The Alternative Spring Break trip focuses on all aspects of sustainability including the environment, society and economy while participants engage in both direct and indirect service. Participants explore sustainability’s impact by visiting EARTH University, one of the globe’s most sustainable universities, as well as experiencing ecotourism and being immersed in local culture.
To better understand ecotourism, trip participants engage with local micro-entrepreneurs who are part of People First Tourism’s growing network. A global initiative of NC State, People First Tourism’s mission connects people seeking genuine travel experiences with micro-entrepreneurs interested in earning income from sharing their communities, lives and skills with others. In addition to learning from the network’s existing entrepreneurs, student participants interview potential new entrepreneurs for the network.
Students also have the opportunity to experience Costa Rican culture while working on sustainable service projects with Globe Aware, a nonprofit organization that develops international volunteer programs intended to promote cultural awareness and sustainability. Examples of service projects include installing new water pipes to bring clean water to communities, painting schools and community buildings, and installing septic tanks.
Activities in past trips to Costa Rica have included:
- Traditional dance lessons from natives
- Community service/hands on service such as painting school classrooms, establishing gardens and installing septic tanks
- Lessons from natives on how to upcycle recycled materials to art, prepare traditional Costa Rican food, speak the local language
- At EARTH University: shadow a student for the day and visit the hog and dairy farm, banana packaging facility and urban garden
- Fun activities such as horseback riding, whitewater rafting and ziplining
“I was immersed in [Costa Rican] food, being taught how to cook and where it all comes from. I learned so much from their hospitality and their pride in their community, upbringing and culture.”
“Many people view sustainability as a cash vacuum; however, on the trip I saw the value and economic benefits that ecotourism has brought to Costa Rica. I also hope to share with others the benefits of straying off the beaten path and taking time to interact with local individuals through People First Tourism.”
“My experiences in Costa Rica expanded my understanding of service to things that don’t necessarily have a tactile end result, reinforcing the idea that service opportunities truly are everywhere.”
- Trip dates: March 4-11, 2017
- Location: San Jose, Costa Rica
- Approximate cost: $1,950 – $2,150
- Trip cost covers transportation, housing, and meals
- Photos from previous trips