JONATHAN VALERA

JONATHAN VALERA

SUMMER 2018

One day, I was scavenging for things to do for my summer vacation so I asked my school counselor if there were any job opportunities. He replies, “Better yet, there’s a awesome summer program that you may be interested in”. After doing my research and with his help, my mom, and my teacher, I was able to apply and mark my spot on the list. A few days later I was called by my new friend Stan whom asked me questions about myself and what I was interested in. After a week or so I was on my way home from the gym when I received this email from trip of a lifetime. P.s, emails from trip of a lifetime sparked enjoyment in my day. The email said I will be attending Costa Rica July 2-21st. Mark my words I screamed, “ YES!” to the top of my lungs. I then stood on the stoop of a nearby church and thanked god for the opportunity that has come my way.

July 2nd has arrived and I am on my way to the airport. Slight feeling of sadness and happiness running through my mind. I’ve been waiting for this day all summer. I remembered the alumni saying that the kids I will be meeting are not the same ethnicity as me but don’t take offense by it and to be myself. I was told to meet on section C, the last floor in the airport. Once I arrived, I felt nervous yet confident in knowing that no one is there to hurt me and I was there to have a good time. I checked in and was on my way to the plane. Right away I spotted other students that joined with Trip of A Lifetime and I immediately stood with them. Students who I had not yet met approached me in a friendly manner. Their names were Jackson, Evan, and Harrison my favorite.

I finally touched down in Costa Rica after a long 5 hour flight; I was relieved to have touched the ground safely. Though it rained the first day, we headed towards our first hotel to drop our stuff down. The Marriott San Jose was a beautiful 4 star hotel in which we stayed for 3 days. I was given two roommates who I wouldn't have traded for the world. Our first activity after getting to know each other was bowling. Or maybe sight seeing, I don’t recall. My top places that I loved to visit was the warm water beaches and the repelling down waterfalls.

One activity I can never forget was zip lining. The fear that overcame me that day was accelerating. Never in my right mind did I think I’d be hovering hundreds of feet above the air with nothing but thick rope tied around me. I believed that with the help of many of the students on that trip and a little courage from a inner me, I was able to conquer my fears. We travel all over Costa Rica and discovered beautiful arts and crafts that the people there took time out of their days to make. I was able to purchase many gifts for my family as a token of appreciation for always sticking by my side when times were tough.

I learned that there is so much to life that people have yet to discover. For example, in New York some pay the amount of money for a pair of sneakers that equals the price of a flight out the country. Where I’m from a large majority of people dress nice to represent their “hood” but have not yet seen any other parts of the world. At the end of the day materialistic things do not out match the beauty of what this world has to hold. Traveling with people took me out my comfort zone but in a great way. Since I deal with depression and acceptance it gets hard for me to touch base with people and to communicate on a daily basis. But since I was able to be with the same people for 19 days, I was given a chance to understand people and get time to appreciate their presence. I have a long time to live and traveling is something I have to do more of. I further learned that life shouldn’t be taken for granted. I noticed that when walking down whale beach. Everything was perfect. The views, the sand, the water, the people. Kind of makes a person feel like why can’t life just be this relaxing. The beach received its name because of the way is viewed from above. The beach has formed like a whale, therein developing into its established name of Whales Tail haha.

I live in a community that suffers from poverty. On that note, I come from nothing. But that has not stopped me from thinking long term and about my future. In my household we have to work hard in low paying jobs for the fact that we are not educated. In a way I feel so blessed to come from nothing because I now know what it feels like to not have it. But with that I will push as hard as I can to master my craft and be able to get my mom and myself are wants and needs. The ending has yet to come. Trip Of A Lifetime has showed me a form of living lavishly. We all ate 3 meals a day and were able to get whatever we want. I tried to choose what cost less knowing that there were many of us. Appetizers were out the question but they asked us for them anyway. I was blessed to be able to attend 9 hotels, that I recall. Some at the students liking and some not. Ultimately, I will be touching base with TOAL in the future to let them know how much they inspired me and to hopefully donate to their cause.