Here at Workaway, we now have an amazing 20,000 + hosts involved in our volunteer exchange projects and communities from all over the world. From agricultural work, scuba diving, yoga retreats and most things in between, we are so proud to be associated with so many amazing hosts. Going by the name of ‘Workaway Host of the Month’ we will reveal more of what it is like to be a host and let you into their routines and how their projects have changed since opening their doors to you guys!
We recently travelled to Costa Rica to check out some Workaway projects and met Carlos who runs a surf camp in Tamarindo together with Michael (who first came to the camp through workaway!). We dug deeper into their journey to share it all with you.
Hey guys, what a beautiful day it is in Tamarindo! Can you tell us a little more about your background? How long ago did you start your surf camp, and why did you get into it?
Our surf camp in Costa Rica started almost three years ago, before opening the surf camp I was travelling around Europe, but Costa Rica had always been a captivating country to me. While in Europe, I met many people familiar with Costa Rica, and I found myself asking the same question to all of them: What comes to your mind when I say “Costa Rica”? Almost everyone would emphatically respond with positive feelings, constantly noting the country’s nature, tranquillity, the friendly locals, and of course the great surf available. Then my next question was to myself — How can I take what this beautiful country has to offer, and pair all of the great qualities of Costa Rica with an innovative idea that was based off of self-sustainability, and would provide a platform for travellers to connect with other travellers?
After flying to Costa Rica and searching for the optimal land to putting this dream into reality, all the answers were found in this little piece of jungle in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. With that same self-sustainability approach in mind, using natural resources, including the wood straight from the jungle, bamboo, and multiple other natural tools, the surf camp quickly began to come to fruition. While building the camp, and surfing together every day, we began to feel something special was on its way.
We love that you followed your dreams and inspire others to help too! How did you first discover Workaway, and how many volunteers have you hosted so far?
At the beginning of the construction process, when I was alone looking for that ideal piece of land in the jungle, riding horses, walking through the jungles and beaches of Costa Rica, recycling wood, and working with the earth and its resources, I had to reach out to some close friends to help me build this Dream. These close friends called other friends, and we had some unexpected acquaintances come offer their help. One of them named Julian, talked to me about Workaway. Immediately, I was excited to learn of such an amazing platform that opens incredible opportunities to allow travellers to get to know the world, while creating life experiences using their own hands and skill sets. At that current stage, we knew it would be a perfect partnership as both companies had the same ideology and ultimate goal in mind: to continue their internal and external growth, while connecting with as many like-minded individuals in the process. While it is a rough estimate, in our near three years of being in production, we have hosted over a total of 1,000 workawayers!
WOW! I think that must be a record! Do you have a daily routine, and can you describe your perfect day with your Workawayers?
During the off-season the surf camp is full of volunteers, sharing their skills, and splitting tasks to keep the place running at its optimal capacity. These tasks range from everything such as surf instruction, yoga instruction, photography, videography, and social media help, to more basic tasks such as helping in the kitchen, construction work around the camp, to just overall maintenance of keeping the camp as clean as possible. And of course, the most important activity of each day: GOING SURFING!
To give an idea of a typical day at our surf camp in Costa Rica, below is a rough timeline from the beginning of the day to its conclusion:
6 AM: Morning surf at Langosta beach for intermediate and advanced surfers. Surf in Tamarindo beach for beginners.
7 AM: Yoga classes in the camp, sometimes on the beach while others choose to surf instead.
8:30 AM: A large family style breakfast all together in our dining area under a large mango tree.
9:00 AM – 11:00 AM: Most general volunteers will complete their daily tasks.
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM: We provide shuttles to Tamarindo beach (unless it is one of two days a week we do special excursion & surf trips) for our guests/volunteers.
1:00 PM: Surf lessons and relaxing on the beach.
4:00 PM: A serene yoga session on the beach.
5:30 PM: Watch the sunset on the beach and then provide shuttles back to camp.
7:30 PM: A large family style dinner buffet in the dining area under the mango tree.
9:00 PM: After dinner most campers indulge in recreational conversation, music, and general entertainment around the camp bar and chill out area.
10:30 PM: We provide shuttles to the downtown Tamarindo nightlife, where specific days call for different types of entertainment out and about in the city.
1:30 AM: We provide our final shuttles back to the surf camp.
We love the life in Costa Rica, no wonder you get so many volunteers!
How has your project changed since hosting Workawayers?
