THE JOURNEY BEGINS
Welcome fellow islanders, aspiring entrepreneurs, family and friends!
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Allison and I am looking forward to sharing my Startup Island experience with you! Below are some of the experiences that I had and reasons as to why my adventure was life-changing.
Stay tuned to hear all about Startup Island and what it offers to curious college students.
If you think you’re at a fork in the road and you can only go two ways, you can carve your own path. — Josh Gershon
How often do you find yourself looking forward to vacation? Exactly, me too. Now think about what kind of trips you’re looking for. I’m assuming that for most it is something along the lines of a relaxing beach vacation or a trip to the mountains.
For me, I have always found myself looking to travel with purpose. Through various emails from clubs and organizations in the University of Kansas Business School, I found a program called Startup Island, which allowed me to do just that. Soon I was about to find that Startup Island was going to change the way I viewed the world around me and the way that I live my day to day life.
My week with the Startup Island community allowed me to travel to a new and exciting place while also pursuing my dreams, learning about myself and growing personally and professionally.
To anyone who is looking for some meaning behind an exciting spring break trip, look into Startup Island — you won’t regret it.
Choose fun, choose adventure, choose success.
Self-belief and hard work will always earn you success. — Virat Kohli
SOARING INTO THE EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME
Leading up to my departure for Startup Island I had prepared myself to learn new things, experience new cultures and interact with like-minded individuals as well as work on myself. Weeks of personal preparation had finally lead to my departure.
I was finally traveling to a foreign country to join a group of college students to work on personal and professional development — aka my wildest and dorkiest dream.
After a long travel day — 16 hours to be exact — I reached my final destination in Costa Rica. Upon landing in Liberia and meeting a few of my soon to be best friends, I was immediately immersed in a new culture, and loved it!
I had literally soared into an unfamiliar place that was going to give me the unique and life-changing experience that I had been looking for.
A GOAL WITHOUT A PLAN IS JUST A WISH
To start off the week, there was time dedicated to getting to know each islander and why they chose to travel with meaning. Dinner the first night consisted of conversations about where we went to school, what we enjoy doing in our free time and how we heard about Startup Island — but what most didn’t know is that each of those topics was going to guide the rest of our week (and the rest of our lives).
Each of these topics were used throughout the week to guide us through the motions of being young entrepreneurs while being students at the same time. While each person had a different story and reason for being in Costa Rica that week, every story had a different impact on each islander. I personally feel as if all my peers were leading by example in their own unique way, without even knowing it.
Waking up for the first full day was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I had rolled over to find myself in the middle of an unknown place that seemed too good to be true. The sounds of birds chirping and monkeys howling filled the space around me and welcomed me into my new home for the week. The sounds continued to accompany me all the way to daily morning yoga and meditation.
I knew that I would have absolutely no problem with waking in paradise for the next five mornings.
The first workshop that took place was called “Business of Being Happy + Healthy” and it was the initial discussion that lead me to discuss my dreams with other aspiring entrepreneurs. During this time I realized that discussions like this were part of the reason Startup Island was going to have a strong impact on me.
I, along with others, was allowed to open up about where I was in my life and where I wanted to be in the future. I was able to express myself in a way that others could understand, and more importantly a way that they could support and criticize me. Each story and idea that was brought up during the workshop was followed with constructive feedback as well as what we thought was most successful in the case given. The overall theme of achieving our dreams and creating our own success was a huge topic — and one that was greatly appreciated and valued among the group. It is not often that you come across people who understand where you are at personally AND professionally who can share their similar successes and failures in order to guide you in the right direction.
One of the biggest takeaway’s for me was that a goal without a plan is just a wish. Starting the week with this workshop gave everyone the opportunity to brainstorm what they wanted and needed most to come of their time away from their everyday life. I knew immediately that the next week was going to be full of development, support and resources for me to turn my wish and dream into my next achievable goal.
Most importantly, I learned that in order to live a healthy life I need to be happy with where I am going — and taking the time to realize this changed the way I approach every situation.
Of this be sure: you do not find the happy life, you make it. — Thomas Monson
IMMERSED IN A NEW CULTURE
Being in a foreign country was a new and first time adventure for many of us, but being far from home was not the only challenge we encountered that week. Luckily, for me, Startup Island was a time for me to dive in and face challenges. Diving into the language and the culture was one part of the trip that I had worried about the most, but being around others who were facing the same challenges pushed me to experience all that Costa Rica had to offer.
The first full afternoon in Costa Rica held many surprises and challenges. Specifically, I had begun to realize just how unaware I was of other cultures. One afternoon we ventured La Fortuna, the local town, to explore and learn about the everyday life of community.
One of the many challenges that I faced was communication. Upon arriving in La Fortuna I tried to communicate with the locals through hand gestures and the little Spanish that I knew. In this exchange I noticed just how different the culture was. Not only were the people willing to talk to me, but they were also very patient when I struggled to adequately communicate back.
