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Meg Baltes & Max King

It’s easy to know that you are unhappy in your life, what’s hard is taking the first step to
change it. I live in excess: excess food, excess clothes, excess waste. I’ve grown up secure in
money and coated in my family’s love. When I laid in bed each night, I guilted myself for being
unhappy because I felt undeserving of feeling that way. I had everything I could ever need and
yet, it didn’t feel like enough. It wasn’t enough because my feelings of despair didn’t come from
my needs not being met, but from the environment I was in. Everyday I spent hours thinking
about work, my body, my competence, what people thought of me. Days felt nonstop and the
wheels in my head never stopped turning.

I sat down on the plane heading from Portland, Maine to San Jose, Costa Rica. Even though I was on a cramped plane sitting next to quite the overweight man and behind a family with two
whiny toddlers, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. For a couple weeks, there would be no school to attach my worth too, no boss to overwork myself to please, no relationships to maintain. The only thing I was responsible for was myself and making the most of my experience. I’ve only been at Jalova a few days but I have already noticed a difference in myself. I finally have the time to take a breath and appreciate the world in its simplest form. I’ve
read and wrote more this week than I have in years, which always helps me dissect who I am
and center myself. I’ve talked to people from all around the world and learned about cultural
differences I didn’t even know existed. Whereas I used to spend hours of my day on a screen
and most of my time inside, I now spend at least 12 hours a day outside, working with my
hands, l earning how to co-exist with new people, and renewing my interest in wildlife.

Yesterday I went on a butterfly survey. I felt like a little girl again as I chased some of the coolest, most
colorful butterflies I’ve ever seen. I truly was a sight to behold – hollering in joy, whipping a big
net around, a big smile plastered on my f ace. I swear it has been years since I’ve smiled for that
long. Everything here is new and everyday here is filled with adventure. I keep thinking I’ve done
the coolest thing and then something else one-ups it. There is still so much I haven’t done and
so many animals I haven’t seen but it’s hard to imagine it getting better than this.

I’m grateful to myself for pushing outside my comfort zone and choosing to pursue such
an incredible experience. It is hard to know what to expect when you find something online but I
am so glad that I chose GVI because Jalova and the work being done here is special. I’m living
in a national park. I’m working closely with threatened and endangered species. I’m helping to
collect data that will be used to change laws and make protocols. I’m putting my name in history
books. I’m a 2 weeker, a few days in, and already this is the impact that I am having on a base
that has been open for 10 years. I’m in awe of all the staff, past and present, who have
dedicated years of t heir life to helping protect the environment.

One of the main reasons I wanted to come on this trip was to figure out if I truly wanted to pursue environmental science next year when I begin university. I ’m not even midway through my trip but I ’m starting to understand what I want to do. More than that: I know who I want to be. I wanna follow in the footsteps of my fellow base members and dedicate my life to using my voice and power to advocate for those who can’t whether that be animals or people.

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