During this year of the Daily Boost, Mondays are for celebrating people who are making a difference — small business owners, community leaders, nonprofit founders and more — and I’m starting with two people who give me a boost every time I think of them. We have our bicultural families in common (Pip met Donald when she came to Costa Rica from Australia to volunteer on an ecotourism project, and they now have two fantastic girls), but in all other respects, my family’s city life is worlds apart from theirs. As a person who does most of her work in meeting rooms or on the computer, I find it breathtaking to watch two people who are literally building their dreams plank by plank and nail by nail. They live, sleep and breathe their beloved community, Donald’s native Bijagua, and the fragile ecosystems that have made it a sought-after tourism destination.
How? Well, they’ve built Costa Rica’s best B&B in Casitas Tenorio — don’t take it from me, ask TripAdvisor — all the while taking their role as local employers with the utmost seriousness. And now they’ve created Tapir Valley, a 220-acre private reserve where visitors, photographers and naturalists can roam the Costa Rican rain forest they way it’s meant to be explored: without schedules, crowds or restrictions. The fact that they have pulled this off is completely insane. I really can’t put into words how astonishing it is to see a private reserve worthy of a Rockefeller that instead has been reforested, protected, and prepared for visitors by working parents, hand-in-hand with community members who have chipped in to mix the cement or raise the forest viewing platform. Let’s just say that taking a walk through Tapir Valley, home of the endangered Baird’s Tapir, expanded my view of what one person or one family can do. It made me think about legacy.
At a time when our children are taking to the streets to protest their elders’ inaction on climate change, our generations’ chance is not yet lost. Far from it. There are still actions that ordinary people with extraordinary devotion can take to better their childrens’ lot. We all have changemakers like Donald Varela and Pip Kelly in our lives, whether we know them personally or not. The visionaries. The jaw-droppers. The people with the guts to “build it and they will come.” Sometimes they don’t realize what a gift they give us by letting us be a part of their projects. We are the lucky ones, we who get to buy what they make, spread the word, relish their ascent. We get to pick our jaws off the ground and think about what their hard work can inspire in our own lives.
When days like Friday and the climate protests make you feel simultaneously inspired and a horrendous failure for being part of older generations that will hand today’s children an utter mess; when you feel that there’s nothing left to be done; when your children’s questions about looming ecological disasters make you cry; when you just have a case of the Mondays, I invite you to take a look at Casitas Tenorio’s and Tapir Valley’s feeds, which are bursting with beauty and just plain goodness. If you can visit Pip and Donald in person, better still. There are such lovely people in the world, tucked down a side street in your neighborhood, tucked up a winding dirt road in northern Costa Rica, waiting to dazzle us. Making things better in the place they love.
Who are your Donalds and Pips? Who is dazzling you? I want to hear.
I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or Facebook!