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Conor Root, 18, takes part in a three-month Outward Bound program trip to Costa Rica, experiencing a mix of learning outdoor survival skills, and taking time for self-reflection. Photo courtesy Outward Bound Costa Rica
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San Marcos student hikes across Costa Rica

SAN MARCOS — When Conor Root, 18, found out that he was not going to start at a four-year university right after high school, another unique opportunity presented itself. Root signed up for a three-month Outward Bound trip to Costa Rica before beginning studies at Palomar College.

The Outward Bound program pushes young people, age 17 and older, to step out of their comfort zone through physical challenges, team building and experiencing another country and its culture.

“I was hoping I got to have fun, and see some cool stuff,” Root said. “I got a little bit more.”

Root’s trip began in September. He traveled with an Outward Bound instructor and four other young men about his age. The group hiked and went whitewater rafting, kayaking and rock climbing.

During the 85-day trip the men took a three-week hike along Costa Rica’s Caribbean to Pacific coastline. The trek took the group through rainforest valleys and dense cloud forests.

Some nights the group camped, but most nights they stayed with host families along the route.

“We carried 50 pounds’ worth of gear,” Root said. “It was rough.”

“I didn’t expect to enjoy the hike,” he added. “The whole thing was really cool.”

Days were very structured with an early breakfast, a daily physical challenge and evening dinner and a debriefing.

Each of the young men rotated turns serving as the group leader. Root said he was the youngest member of his group, but responsibility was shared equally.

Root described his experience as a mix of learning outdoor survival skills, and taking time for self-reflection.

“It completely changed my perspective on a lot of things,” Root said. “I felt I got some perspective on what other people are going through in other parts of the world.”

One observation he made during his travels was how content people were living a simple life with the necessities of a home and farmland.

“They have everything they need and enjoy life a lot more than people do here (in the U.S.) working 50 hours a week,” Root said.

During the trip Root said he took plenty of photos to capture his experience.

Root said the only thing he missed was free time to explore on his own.

He added he would take the trip again.

The Outward Bound program teaches leadership skills through adventure-based wilderness experiences. Academic credit can be earned during travel study.