Group conversations in La Fortuna led the Startup Island crew to a festival that was taking place just a few blocks over that evening. Excited like a kid in a candy store, I found myself making my way down the block to experience my first Costa Rican festival. I got to try new foods, carnival rides and explore the small pop-up shops with handmade artifacts.
Having the chance to live life as a member of the La Fortuna community for the evening opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities — and my stomach to all kinds of delicious food.
For all you foodies out there — the brocheta de pollo was almost as amazing as the fresh churros!
Along with exploring the local town, we had the privilege of visiting a school in Monterrey where both the islanders and the Costa Rican students were able to learn from each other. We spent much of our time talking to and playing games with the high school students that were focusing on learning the English language. During this time the challenge of having a language barrier seemed to be lesser, but soon became more challenging as I was supposed to introduce myself and speak in Spanish.
For those of you who want to know how elaborate I was, this is all I could say:
Hola, me llamo Allison. Me gusta la comida y dormir.
^^ Unfortunately it wasn’t grammatically correct, but you get the idea.
That day I was able to see what school was like in Monterrey compared to the United States and I was in complete awe. Each student there seemed to be happy and engaged with their school work, mentors and peers as well as enjoying being in the moment. I made a conscious decision to be more like the students there — more present, aware, engaged, interactive, understanding, and most importantly, be myself.
I struggled to push myself outside of my comfort zone, but in the end, I am so glad that I did. After my introduction (which, as you saw, was pretty rough), the students of Monterrey helped me to learn where I had messed up and worked with me until I was able to succeed.
Thanks to the Monterrey and Startup Island community being with me that day, I was able to let go of my fear and place myself in a situation that I was able to grow and learn from. Trying new things can be so much more than your mom telling you to try another green bean — it can be something that builds your confidence for the next time you are given the chance to branch out.
The confidence that I gained from speaking a foreign language carried throughout that afternoon. I was dancing, singing and attempting to speak Spanish as much as I could. These are all things that I would not have done without being challenged and supported.
The time I spent with Monterrey students who strive to be happy and successful made me realize that even when I am 2,961 miles away from them, we are not all that different.
You never know when a moment or a few sincere words can have an impact on a life. — Zig Ziglar
ALWAYS TAKE THE SCENIC ROUTE
Growing up I was always told that it is expected that you take time for yourself and create a healthy balance between work and play. Startup Island modeled, yet again, the perfect way to execute the lifestyle I wanted for myself.
Development and professionalism was definitely part of the program, but so was being your fun-loving and playful self. Outside of workshops, deep conversations and cultural exchanges, there was a significant amount of time for “monkeying around.”
In this time I had the opportunity to take part in activities such as horseback riding to a waterfall, zip lining, hiking, swimming, and so much more. I was also able to get up close and personal with the wildlife, which was one of my favorite parts. Monkeys, sloths, toucans, oh my!
On my very first optional excursion the horses took our crew to a private waterfall where we got to enjoy a pack lunch from Leaves and Lizards, great company and the nice cool water after being in the sun. Being able to escape what I thought was already a secluded area to go to an even more hidden hideaway was the best way to spend a relaxing afternoon. Taking the time out of the day to do this reminded me that it is more than okay to take time to do things that you love and enjoy outside of your professional life.
I enjoyed every minute I could soaking up the sun before I had to say goodbye to my new favorite place.
Unlike my time spent at the waterfall, zip lining gave me the adrenaline rush that I had been searching for. With the encouragement from my new friends, I took on some of the most amazing lines that I have ever been on. I went from being scared of the small lines at the beginning of the course to zipping through trees in the rain forest and past a waterfall at 50 mph.
From choosing which activities to take part in to actually doing them, there were so many thoughts I had along that way. Was I choosing to go zip lining because it seemed fun? Because I wanted the adrenaline rush? Because I wanted to challenge myself? All of the above. I ended up doing some of the things that scared me most when I was given options. Experiences leading up to these points from earlier in the week had encouraged me to challenge myself whenever possible because sometimes you only get the chance to do things once — and you don’t want fear to hold you back.
DETOXING MY EVERYDAY LIFE
Think of a teenage girl who spontaneously chose to travel to a foreign country with strangers to develop herself personally and professionally. Now imagine her going without her phone for 21 hours straight — 15 hours by choice. Imagine her speaking a language she doesn’t know — and not making any sense. Hanging by a cable hundreds of feet in the air, trusting strangers and animals to get her to final destinations safely, slow dancing with a horse in the rain to an Ed Sheeran song (yes, you read that right). Guess what. That’s me, I did that.
If someone would’ve told me a couple months ago that I was going to do that, I would’ve told them they’re crazy. I chose to take a leap of faith and join the Startup Island community in hopes that I would grow professionally and meet some great people, and I got so much more than that.
I was one of the lucky few that got to detox from their everyday lives and really find themselves, and I could not be more grateful.
I hope that each and every person reading this has a time in their life where they can experience the growth and development that I did with Startup Island.
Brian and Josh — THANK YOU for everything.