My Life Changing Volunteer Trip To Costa Rica

Happy belated International Yoga Day 🙂

This past Wednesday, all across social media, user’s took to their feed to celebrate International Yoga Day. While flipping through everyone’s postings of beautiful and inspiring photos of their yoga journey, it got me thinking about my past trip to Costa Rica. There in the jungle, I COMPLETELY changed my life. Through yoga, a little jungle time and A LOT tears and early morning talks, I healed my way back into myself at a local yoga retreat.

At the time I was living in New York City modeling and residing in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn with my ex-boyfriend. That summer into fall and winter was by far the hardest 6 months of my life. By the end of that year, I had become very depressed and unmotivated for life. One theme being I hadn’t done anything for someone else in a really, really long time. I was over focused on modeling thus being over focused on myself…and I was miserable. Id written a long, long list of qualities and poor thinking habits that I loathed about myself. It was time to do something about that list.

My ex suggested to find a yoga retreat to volunteer at. This idea sparked my hungry interest to nourish myself and find what ever pieces I had hopelessly lost. So, between fittings in NYC that next day, I vigorously browsed the internet for a yoga retreat with a volunteer program. The 1st retreat I came across was Kevin McQuillan’s Peace Retreat in Playa Negra, Costa Rica. They were offering free housing in trade for 6 hours of volunteer work. Right then and there I booked the trip to leave in 3 weeks, for a 3 weeks stay.

Peace Retreat was this little slice of heaven located deep in the Costa Rican jungle. The scared space offered week long yoga retreats to local and international yogi’s. My role was to help with the set up and take down of breakfast and dinner along with the odd job around the property. In the mornings for the volunteers, there were mandatory 6am self healing meetings that took place.

As I sat on the plane that Thanksgiving week en route to The Peace Retreat, I was ready to open myself up and dig deep into what was causing my depression and sadness. I wrote in my journal my intention for this trip was to better find myself and learn skills on how to emotional and mentally care for my body in a healthy way. Boy was I in for a life changing experience.

From the airport, a car took me on the 45 minute drive to Peace Retreat. The land was rolling with beautiful grassy green hills. We turned down a dirt road with a rickitty old sign saying “Welcome to Peace Retreat”. The property was absolutely breathing taking positioned in the thick of the jungle.

After being introduced to the other girls volunteering, I was shown to my little hut that I slept in for the 3 weeks stay. My roomie set her alarm for 5:55am to make the 6am meeting, and said goodnight.

While I can’t remember specific details of how the first meeting went, I know that I did a lot and lot of crying. The meeting was constructed of talking about releasing intentions and setting goals for the day. Within the first few days I was opening up and talking about how I was there to change my life and get back on my feet. The days seemed to pass quickly and I took to loving the girls and the guests at the retreat. We were able to take some of the yoga classes offered in the mornings and evenings. Guess how many classes I took in that 3 weeks?


I took only three classes.

But… you went to a Y-O-G-A retreat, you may be thinking. Why only three? Well, the yoga classes were too intense for me mentally and emotionally. I couldn’t bear to sit and be with my thoughts. It was overwhelming. I listened to my body and opted to go for a run while the other girls would practice yoga.

We were nourished with delicious organic and locally sourced foods prepared by an in-house chef. One week I helped prepare a health food menu for the chef to cook recipes from. That was a super fun experience as this was about the time I was becoming mindful of what foods I was putting in my body.

Volunteer girls

To wrap up: What I took away from my trip was life changing. Emearsed in nature, nourishing myself with healthy foods, attending the meetings every morning and having one on one time with the retreat host, I completely changed my life. Helping and waiting on others was so rewarding and fulfilling. The people were so grateful and kind four our services.

How could you make a difference or drastic change in your life? Taking time away, soaking up experiences of other cultures and learning from different perspectives fuels our growth and self love. Checking into a local yoga studio, online program, or taking a week or two away in a different city or country is invaluable. 🙂

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