True Nature Travels Blog

Happy Holidays

As we come to the completion of this year it is a time of reflection, a time of intention, and also a welcomed time of celebration. Although this year was very different, and this holiday season will also be unique for many of us, we have the opportunity to embrace the end of this cycle, another year of life, of tradition, and of self-exploration of our own True Nature. As we complete this cycle we also have the opportunity to look on the horizon, a fresh pallet ahead, filled with opportunities.

Where do you want to go in 2021? Who would you like to become? What parts of your life are most important? I invite you to pause this holiday season, to slow down, and to contemplate the gift of this life, the cycles, and your own True Nature.

Peace to you in this Holiday Season,
Joshua and the True Nature Team

True Nature Travels Blog


Every November, our culture finds a sudden appreciation for gratitude. We start to hear “what are you thankful for?” on every corner as people shop for turkey and prepare their Thanksgiving feasts. While I love this holiday, and the reminder to be grateful it brings, I believe gratitude is something we should focus on more than just once a season.

It is part of my practice to focus on gratitude on a daily basis. Before sleeping each night, I try to
remember one thing I am grateful for. Somedays, it’s harder than others. Just the other day I had a rough, long work day. I came home feeling exhausted and angry. I didn’t want to be grateful. I wanted to cry and sleep and ignore the world around me. But my practice has taught me that I can cry, sleep, be angry, and still find a way to be grateful. Because there is always something to be grateful for. Are you struggling to find gratitude in your life? Here is a list of questions and activities that allow my to instill more gratitude in my days. I hope it will do the same for you!

1. What is one thing that made you smile today?
2. How does your body serve you on a daily basis?
3. Name three people who love you. What do they love about you?
4. Take a walk around your neighborhood. List all the beautiful things you see, small or large.
5. Breathe in. Breathe out. What does your breath allow you to do?
6. Find three things in your house you use every day. How do they help you?
7. Write down the name of one person that makes your life better. Now list all the ways they do so. This can be a family member, a friend, a pet, a colleague… everyone counts!
8. Look around. What do your eyes allow you to see?
9. Find something that smells nice (essential oils, vanilla extract, a vase of flowers…whatever appeals to you!) and take a big, deep inhale of the scent. Now write down some of your favorite smells. What memories do those scents bring to mind?
10. Listen. Sit for five minutes and write down everything you hear. How do your ears make life easier? What are some of your favorite sounds?
11. What is your favorite food? Treat yourself to this tonight. But take your time. Take small bites and really savor the taste. Write down some things you notice as you taste. What makes this meal so delicious? Why is it your favorite?
12. Collect three things from around your home that have different textures. Sit with each one. Rub them between your fingers and write down everything you observe about the different textures. As you walk around today, pay extra close attention to the texture of everything you touch.
13. Find a place in nature (local parks work too!) and take a seat. Look at clouds and the sun. Smell the trees. Dig your fingers into the dirt. Listen to the birds in the trees. Write down all the ways nature serves you.


About the Author


Sarah DittmoreSarah Dittmore, the Director of Operations at True Nature Travels, is always seeking a new adventure. When she’s not barefoot hiking in the mountains of Peru, kayaking around an island off the coast of Italy, or camping in a rainforest in Costa Rica, Sarah writes about her adventures on her travel blog, Autobiography of an Adventurer. Join her as she travels the world and documents the wild and wonderful things she discovers along the way at

True Nature Travels Blog

Fall is here and Autumn foliage is upon us! In the coming weeks, millions of leaves will be turning an array of different colors. As leaves stop producing chlorophyll, the deeper green leaves start to change and reveal their true colors– a process called senescence. Autumn is a reminder that change is in the air and is a great excuse to embrace these transitions and learn about the trees that grow around us.

Fall is the perfect excuse to get lost, so put on your boots and layer up- it’s time to crunch in the leaves and feel the cool air on your skin! One of the perks of hiking in the fall is that there are less crowds and less traveled trails. It’s also the perfect opportunity to collect leaf specimens to bring home, press, and identify. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about pressing leaves for your own collection and tips that will help you to identify them.

