Amidst the majestic coastal mountains, epic waterfalls, and warm beaches of Costa Rica, the first Sustainable Living Expedition was, for me, the educational adventure of a lifetime, and there are many more on the horizon.
As a member of the team, my role was to provide hospitality, accompany guests on excursions, and write about our collective experience. Fortunately, the entire eight-day event, from February 27th to March 6th, was very well organized, and everyone seemed to have a wonderful time.
Alexander Hill, a nutritionist from New York City, described the event as “an incredible week of valuable information and wisdom for a new paradigm.”
Designed by social benefit organization Upward Spirals, the program helps guests create action plans for transitioning to a more sustainable way of living. Field trips to nearby projects showcase both innovative and low-tech systems of renewable energy generation, natural building, food forestry, organic farming, holistic education, regenerative business, and community development. Local experts provide valuable knowledge and practical experience with demonstrations and hands-on workshops.
At the end of the experience, participants are equipped with a flash drive containing an extensive sustainability learning library with thousands of guides, plans, tools, and other digital resources to assist them in creating a regenerative future. By empowering visitors with systemic solutions while supporting local projects, the Expedition strengthens the local economy and ecosystems worldwide.
What Is Upward Spirals?
Upward Spirals is a nonprofit regenerative think tank and consulting company making it easier to live in balance with nature. We do this by building tools, templates, how-to guides, business plans, and social benefit programs that accelerate the co-creation of a sustainable society.
The Diamante Solution Center was established by Upward Spirals to accelerate the creation of an ecologically harmonious world by hosting wellness and educational events, developing local sharing economies, supporting organic food systems, and systematically empowering all organizations engaged in building a regenerative society. All profits are reinvested into social benefit programs to support regenerative economic development.
Other projects by Upward Spirals include the Costa Rica Learning Calendar, Organic Directory, Community Days, Social Enterprise Development and Regenerative Business Optimization.
The Diamante Valley is located between San Isidro and Dominical in Southern Pacific Costa Rica, one of the most biodiverse places in the world and home to an incredible number of ecotourism, reforestation, conservation, and permaculture projects. The valley extends southward from the epic Tinamaste ridge to the confluence of two pristine watersheds, featuring the spectacular 200-meter Diamante Waterfall and the massive double-cascading Baru Waterfalls.
The Center encompasses 55 acres of lush rainforest, organic gardens, hundreds of fruit trees, and comfortable accommodations, with direct access to the top of Baru Falls, a peaceful river upstream, natural swimming pools, and stunning views of the wildlife corridor below and sunset over the coastal mountains.
The Adventure Begins
As the guests arrived, Murray Dodds, a DJ from Edmonton, Alberta, described his first impression as, “like stepping into a tropical paradise with an astounding river, waterfalls, and fruit trees.”
Murray and several others had just attended the nearby Envision Festival and were exhausted upon arrival. We welcomed everyone with open arms and a nourishing lunch. After a brief orientation, some guests rested in hammocks, others recharged in the the river, and Asja Music, head chef and yoga instructor at Diamante Center, prepared a delicious dinner with local, organic ingredients. Later in the evening, we gathered around the campfire for an opening circle to get to know each other better.
In the mornings, Asja taught yoga on the rainforest deck while I prepared breakfast. We enjoyed most lunches off-site during excursions and returned in the evenings to a delightful array of dinners by Asja that participants raved about.
Jennie-Rose Saunders, an environmental scientist from Ventura California, joyfully exclaimed, “This is some of the best food I’ve ever had!”
Beyond the phenomenal cuisine, guests were also impressed by the beautiful setting and amenities, professional service, hands-on learning, and valuable lifelong connections.
Miles Radin, Interpretive Naturalist for Yosemite National Park, shared, “Words cannot describe how much I learned in eight days with the Upward Spirals team. Their organization brought me to places I otherwise never would have found, and introduced me to pioneers of sustainability I otherwise never would have met.”
Our daily flow of activities was generally as follows:
5:30 am — yoga and meditation
7:00 am — breakfast
8:30 am — depart for first destination
9:00 am — workshop or presentation
1:00 pm — lunch
2:00 pm — second destination or follow-up discussion
5:00 pm — return to the Center
6:00 pm — dinner
7:30 pm — campfire
Vida Auténtica: After visiting the local farmers market, Feria Tinamaste Agricultura, Melissa Sweet explained how her non-profit organization has evolved from educating farmers about organic agriculture, to building greenhouses for their graduates, to establishing the farmers market. In just three years, it has grown to include an astounding variety of fresh food, artisan products, and professional services. Vida Autentica has since started an annual Seed Exchange and led a grassroots movement that successfully banned the use of toxic agrochemicals in public spaces countywide.
