There are some who might say that the world of retreats is a little… self-indulgent. We travel to some gorgeous location, nosh on amazing food, and dive inside for a process of inquiry, or cleansing, or dance celebration. From an outside perspective, it can all seem rather selfish or, worse, escapist. With climate change and all, going on retreat can seem like running away from the sometimes scary reality of what is happening in our world.
The owner of Rancho Margot, an eco-lodge tucked high in the mountains of Costa Rica, maintains that going on retreat can be a nourishing adventure while at the same time expanding your consciousness around climate change and pressing environmental issues–and providing a space for inquiry into the deeper and wider ripple effect of these issues within our personal lives back home.
From the food we eat to the way we build our structures and manage our waste, retreat can be an invitation to shift your relationship to it all: living sustainably doesn’t mean subsistence living on raw lettuce in mud huts. “I think what we do here is a micro-example of what can be done on a large scale,” Juan says. “It gives hope because it shows people: you can grow your own food you can live off the grid, you can have a beautiful bungalow, you can have television and internet and you don’t need to do damage. Yes, everything we do has a footprint, but this invites people to think about that.”
Not only does Rancho Margot strive to keep the lodge’s footprint carbon neutral, but they’ve achieved a carbon negative way of life by offsetting carbon that they aren’t even creating. They use this way of life as an educational opportunity for over 12,000 guests and 50 volunteers every year—and they manage to do it all with 100% off-grid electricity and fully organic gardens that provide for the lodge’s meals. So you can recharge your batteries with a yoga class and improve your eco-literacy—and your faith in the future.
“I think climate change creates a sense of helplessness in people, and that creates fear. I try here to give them confidence because they see that there are things that can be done. …Back to my childhood, I grew up on a little plot of land with just a few vegetables, it gave me an enormous amount of confidence that carried me through the rest of my life,” says Juan. And it is this sense of confidence that Juan seeks to impart in his guests at Rancho Margot: we aren’t helpless. There are things that can be done to bring us closer to a sustainable way of living, and at this quiet, hidden retreat center, you can learn the skills to plant the literal and metaphorical seeds for a better future… and relax.
“I think that when people leave here, they leave with a new attitude. They energize their batteries.” Batteries of hope, inspiration, and a revitalized belief not only that something can be done, but we all—as individuals—can contribute.
Rancho Margot founder and managing director Juan Sostheim was born in Chile and graduated from the University of Florida. In 1975, he founded and managed Burger King Holding GmbH in Germany where he was responsible for introducing Burger King fast food restaurants in Germany as well as overseeing the start of franchise operations in Spain, England, Sweden and Denmark. In 2004 Juan bought 400-acres of former cattle pastures on the shores of Costa Rica’s Lake Arenal and founded Rancho Margot, a sustainable community farm, resort and education center. As the tourism industry’s elected representative to the Biosphere, Juan is spearheading the Costa Rican government’s effort to become the world’s first certifiable carbon neutral country by 2021.