Writer and amateur photographer Melissa Wozniak won her place on the Contiki Storytellers Costa Rica adventure by submitting a short essay that simply and effectively demonstrated her storytelling ability through literature. Here’s what she had to say about her Costa Rica experience…
How was the experience working with the Sea Turtle Conservancy?
Incredibly eye-opening. Going into this, I knew sea turtles were endangered, but I had no idea a team of scientists walk the beach every single night to help these creatures in such a hands-on way. It was surreal stumbling along in the pitch black, keeping an eye out for turtle tracks with just the starlight reflecting off the ocean. You experience first-hand all the challenges a turtle faces, both from nature and from the humans in its environment. I may have only spent a short time with the Conservancy, but I can now talk passionately about what's going on in Tortuguero, and awareness is the first step to change.
What have you learnt from Celine?
Céline gave me the gift of perspective on this trip. Sometimes it's overwhelming to think about all the issues in the world and the things that need fixing. The story is too big. There's no way to make a difference. I respect Céline's work because she takes herself out of the equation. She lets the people doing the work on the ground tell their own story, and the result is a message that small things do in fact make a difference. Even being educated about an issue makes a difference. It's very motivating.
What has been your #NOREGRETS moment?
There was a moment, right after a 400 kg Leatherback laid her eggs, that she heaved her back flippers to the side to start covering her nest and sprayed the onlookers with sand. Crouching a yard away from this prehistoric animal, especially knowing how rare they are, was more of an adrenalin rush than canyoneering, volcano-spotting and white-water rafting combined.
Who have you been inspired by on this trip?
Everyone here has inspired me in some way. Our mediums and audiences are all so different, and it's fascinating to see how each person adapts the same experience into something that resonates. We've all been sharing tips and supporting each other. There's a collective sense of, "What can we do to make our storytelling better?"
What place do youth have in the conservation conversation?
Learning to think mindfully about our planet is no different than learning a language or trying a new vegetable. It's a mindset. It's something to start early. The kids in Tortuguero are taking an active interest in preserving their community. And they're going home and influencing their parents to do the same.
What was it like to find out that you had been selected as a winner of Contiki & Matador’s Storytellers contest?
I shrieked and broke into random dance most of the day. I live in New York, so that's not weird.
You can check out Melissa's winning story here. Plus don't forget to enter our #contikistorytellers competition to be in with a chance of winning your very own trip to Costa Rica! Check out the competition here.
For the full Storytellers tale, tune into Contiki's YouTube channel this Earth Day, Tuesday April 22nd. Subscribe here.