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Dean Pomerleau

CR Mini-Retreat in Costa Rica?

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All,

 

Over on the thread about medicinal 'shrooms, I happened to point to a beautiful, vegan-friendly (in fact, vegan-only1) all-inclusive wellness center in Costa Rica called Finca de Vida (Farm of Life) where you can pick your own fruits and vegetables from the onsite trees and garden. It's really inexpensive, only $60-80/day. The first video below is short and very recent, and it is by the owner of the center, giving you a flavor for what  the center looks like now (they've added a very nice pool!) and what their mission is. The second video is a more extended tour of Finca De Vida from a while back (2012) by one of my food & gardening heroes, John Kohler.

 

They offer all kinds of fun activities on-site (yoga, hiking, swimming, etc) as well as ecotourism excursions off-site to many of the beautiful natural wonders of Costa Rica. They can even arrange for an ayahuasca ceremony, which is why I brought it up on the 'shrooms thread...  Here are the rave reviews for Finca de Vida on TripAdvisor. Out of 138 reviews, 131 give it 5-stars, and 6 give it 4-stars. 

 

I've wanted to visit Finca de Vida for several years now, and broached on that thread the possibility of having a CR mini-retreat there, since I don't think it is the kind of destination my wife would really enjoy (too rustic and too healthy ☺) and I wouldn't have much fun going there alone. Both Saul and Gordo expressed immediate enthusiasm for the idea, and said they would probably even bring their (more adventurous) wives. As far as I'm concerned, the three (five) of us represent "critical mass" for me to go, as long as we can find a date that works for all of us. But the more the merrier as far as I'm concerned, so I figured I'd start a new thread to let others know about the idea, in case you too are interested.

 

Note - I'm not thinking it will be like the CR conference, with speakers etc.  Just an opportunity to hang out for a few days with cool, like-minded people in a beautiful setting, engaging in fun activities and deep discussions, while eating delicious, healthy & fresh vegan food. As mentioned above, the all-inclusive rate is extremely affordable ($60-80/day per person), and I just checked flights and a round trip ticket to Costa Rica from Pittsburgh is currently only $239.

 

What do you think? Would you be interested joining Saul, Gordo and me at a CR2 mini-retreat (CR2 = Costa Rica Calorie Restriction) at Finca de Vida? Needless to say, we haven't set a date yet. I'd prefer it to be sometime when it's cold in the US, but for now, please post here or let me know in a private message if you might be interested in attending, independent of the date. Once we know who and how many are interested, we can start narrowing down the dates.

 

--Dean

 

------------

1As it says on the bottom of their website, "Farm of Life is a smoke-meat-alcohol-free environment."
 

 

 

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Hmmm... I'm now having second thoughts about my idea for a Costa Rica retreat. The problem is Zika, which the CDC reports is being locally transmitted via mosquitoes in Costa Rica. ☹

 

The CDC says if you stay at higher elevations (above 6500 ft), you're safe because mosquitoes don't live that high, but unfortunately Finca de Vida is only 40 minutes from the coast, and isn't that high.

 

It may be overly paranoid, especially since generally mosquitoes eschew (rather than chew!) me. But better safe than sorry, and I'd hate to have anyone else contract Zika as a result of a retreat I organized...

 

I contacted Brian, the owner of Finca de Vida to see what he says about Zika in their area, and will report back when I hear from him.

 

--Dean

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Hi Dean and Gordo!

 

As I thought, Maxine (my wife) definitely wants to go!

 

The best winertimefor me is between terms -- after Christamas, until January (something - I'l look it up).

 

But, for the term starting on January (something+1), I teach only on Tuesdays and Thursdays -- so I could go for an extended weekend e.g. in late January or February.

 

:)xyz

 

  -- Saul

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Mosquito repellent would work (for Zika virus carrying mosquitos).  But, Zika infection is trivial -- unless you're  a pregnant, or soon-to-try-to-become pregnant, woman.

 

IMO, not a big problem.

 

(Believe me, Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful places in the world.)