  1. Start a field journal. Use a small notebook to help you take notes about when and where you find a leaf, and any other observations that might help with identification. Your notebook can also be a vessel to hold each leaf in place and keep its shape. 
  2. Choose leaves when they are young and have recently fallen from its tree. If you wait till a leaf is too mature and dry, it may be more prone to fading. Take a good look at each leaf and make sure there is no evidence of insects that may have feasted on it.

  1. Enjoy picking leaves that you find beautiful! With so many leaves out there, choose as freely as you wish. This is the best part!
  1. To prep for pressing, lay leaves separately on newspaper. Take a dry paintbrush and lightly clean the leaf, blotting off any moisture and sweeping any loose soil.

  1. Once they are completely dry, arrange leaves in layers of tissue paper, wax paper or newspaper before pressing. Be sure to tag each leaf with a scrap of paper next to it with brief notes for identifying.
  1. If you have a plant press, lay each leaf in a layer of the cardboard and gently screw the wood in place.
  1. For those that don’t have a plant press, gather two sheets of cardboard (size can be dependent on leaf haul) or two spare ceramic tiles covered in newspaper. Layer leaves between and use rubber bands or straps to secure together. You can also use an old heavy book as a press. Make sure that you don’t mind it getting a bit wrinkled or stained; the moisture from the leaves could damage the pages slightly. Thicker books are best, but any book will do as long as you add weight on top of it. Weight can be distributed in the form of a pile of books; these will not get damaged so it’s okay to use books you want to keep.

  1. Check the leaves every two or three days, and replace damp papers with dry ones. It will take 2-4 weeks before the leaves are dry.
  1. After your leaves dry, use your imagination! Create a leaf identification journal and identify your findings or create some art by placing the leaves in frames. Decorate for fall or place your leaves in a memory box to share throughout the rest of the seasons. You can visit to help you identify your collection.


About the Author:

Charlotte Gottenkieny, Director of Marketing & Digital Media at True Nature Education, lives to create and travel. With an extensive background in art and design, she is always submersed in a project or three. Whether it is making sculpture, taking photos, formulating a new recipe, or running her design agency, she is always using her hands to create in some way. Charlotte loves the adrenaline rush of adventure. From scuba diving to trekking in high altitudes, she strives to discover new landscapes at every opportunity. Working with True Nature gives her inspiration to be able to share stories and connections made through seeing the world.

True Nature Travels Blog


What meaning do you find in those two words? For myself, I must admit
that the meaning seems to be lacking. Yet I have always enjoyed this
particular holiday, as it is one of the few that remains noncontroversial,
without any associated traditions or religious origins and connotations. It is
truly a unifying holiday, as every adult understands what it is to labor and
enjoy his or her prized days off. Rather than honoring something or
someone else, Labor Day celebrates you and all of your hard work for the
entire year. The holiday was literally founded on the need to have a “you”

As I am sure many of you can relate, I cannot name a single tradition that I
hold for this day. I have memories of enjoying barbecue and sunshine, but
nothing that I would consider an annual tradition. So this year, I encourage
you to create meaning, to discover your own traditions that celebrate you,
and only you.

Whether you are with friends, family or on your own, soak up all that is you
this Labor Day. Although we should strive to cherish the self every day of
the year, on this one particular day let us make it a priority to bask in our
own uniqueness. Give thanks for our strengths and abilities, and even our
flaws, because together these attributes form us. Take these 24 hours to
unplug and appreciate your existence on this beautiful planet. Get out of
the office, away from your computer and social media, and do something
that makes you deeply happy.

Labor Day is quite simply, your day. Make it an annual celebration of
everything that is YOU.

True Nature Travels Blog

Day 3 and 4 of our great expedition was both educational and rewarding. For Day 3, we traveled to img_6626the KSTR or Kids Saving the Rainforest. During a tour of the facility, we learned just how many animals they had at the facility and how they were rescued or rehabilitated and released. Following that tour, we were put to work doing different tasks including helping prep the animal’s food, moving dirt from one area of the sanctuary to the another for some sloths and helping pain
t and fix a bird cage and changing out the animal cages. All the members saw numerous types of animals including white-faced monkeys, squirrel monkeys, porcupines and much more. For everyone, it was a very rewarding
experience and the staff at KSTR were so wonderful and supportive of us being there. It was a great service project.


img_6623Our next day, consisted of some fun including banana boat riding, parasailing and surfing. However, before the day started, we had a visit from a pack of white-faced monkeys at the hotel restaurant. The monkeys were very cool to see as we hadn’t seen many except at the monkey sanctuary the day before. The only not so cool part about our beach day was it sprinkled/lightly rained during our time on the beach. But I can tell you no one complained. We were all very happy to get some down time before our other activity of the day which was at the Miguel Antonio National Park. During that tour, we saw several things but the highlight was seeing a baby sloth (video link included). We also saw several species including crab, grasshoppers and lizards.


Everyone is continuing to support each other as most are still getting used to the climate change that we are currently experiencing with the weather changing nearly every day. Day 3 was very warm and humid but Day 4 started with rain for the morning and ended with sunshine. That was one interesting thing our tour guides, Mar and Marcela, mentioned the weather in Costa Rica changes all the time!img_6627


True Nature Travels Blog

Costa Rica is thriving and alive with experience and adventure! This week True Nature Abroad has the privilege of hosting a group of students from The National Society Of Leadership and Success on an educational, service, and adventure trip. On this journey a super awesome Journalism Student and Student President Liaison, Ronnie Marley, will be sharing his daily experience! ENJOY!

Day 2:

Day 2 had a great deal of travel for everyone following our stay near the airport.
Our day started with breakfast, a quick orientation about what to expect in Costa Rica from our tour guide, Marcela and then we loaded up the bus and headed toward our next hotel on the beachfront, Hotel Karahe.
The trip consisted of three different stops across just over a three-hour drive. Our first stop was at a souvenir shop, which had EVERYTHING you could think of in regards to Costa Rica. Everything from sarongs, license plates, clothes and lots and lots of memorabilia. I think just about everyone in the group bought something to take home, some even mentioned they did some Christmas shopping.
img_3315Following that stop, just up the road, we arrived at the “Crocodile Bridge.” This was probably one of the best highlights of the day. It all started with us lining up on a very narrow bridge and looking over the side for crocodiles. They were pretty easy to spot. In all, there had to be almost 10 crocodiles just “chillin” and sunbathing on the side of a river. What was cool about it was we saw two or three crocodiles with their mouths open and we learned something from our tour guide. Crocodiles that have their mouths open aren’t necessarily waiting for food to come to them, it’s actually because they’re hot! They’re trying to cool off! Something I myself didn’t know.

Following that pretty “wicked” stop, we actually went to a grocery store! I know that sounds a little weird considering we packed for a week in Costa Rica. This store had everything you could think of just like home. Coca-Cola, different snacks and an item that was recommended to us called a “Yipi.” They were actually really good, tasted like a Kit Kat bar only BETTER! If you’re ever in Costa Rica, give them a try! One of the cool things about the experience is some of the participants had the chance to use some of the Costa Rica Colones that they got at the airport or before departing. Although I’ll admit, a lot of us just used our credit cards! But hey, it works just the same!
Then about 90 minutes later, we arrived at our destination, Hotel Karahe. For the rest of the afternoon, we were given a lot of free time to enjoy the beach, which was literally a quarter mile from our hotel room. The sound of the ocean waves and the peaceful cool breeze of the wind made the day that much more enjoyable. Some of group took the opportunity to take a swim in the waters, play volleyball with some of the locals and gather around and continue getting to know each other.
The night ended with our first “group circle.” In this circle, each group of five to six members had to create a symbol that a light could shine through the middle of the symbol. Many groups used their legs, arms, hands and even their fingers (some used all three!) There were a lot of different designs and it was great to see the group interaction of all the members.
In closing, as the rain falls here at the hotel, It’s safe to say that the group is beginning to become a family and we’re only on our second day of this adventure!
More tomorrow after our first service project at the monkey sanctuary!



True Nature Travels Blog

Create unforgettable moments… Today is Mother’s Day in Costa Rica. This is a very special day in Costa Rica. I am writing this piece of my feelings while the older bus driver goes slow and most of the people get anxious.

The lady sitting next to me looks so pretty in her red dress. She seems to be in her twenties. She wants to get back home soon, because her mother invited her to spend the day together after a terrible fight they had. Wow! All of what you hear while you are sitting in a public bus could give you ideas for writing a book…

A book of real stories, a book of real people.

