From Chaos to Costa Rica – Reflections from Far Away on a Bumpy Bus

The last few months have led to many discoveries. I recently dived back into the traditional workplace – I gotta real job (notice my sarcasm). The contract was a worthy experience and I am now back at entrepreneurship full time.

To cleanse my soul, find my purpose (I called it EAT, LOVE and VOLUNTEER), I decided to take a UGO Travel for Change trip to Costa Rica. Into the depths of the rainforest (if you wonder if it rains in the rainforest I can tell you, yes it does – a lot.) I reemerged a better version of myself.


Lighten your load – Only take what you need and leave what doesn’t work behind (also why not lighten that load by donating what could be useful to someone else?)

Live for yourself, your people but not things or your ego.

Believe you are capable. Doubting yourself? Not sure you can do it? Don’t over think it and just try and be curious to see what happens.

Challenge yourself to be in the moment.

Have gratitude. I know it is overstated- but really is it? Feel strength from reflection and thankfulness… we grow and live longer in the process.

Just be. You don’t have to always have to do – especially if you are feeling insecure….. Just stop and wait it out.


To go or not to go: This is why

Voluntourism, Costa Rica,

This week I caught up with the amazing Majet Reyes, a participant in our trip to Nepal last year where we ran workshops educating women farmers on various topics including organic farming practices, healthy relationships, and women’s health and nutrition.

As a mother of a young daughter and an entrepreneur, it was a hard decision to travel abroad for two weeks but the trip was life changing and in this interview Majet shares how the Nepal experience transformed her and why she would highly recommend a volunteer trip abroad with UGO Travel for Change. Majet is a great example of the kind of heart-centred person you meet on our trips who becomes life-long friends.

Click the image below to watch our chat.

Voluntourism, Costa Rica,

I can’t wait for Costa Rica to connect with others just like her. We still have a few spots to join us in November so email me at so we can chat and I can share more details with you. (Run time 14 minutes).


Jill Valentine, B.Sc., RT, CLC, – Transformative Travel Coach

Jill Valentine is a co-founder of UGO Travel for Change, founder and author of Dare to be a Dandelion, and a pioneer in the transformative travel arena.  As a Transformational Travel Coach Jill harnesses the innate powers of travel and volunteerism as tools for sustainable personal and global change.  A passionate humanitarian, volunteerism specialist and world traveller, she lives by the words “Make it happen!”


How Being the Change, Changes You

UGO Travel for Change

The thing that lies at the foundation of positive change, the way I see it, is service to a fellow human being.” – Lech Walesa

Volunteering abroad has the ability to change yourself and the world. It’s as simple as that.   If you’ve been there, done that – I know you are nodding your head along with me.   As a Habitat for Humanity Global Village team leader and as a solo travel enthusiast, I’ve seen time and time again how being of “service” opens you up to a different side of yourself and exposes you to different cultures in an authentic way that can never be replicated anywhere else.  Volunteering while seeing the world made me become more aware and mindful of my life and left me feeling satisfied yet hungry for more adventure!  If you’ve ever been on the fence about taking the leap to volunteer abroad – I say get out and “GO” as you will never regret the experience.

If I had to sum up how volunteering abroad can change you or why you should go, here are my top three reasons.  Enjoy.

Your concept of what’s important changes forever and you’ll start to look for more meaning in everything you do.

There is nothing more fascinating than learning about a new way of life that is so different than your own. But when you add the additional layer of volunteering where you are truly involved with the people you are there to help, that is when a true cultural exchange or the magic happens. Depending on how long you decide to volunteer abroad, getting to know and become part of a community is one of the most profound and rewarding things one gets out of a volunteer abroad experience.Ideal trips are also a two-way exchange.  When you offer your services, you gain access into the local way of life that you can never get at an all inclusive resort.  When you travel and connect with people on a intimate and deep level – the World becomes a much smaller place as your realize we all want the same things.  A healthy and happy life, full of abundance, friends, and a chance for your children to grow and thrive.

You learn more about yourself than you can ever imagine and you realize there is nothing truly holding you back but you.

Volunteering abroad has an additional bonus in that there is usually an opportunity to learn a new skill, deepen your understanding of another culture, and or share your expertise. When you’ve taken the time to get to know who you are working with, what issues they truly need support with, and then are able to provide solutions in a way that is truly valued – it’s exceptionally satisfying.Returning home, you also start to see your own problems and solutions in different ways.   In general terms resources are less than adequate in many developing countries compared to the western world.  However modern or western thinking isn’t always better.  For me every time I volunteer in this way, I get far more out of the experience and things that seemed impossible to me are no longer as daunting and the impossible, becomes possible.

