by Forest Downey photos by Harrison Rohrer
Suddenly, it hit me: I was sitting in my math class, daydreaming as usual, and I had a thought and desire
to work with monkeys. This inspired a summer journey to Costa Rica
I first went to Costa Rica, with my family, when I was five years old. I remember the deck out back, with the howler monkeys in the trees. I remember the ride in the back of the pick-up truck into the rain forest, the volcano, and the hot springs. It is experiences like these that, burned into my memory forever, compelled me to find a way to go back. came home from school and told my parents that I wanted to spend the summer in Costa Rica. My mother discovered a program called Costa Rican Adventures, which is dedicated to exposing teens to a new world of adventure and ecology.
Costa Rica was just as I remembered. The first night we stayed in Casa Conde and were offered fresh guava and strawberry smoothies. The next morning we set out for the Caribbean coast. The sand between my toes and the
warm wind in my hair felt like heaven. We walked to surfing lessons on the beach.
Two days later, we drove to a small town in the mountains named Tres Equis. We lived with local families and spent two days painting their pre-school and playing soccer with the kids. I feel like being there taught me how good it is back home, and that having more doesn’t make you any happier.
Later in the trip I traveled up to some of the highest mountains to work on a completely sustainable and off-the-grid farm. The Seelye family built their house up from sheer rock. Their power is generated from a hydroelectric system. They grow their own veggies and raise their cows for milk and meat. They live off their land with the combination of animals and plants.
Every morning at 6 a.m. we got up to feed the animals and milk the cows. On the second day, we built a staircase into the cliff and paved it with rocks that we crushed ourselves. That night we went fishing and caught four rainbow trout that we fried for dinner. Over the next few days, we built two bridges so their guests could cross the streams. The Seelye family, in choosing to live off the grid, inspired me.
Our next destination was the Pacific coast. We traveled to a marine biology center where we learned to track and identify dolphins. The goal of this center is to preserve the Golfo Duce and make it a protected area as an environmental sanctuary. We spent seven days in the area. I learned from a documentary that shark finning is highly dangerous for our ecosystem. With the killing of over 100 million sharks a year, the balance of the ocean’s ecosystem is endangered.
This trip has taught me many things about the world I had never known before. So, please, if you have an adventurous teen I strongly recommend sending them off to Costa Rica—or anyplace that they can make a difference.