Last weekend I went to Panama for the first time ever! There, I did something that left me feeling very accomplished and proud of myself: I completed a 32 km bike ride! I have not ridden a bike in almost 6 years, and on top of that I have never ridden more than about 8 km on a bike. My program director decided it would be a good idea for all of us to ride bikes to a beach in Panama called Starfish beach-aptly named for all of the starfishes one can find there. He did not force anyone to do the ride though because he gave us an option to take a bus over to the beach. To me, not only was the distance alarmingly long, but the road we were riding on was extremely hilly. I thought about taking the bus, but knew the bike ride would be a great way to see the island we were staying on from a different perspective than bus. When we first left the bike rental shop, all of us who chose to ride the bikes felt great.

We were excited to be riding bikes, happy to be in Panama for the weekend, and most of all stoked to see this beach that our program director said was simply amazing. Not only 10 minutes into the ride, had we found ourselves at the bottom of an extremely steep hill. It was difficult to make it up, but we were able to ride up the first few hills. As the hills became more frequent and steep though, a few of us decided to start walking our bikes up the hill. We were physically unable to ride our bikes up. As the distance went on, I started regretting taking the bike. I thought “why didn’t I just take the easy version (the bus)? I would be a lot more comfortable if I had.” When I thought that to myself, I realized something we all have been told so many times. “One cannot grow without being uncomfortable.” For the rest of the bike ride there, although my legs felt like they were going to fall off, I knew I was about to arrive at a great beach and I was going to enjoy it so much more because I worked to get there! Once arriving there, our group had a blast! We swam, ate, explored the area, and even rode behind a boat on an inflatable hot dog! I cannot say I have ever done that before! Getting to the beach was not easy, but I pushed myself that day, both mentally and physically.

Although this situation seems very straight-forward, it got me thinking how we are faced with these types of opportunities all the time in our every-day lives. Often, we are given an assignment, given an opportunity, or given an offer that we may or may not take. If we do end up choosing the opportunity, there are shortcuts that we can usually take to make it easier for ourselves. Sometimes these shortcuts are beneficial, but a lot of the time it is laziness and fears that is holding us back from pushing our personal boundaries and to truly enjoy and learn from the experience being presented to us. I know in my life, I have taken shortcuts that make my life easier but do not help me in any way.

I have been in Costa Rica for almost two months and in my time here I have done that. I regret those times that I have, but I own up to them. I have done an assignment mindlessly, and have chosen not to do something because I am afraid or too shy to do it. I am happy to say though that the majority of time I have spent here in Costa Rica, I have spent pushing my boundaries and growing tremendously from it. Deciding to study abroad is a huge step, and it is not the kind of decision one people who do not push themselves generally make. I know that I, and you reading this, can keep pushing ourselves though while we are down here. Making the most of our time is what we came here to do, and we cannot do that while taking shortcuts or choosing not to take the, possibly, more difficult road because more times than not, the end result will be so much more authentic, rewarding, and beneficial to you as a person. If I had not taken the more difficult road by biking to the beach, I would have not enjoyed the beach as much and would have not done something for myself. Challenging ourselves is what life is about, and the feelings of pride and achievement that come after succeeding whatever it is you are being challenged with, cannot be compared by any comfort or ease you may be able to choose.

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(Taken at starfish beach) I do not think I would have ridden this thing if i had not just biked for that long! My adrenaline was already pumping so I decided why not keep it up?!

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(Taken close to starfish beach) my favorite picture I took, just a few yards away from starfish beach.

 

(taken close to starfish beach) my favorite picture I took, just a few yards away from starfish beach

(taken close to starfish beach) my favorite picture I took, just a few yards away from starfish beach

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