My recent travel adventure to Costa Rica had me pumped, not just for the opportunity to venture into the jungle, but to visit a destination known for ecotourism. In the past I’ve set goals for myself to live and travel more sustainably as well as reflect on how I can balance sustainability with my shopping habits, and I anticipated putting these ideas into action in Costa Rica. Although it was inspiring to see numerous places recycling all kinds of materials including paper, aluminum and plastic, there was one lingering disappointment in the back of my mind. Scouring the souvenir shops in Monteverde and Tamarindo left me feeling at a loss for something else.
A few times I found jewelry made from coffee beans, seeds or reclaimed wood, which was comforting, but finding bracelets and necklaces at stores tagged “Made in China” or “Made in India” left me feeling annoyed. Surely if a destination were known for its sustainable practices, wouldn’t it include locally made products that support the local community? In Tamarindo, a day out shopping left me wondering if there were any variety in the beach dresses, jewelry and other souvenirs or if each shop was a carbon copy of one another. My energy dwindled, and not just because of the heat. I was losing interest on finding only the same products from shop to shop and wished for some variety.
When I travelled to Mexico I loved finding local artists and I became passionate about collaborating with local artisans in Peru, and both of these opportunities left me hoping to discover the same things in Costa Rica. I wasn’t completely at a loss, however. Choco Café Don Juan in Monteverde featured necklaces and earrings made of coffee beans and seeds, chocolate and coffee from a nearby chocolate factory and a poster supporting local schools and conservation were signs of ecotourism. The San Jose airport also offered a glimmer of hope when I stumbled upon a store featuring local artists and their products. Although I didn’t end up purchasing anything, it’s nice to see at least one store featuring the flavor and local vibe of Costa Rica. I only wish I could find more stores like this.
Perhaps I was looking in the wrong places and should have consulted for specific shops ahead of time, but I felt that a destination known for ecotourism would have more options. If there’s one thing I felt Costa Rica was lacking it was a hint of authenticity. It’s not that I’m disappointed I went to Costa Rica, I just wish the feelings of commercialization and globalization hadn’t been as prevalent. Costa Rica’s beautiful jungles and cloud forests were wonderfully unique experiences I wish could have been carried into their souvenirs and local shops. My feelings aren’t just for Costa Rica, it’s for stores everywhere. The more I work with and purchase from local artists and artisans, one thing remains in the back of my mind: I hope that someday the work of artists won’t be a small shop hidden away in a street corner, it will be the wave of the future.
This post is a part of Weekend Travel Inspiration hosted by Reflections Enroute, The Crowded Planet, Contented Traveller, Albom Adventures, Safari 254, FamiliesGo!, and Malaysian Meanders, Travel Photo Thursday hosted by Budget Travelers Sandbox, Budget Travel Talk, Rachel’s Ruminations and Tanama Tales, Photo Friday hosted by Pierced Wonderings, Weekend Wanderlust hosted by A Brit and A Southerner, One Modern Couple, Eat Work Travel, A Southern Gypsy and Justin Plus Lauren