I guess I am the only one in a t-shirt, sandals, jeans and a pony tail.

I guess I am the only one who doesn’t need to get there now. Soon…

Before leaving home, I could hug my mom. I could kiss my little boys and I could make a cup of chocolate to Keilor. That was my best present. Everything I could need for this special Mother’s Day in Costa Rica. I feel sad for the many flowers people are buying today and throwing tomorrow, when the celebration ends…

Mother's Day in Costa Rica

In about two hours, I will arrive to my destination. To my celebration site. A hospital room where my auntie has been for 27 days. She has been connected to many different machines and she fights for her life. I will spend the next 26 hours with her and I am so excited to enjoy the moments we can create. I will read some of my poems to her. I will sing to her and for sure I will be next to her when she sleeps.

Life brings surprises. Life brings miracles.

God gave us the best present this year. Mom got better. Maybe the same will happen with my auntie. Maybe not.

I feel happy because I have been around before. Because I could make jokes before, because I ate her tortillas, because we walked together too many times. We already created moments. That is why today, as everyday, it is a nice and special day to me.

Mother's Day in Costa Rica tortillas

As a proud Costa Rican, I do enjoy protecting nature. If I die, I don’t want the people to bring flowers. Instead of this, I suggest my loved ones to plant a tree. To plant flowers and not to cry, because I have been so happy. Because there is a chain of good moments we all have been creating here and there.

The best gifts are the ones you can’t find in a store. Appreciate the ones that are giving you time. Love the ones that create time in their schedule, just to be with you.

Happy Mother’s Day in Costa Rica (and fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbors, pets, etc day! ) All of us deserve a happy day, everyday.

A big thank you to Lindsay Padilla, our Village Ambassador in San Rafael, Costa Rica for this amazing post about Mother’s Day in Costa Rica. Check out our programs in Costa Rica for a chance to work with this inspiring woman.

True Nature Travels Blog

A friend is the one who listens to you when you need it, the one who feels your pain when you are sad, the one that celebrates your sunny days and is also beside you on your rainy or stormy days.
If you have a friend, a sincere one, you are blessed.
Costa Rican people enjoy hanging out with friends, the normal routine for us is to share a cup of coffee with someone! We enjoy talking, laughing and listening.
The world has a special day for the “amigos”, or ‘friendship day.’ I consider everyday is a perfect day for amigos. Every day is friendship day.
celebrating friendship day2
By the moment I am writing this letter, a loved friend is at the hospital. More than my auntie, she is my friend! The one that describes a perfect friend to me.
This afternoon we were noticed that her days are counted. Cancer invaded her body and there is not a lot of things to do, but I trust. I do trust in the POWER of faith.
My faith has been under proof for a long time and I am still believing in the beauty part of the life, that part that encourages you to sit, to breathe and to pray.
Life can be too short. Do not waste your time complaining about the things (there are just things). Invest your time in a good way, doing something else for others, spending the time with the ones you love and try to contact those people you have been almost forgetting because of the hurry of your days, because of the distance, because of the worries.
celebrating friendship day
Sit quietly, close your eyes, make a silent pray and believe in miracles.
While I write it under a palm tree in my garden, I think of her, I think of my friends and I think of you. Yes, I do not know you, but I will. So that means we could have time for giving our best to each others. The reason that will put our lives in the same place, will be volunteering, doing something for others without expecting to get nothing in change.
That is another meaning to the Word friendship: Do the best, give and do not wait to get nothing back, when it happens, many blessings come to your life and that is the way we can help to improve the world.
Friends, amigos… Hope for the day when all the humans can call everyone this way.
The world needs more friends. We can continue learning how to be good friends, the experiences of life will teach us in a easy, hard , happy or sad way, but there is nothing better than call someone mi amigo.
celebrating friendship day

True Nature Travels Blog


It was many years ago, the first time we welcomed a big group of volunteers from CREER All the neighbors were wanting to connect with them, but the language barrier was there, until the moment when we decided to play soccer. It was not visitors versus locals, we all played together, our language barriers were broken for ever, and the first connection was made! That was the first day we welcomed Joshua, Luna and our bond was formed. At the beginning, they came to San Rafael, my village, as part of the group, before they said goodbye, they were part of our family. A big family that is growing year by year.