 

:)xyz

 

  --  Saul 

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Yea, I'm not sure Zika is really a factor unless you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.  A quick search turned up: "Zika virus is only alive and active in an individual for approximately seven days... The Red Cross asked travelers to affected areas to avoid giving blood for 28 days after their return, but the length of the wait is primarily just a precaution. Zika virus appears to prompt people to develop immunity after they've had it once, making it unlikely that the virus will cause problems later."

 

They sell pretty cool mosquito netting that goes over your head/hat at Walmart for $1, it works perfectly for protecting your head anyway.  This stuff is supposedly very safe and effective for the rest of your body, as is lemon eucalyptus according to Consumer Reports recent testing/analysis.

 

Infectious disease fears notwithstanding, I'm curious, on a scale of 1 to 10 where you are on ayahuasca, with 1 being "No way, I don't do vomit", 5 being "I'm seriously thinking about it" to 10 being "you couldn't stop me"?

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Hi Gordo!

 

Yeah, I'm glad that you're not afraid of the media hype about Zika virus.

 

BTW, what's ayahuasca?

 

  --  Saul

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All,

 

It looks like I may have overreacted to the Zika concerns. I (obviously) wasn't worried about getting pregnant, or impregnating anyone. My bigger concern was the possibility that Zika might result in a chronic infection, like cytomegalovirus (note spelling Saul) or Lyme disease. But as Gordo points out, this does not appear to be the case. According to the authorities, healthy people fight off Zika within 7-10 days without the need for antibiotics, ridding their system of the disease, and building up an immunity to it in the future.

 

But there is some troubling evidence that might not be quite so simple. As recently reported, a 27-year old man in France was found to have Zika virus in his semen 93 days after onset of Zika symptoms, which he contracted when he was bitten by a mosquito while traveling in Thailand.

 

I confirmed with my blood bank today that the only restriction on blood donation after traveling to Costa Rica is a 28-day waiting period over concern about Zika. After a month, people are not restricted from donating. There is concern about another insect-transmitted disease (which unfortunately is known to become chronic), Chagas disease in Costa Rica, but blood banks test each pint of blood for Chagas, so they don't screen out people who've travelled to countries where Chagas is a potential issue.

 

So overall, I continue to harbor minor reservations about the possibility of insect-borne diseases resulting from travel to Costa Rica. But it seems like the risks are a lot lower than I initially thought they might be. If others are still game for a CMmini-retreat, count me in. Heck, YOLO!

 

P.S. Saul, ayahuasca is a plant-derived hallucinogen whose mind-expanding effects are documented in this article in the Guardian. Gordo, regarding my level of seriousness about trying ayahuasca, I'd say I'm about a 5 - "seriously thinking about it." Again, YOLO. I posted about it on the 'shrooms thread to see if anyone around here as ever tried or seriously considered trying ayahuasca themselves but thought better of it, to help me form a more informed opinion regarding its risks vs. rewards. If anyone would have tried it, I figured it would be Sthira, but he seems to have dropped out of sight. I'm pinged him directly about ayahuasca and the idea of a CR retreat at Finca de Vida but haven't heard back yet.

 

--Dean

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I think we'd end up being the wierdos walking around in mosquito nets and ice vests, but there is comfort in numbers, haha!  

hooded-zip-up-mosquito-jacket-1.jpgNetsmen-Wearable-Mosquito-Suit.png

 

I'm a 7 on ayahuasca.  I just want to try it one time in my life, it's something I've been interested in for 25 years but never had the opportunity.  I would want to be extremely confident (read independent reviews about) in the source for such an adventure.

Edited by Gordo

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I pinged the folks at Finca de Vida about Zika and heard back from Jody, who co-owns the resort with Brian (in video above). 

 

Hello Dean,
 
We have not heard of any local cases of Zika.. meaning it is not in our area.  It is reported up North and along the beach zones, where the land is flatter, has more stagnant water, and thus more mosquitos.  I’ve also heard that N America is a better breeding ground for it than here, because there are more mosq up there than here.
 
Hope this helps,
 
Jody and Brian Calvi, Farm of Life, Costa Rica
The Vacation for the Healthy Lifestyle and Natural Healing Center
 
So that is reassuring. So I'm still game. I'm still waiting to hear back from Sthira, since I can't imagine he wouldn't want to go. For anyone else interested, please let us know. Here are the tours and activities available at FdV. The ayahuasca ceremony offered at the retreat center just down the road is not publicized on their website☺, but it is discussed in depth in video by Brian at the bottom.
 
