I spent the last year of my life volunteering and being of service as a gardener at Blue Osa Yoga Retreat + Spa In Costa Rica. Initially, what I expected to gain from a year of volunteering in Costa Rica was some first-hand gardening experience, a deeper understanding of yoga, and an opportunity to explore the beautiful country. While I did get all of these things, nothing could have prepared me for the year that lay ahead. In this article, I share the most rewarding part of being a volunteer in Costa Rica, the greatest challenge I faced, and the advice I have to anyone considering volunteering. But, let me start at the beginning.
How To Live In Service and Volunteer In Costa Rica
That is when I decided that I wanted to volunteer in Costa Rica. I had always loved gardening and travel, and I was just getting into yoga. So, I figured what better place to offer my service than as a gardener at an international yoga retreat?
When I first got to Blue Osa I was overwhelmed. Imagine the shock of exchanging a high-paced corporate career in finance for the tranquility of a yoga retreat in the Costa Rican jungle. My head spun. My heart swelled. My soul stirred. Something very deep within me was touched and began re-awakening the moment I arrived.
The Blue Osa family embraced and welcomed me, as if I had always belonged with them and was returning home from a long journey. They invited me in to their community. Over the next year this sentiment kept expanding. Now when I think of my family I automatically include Adam, Aaron, and the Blue Osa staff; they are forever in my heart.
Over the course of the year, I labored in the Blue Osa garden. I sweat, I bled, I laughed, I cried, I lived. I was covered in dirt. I was up to my ears in compost. I battled with bugs, fought fungus, tackled torrential rain, and was seared by the scorching sun. Some months we had scarcely a cucumber to show for all our work. While, other months we were buried under the bounty of hard-earned harvests.
What was the most rewarding part of being a volunteer in Costa Rica?
After sharing my story with people who crossed my path over the last year, I have often been asked, “What stands out the most? What was the most rewarding part of your experience?” My answer is simple. The gift of giving.
Through my volunteer experience I found that when I am able to give from the heart and offer my service to another human being, or a community, something magical happens. I become filled with a profound sense of satisfaction and joy. The banking industry trained me to place a high value on money, but volunteering showed me that there is a much more valuable commodity, and that is love.
What was the most difficult struggle or challenge that you faced?
There were many challenges that I faced over the last year, however, while many of these struggles were external (like the bugs and extreme weather), the most difficult challenge for me was an internal battle. Volunteering challenged deep-rooted mental patterns and modes of thinking, which I didn’t even know I had.
After a few months of being a volunteer in Costa Rica it became very apparent that I held deep-rooted cultural beliefs that needed to be reassessed. I felt that if I was going to give something, then I needed to receive something back. It was really hard for me to admit that American culture had taught me that there is scarcity, and that I need to hold tightly to the things that I have, because there is not enough to go around. If I were to share, then I may end up with nothing. I realized, with profound sadness, how ingrained this mindset was in myself, and the world I had come from.
Volunteering helped me to re-train my brain to see the abundance of the world. It showed me that the commodities of love, generosity, and compassion are non-extinguishable resources. It was really a difficult challenge for me to let go of my old thought-patterns and embrace this new way of viewing the world. But once I did, the whole world changed before my eyes. This is the gift of giving.
What is your advice to someone considering volunteering internationally?
If I could say one thing to someone who is thinking of volunteering internationally, I would say, “Do it!” The world needs your service. Give your gift of giving. Volunteer for an afternoon at a soup kitchen. Get involved with mentoring the youth of your community. Join a community garden project. Serve with “Meals on Wheels.” Offer to help clean your church, school, or yoga studio. Just do something to give back. The gift of giving is the most beautiful opportunity available, and it is always there, it just takes action from you.
I arrived at Blue Osa with the intent to volunteer and serve the community, but what ended up happening is that they gave me more than I could have ever imagined. Volunteering at Blue Osa showed me that generosity is abundant and it filled my heart with love, gratitude, and joy. They gave me the gift of giving, which has changed my life and I am forever grateful.
I invite you to share the abundance that lives within you and be of service. You are the change that will make the world better.
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About the author
Lara is the current garden volunteer at Blue Osa. She is originally from Minnesota, and spent the last three years in Colorado. In 2013 she decided to spend a year abroad focusing on travel, yoga & gardening. Read more about Lara’s journey on her travel blog at: