Co-owner/Surf Instructor, Bodhi Surf School
You shouldn't leave footprints so deep they can't be filled in.

You shouldn’t leave footprints so deep they can’t be filled in. Photo: Brigid Lally

The Inertia

You may have heard lots of buzz from us in recent months regarding something called a “Travelers’ Philanthropy Program.” Travelers’ philanthropy is not a new concept. In fact, you have probably encountered opportunities to donate to different causes in the places that you have visited. Primarily, the idea behind travelers’ philanthropy is that via the investments of visitors, travel destinations can be either maintained or improved for both residents and visitors. Travelers’ philanthropy is a technique that Bodhi Surf School has decided to integrate into our current operations as a way to formalize our program, ensure that it is transparent, and be a model for other businesses.

A Slightly Different Traveler’s Philanthropy

Along the course of our company’s development, we decided we wanted to employ the general idea of travelers’ philanthropy, but to go a slightly different route. We know our guests already spend a lot of money to get to Costa Rica and enjoy their yoga and surf vacation; in fact, many choose us because they discovered that we are a surf school that aims to promote environmentalism, marine conservation, community involvement, and culturally enriching experiences. In choosing us, they are, in essence, “dollar voting” for corporate responsibility by giving their business to a company that advertises to care about issues beyond its niche. We want to thank them for that, and also to lead by example. So instead of asking our vacation guests to donate, we have committed to take a portion of what they already spend and give them a travelers’ philanthropy gift card which they can use to donate back in a final symbolic gesture. This furthers their connection to the community as they are able to see exactly where their reinvestment is going. Guests also have the option to go above and beyond and donate additionally.

A Foundation in Corporate Responsibility


Since we started Bodhi Surf School, we have been practically obsessed with becoming the type of business that doesn’t just give back in the vaguest of senses, but that actually helps contribute to and maintain the health and wellbeing of the local community and environment. Why? We live here and want this place to remain as beautiful, vibrant, and prosperous as it can be for everyone to enjoy. We know that the three entities — community, business, and traveler — must have a mutually beneficial relationship to ensure continued success. Also, it just makes sense from a business standpoint: we and our guests use and enjoy this wonderful place, so any money put back in to maintain or improve it can simply be considered “usage fees.”

The Time for Transparency

Since our formation in 2010, we have been (fairly informally) donating our time, energy, and resources back to the community, but we have been searching a way to formalize this process. We want to be transparent about where our time and resources go — in this day and age when any business can claim to “give back” and “be sustainable”, we want to be able to prove it. Not only will this help us keep track of it ourselves, we also hope it will motivate other businesses to do something similar, as well as prove that exercising conscientious business practices are compatible with success.

How it Came Together

This year, we decided to finally formalize our Travelers’ Philanthropy Program. We were very fortunate to have an opportunity to work with two organizations, the Costa Rica – USA Foundation (CRUSA) and its 501(c)(3) partner, Amigos of Costa Rica. CRUSA lent us their wonderful fellowship recipient/intern, Shengxiao Yu, for a full month to work with the Bodhi team and the future recipient organizations to help put a plan in place. Amigos of Costa Rica, by virtue of being a non-profit, is the way Bodhi Surf School will accept donations and channel them to one of the three locally-operating organizations that we work with. So the Bodhi Surf School Travelers’ Philanthropy Program is officially off and running!


Recipients of Bodhi Surf School’s Travelers’ Philanthropy Program

Bodhi Surf School guests will be given a gift card upon their departure which can be redeemed at the Amigos of Costa Rica website. Donations will go to three organizations which operate in our community in three sectors that are very important to us at Bodhi Surf School: marine conservation, education, and youth development.

  • Fundacion KETO: a non-profit that promotes marine conservation and best practices for marine-based tourism operators
  • Geoporter: a geospatial technology-based non-profit that aims to empower community members in identifying and solving environmental issues
  • Forjando Alas: an educational non-profit youth group provides an after-school center where children can gain additional knowledge and skills to help them in their lives

There is also an option on the website for guests to donate additionally if they should want to amplify their contribution.

Bodhi Surf’s Ocean Guardian Journey

Our travelers’ philanthropy program will be a part of what we are calling the Ocean Guardian Journey, which is essentially all of the things that we do that fall under the larger umbrella of Corporate Social & Environmental Responsibility. We call it a “journey” because it is personal — our journey as a business is very similar to that which any individual could embark on, where the end goal is not to be completely sustainable or to single-handedly save the planet (that is an impossible feat for just one person or organization) but to continue learning, growing, and improving. So currently, in addition to the travelers’ philanthropy program, we also have our ongoing Service and Surf Saturdays, Yoga for the Community, and our Ocean Guardian Pledge, and we are always looking for opportunities to discover, develop, and do more. We hope that this very realistic goal that many people are willing and able to commit to. You may say we are dreamers (and you’re not the only one), but we feel that our goals as a business are quite simple: to help raise awareness, promote a lower impact lifestyle, and motivate others to become enthusiastic Ocean Guardians.

Joining A Movement

Imagine all of the tiny little streams that have to merge with the creeks that later join the rivers that finally funnel into the ocean. We may never know how much we contribute to the larger movement towards environmental stewardship, or how far the effects of our actions may reach. Yet just like that water moving towards the sea, when many individuals act, their combined efforts will gain momentum until it becomes a nearly unstoppable force. With that said, our Ocean Guardian Journey is a contribution to a much a larger movement that we are just a very small part of. We are humbled and inspired by others who are taking amazing, wonderful, completely innovative actions to create a better world, and additionally, we hope to inspire people who may just need a little help getting their feet wet — literally!


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