Here is the FAQ page from FdV's website. It has some useful details. In particular, it looks like we want to go between January and April, which is their "dry" season. No special vaccines or visas are required for a short visit. They recommend flying into San Jose, and from there it is a 4-h scenic drive to their location. Minimum stay is 4 nights. Saul, how would that work with your teaching schedule next winter/spring? Gordo, can you find out when your wife's spring break is? Perhaps we could schedule it around then. I've asked Jody about any dates during this coming dry season (Jan - Apr) when they are fully booked, and if they offer any group discounts or special deals. I'll let you know what more I find out.
 
--Dean
 

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Mechanism,

 

Sounds promising. Would definitely consider. How long a stay? Anybody planning on bringing family?

 

It would be great to have you join us! As I just said, the minimum stay is 4 nights, but since it is such a long journey and their appears to be so much to do, I might make it 5. We are each free to stay as long or as short as we like, since there will be no formal conference or anything. Saul has classes to teach, so he might not be able to stay as long as others.

 

Regarding family, as I (and they) mentioned, both Saul's and Gordo's wives are seriously considering it. My wife - not so much, as I predicted. Too lacking in luxuries and food options for her to really enjoy it, although she says the activities sound great. Saul and Gordo, you probably want to make sure you share these paragraphs about the food options from the FdV accommodations page to make sure your wives are on-board (my emphasis):

 

Is Food Included in the Nightly Rate?
 
We stock the communal kitchen with an abundance of fruits and vegetables. The nightly rate includes using the communal kitchen and the fruits and vegetables to prepare your own meals, salads, smoothies and juices (up to 16 ounces of juice per day is included). We only provide fruits and vegetables, including coconuts and all kinds of tropical fruit. We also have a greenhouse with a wide selection of lettuces, greens and herbs for your salads and juices.
 
If you want other food ingredients, please bring your own. (e.g. bring your own nuts, seeds, superfoods, seaweed, grains or foods that you may want to eat that we don't provide). We have pantry and fridge space where you can store your personal grocery items. You can buy groceries at the markets at the beach and even in our village, but the selection is limited. Rather, we recommend you bring grocery items with you in your luggage – keep them in their original, sealed packaging in order to pass customs. Please note, if you are coming to Farm of Life for healing, then you will be discouraged from eating nuts and seeds, so leave them at home.
 
We have a menu and daily dinner specials that you can order for an additional expense. Our Chefs prepare extraordinary meals, but these are not included in the nightly rate. Chef-prepared meals cost extra. For example, dinners may range from $16 - $20 per person plus sales tax and gratuity.
 

Obviously Finca de Vida is not like most fancy, all-inclusive resorts. But to me it seems like the perfect destination for food- and health-obsessed whole plant food vegan (and willing-to-be-vegan-for-a-few-days) people like us.

 

--Dean

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Thanks Dean, though we historically lean domestic ( like Kripalu ????) over international travel, this looks unique enough to be worthy of a potential exception. You said it yourself: YOLO... Looking forward to more details to share with family ( proposed specific dates, etc. ) so we can decide for sure - certainly looks very tempting!

Edited by Mechanism

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Great Mechanism!

 

I agree - it looks like a once-in-a-lifetime experience that's worth the hassle of international travel.

 

Do you and your family have any particular constraints in the range of January - April of next year that we should take into account?

 

--Dean

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Hi Dean,

 

I wasn't sure how my wife ( my wonderful obligatory companion for such a venture :)xyz ) would feel, but she's also very much excited - we are definitely interested.  There are child/coverage issues during the school year, and we spent tonight hashing through some of the details / planning. Here are two weeks that would work for us --

 

1) Week of February 20th - 24th

 

2) Week of April 17th - 21st

 

Can anybody else make these dates?

 

Hard to believe this may be a go!  The description sounds amazing.

Edited by Mechanism

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Mechanism,

 

Either of those weeks will work for me. Gordo and Saul - how about you and your spouses?

