Million Ways to Live: Costa Rica & Ecuador
Our “Million Ways to Live” documentary series is taking us all over the world, to 32 countries in just over a year. There are four of us: Claire, Luke, our assistant Bensen, and Baby Jack, who’s taken to travel like a little duckling to water.
We are exploring the world with a purpose. We find unique, healthy people with an inspirational message, and for a while they are our guides to an aspect of their culture that perhaps the usual tourists don’t get to see. It’s an honor, and we appreciate everyone who has made this experience possible.
We find the people we feature through the usual journalistic tactics: information from friends of friends of friends, talking to locals, keeping our ears and eyes open, and the nouveau-journalism tactics of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
This modus operandi takes us to places we would never have discovered if it wasn’t part of our mission to get deeper into the culture of a country by meeting its people and telling their unique stories.
Our first official stop: Costa Rica.
After a chance encounter with some Quakers in Vermont, we headed to the cloud forests of Monteverde in central Costa Rica. The drive was intense and not to be undertaken in anything less than a four-wheel-drive.
We stayed at the Monteverde Hostel Lodge, the only lodge actually set in the canopy. The cabins are rustic and the setting picturesque as you look our over the dense jungle and ubiquitous mistiness that is part of this area. With monkeys as your companions this lodge was the perfect base from which to explore the wilderness of Monteverde. Night hikes are a popular and worthwhile activity highlighting the biodiversity of Costa Rica. Another not-to-be-missed activity is zip-lining over the canopy; it was the closest I’ve ever felt to flying. The lodge can organize all this for guests.
Our Costa Rican character, Jose Arias, invited us to spend a few days on his sustainable, vintage citrus farm in the mountains—a three-hour drive from San José. Over the past six years, Jose has worked to turn this farm into a place where he and his family will escape the world and live totally off the grid. Words cannot describe the peace and tranquility we felt whist staying there. Not just a farm, Jose’s land also has crystal-clear streams, swimming holes, and an abundance of bird-life. As the first official visitors to Hacienda Rio Carara, we got a taste of what Jose wants to share with the world at this guesthouse where visitors can contribute and learn about this lifestyle.
Next, we were off to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands—a bucket list destination for me, and someplace we were hoping to find a novel new episode. Serendipity and fortune were both in our favor as we literally bumped into a man we were hoping to do the episode on in the streets of Santa Cruz.
There are three main islands in the Galapagos: Isabela, Santa Cruz, and San Cristobal. The latter two have airports, and Santa Cruz is the most developed and touristy. We visited all three islands and found them all to be unique in their own right. And while Santa Cruz is the most expensive of the islands, famous Tortuga Bay shouldn’t be missed.
The Galapagos was a pricey little sojourn, but we still managed to find great, reasonably priced accommodation. My favorite was Caleta Iguana on the island of Isabela. This friendly boutique hostel was right on a gorgeous beginners surf beach and a short walk to the sleepy little town.
With the exception of Caleta Iguana, which we booked in advance, we managed to find cheap accommodation once we got to the islands by wandering around and bargaining the prices down. We also kept to our budget by buying food at the grocery store and making our own lunches and dinners. Thank goodness for tuna sandwiches. However, a highlight of the whole trip was the “food street” behind the center of town in Santa Cruz. At night all the restaurants set up tables in the middle of the street and you can enjoy fresh lobster for a steal. Imagine a country where sunscreen is more expensive than lobster, and that’s the Galapagos.