It's 1:30 am, and I just returned home from a 5-day vacation in the Costa Rican Rainforest with Under30Experiences. I'm so high on life as a result of this trip that I don't even care that I'm in desperate need of sleep, and need to tell you now about how it was a game-changing experience.
First, I'll preface that Under30Experiences in no way asked, or even suggested, I write an email about them. This is 100% me, Raj, writing right now.
My trip can be best summed up in two words: Green Lemons. On Saturday, I realized that was the metaphor for the week.
Let me backtrack and tell you what I mean.
If you're unfamiliar, Under30Experiences is a travel community that curates awesome and awesomely affordable trips for adults in their 20s and early 30s who want to see the world and be inspired, while meeting fellow risk-taking folks. Our group was 11 people, plus Under30 CEO Matt and community manager Cesar. This was one of those trips where you arrive knowing no one, and leave loving everyone.
You laugh, learn, and live with each other. You know how every once in a while in life when you get lucky enough, you have one of those "this is what makes life special moments"? Maybe that's finding the right companion, having a personal epiphany, tackling a major obstacle, or (I can imagine) watching your child's first steps. The Under30Experience is on that list as well.
So getting back to the Green Lemon story...when we all arrived and met up at the airport, we had a 3-hour bus ride to the ranch where we stayed. On that bus ride you start getting to know each other by exchanging pleasantries and shaking out the initial awkwardness. There was one dude in particular, named Dev, who was the bro-iest bro I've ever met. 5'8 jacked Cambodian dude who looked like a straight up meathead (MUSCLES DON'T' WAIT FOR PROTEIN!!).
Dev polished off almost half a bottle of Jaeger on the bus ride and I'm immediately thinking, "welp, we have our resident drunk on the trip. Can't believe I have to spend a week with this stroke."
And then I did spend the week with that stroke and came to learn he was so much more diverse than his muscles and Jaeger affinity would suggest. This is a guy whose parents came to America by escaping genocide in Cambodia, who grew up being 'the fat kid' in high school, who had a revelatory moment at 18 that it was time to take care of his body and discovered serenity and motivation at the gym, who has a Masters Degree in History (like we could legit call him a historian), who landed a job as a train conductor on the upper east coast, and who works so much that he didn't get to see his family on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas Eve, Christmas, Day after Christmas, NYE and New Year's Day. This trip was his first time leaving the country since he was 14 (he's 27 now). This trip was his escape from a never-ending grind.
Had I not had the opportunity to hang with Dev and the rest of the crew for the week I would have never came to know that the man I thought made a life choice of brawn over brains actually had the best of both worlds.
This brings me to the Green Lemons. On Saturday morning, I wanted to see a Lemon Tree on the ranch where we stayed. Zach (another guy on the trip, but by this point it's Day 4 so he's a friend, not just random guy) and I had previously seen some fat, softball size lemons that I wanted to photograph for Idea Lemon. A Ranch volunteer led us through kind of a secret garden (am I the only one who thinks of the Bruce Springsteen song and the 'you had me at hello' part of Jerry Maguire?) to a Lemon Tree. This is what I saw:
Immediately, I said, "No, these are limes, where are the lemons?"
"These are lemons. A lot of green lemons grow in Costa Rica."
Boom. That was the revelatory moment of the trip. Here I am, naive and quick to think that all lemons are yellow, and learn that lemons are also green. Another worker at the Ranch told me she had never seen a yellow lemon before. And that was the perfect metaphor for Dev. He was my green lemon. I met him and thought D-bag, I left and think of him as a brother.
So, what do I take from the trip? Don't assume all lemons are yellow, aka the ol' "when you ASSUME, you make an ASS of U and Me." At the same time, it's important to understand other people's perspective. Some people have never seen a yellow lemon. Everyone has their own reasons for traveling, and methods of letting go.
The result of this inflection point is that, on a more existential level, my commitment moving forward is to put less negative energy into the world.
Other cool things that happened:
-Some of us spoke a lot of Spanish for the first time since high school. I couldn't believe I remembered certain words and sentences. Funny thing is, everyone in Costa Rica speaks English, but I saw Matt make an effort to work on his Spanish and that motivated me to do the same.
-I channeled my inner WWE and atop multiple points of high altitude shouted out, "Best in the world!" As wrestler CM Punk does. It's fun to shout that when you do feel on top of the world.
-I took a couple yoga classes that convinced me to continue doing yoga going forward to take care of my body.
-I found a new meditative practice that involved singing John Legend songs to myself when I sat alone on a pier with a pond and mountains in front of me at 6 in the morning.
-We even learned to Salsa and Merengue.
-I'm proud to say I have not accessed Facebook since last Tuesday (before I left). I was on Twitter once, and that was actually because of a running inside joke we had on the trip.
-Between our group, we now all have couches to crash in Boston, NYC, Houston, Columbia (MO), Tempe, Chicago, and even Nicaragua. More than those couches, we now all have lifetime friends. Incredible considering we spent less than a week together.
I share this story with you for a few reasons:
-Although tired as hell, I feel great and this email is to express how personal inflection points and potentially life-changing moments can happen if you let yourself out of your element.
-If you are in the appropriate age bracket, I highly encourage you, as an Idea Lemon community member, to take an Under30 trip this year. Or if you have another travel community you'd like to be a part of, take a trip there and get out of your comfort zone. From my experience, I personally vouch and advocate for Under30. This year they have remaining on the docket Nicaragua, a Costa Rican beach trip, Alaska, Iceland, and most likely Bali as well.
-I want to thank everyone who I met on the trip, and the Under30Experiences crew for making the last 5 days incredible. It's hard to accurately define what makes that trip special, but maybe that's why it's called an Experience--you have to feel it to truly understand it.
-I want to know, when have you had a similar moment(s) of passing judgment, only to find that there was more than you expected? How did that change you? Shoot me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message in the comments section.
Also, we got to play with 3 dogs on the ranch who all looked like this:
What up! My name is Rajiv Nathan and I'm the Cofounder of Idea Lemon. That banana peel you slipped on to land here came from me. That's because I fancy myself a human Curious George, and the yellow hat I chase is life's authentic moments. I share my chase one story at a time through this blog, our email newsletter, and as a rapper.
Oh and I'm a WWE fan 4 lyf!