Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 11.07.39 PMAccording to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Adaptation can be defined as “the process of changing to fit some purpose or situation: the process of adapting” (“Adaptation”). Every day we face change or decisions facilitate change. Traveling, of any kind, can create more change than people may realize. It may be a business trip, a vacation, or a commute to work; but it requires an adaptation. On November 20, 2015, I was selected to be a student participant in the 2016 Costa Rica Program. On March 18, 2016, I left for Costa Rica with my fellow team mates from the Los Angeles National Airport. During that time period, travel to me was just travel, you go somewhere and have fun, then go home…

…But this trip was a different story.

Upon arrival at the San Jose Airport on March 19, 2016, it was hot, humid, and full of the feeling of “we finally made it.” We met our guides, boarded the van, and prepared ourselves for the most amazing trip we could imagine. But all I could think was, “We are here for ten days.” I knew I would be out of my comfort zone, but reality had finally set in that I would be in a foreign country for ten days, out of my comfort zone the entire duration of the trip.

Evening futbol games in plaza of Mastatal were very community centered.

Which is exhausting I learned later, but it also put me in a mode, a sort of “survival” mode. I knew what I needed to do and when I needed to do it. By the first morning in Mastatal, waking up to the teak-wood lodge drenched in the early sunrise and birds singing in every tree, I felt comfortable. It was a surprise to feel so calm in such a different place; I would be fine.

Adaptation comes in many forms, climate adjustment, food tastes, physical ability, tolerance, communication, socialization, sleep, and many other things. I believe all of these were tested while in Costa Rica, and to my surprise, I acclimated, with patience and time, but it happened. I did not break down, stress out, complain, freak out, or have regrets at any point in the trip. I adapted.

Trying the fresh popsicles at a local ‘futbol’ game in Mastatal; the cold pineapple treat was amazing to combat the humidity.

I would have to say that food and views were the easiest to get used to. Each meal was prepared fresh on the farm with organic and locally grown ingredients. Sometimes it was made with fruits and vegetables I had just picked that morning. There was fresh fruit juice just pressed with fruits found only a few feet from the kitchen table. Cheese made that morning from one of the many cows on the farm; the cow had been milked early that morning by other participants on the team. Bananas ripe and ready to eat off the vine hanging above the kitchen stove. Locally grown coffee brewed every morning and afternoon for all to enjoy with fresh cow’s milk. At every meal, I sat at the kitchen table that overlooked the beautiful mountain of La Cangreja National Park. Macaws and other foul flew by occasionally. Cows, horses, and even a turkey would walk by as I sat at the table. This was life here and I was experiencing it.

The view of La Cangreja during a breakfast of eggs, rice and beans, fruit, and oh so delicious fried plantains.
The view of La Cangreja during a breakfast of eggs, rice and beans, fruit, and oh so delicious fried plantains.

It was not all easy though, getting to know a five inch spider that resides above your bed every night was not an ideal situation. But you name the spider Steve and you and Steve make a deal to remain civil and to respect each other’s space. However, when you finally get back to civilization after camping and hiking through the rainforest at four in the morning, you feel capable and complete.

You survived a night in the jungle, completely dark and raining, with all the creatures of the wild around you; and you’re fine. Adaptation is about realizing that your way of life is just one way, there are so many other ways to go about it. Being outside of the normal routine can be exhausting, uncomfortable, and challenging; but it is possible to accomplish. I learned that I am way better at adapting than I previously thought. I hate change, but apparently I have learned how to handle it pretty well. This trip proved to me that I am stronger than I think I am. You can do anything, you just have to convince your mind that you are capable.

No matter the situation you find yourself in, you have everything you need to adapt. Unless you forgot to pack extra socks and underwear, because that is just unacceptable and you need to go buy some ASAP. Through the Costa Rica program, I not only gained an experience of a lifetime, but I also learned how strong I am.

I adapted to hammocks immediately; no questions, concerns, or complaints.
I adapted to hammocks immediately; no questions, concerns, or complaints.


“Adaptation.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2016.

Written by Brianna Palecek