Pura Vida in Costa Rica

Monkeying Around with Outward Bound
  |  Gorp.com

Surrounded by a cloud forest so dense hardly any light hits the ground, I bend down and collect some of the rushing Savegre River into my water bottle. I bring it to my lips and take a hardy, satisfying swig. It's the first time in my life I've sipped from the source without iodine, bleach, or any fancy filter—a cardinal violation of backcountry health. But my guide assures me that this is pure stuff, allaying my fears of any giardia-induced sickness. With the sticky jungle heat pressing down on me, the cool water's just the thing I need to continue the trek.

Learning what's safe and what's not is just one part of my journey through Costa Rica on a trip billed as nothing less than a "Life Renewal." Led by the Costa Rica Rainforest Outward Bound School (CRROBS), my group of two instructors and ten students—ranging in age from 24 to 45—is here for ten days of trust building and reconnecting to nature, a proposition as inviting as it is obtuse.

Not for Kids Only
Like many others, I had the initial impression that Outward Bound's programs were designed only for wayward youth. After all, since 1941 the group has taken students into the backcountry to learn wilderness skills and to encourage tenacity, compassion, and independence. But recognizing that these skills come in handy for those of us who hold down jobs as well, Outward Bound makes its lessons open—and useful—to everyone.

CRROBS follows in the Outward Bound tradition but also takes survival skills one step further, offering its own spin on jungle life. The school fosters community and holistic intercultural understanding, along with knowledge of and respect for the natural environment. Over a ten-day period, my group would walk through the rainforest during Costa Rica's rainy season, learn about local culture and customs, and learn to trust one another when, for example, our guide tells us that drinking river water won't end in our becoming violently ill.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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