A note from TWS: It is important that our Wandering Scholars prepare for their journeys by researching their host country before they leave home. The below post is the product of an assignment in which we ask our Scholars to read and share something interesting they’ve learned about Costa Rica’s history, culture, or politics. 

On December 1, 1948, following a violent civil war, Costa Rica’s president José Figueres Ferrer (also known as Don Pepe) destroyed the wall of the Cuartel Bellavista and called for the abolition of the army.  The following year, it was adopted into the Costa Rican Constitution (article 12). Consequently, the funds previously used by the National Army were allocated to the development of education, health, and culture.

Most media outlets agree that this historical event has greatly improved the living standards of Costa Rican citizens. Citizens enjoy high literacy rates, well-preserved ecology, and relative wealth/stability in comparison to their Central American counterparts. Furthermore, the country is widely regarded as one of the happiest in the world, and Ticos (the nickname for Costa Ricans) and foreigners alike praise the policy.

When faced with the question, “How does Costa Rica defend itself?” people explain that diplomatic alliances with countries like the US, special forces, and the Civilian Guard enforce law and patrol borders. Some go further yet to voice that the impromptu army is nearly on par with American armies in that they are trained extensively and equipped with high caliber weapons (5.56-caliber M4 carbines). Such people draw the argument that Costa Rica continues to protect their citizens and are even increasing internal security spending substantially.

However, other sources contradict this information, pointing out that  “Costa Rica’s police reportedly have insufficient training, a shortage of service men, and a lack of resources (including vehicles, weaponry, etc).” Particularly in recent years, the nation has been faced with serious security problems such as drug trafficking and border dispute with Nicaragua, which cannot be adequately tackled by a small civilian army. To these ends, there are some proponents for the development of a stronger defense system and even potential revision to the policy. read more →

Summer 2017 is finally here, and The Wandering Scholar’s Global Skills Fellowship Program is off to an exciting start. We have five new Wandering Scholars – our largest class yet – who will all be participating in an inaugural program with Smithsonian Student Adventures. From July 14-23, our Scholars will be traveling on their 10 day Osa Wildlife Conservation Expedition in Costa Rica. Keep an eye on this space in the coming weeks: we’ll be sharing regular blog posts from Absari Begum, Sherbie Geffrard, Sarah Kwon, Jabari Lottie, and Seyni Ndaw, who will discuss everything from their pre-departure research on Costa Rica and trip planning details, to their field updates and completed documentation projects based on their time at the Playa Tortuga Research Center. Thanks for following along!


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A note from TWS: It is important that our Wandering Scholars prepare for their journeys by researching their host country before they leave home. The below post is the product of an assignment in which we ask our Scholars to read and share something interesting they’ve learned about Costa Rica’s history, culture, or politics.

The alluring and prideful country of Costa Rica is an amazing place by the looks of their food, people and rich culture. I can’t wait to have the honor of discovering their environment, energy, animals and the beautiful souls of their peoples. Costa Ricans have a lot of pride for their flag. To the white and blue stripes stand for peace,wisdom and happiness. To the vermilion red color that stands for the blood in defending their country as well as the warmth and generosity of the people.

On July 13 I will be traveling to Costa Rica and seeing this beautiful place instead of just reading about this amazing place. I read a  wonderful story about volunteering: Katie, a University of Iowa had a amazing time helping the child in Costa Rica. She said on her blog, “50 little toddlers greet you everyday with endless smiles and adorable voices she will neve forget.” I can’t wait to have an unforgettable experience myself and see the world in a different perspective.

Also, on twitter I learned that Costa Rica is now running completely on renewable energy. Costa Rica is running without having to burn a single fossil fuel, and it’s been doing so for 75 straight days. Thanks to the rainfalls this year, Costa Rica hydropower plants are generating nearly enough electricity to power the entire country. In Costa Rica, a drought would disrupt the country’s ability to generate electricity with water. That’s why the government approved a $958 million geothermal project, which is being paid for with the help of Japanese and Europeans investments.

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Still looking for that perfect gift?  Welcome to the third and final installment of our 2016 gift guide, where we’ve curated the best in travel and travel-themed essentials  (here’s Part I & Part II). We’ve saved one of the absolute best gifts for last, so please scroll down to see how you can honor your favorite Wanderer by giving the world this holiday season.

For the Wistful Wanderer, who still talks about studying abroad back in high school, makes his host mother’s specialty all these years later, and prefers his movies with subtitles. We’ve got him covered, from bringing more of the world home to helping put it within reach of a new generation of Wanderers. 




Global Sounds via Amazon Music Unlimited, $79/year: Amazon’s new music streaming service has a world of musical possibilities on offer, from Putumayo’s Latin classics to the best in Afropop and Bhangra. Combine with the Amazon Tap Portable Bluetooth Speaker ($8.99) for a more immersive listening experience. 



V-Street: 100 Globe-Hopping Plates on the Cutting Edge of Vegetable Cooking, $16.42: Two of the best chefs in the US have put their spin on global vegetarian flavors, creating dishes like Peruvian fries and vegetarian ramen that will become instant home-cooking classics.



Interwoven Ginko Quilt, $112: Sourced from fabrics from all over the globe, Interwoven’s collection of pillows, throws, and rugs put the world within everyday reach. This Ginko quilt is handmade in India, from vintage sari fabric that is machine washable and designed to age with grace and beauty. 



World Coffee Tour Gourmet Sampler, $89.99: This collection of coffee samples takes you “around the world in 80 sips,” with flavors from South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia.




Make a Tribute Donation to The Wandering Scholar: Honor your favorite Wanderer with the ultimate gift this holiday season by making a tribute donation to the Wandering Scholar. Here’s what your contribution can do:

  • $2500 fully funds the trip of a lifetime for a Wandering Scholar
  • $1000 funds the cost of international airfare
  • $250 buys a camera to create a stunning documentation project
  • $100 covers the cost of a passport book (good for 10 years)
  • $50 scores a guidebook, field journal, and other essential items
  • $25 picks up gifts for a host family
  • $10 pays the entry fee for a museum or landmark

With every (fully tax-deductible) tribute donation, we will send a card commemorating your and your Wanderer’s support for our mission. read more →

Still looking for that perfect gift?  Welcome to Part II of our gift guide (click here for Part I). We’ve curated the best in travel (and travel-themed) essentials for the Wanderers in your life. Follow the links to purchase via Amazon and your gift gives twice – with a portion of your purchase proceeds donated to The Wandering Scholar. 



For the Seasoned Wanderer, who has friends all over the world and the passport stamps (plus some amazing stories) to prove it. We’ve got her covered, from the moment she starts packing for her latest adventure until she returns home to plot the next one.




Leather Travel Wallet, $195: From Cuyana, the company that emphasizes having “fewer, better things,” comes this multi-purpose travel wallet. It holds a passport, boarding pass, credit cards, coins, notes and more. It also makes for a great evening clutch. And you can personalize it with her initials.








Bluesmart One – Smart Luggage, $414.28: This carry-on suitcase does everything. It meets TSA size requirements, has a built-in tracking device (allowing her to locate it anywhere in the world), and comes equipped with two USB hubs to charge her devices on the go. 









TOMS shoes, prices vary: This shoe brand has a variety of classic, comfortable styles for both men and women. As a bonus, when you purchase through the link your gift gives not twice but thrice – to your Seasoned Wanderer, to TWS through our affiliate program, and to a person in need thanks to TOMS “one for one” program. 








Everlane City Anorak, $98: Lightweight, water-resistant, and with a modern cut, this jacket perfectly balances utility and fashion. It’s perfect for navigating London’s rainy climates without sacrificing style. 










The Travel Book: A Journey through Every Country in The World, $31.25: This tome from Lonely Planet covers 230 countries, includes nearly 1000 photos, and will help her figure out where on the map she’ll head next.  read more →