Even so, I was still hiding my face and not making eye contact with anyone so I wouldn’t be called up. After a while, it was time to go and I immediately felt a sigh of relief for not having been called up to dance. However, I also felt a little disappointment for not challenging myself, after all that’s what this trip was about. So here are some inside tips and insight from the travelling wallflower recounting my first day experience in Alajuela, Costa Rica.

Kabria, attending pro-staff on the trip, dances with local man.
Kabria dancing the afternoon away. Clearly nothing but smiles on everyone’s faces.

Tip 1: Be Ready for Stares

I like to blend in. I’ve never been an attention seeker or one to voluntarily stick out of the crowd. So when we first arrived in Alajuela I felt a little self-conscious because there we were, a huge group of foreign students with cameras around our necks and selfie sticks ready at hand, in the middle of this Costa Rican town. All eyes were on us. Of course, I didn’t let it get to me too much. Yeah, I was a little uncomfortable at first but soon accepted the fact that it was a little hard not to be looking at our big group and that it was okay if we got some curious glances. I say ignore the stares – they’re just as curious as we are.

Tip 2: Don’t Worry So Much

Honestly, in hindsight, I don’t even know what held me back so much from putting myself out there. My advice to me back then would be to not worry about who’s watching or what they’re thinking. Chances are, they don’t even notice a thing.

Tip 3:  Just Do It

I was only in Alajuela once, I only had that opportunity once, and I didn’t take it.  I learned to just go for it, whatever it is. Even if it scares you, getting over the thoughts and fears and just going for it helps to overcome that. Throughout the rest of the week, I was able to “just do it”.

Tip 4: It’s Okay to Be Uncomfortable

It’s okay to feel awkward and uncomfortable at first. Embrace it! That’s definitely been a part of my learning experience after going on the trip. Nightly reflections, talking about feelings, interacting with locals with my (very) broken Spanish – I wouldn’t describe any of that as ‘”comfortable”. But it was definitely a learning experience and I was able to connect with so many more people by being open and vulnerable even if it did mean being uncomfortable for a little bit.

You won’t regret it, I promise

As much as I enjoy sitting back, watching and listening, it’s so much better having done something or tried something yourself. Because in the end, we really only regret the chances we didn’t take.

Fortunately for me, there were plenty more chances for me to step out of my comfort zone later in the trip.  And, having learned after the first day, I took those chances and did not regret a thing.

The author dances with local child.
I did it! I later redeemed myself and overcame the challenge of dancing in front of people.


Nikki Angeles.