Meet Travis: Protector of the Pacific in Costa Rica

Travis Bays, Bodhi Surf School

For lovers of nature — and especially the ocean — there’s nothing like Costa Rica. And if you’re as passionate about it conservation we are, there’s nothing like our Costa Rica volunteer vacations: Protecting the Pacific.

This trip, however, wouldn’t be anything without our in-country staff; so today, we’re delighted to introduce you to Travis, who is the director of our Protecting the Pacific program. He’ll tell you about his time in the Peace Corps, his work to preserve the Bahia Ballena Marine Reserve, and the surf and yoga school he runs with his family. Take it away, Travis!

1. Tell us a little about yourself.

I graduated with degrees in economics and cultural anthropology from the University of San Diego. After school, I joined the Peace Corps in Costa Rica. During this time, I was trained in micro credit community banking, project design and management and best practices for sustainable tourism. After completing my field service, I worked one year in the Peace Corps Costa Rica central offices in San Jose. Then in 2008, I became regional coordinator of micro credit community banking in Osa, Costa Rica, for the Fundacion Integral Campesina (FINCA) in strategic alliance with the Costa-Rica-USA (CRUSA) Foundation.

I currently work as a part-time field consultant for the CRUSA Foundation, am regional coordinator for the Osa-Golfito Initiative in conjunction with the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University, and serve on the board of directors for Geoporter. I live with my wife Pilar and daughter Maya Paz in Bahia Ballena, where we own and operate Bodhi Surf School.

2. Describe the conservation efforts you’re involved in to protect the Bahia Ballena Marine Reserve — and why they’re important.

Lots: working on trash mapping and participatory whale monitoring/mapping projects with Geoporter, Surf and Service Saturdays with beach clean-ups and environmental education, development of Travelers’ Philanthropy program to support local organizations. Composting, recycling, and developing drainage systems to help treat grey water, including biogardens.

On a regional level, I’m involved with INOGO, an organization that works hand-in-hand with Costa Ricans in local communities, government, the private sector and NGOs. INOGO’s goal is to generate a living process for sustainable development led by Costa Ricans, especially the people of Osa and Golfito. This process will consider how to improve essential social and economic factors such as education and employment, while supporting the integrity of both marine and terrestrial ecosystems on which local communities depend.

3. What is your role at Discover Corps?

Formally, I’m the director of the Protecting the Pacific program. My role is to facilitate learning through exposure to the people and environment of Bahia Ballena, Osa.

4. What makes Discover Corps trips unique?

Discover Corps travelers get to engage with local experts and truly contribute to preserving the beautiful ecology of Costa Rica. And they have abundant opportunities for experiential learning.

volunteer vacation Costa Rica

5. Why do you want to preserve and share the beauty of Costa Rica? What makes it such a special place to you?

My main motivation to preserve and share the beauty of Costa Rica is so that Maya Paz (my soon-to-be 4-year-old daughter) can enjoy the marine and terrestrial ecosystems that provide all of us good health (mental, physical and spiritual).

The people and geography (whale tale land formation and coastal mountain range) make this place amazing and special, as does the unity of community members and our ability to take collective action to achieve our goals. Sharing this place with tourists can help motivate and sustain pro-environmental behavior change among visitors.

Bahia Ballena provides an ideal context for informal science learning in biology, ecology, and natural history through observation of plant and animal species in their natural environments. Following their Costa Rica volunteer vacation, guests should feel a sense of responsibility and self-efficacy through hands-on experiences and stewardship activities. These feelings can spark a desire for taking action not only for the tourism site but also on behalf of visitors’ home environments.

A big gracias to Travis for sharing his story with us! If you have any questions for him, please leave them in the comments below. 

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