“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate.” —Pico Iyer
In Search of Transformational Travel in Costa Rica.
It’s not everyday your inbox delivers an invitation to explore the concept of Transformational Travel – in the beautiful country of Costa Rica, no less. And so, with the promise of adventure (and possibly transformation), we packed our bags and headed south to green Costa Rica to join our hosts and four other content creators to dig a little deeper.
We’ve always been believers in the ability of travel to transform. Like many, we were drawn to travel because of its transformational pull on us: travel has been the constant factor that has led (and sometimes forced) us to grow in life. But – many journeys later – we are passionate believers in the power of travel to transform the world.
For better or worse.
In answer to the debate that travel is causing huge damage to the world, and that we should all travel less / stay at home, our view is that we need to carry on travelling – the right way. That’s because of the potential of travel to transform this world for the better. We believe that travel can transform by bringing greater connection, understanding, empathy and knowledge. In a world with too many walls and disconnections, travel can help tear those down.
What is Transformational Travel?
Defining Transformational Travel is a debate that came up often during our trip. Popular pre-conceptions about Transformational Travel might involve yoga, meditation and mindfulness retreats. These are just one side of it though. Transformational Travel can be as simple as an Adventure Travel experience – or any travel experience that has a lasting impact on the traveller.
According to the Transformational Travel Council, Transformational Travel is “any travel experience that empowers people to make meaningful, lasting changes in their life”. For some that might be overcoming a fear of heights by taking the plunge on their trip, for others that might be learning a new language and using it on their travels. Or taking time to find something new. For others it might involve going on a 10 day silent meditation retreat.
Despite the varied form that transformative travel can take, there is the vital variable of the traveller themselves. Transformational Travel experiences rarely happen while sitting in an all inclusive resort for a week. There is the intention of the traveller that is important, and generally the type of travel that changes us – that is truly experiential travel and gives us a lasting experience to remember – is that that pushes us outside of our comfort zone. Travellers seeking change and new perspective often choose to challenge themselves in one way or another – either physically, setting an intention for their travel, or digging deep into new cultural experiences.
Transformational Experiences in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is perhaps the perfect backdrop for mindful – or transformative – travel: 25% of the country is protected as either wildlife sanctuaries or nature reserves. The country has an exceptional range of biodiversity and wildlife. Costa Rica is also one of the top destinations in the world when it comes to sustainable and eco tourism – there are countless accommodation options for the conscious traveller (more on that to come!).
During our time in Costa Rica we set intentions and participated in challenges on our travel. Despite only being on the trip for seven days – we were able to pack a lot in and stay at some truly transformative experiences. Here is a taste of some of them.
Staying at Off-Grid Eco Lodge Rancho Margot
Our first accommodation – an off grid and self sufficient eco lodge – Rancho Margot – was an example of how our own travel, projects and plans can be transformative. This inspirational eco lodge and permaculture project is largely run by volunteers and has a community feel. Surrounded by rainforest, most of the food served is from their organic gardens and livestock, all-natural soaps and detergents are made on site, and nearly everything is built using local resources.
Rancho Margot aims to be a living experiment that proves that tourism really can be responsible, community-driven and environmentally sustainable.
Located a short distance away from Arenal Lake and Volcano in the centre of Costa Rica, we loved our stay at Rancho Margot for its lush setting, the dawn call of tropical birds that acted as our alarm each morning, and the beautiful open yoga shalas with streams rushing by outside. But our stay was also transformative for the experience of eating fresh and organic food, without any un-natural additives, all of the time. Our stomachs and bodies felt the difference: for the better!
Chasing Waterfalls… and Conquering Fears of Heights
During our stay near La Fortuna we embarked on a journey with Desafio Adventure Co, to The Lost Canyon. A series of waterfalls and pools form this beautiful Canyon, culminating in a 200ft repel down. For those more than a little scared of heights (me) this was set to be a challenge.
Starting with the smallest canyon at a height of just 20ft we got to practise in the shallow end. The Desafio team did an amazing job of cheering us on and keeping us safe, keeping us motivated to continue to the next phase. Their best advice? Don’t try to avoid the water: just get wet! That resounded with us on many levels. By the time it came to the final repel we had mastered the art of not focusing too much on what was beneath us, but allowing ourselves to lean back and have a little fun on the way down.
Our journey to the Lost Canyon was a reminder to us that we need the encouragement of others vs going thing alone sometimes: especially when embarking on new adventures.
Watching the Sun Set Over the Pacific Ocean.
It’s our belief that for travel to truly be transformational, you need to have time. To reflect. To mull things over. To pause and ponder on the experiences that have come before. Perhaps these days time is our biggest luxury: there rarely seems to be much of it in a world of constant busy-ness. Especially when we consider time to ourselves with no technology or other distractions that affect our ability to truly connect to ourselves, others and our world on a deeper level.
For that reason perhaps one of our most transformational moments was when the sun broke through the monsoon clouds, to give us a dazzling golden hour on Playa Carillo, on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica. Lapping up the smiles of families, the sun, the sound of the pounding waves and watching local surfers perfect their turns was as infectious as the Costa Rican spirit of pura vida.
For us, seven days in Costa Rica was all too short, but we have no doubt in this country’s ability to transform.
Interested in taking a transformational trip to Costa Rica? You couldn’t be in better hands – from adventure, to yoga and mindfulness, to planning a retreat – learn more about opportunities for Transformational Travel in Costa Rica with our hosts, here.
Editorial Disclosure: We’d like to thank our hosts Visit Costa Rica, Blue Butterfly Events, Desafio Adventure Co and Toby Israel for sponsoring our transformational travel trip to Costa Rica. As usual our thoughts and opinions remain entirely our own.
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What do you think about transformational travel? Have you experienced transformation while travelling? Let us know in the comments below!
A Londoner by birth Ellie has lived in the UK, Netherlands, India and now Canada. Prior to blogging, she worked for 12 years in hospitality and online travel. Ellie started this blog during a sabbatical trip in 2015 around South Asia, to help conscious travellers find the best inspiration for their next sustainable trip. When not travelling, she is happiest with wine, pasta and a good (travel) book. Ellie is also Founder of Soul Travel Consulting which helps travel brands communicate their sustainability initiatives.