I traveled with Sustainable Summer to Costa Rica in July of 2014, and had the most culturally immersive experience imaginable. Starting the first day, it became evident that my fellow participants and I would quickly become a family.
We traveled to Rancho Mastatal, where we studied the ecological interrelationships between the human inhabitants, the agriculture, and the wildlife. All the food we ate had been grown on-site.
We thought critically about the current global energy crisis and the climatic issues generated by the greenhouse gasses emitted from the burning of fossil fuels. We discussed a handful of alternative energy technologies and solutions in depth, from hydroelectric dams to photovoltaic cells to geothermal energy harvesting to wind-power farms. We all devised a plan in which we could become more sustainable with our energy consumption back when we returned to the States.
We went on a full-day horseback ride through the mountains to a beautiful waterfall. The view of the valleys were rich with a biodiversity of plants, and the waterfall itself was breathtaking like nothing we had ever seen before. We were led by a cowboy who could not speak English, so this proved as an opportunity in which we could really practice our Spanish.
In Sarapiqui, we lodged by the jungle, immersed by a spectrum of bizarrely beautiful insects, frogs, sloths, birds, and howler monkeys. We hiked through the jungle with an ethnobotanist, who taught us how to identify medicinal and sacred plants and explained their anthropological origins. We tasted a variety of native plants, fruits, and endemic delicacies to discover new tastes alongside medicinal properties. We partook in a cooking class with a local family, in which we prepared aliments for a dinner we shared with them.
We went white water rafting on a beautiful yet dynamically ferocious river surrounded by flora. Later, we visited two protected ecological reserves and took a private tour in the depths of the rainforest with scientists, where we conducted experiments and calculated equations regarding biodiversity and tree height. The rain was furious and the thunderstorms were like nothing we had ever experienced before. The rainy season of Central America is not something to be underestimated!
As we kayaked on Lake Arenal, we discussed reforestation, hydroelectric energy, bio digesters, compost, and much more. After hiking to an overlook of Arenal, Costa Rica’s largest volcano, we concluded our trip with a two-night stay at Rancho Margot. On our way back to Miami, the entire Sustainable Summer family reminisced upon all we have accomplished and how we have matured into the next generation of environmental leaders. The melancholy farewell will only be temporary, as the distances between us will never damage our friendships.
Sustainable Summer was definitely an experience that has shaped who I am as a leader, an environmentalist, a student, and a teacher. It is beyond a doubt that I recommend this program to all students worldwide, as the knowledge and skills I've aquired on this adventure will be indispensable throughout all aspects of my life.