Incoming MEM student and recent Western grad Lance Kittel shares his experiences at Finca Bellavista in Costa Rica. Lance plans to turn this internship experience into his homebase and basis for his MEM Project!
Lance Kittel came to Finca Bellavista in March of 2015. We immediately connected and he proved himself to be a good honest hardworking young man. He went above and beyond his duties as a volunteer, making new friends with the FBV staff and guests to Finca Bellavista.
Like other volunteers we have met over the years, Lance has become a life-long friend and we were honored to attend his wedding in August 2019 to his beautiful wife and best friend, Skylar Thompson Kittel.
We were also fortunate enough to catch up with Jessica Young and Sally Thode, professors at Western and mentors for Lance as he pursued his degree in Environmental Management. Jessica and Sally came to Finca Bellavista during high season of 2015 and assisted as Camp Hosts.
Jessica and Sally are some of the most interesting and adventurous people we know and jumped at the opportunity to experience an unique stay with my (Matt's) mom in the heart of Africa - Kruger Inn backpackers (think Finca Bellavista but change all the wildlife - living free with the animals). We were quite surprised when at Lance and Skylar's wedding we discovered Sally did not know what a jello shot was - we soon changed that!
When you make a connection at Finca Bellavista it can be life changing. Our own personal experience without a doubt has completely changed our lives for the better. The jungle had a similar effect on Lance, he is now the proud owner of Fila Tortuga - a favorite treehome at Finca Bellavista that will take your breath away.
We are proud of Lance's achievements and happy to report that he has achieved his goal as a Master in Environmental Management - Global Sustainability.
Volunteering at Finca Bellavista:
Lance is just one of many awesome volunteers we have met during our time at Finca Bellavista, so many amazing individuals have come in and out of our lives and we have witnessed firsthand the lifestyles/goals they wanted and achieved.
We're not saying that if you volunteer at Finca Bellavista it will change your life (at least not everybody's) but we do recommend it as a hub to make connections and contacts if you are wanting to experience this lifestyle and pursue other volunteer opportunities or meet like minded people.
If you are interested in volunteering at Finca Bellavista, below is a general example of what to expect in terms of roles and responsibilities.
5 days a week on shift duty
The days are broken into shifts and you will either be on morning or evening shift. When not on call, you are free to enjoy the remainder of the day as you wish - enjoying hiking, swimming at the waterfalls or just kick back in a hammock at the Rancho with a good book or movie.
Morning shift: (06:30 - 1:00):
The day starts in the kitchen assisting with breakfast setup. Duties include making coffee, cutting fruit and assisting with dishes. If you are a volunteer that has signed up through YogaTrade (check out the YogaTrade video below) then you would leave the kitchen at around 07:00 to set up for yoga class in the Rancho. Yoga is from 07:30 - 08:30.
Assistance in the kitchen continues until 09:30 where at that time you will meet up with the morning shuttle and assist the amazing local staff with cleans. The staff will prepare the houses that are checking-in that day and your responsibilities will be to collect the dirty laundry and trash from the houses that are checking-out. The shuttle service will drop you off at the first house that needs an exit clean and then from there you will walk to the next one or walk back to base camp if no more houses are needing attention. Each home has a dedicated crate at the beginning of each trail with compartments for trash and dirty laundry - you will not have to carry anything to basecamp as the 3:30 shuttle will pick up the trash/laundry.
After exit clean duties are completed you may return to base camp where you will be on-call until lunch. The lunch duty overlaps with the afternoon shift as they may be required to assist with walkouts.
Afternoon shift: (12:00 - 8:00):
The shift starts with lunch where you will be eating with the morning shift and FBV guests. It overlaps with the morning shift as incoming guests can check in from 12:00 onwards and as such, you may be required to walkout guests to their tree-home once they have finished checking in. While on shift (12:00 - 5:00), you will be required to be on-call at base camp so the office can notify you for walkouts.
Volunteers on the afternoon shift may be required to assist with kitchen and Rancho duty prior to assisting with dinner clean up. It is the volunteers responsibility to check with the appropriate staff member before attending Happy Hr(s) in the Rancho (4:30 - 6:30). All volunteers, staff members and guests eat in the community centre for dinner (6:30) and the shift ends after dinner clean up.
An awesome YogaTrade video that Audrey Billups put together while volunteering at Finca Bellavista:
Volunteer Treehouse Program:
Once you have completed your morning or afternoon shift, you are free to use your time as you see fit - these are the only requirements expected of you as a volunteer.
The 'Volunteer Treehouse Program' is a reward system for additional duties performed outside of your shift responsibilities and are not mandatory. These duties are more community based and in most cases pair you up with a staff member for guidance. These tasks are a great way to get to know the community members and to share experiences with the local staff, and include duties such as groundskeeping, social media takeover, bar-backing, trail raking and maintenance, working in the gardens, etc.
Completing three tasks throughout the week will earn a stay in a preapproved treehouse for your days off. Most volunteers will complete these tasks together and share in the treehouse experience when the schedule allows. Volunteers can sign up for these tasks at mission control:
More information on volunteering:
Volunteers currently pay $75.00/week (not $125 as currently stated on the FBV website) in addition to their mandatory shifts (morning/afternoon above) in exchange for a bed in the volunteer bunkhouse and 3 meals per day in the community centre.
You will have to complete an application process prior to being considered. You can request this application via email at:
For more information on volunteering as well as reviewing testimonials, code of conduct, FAQ etc - please visit the Finca Bellavista Volunteer Page.
We can honestly say that volunteering at Finca Bellavista changed our lives and while the experience will not be for everyone we do encourage anyone to give it a go. Had neither of us not signed up, we would not be married, have our home here, or be enjoying this incredible lifestyle change. If you are looking to break away from the norm or just take a break from everyday life, do it.
Check out Lance enjoying his home at the end of this video!
(P.S sign up to our blog to be able to comment and join the forum for more behind the scene information on the Finca Bellavista community. Share stories with owners, guests and volunteers. Sign up is free and easy and only requires a Google or Facebook account).
Matt and Amy