Veganissimo: Paulo Paris shared how he prepares his nut/seed-based vegan foods to sell at the market and local stores, and how he grew his small business to support the wellbeing of his family, community, and environment.
M & B Organico: Master organic farmers Bolivar and Marjorie brought us on a tour of their organic food production and distribution business. On a relatively small quarter acre, they grow enough food to feed their family and friends, sell at market, and deliver to nearby organic restaurants. The robust health and diversity of plants in their greenhouse was a testament to the efficacy of organic agriculture.
Diamante Center: The tour of our home base was led by local guide Tim Johnson, along with Travis Britzke, permaculture adviser for the center and founder of Regenesis2020. We learned how the land was regenerated from clear-cut cattle pasture to a thriving food forest, and how sustainable structures were built from repurposed and renewable materials on site. We also considered the practical factors guiding the ongoing development of infrastructure.
Estrella Azul: Founders Roguer Kehler and Chantelle Mironuck told the captivating story of how their young family transitioned from Canada to Costa Rica and converted a deforested property into a thriving homestead with microhydro electricity, food production, and site-appropriate structures. They also shared how they became stewards for the local holistic school and are now connecting with more families in this developing community.
La Joya del Sol: Renowned raw food chef, health coach, and expert arborist Eric Rivkin offered an amazing in-depth tour of his 167-acre off-grid homestead, featuring food production, reforestation areas, and renewable energy systems. After a delightful lunch demo, he taught the group about the personal, societal, and environmental benefits of a raw vegan diet.
Association Community Carbon Trees (ACCT): Jennifer Smith, the inspiring founder of this innovative nonprofit reforestation project, shared how her business model benefits the community, landowners, workers, volunteers, donors, and most importantly, the interconnected ecosystems around the world. While on site, we planted seeds and saplings to join over half a million diverse rainforest trees that Jenny’s team has planted near the equator.
Rusty Café: Nikki Rademacher and Alonso Jimenez welcomed us with delicious local organic food and shared their vision for a conscious restaurant serving and connecting the community.
Upward Spirals: Co-founder and sustainability strategist Eric Baudry, who co-developed the Expedition with HappE Roberts, led an eye-opening discussion on how the declining economy systematically converts nature and communities into financial commodities, and how we can use regenerative economics to create an ecologically balanced and socially just society.
Fuente Verde Organic Farm Community: Travis Britzke, who is also the farm manager at Fuente Verde, led a tour focused on turning degraded lands into a thriving community. We visited their restaurant at the SomerTime Inn for an outstanding lunch, followed by a panel discussion on ecovillage living at Upward Spirals headquarters.
Bringing Sustainable Living Back Home
On the last full day, we stayed at the Diamante Center for our closing session and final workshop on practical transition planning. After distributing the flash drives containing one of the world’s largest libraries of sustainability resources, tools, and guides, Eric and HappE met with guests individually to provide guidance for their personal projects. With their new wealth of knowledge, experience, and connections, participants were inspired and empowered to take action.
According to Eric, “We need to make it easier to live in balance with nature. People are ready to live closer to each other and in harmony with their environment. By showing them successful, thriving examples, we’re facilitating individual and societal transitions, creating local and global impacts. By simplifying complex sustainability challenges and solutions, including realistic paths to implementation, we’re making it easier to build a more beautiful future.”
Aychele Szot, a natural skin care artisan from Montreal, Quebec, expressed, “This experience helped me to understand and have a taste of what it is to live in harmony with nature.”
Brian Claypool, a health coach from San Diego, California, shared, “What an epic expedition! I feel so blessed to be with such beautiful souls, uniting in common purpose to create a regenerative culture. Inspired by the energy, wealth of information, resources, and connections we made, I’m ready to implement what I have learned in all areas of my life.”
It is a joy and an honour to be of service to such an impactful program with such integral values, innovative projects, and amazing people. Thank you so much to HUGS (hugs.world) for producing this incredible video and for helping to get the word out about these important projects! I am most grateful for the guests who made this first Expedition so much fun, especially with the impromptu dance parties that broke out as our caravan arrived at certain destinations. By the end of the week, our group felt like one big family, and the Diamante Center, our home away from home.
Returning to his farm in Denver, Colorado, Derrick Mulcahy reflected, “I came to learn more about organic farming and sustainable building practices; to see how a community could be laid out and designed. I left with more love for myself, my fellow humans, the Earth, and all its creatures.”