I could mention so many projects we have completed with CREER. As I walk through my village I am reminded, I can see how the color changes the panorama when I go to the local school, I can see an English classroom that also has been constructed with love, when I go to church, I can see how beautiful it looks, how easy is for the people to walk now that we have a big sidewalk instead of pieces of broken blocks. When we help the people to learn how to read, we do not have to do it outdoor anymore, because we have two classrooms right next to the church where the local people have the opportunity to go and learn.  Nothing like the pleasure of learning and the honor of teaching others. Every day, the kids go to eat and play at the Health Center. It wasn’t paint since 17 years ago. It was a very old building and because of CREER, it looks beautiful and colorful.  CREER has also helped our neighbors in their daily labors, at the chicken farm, at the sheep farm, planting, building, painting, repairing houses, improving their economy through the home stay programs and mainly, spending quality time. Time that will never return, minutes of their life, sharing a part of their vacation with my people.

I send my blessings to you, CREER and True Nature Education. I’d like to thank you and all the ones that have been making it possible, the ones right there in the office, the family and relatives of the ones that have been here, and all of the volunteers and workers. Let’s celebrate life, the blessings, and the pleasure to share and live as a family. In the end, we all belong to the same planet. Let’s forget the nationalities, we all were born to be part of the change that our Mother Earth needs.

Thank you CREER for your many years of service.

Happy Holidays from Costa Rica and from my heart!

-Lindsay Padilla

True Nature Travels Blog

Student Travel to Costa Rica

The experiences of a lifetime.


Stories continue to come in daily from Costa Rica. Messages of gratitude being shared for the National Society of Leadership and Success and True Nature Education group, that just returned back from their Service, Adventure, and Leadership Trip to Costa Rica.

A diverse group of students from 15 states, several who had never traveled out of the US, worked together as a strong and cohesive “family” over their 7 days together. The group took part in 6 service projects while traveling to 3 different locations throughout Costa Rica.

One of the highlights was painting the home of a family of 6, whose daughter was getting married on Sunday. Together the group received an emotional thank you from the family following the completion of the project. This was just one of many special moments that we are reflecting upon following this memorable journey.

From cleaning up beaches, surfing the waves, volunteering at animal sanctuaries, and diving head first into the culture of Pura Vida, this trip has changed lives globally and here at home.

We wanted to share a few words from the participants themselves so you can feel the impact of the trip.

If you are interested in joining us in 2016, Registration is now Open and the trip dates are as follows:
June 11-18, 2016
July 30-August 6, 2016
December 10-17, 2016

Read what these students had to say……

“This trip was a transformative experience that touched my heart and soul. Thanks to this experience I am leaving a different person.”
Alex Roman
Chicago, IL

“This was a very eye-opening experience. Not only did I gain a new outlook on life, but I found more family along the way.”
Wade James

“I truly enjoyed this unique experience. So many elements of this trip were firsts for me. This entire program was a blessing.”
Herve Aniglo
Memphis, TN

“This trip changed my life. I’ve walked away with new family, new experiences, and new love J. I will look back at the things I have learned the past 7 days and will apply each one to my life everyday. Thank you for the shift in my mindset. Now I know my capacity to experience the fullness of life, how quickly I can make a true friend, and how much the little things actually matter. Thank you.”
Erica Underhill
Colorado Springs, CO

“This trip has been such a huge transformation. I have faced fears and have stepped out of my comfort zone. I have grown within and connected with others. This was a once in a lifetime experience.
Two quotes to sum up the experience:
“Ships are safest in the harbor, but that is not what they are meant for.”
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Heidi Dickinson
US Air Force

“My True Nature trip was fulfilling both internally and externally. I enjoyed the time spent in nature, the spent with people, and most of all the time spent transforming.”
Jamila Duncan

“This experience was 1 in a million and will be in my heart and soul forever.”
Deana Jones

“We all came together as a family and we able to be of service in such a beautiful country. I was an incredible blessing to be here and I look forward to the opportunity to come back.”
Carissa Orsak
Corpus Chrisi, Texas