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The Origins of Boyero Tours - Part 1 of 2

Sarah Joy tells us all about the trip in her mid 20's that change her life

Sarah Joy Staude

6/21/20245 min read

Julio and Sarah Joy, Iztaru 2003
Julio and Sarah Joy, Iztaru 2003

Taking the Leap

I vividly remember the summer of 2003 when life took an unexpected turn. I was 25 years old, living in Portland, Oregon and working for a student exchange company with mostly high school students. I applied for a new opportunity during the US summer to try something different and was selected as the team leader for a trip to Central America. I was in charge of taking a group of 23 teenagers to Costa Rica for 5 weeks to participate in an intensive service trip doing 5 different one week service projects.

It was a big decision and I had to give up attending my cousin’s wedding to go on this trip for 5 weeks. Although convinced that it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up, I did not know the extent to which this particular journey would change my life forever.

Costa Rican Beginnings

I met up with the group in Miami and accompanied them through their orientation and then to Costa Rica. The kids were all from different backgrounds and I was 100% responsible for them. At times I wondered what I had gotten myself into and I couldn't help but question if I was up to the task. Would my counterpart in Costa Rica share the burden, or would I be left to navigate the challenges alone?

As fate would have it, the original Costa Rican guide scheduled to go on the trip was unable to follow through. Julio was asked by a friend to fill the open position, and since he had some vacation time left he chose to be my co-leader. He was a bit grouchy when our group arrived, no doubt exacerbated by a delayed flight and the late hour of our arrival. Yet, amidst the chaos of baggage claim and weary travelers, we exchanged a brief, cordial conversation as he walked us out of the airport - a quick moment that would set the stage for what was to come.

Thriving as Trip Leaders

In the days that followed, Julio and I found ourselves navigating the intricacies of leadership together. We did orientation in Costa Rica and got the kids prepared for the upcoming weeks of service. Then, throughout the first service project we started to see signs that we would in fact be a good team. During the first project the kids got into smaller groups and would start to go up to Julio to ask a question and would then come to me to ask the same question (much like kids do to their parents). We found that we both gave them the same answer or complimentary answers, which was a good sign that we were a good fit. We had the same priorities and were leading the kids in the same way.

As we talked more, we realized that we both had trepidation going into the trip that our co-leader wouldn’t be a good fit and were unsure whether we could count on the other after stories we had heard about flaky co-leaders on previous trips. We went into the trip worried that we would each have to carry the load on our own. But as we got through the first week, it was clear that we could balance all of the responsibilities together and make it meaningful. The kids were safe, eating well, doing the service project tasks correctly and learning a lot about a new country and culture. Those who were having trouble were able to adjust.

The Connection

Throughout the first few weeks, Julio and I developed a great work relationship and began to notice a mutual attraction. This was all very “hush hush”, since we were the leaders of the group and acting professionally.

Toward the end of the trip, we were staying with host families in San Ramon. One day, we had some free time while the students were otherwise engaged and decided to go for ice cream just the two of us. We sat on the bench in front of the church in town and in front of us there was a statue of a Boyero (oxcart driver) and his bueyes (oxen). In Costa Rica Boyeros are national heroes because they were the ones to bring coffee to the country’s coast for the first time to export.

As we ate our ice cream, Julio asked me, “Do you know what Boyero rhymes with?” And I replied, “well, no”. He said, “te quiero”.

So that became our inside joke - he would say in public - “boyero” and I would reply “boyero”, both knowing well that we were not referencing the oxcart drivers! That is how the name of the business came to be. It is a declaration of our love for each other.

...and The Rest Is History!

Over the course of the 5 weeks, our entire group of volunteers painted two local schools, helped with maintenance of the buildings at a scout camp, hauled rocks and sand to improve trails at a cooperative eco-lodge by the Rincón de La Vieja Volcano, and in the Reserva Absoluta Cabo Blanco on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. We hiked in the jungle and played in the ocean and on the white sand beaches of the Central Pacific Coast. We stayed with homestay families and learned about kids going to public schools.

The group was amazing and while we did have some challenges, they all did an amazing job. Despite their different backgrounds, the kids all worked well with each other and made friends. They learned so much from the cultural exchange (with their Costa Rican homestay families and with each other!) and both Julio and I were very proud of them for all their effort and growth.

It was sad to leave Costa Rica and when we left, Julio dropped us off at the airport. When we said goodbye, Julio and I kissed. The kids applauded us, all surprised because they had no idea. It was really cute and a memorable end to the trip.

To Be Continued….

It has been 19 (in 2024) years since I took the leap and moved to Costa Rica. We now have 2 beautiful children and have lived in 4 homes including our current home, which we built to match our environmental ideals. We can't help but marvel each day at the serendipitous twists of fate that brought us together, forever bound by the shared dream that is Boyero Tours.