First and foremost, the influence of Workawayers has established a more creative environment for everyone involved. In any setting, it’s inevitable that if you put a collection of innovative and inspired people together, who are skilled at something specific, for an extended period of time, everyone involved in the situation will feel the desire to push their own boundaries and follow their own aspirations. We believe that both having a constant desire to accomplish something creatively prolific, and encouraging others to attain their own imaginative passions, are unequivocally contagious, so having Workawayers around in camp who are youthfully ambitious, will forever be mutually beneficial to everyone’s future growth and success.
What have been the biggest challenges for you since hosting Workawayers, and how did you handle them?
Many of the workawayers that join us have never been this close to nature and wildlife in such a raw form. It’s an everyday challenge to encourage them to confront their fears, remain open-minded about the uncertainty of the jungle, and show them that all animals and surrounding wildlife are beautiful in their own right, and will never harm you if they don’t feel threatened. We constantly encourage our volunteers to simply be one with the nature that surrounds them.
What is the most beneficial thing you have gained from hosting Workawayers?
Carlos: Thanks to the many different Workawayers we have hosted, I’ve learnt how to surf better and approach the water with a different philosophy, along with learning different types of yoga, languages, and most importantly, just having lots of friends all over the world.
Michael: I’m genuinely inspired by how many of these young Workawayers are just travelling the world alone, and creating opportunities for themselves as they go. There is nothing that can compare to the perspective you gain when travelling solo, and because of that, all of these travellers are so insightful for their age. It’s inspiring to see firsthand, and in turn, deeply motivates me to continue my own journey and personal growth.
We also love seeing how many of our Workawayers are out there doing it alone! What is the most memorable moment you’ve had with Workawayers, and why?
There’s a few:
1. Building the yoga platform: We have one large yoga platform in the camp, and just seeing the progress of its construction was special. Month by month with this project in mind, collecting and recycling the perfect wood pieces to support the platform, waiting to see the right branch that would fall somewhere in the jungle and the trails around the camp, or even on the beaches. If we saw one, we’d get the team together, jump on the pickup truck and go on an adventure, all of us with the same goal, come back to camp with more materials to complete our common project. The result was a solid, sustainable, wooden Yoga platform that has now become the source of so many beautiful Yoga sessions. When I sit on there in any downtime I have, I remember all of the hands that built it.
2. Teaching English to kids: Two workawayers who were both professional English teachers, brought this beautiful idea of promoting the English language to kids with difficult access to education in the surrounding areas of Tamarindo. In their time here, they would initiate and invite these kids from different neighbourhoods to spend their days interacting with our diverse group of Workawayers at camp, learning English, playing soccer, climbing the mango trees, cooking and grilling hamburgers, and ending the days teaching them surf on the beach. It’s hard to think of a better feeling than hearing the simultaneous laughing of the kids and workawayers throughout the extent of those days. It was truly amazing.
What lovely stories!
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to go on a Workaway trip, and how would you define what makes a good volunteer?
My advice would be to just “embrace the uncomfortable“.
Most people who sign up to be a Workawayer already have the ambition to travel on their own, test themselves, and ultimately grow through their experiences. But, there will certainly be times that things are uncomfortable or don’t go as planned, and that is when you sometimes just need to take a deep breath, a step back, and remind yourself that it’s all part of the process. You find out a lot about yourself in those uncomfortable moments, and like with all happenings in life, without the obstacles and lows of your adventures, the highs and accomplishments you experience aren’t nearly as exhilarating or memorable.
The lessons you learn from that balance in your travel will undoubtedly last a lifetime.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future? Where do you see yourself in five years?
I have learned a new style of living from interacting with Workawayers from all over the world. It’s a style of living where you can see souls instead of just people, where individuals are happy to share their knowledge and skills, where anything is possible when you work together, and where material things lose value and instead, moments become the most precious thing we can collect in life. My hope for the future is just to continue living, promoting, and sharing this beautiful style of life. In five years’ time, I see exponential growth within the camp, our future development, and the workawayers that became team leaders at our surf camp. By promoting, living, leading, and expanding on this style of life, the sky is the limit for our project.
Many thanks again to Carlos and Michael for showing us around the surf camp, sharing the great meals and for all the wonderful time in Tamarindo during our visit, also of course for the inspiring interview! We are so proud to have you guys as a part of the Workaway community! Pura vida! 🙂
Do you want to be our next WA Host of the month? We are always on the look out for hosts who have a great story to tell! Email us over at firstname.lastname@example.org and you could be in our next feature!