 

I hope I'm not the only one who'll be going 'stag'. I talked to my wife, and she confirmed my suspicion - FdV is a bit too 'rustic' for her tastes. Oh well. My daughter would be game, but unfortunately she'll be in school. Although it will be spring of her senior year in high school, maybe I can talk her into it... We could be like one of those father/daughter teams on "The Amazing Race".

 

I haven't heard back from Jody yet on any date constraints the FdV folks have (sometimes they have week-long retreats that book the whole place) and strangely, I still haven't heard from Sthira.

 

Momentum is building and I too am excited to think this trip might happen. Anybody else out there interested in joining us? Mike C? Tom B? Todd A? Todd S? Al? Cloud? Michael? Thomas? Drew? Kenton? Grace? Alex? Sirtuin? Lurkers and anyone else I've forgot (sorry)?

 

For anyone who isn't planning to go, I'd be curious what your reservation(s) are. It promises to be a fun time!

 

--Dean

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The dates that my wife has off from teaching are: December 25 2016- January 2 2017,  April 9 2017 to April 16 2017 (school ends around the 20th of June).  Unfortunately it doesn't look like there is overlap with the dates Mechanism mentioned.  I'd consider going stag if the final date picked wasn't when my wife could make it, but she really wants to go so going on our own might win out in that case.

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Hi Dean and all,

 

All this looks great! Certainly I am interested! I have been thinking of starting to take my now-11-years-old son out regularly at least once a year on healthy eating and physically active trips with like-minded people and families. This looks even better than I thought!

 

My son's school breaks:

 

January 16, 2017 Martin Luther King Day

January 27, 2017 Staff Learning Day

February 20-24,2017 Mid-Year Recess

April 10-14, 2017 Spring Recess

 

For now I have a concern: my son has mysterious stomach aches once in a while.  I need to have a plan on how to handle that during the stay. I would like to hear suggestions from other parents who plan to go.

Edited by gracezw

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Grace, it looks like our February vacation matches perfectly! These were the two dates that my wife and I could make for the inverse reason as yours – we don't feel our son is quite ready for Costa Rica however we would have coverage.

 

since this coverage is in another state, transportation to school is not an option and scheduling the retreat during either of those two weeks would allow us to participate since he won't need to be pulled out from school.

 

Count us as definite enthusiastic yeses if the retreat takes place at either of the two vacation weeks I posted above.

 

Looks like going stag is not an option, and understand this is a group process, so we both have our fingers crossed!

Edited by Mechanism

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PS - grace, I noted above we have in common

Week of February 20th - 24th

 

and noticed there you mention some long weekends. Would have considered those except according to the website "4-night minimum stay. 7-night minimum stay from Dec 1st to Jan 15th."

 

Personally, I think for this potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity it is worth staying longer and if it is then or the February dates I mentioned we would take the full week ????

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Mechanism,

 

Thanks for your response! I am glad that our February vacation matches with yours too!

 

Thank you also for pointing to the website’s 4-night minimum stay requirement. I did not see it.

 

Why does it have to “once-in-a-lifetime”? I thought we could visit it again if we like it.

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Wow!

 

I'm thrilled with the response to the CR retreat idea, both on this thread and from CR folks who I contacted directly via private message. That's the good news. 

 

The bad news is I finally read the Farm of Life (FoL = Finca de Vida) retreat page, after hearing back from Jody at FoL that they are fully booked with 10 weeks of retreats during this coming dry season from Jan-Apr. In fact, they are booked every year with retreats during the optimal time to visit. Some of the retreats listed look interesting, although maybe a bit flaky for hyper-rational folks like many of us. Plus the retreats are more expensive than simply visiting as a guest, and are all 7-days. For example, here is the adventure retreat page for Chris Kendall (famous raw food 'chef'), which is March 4-11th, 2017 at the FoL. He's a bit of a flake, but it nevertheless looks really cool, and he's got some great footage (see 6min video below) of activities and food at the FoL. Unfortunately it's $1750-2400 per person for the week, which doesn't include airfare. While that does include activities as well as transportation to/from airport, it is still a lot more expensive than $60-80 / day + activities. Plus there are classes and stuff that many of us probably wouldn't be interested in. 

