The road to Rancho Mastatal (first travel intern’s final travel blog)

La Cangreja park: the view from Mastatal

“Have Ithaca always in your mind

Your arrival there is what you are destined for.

But don’t in the least hurry the journey.

Better it lasts for years,

So that when you reach the island you are old,

Rich with all you have gained on the way,

Not expecting Ithaca to give you wealth.

Ithaca gave you a splendid journey.

Without her you would not have set out.

She hasn’t anything else to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca hasn’t deceived you.

So wise you have become, of such experience,

That already you’ll have understood what these Ithacas mean.”

– Excerpt from the poem Ithaca by Constantine Cavafy

One of the many Mastatal art installations”

I have returned home to Northern California after wrapping up the travel portion of my Travel Internship at Rancho Mastatal: an environmental learning and sustainable living center located on the edge of one of the last remaining virgin rainforests in Costa Rica.

“The Hooch” a bamboo house at Rancho Mastatal

I found Rancho Mastatal 4 years ago while traveling and working on organic farms that I located through the aptly named Willing Workers On Organic Farms, an organizations that lists opportunities to work in exchange for room and board in many countries around the world. (For more information about these types of programs check out the Appropedia page on work for accommodation.)

Robin, aka: the godmother”

What makes Rancho Mastatal so spectacular is more than the impressive array of beautiful natural buildings, the works of functional art scattered throughout the property and the myriad of well planned and executed Appropriate Technology projects. It stretches beyond the stunning rainforest preserve that serves as a wilderness corridor between national parks and the sweeping mountain views and waterfalls.

Timo and their shining daughter Sole (photo by Ian Woofenden)”

There is a quality to the community created in and through Mastatal that is unique and dare I say…magical. A synergistic balance seems to perpetually exist amongst the many dedicated volunteers who visit the Ranch and also between the Ranch and the local people in the town of Mastatal . This balance can no doubt be accredited to many things, however, the much of the credit should be given to Tim and Robin, the visionary- chief-mastermind- owners of Rancho Mastatal who steer the ship, empowering those around them to bring forth their unique gifts and talents. Tim and Robin, Thank you for your example!

“La Chosa” Tim and Robin’s cob/waddle n daub home”

For many of the places that I visited, the idea of “sustainablility” is their illusive Ithaca. However, it may be a mistake to think of Sustainability as some fixed point we will “get to”.

It is not a mythical island. It is a process, an evolution. It IS the journey. My time at Rancho Mastatal has reminded me that on this journey we are better equipped if we carry a few things. We need community involvement and support; we have to get our hands dirty and feet muddy; it helps to let loose, be silly, sing and celebrate; we need to think carefully about the implications of our work and actions and consider the effects of past events. But most of all, I believe we need to empower one another…because we can’t do this alone.

Now that I am home from my travels, I will be taking a lot of the information I gathered and making pages for Appropedia. Look forward to future blogs highlighting some of the exciting technologies, projects techniques and tools I ran across along my way.

the plane ride home…”

The Appropedia Travel Internship has been a life changing experience. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about this opportunity you can read more about it through the link above. There is a whole world waiting to be documented….

Thanks for following my travels!

One thought on “The road to Rancho Mastatal (first travel intern’s final travel blog)

  1. BRAVO, LIZ !

    This is a wonderful conclusion. Empowering one another is the heart of social sustainability. Will send you something on that but it boils down to the quality of the experience of participation and the diversity of participants. Diversity enriches the experience, and particularly the experience of learning — the collaborative journey. Oh, yes and to be sustainable, it also has to be fun, you got that in here too.

    A very graceful summary of true sustainability.

    I look forward to seeing more as you post to Appropedia and hope to do some of that again myself one of these days.

    with Love and Wonder,


    PS: Also love the HOOCH !

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