At SFS Costa Rica, each day provides a highly varied but rigorous schedule, ranging from farm chores to Spanish lessons to classes on tropical rainforest dynamics. Although fascinating, the long days can be fatiguing – by 4:00PM, it’s time for a break. My personal outlet is running. The spiritual clarity gained from running a trail, breathing hard, and ducking under branches is nothing short of a transcendent experience. Last week, while studying sustainable tourism on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua, I was able to feel that natural, unparalleled bliss.

Like an illustration from an adventure story, Ometepe consists of two massive volcanoes, rising out of the calm waters of Lake Nicaragua. On the island’s southernmost beach lies Charco Verde, a private nature reserve with dense jungle, marshland, a lagoon, and plenty of wildlife. A small group of students, including myself, set out for a brief evening run in the reserve.

Upon cresting the first hill, the endorphins were already rushing through my mind. The lush, green forests seemed to close up behind me as I traversed the winding trail, my footsteps echoed by the calls of howler monkeys and buzzing cicadas in the canopy. At each lookout point, the break in understory revealed a near endless stretch of dark blue water, beginning to reflect the pink and orange hues that illuminated each cloud on the horizon. Our short forty minute run felt like two hours.

Moments like this make me realize the importance of sustainable tourism. These resources must be preserved, not only for their ecological function, but for the personal growth that occurs through experiencing them firsthand. I’m grateful for the two types of knowledge I’m receiving here: both in-the-field academics and the expansion of my being.

(Photo Credit: Keri Tucker)