 

Despite these shortcomings, I'm checking with Jody to see if any of the retreats have openings for this coming season - thinking we might be able to participate that way.  Otherwise, I'm checking with her to see if they have normal guest openings just before or just after the Jan-Apr window, in either December or June (they are closed in May), and what the weather is like during those months. I'd personally prefer December, escaping the cold of winter here in the northern hemisphere.

 

It appears there is enough interest that we'll have to do some kind of "vote for the dates that work" poll to try to schedule, presuming they have openings. We might actually have to wait until Dec of 2017 for our visit. But I'll keep everyone posted with what I find out. 

 

--Dean

 

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Grace, you're right: traveling to Costa Rica or FoL in some capacity is likely an option for the forseeable future.  The spirit of my comment above pertained to our particular circumstances: We are not international travelers, and with the stars aligned to potentially to participate in this unique excursion, say nothing of in the wonderful CR community, being a part of this meeting would be truly something special and exceptional.

 

Dean, thank you for all your efforts organizing us ( truly like herding cats!).  Regarding voting you mentioned, one thought: when/if it gets to that stage, and as excited as my wife and I are to participate, it may be fair (and this is your & the other organizer's call) to place extra weight on longtime CR participants as this is a community with deep roots and we (my wife and I ) are but newcomers and guests.  For example, I think you and Gordo had discussed before bringing to the general group so your mutual convenience should take precedent I think ( Gordo, if your wife wants to come we should find a way to make it possible).  Anyway, some words of encouragement - Hopefully it will all come together!

Edited by Mechanism

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Dean, if we don't converge this year, maybe room for a mini-mini CR in PA?  May be a critical mass: You and Gordo live in the state, Saul is not far (Rochester NY) and we are driveable too, and not sure about the geography of others.  

 

Regarding Costa Rica though:

 

I'm curious whether there is a critical mass for participating in this retreat , coming up.  Would be at a time when kids are on vacation, has whole food, mostly raw fruits & vegetables and while not an "evidence-based" symposium looks like a lot of fun!  Plenty of spots.  We can also do our own thing as part of this depending on relative interest, and there are lots of options.  Would anybody else be interested?  Only takes a couple for a critical mass.

 

http://livelovefruit.com/rawjuvenation-retreat/ will take place this April 16-23.  Only drawbacks are the cost and April as opposed to heart of Winter but helps get parents there, and would allow us to build on the critical mass and momentum now.  Still a fantastic time to visit, and during the dry season.  Why not strike while the iron is hot, who knows what may happen in the future :)xyz  

 

The old adage rings true:  The enemy of a good plan is the perfect plan - YOLO!

Edited by Mechanism

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Mechanism,

 

Money isn't really an issue for me, nor is scheduling, so I'd be game for either the retreat I pointed to (RawAdvantage) or the one you pointed out (RAWjuvenation). They both look fairly similar in term of cost ($2000/person), 7-day duration and their all-inclusiveness. The RawAdvantage one has the advantage of being deeper in winter, but heck, I like cold exposure ☺. I like the fact that everything is included in the retreat format that both offer, including transportation to / from the airport. Renting a car or taking a cab could add hassle and several hundred dollars to the cost.
 
The obvious downsides for retreats are:
  1. the healthy eating education is something most of us aren't very interested in sitting through, or spending money on.
  2. There will be more 'woo' in any of them than many of us will be comfortable with.
  3. They are a full 7-nights long, which I know will be difficult for some folks to swing (e.g. Saul)
  4. They are more expensive than visiting FoL on our own.
When I hear back from Jody at FoL (hopefully) today, I'll try to put together a list of all our options with advantages and disadvantages, including the various FoL retreats this coming dry season or alternatively, organizing an informal group visit to FoL ourselves shortly before or after the dry season, in December of this year, June of next year, or December of next year.
 
It looks like the RAWjuvenation retreat still has plenty of spots for this coming year (Apr 16-23). I've emailed Chris Kendall (RawAdvantage organizer) to see what the availability is for the RawAdvantage retreat.
 
Are there any other retreats at FoL that other folks think we might consider?
 
--Dean

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