Below is Kristin’s description of her travels. Follow this link to see some of the photographs from her trip.
Starting with a trip to Mexico as a sophomore in college, my travel bug was brought to life and I have been exploring ever since then. Even after eight countries, Costa Rica remained at the top of my list for countries to visit. With a minor in Spanish and a love of nature, Costa Rica was always one of those countries in the back of my mind where I could see myself working. I had never been there before now, but I always felt drawn to what Costa Rica had to offer. Not only did these feelings hold true on my trip, but now I am convinced that I could realistically work there in the future.
Our trip began in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, which included a trip to the Poas volcano. The skies the day of our Poas trip set the standard for the rest of the trip. Cloudless blue skies, a rarity due to Caribbean moisture, gave us a breathtaking view of the volcanic mountain range around us. Fernando, our guide, informed us of our luck to have an unobstructed view, and our luck definitely did not run out the whole trip. We had fantastic weather, saw all sorts of elusive birds and animals, everyone got along great, and no one got sick! As I said “If Fernando says it, it shall be done.”
Our next stop was Tortugero, one of my favorite places that we visited. A boat ride through winding canals among lush tropical rainforest gave you the feel of an adventure movie in the tropics, especially the closer we got to the lodge. Tortugero is a thriving wildlife hotspot, in my opinion, and the trip would not have been so special if it were not for our guide, Hurben. Hurben put into words exactly why I treasure education and bringing people outdoors: If I can touch at least one person’s life or change how they think about nature, then I am satisfied. I have always felt that way, and I really just wanted to jump up and yell “AMEN!” when he said that. It was very obvious that Hurben is incredibly passionate about what he does, and I admire and envy him (and hope I will have a similar job one day!). Hurben has started his own small company, and after exchanging contact info, he said to keep in touch because he will need a marine biologist eventually!
Next on our adventure were Earth University and our homestay. Earth University stands as a testament to how progressive Costa Rica is. The entire trip I was blown away by steps that every lodge, hotel or even restaurant seemed to take to be more eco-friendly. Earth’s “Periurbana” garden showed the type of projects that I am most keen about, which included recycled art and using recycled materials to create gardens. While Earth was awesome, staying with Mama Chepita at Finca La Virgen may have been one of the top highlights of the entire trip. Chepita showed me the small scale side of Costa Rican agriculture, including the love and passion that she puts into everything she does. Chepita is an adorable, independent older woman who has been through some sad and tough times. She serves as a testament to when you live the simple life and do what you love, life will give you everything that you will need.
The most touching part of our trip was the planting of the tree for Rachel in El Bosque de Recuerdo (Forest of remembrance/memory) at Earth University. I did not know Rachel personally, but the emotion from Allyse, Gaby and Fernando made you feel her memory. It was her memory that allowed me a scholarship to come on this trip, so for that, I am beyond grateful. I know Rachel was a fellow adventurer, so I can only hope that my personal journey in Costa Rica paid tribute to her adventurous spirit.
Costa Rica checked off a lot of firsts on my life list. I hiked up my first volcano and actually saw steam! I wandered through the cloud forest in Monteverde (another favorite spot) and walked on the continental divide for the first time. Literally walking through clouds was unreal! In Monteverde I also came face to face with over a dozen species of hummingbirds, in a spot where I could have stayed all day. I travelled abroad with my significant other for the first time, which really heightens how special a trip is when you can share it with someone you love. I went white water rafting in the tropics in Sarapiqui, boated through massive mangroves in Santa Elena Bay, and grinded cacao seeds by hand with Chepita (later to be used in DELICIOUS homemade hot chocolate). I kept my first true bird list, and I ended up with 179 total species! Seeing whales in Playa Hermosa was not only an incredibly exciting first, but it made my amazing trip complete.
After working in education for the past 5 years, visiting Costa Rica reminded me of how important it is to get people outdoors and caring about the environment. Costa Rica’s steps towards maintaining the variable and beautiful ecosystems of the country demonstrate environmentally conscious decisions that I wish our own country could make. The importance placed on education in Costa Rica showed with everyone we met, and nature seems to benefit from it in Costa Rica. If I was not wholly convinced that I would be a naturalist or some other form of outdoor educator, this trip to Costa Rica has solidified that decision in my mind.
Now all that I seem to be thinking about is when I can get back down there, this time more permanently…