To do 8 months before: the scouting trip and other to do’s

190228_PN Corcovado Osa_DSC01826

The to do list- 8 months before

The Reboot your life book by Allen et al, suggest a list of to do´s for 8 months before the start of the sabbatical related to planning an educational sabbatical, organising work, financing the sabbatical and preparing the house. Our highlights of that list were the following:

  1. Apply to volunteer programs that require long application processes and/or advanced deposit
  2. Start cleaning desk at work (physically and mentally)
    • Make a list of all pending things and a plan on how to 1) finish them; 2) transfer them to someone else or 3) cancel them.
    • Archive all documents / projects / papers that are finished
  3. Work on identifying ways to rent your house
  4. Announce rental of the house to friends
  5. Prepare the house for rental
  6. Book the tickets to Costa Rica & book the animals in the flight
  7. To the extent that is possible, organize a scouting trip to your final destination

The scouting trip

No matter now much I like -no, pardon me-  LOOOOOVE books, there is a limit to what one can decide only based on written information. It is hard to argue with the fact that there is nothing like being there. So, inspired by “Find your Costa Rica” blog,  we decided that I would go to Costa Rica for a scouting trip.

The purpose of the trip

The purpose of the scouting trip was to visit the places that we had shorlisted: Nosara, Uvita, Osa peninsula and Puerto Viejo and collect first hand information on the town, housing and the volunteer organizations we had initially identified. We jointly prepared a list (surprise!!) of the data that we would like to collect. The list reflects our wish list and criteria and, in that sence, it rather personal. But just in case it can serve as an inspiration, it can be downloaded here

The lenght of the scouting trip

I planned to stay at least 3 nights / 4 days in each of the locations to allow time to visit the town and talk with people, visit the organizations in which we wanted to volunteer and talk with the managers and generally get a feeling for the place and, to the extent that was possible, visit the national parks close by (since this was in our criteria).

I allocated at least one day for travelling between location and location. In total, the trip took three weeks and I manage to visit all four locations and have interviews with 12 volunteer organizations.

Preparing the scouting trip

Apart from booking the flights, the transport between locations and the accomodations, the most important thing to prepare in advance was the interviews with the organizations. After all, talking with the volunteer organizations was one of the main purposes of the scouting trip.

My experience here was rather mixed. I could set some of the interviews before travelling, but those were the exception. For the most part, I got the appointment once I was in Costa Rica either after a phonecall or in a snowball fashion, through the contacts that I made during the trip. In this respect, the scouting trip payed off a thousand times.

Cost of the scouting trip

The scouting trip cost aprox  2500€, excluding the international flight. The amount includes the accomodation (average 60€ per night), food (120 € in total), the car rental, petrol and tolls (1200€). This is of course a stiff cost but not such a big one in the larger perspective of the cost of a sabbatical abroad. But, from our perspective, it was worth every penny, for how much it helped organizing our sabbatical.

What I learnt from the scouting trip

I will discuss the impressions from the different locations in separate blogs, since the information collected is very rich. But suffice to say here that the scouting trip changed quite substantially our perception of…

  1. which places were nice to live (Osa, Puerto Jimenez) and which wouldn’t work at all with our preferences and lifestyle (Nosara and Uvita);
  2. the costs of living in Costa Rica – particularly housing (much cheaper if you are there and use the local networks);
  3. where to find the “right” information (facebook groups) and
  4. which type of volunteer conservation we would fancy doing (wildlife conservation)

Not the least, we also found out that it was not weird at all to volunteer in these organizations at our age (around 50) and that far from being useless, our knowledge and working experience was generally very appreciated.


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