You Find Your Sense of Purpose and that is a Beautiful Thing.

Travel and volunteering abroad in its simplest form can be a much needed break from your routine or the daily grind on so many levels. Meeting new people, immersing yourself in a new culture, trying new foods, and learning new skills opens you and your mind up to new ways of thinking that can lead to your own personal and professional growth. The novelty and the space to think and reflect is very powerful. It’s not uncommon for people to come home for a volunteer abroad trip to find fresh sources of inspiration that leads to them pursuing new careers and or relationships.The other aspect of volunteer trips is that you’re not going to be alone in your thinking either. When you’re working in an environment alongside others with the same drive and desire to help, you see that small collective efforts can make a big difference and knowing others are going through a similar emotional experience can also be inspiring. The relationships you make on trip are lasting.

Overall, when you volunteer abroad it is more than a vacation it is an experience where you become part of the landscape, completely immersed in the moment and in the culture unlike any other vacation could. Nothing beats living a fulfilling, enriching, life and UGO trips are designed to get you there.  So what are you waiting for?  Apply now to join UGO Travel for Change for an epic volunteer abroad experience.  I promise you won’t regret it!


Nicole Hrinco is a co-founder of UGO Travel for Change, Connected Impact, and the Chair of the Board for Photographers Without Borders.   As a pioneer in the transformative travel arena and a passionate team leader Nicole is interested in tapping into storytelling, volunteerism, and international development as a force for good.  Nicole has led teams to Kenya, Haiti, Trinidad & Tobago, Costa Rica and is a solo travel enthusiasts, recently having been to Ecuador and volunteering in the Galapagos.

How to Overcome the 5 Biggest Excuses Holding You Back From Your Dream Trip

voluntourism, Costa Rica

Have you been longing to get away but just can’t pull the trigger?  Are you convinced you just “can’t afford it” or “the time isn’t right”?

These are the most common excuses I’ve heard as a Transformative Travel coach and sadly many let these illusions hold them back.  I’m happy to report that many  of my clients who at first believed these myths but took the plunge and came on a trip – they didn’t have a single regret after experiencing the trip of a lifetime.  They didn’t go bankrupt, didn’t lose their job and in fact a few came home and quit their jobs to lead the life they always wants. Through my countless trips I’ve heard all kinds of excuses but have also figured out a way to help my clients overcome them. Below are the top 5 so far.  Message me if you have a few of your own. I’d love to hear from you and help you get out of your own way.

Nothing beats living a fulfilling, enriching, life and UGO trips are designed to get you there.

  1. “I’m too busy with work.” I get it…you believe that if you miss work you will fall behind, work and emails will pile up while you’re gone, your boss will think you’re not committed to your job and not give you that raise or promotion you’ve been working towards…your career and work will suffer.  But is that really what life is all about?! In the end, will you remember that dull week of work or will you remember those incredible memories and moments from your vacation?  Research has shown that employees who took 10 days or less vacation are LESS likely to receive a raise or bonus in the last 3 years than those who took 11 days or more!!Time away is a chance to recharge, relax, reconnect with your family and passions so you come back to work re-energized, productive and motivated.  The trick to avoiding the back to work woes is to plan your trip in advance, notify everyone so they can plan accordingly and stop sending unnecessary emails and build in a buffer day when you get back to catch up before you are “officially” back to work.  Stop putting off living – put in your vacation request TODAY!
  2. “I can’t leave my kids”  The guilt parents feel around leaving their kids can be serious and heavy but what if instead of seeing it as you depriving them of their mommy or daddy for a week you see it as an amazing opportunity for them to bond with their other parent, loving grandparents or doting uncle and aunt and a chance to really foster their independence.When I left my 22 month old daughter for 2 weeks to lead a trip to volunteer abroad in Nepal I knew she would miss me (and I would miss her) but knowing that I was a globe-trotting humanitarian role-model for her and she would never feel she couldn’t have it all in life, I felt great about my decision.  It took some advance planning with meal prep, scheduling caregivers and transfers between various relatives but after my well deserved “me time”  I returned well rested, re-energized, and ready to keep rockin’ motherhood and everything else on my plate.
  3. “I have no one to go with” Firstly, solo travel, especially for women, can be SUPER empowering, really push you out of your comfort zone and help you grow.  There are also tons of great online resources and groups to support you travelling alone.  If however you just aren’t into solo travel there are lots companies that offer diverse and engaging group travel including UGO Travel for Change and it’s an amazing opportunity to make fabulous friends who you can travel with in the future. UGO’s epic program brings together an amazing group of heart-centered individuals who you will become lifelong friends with after an incredible week of volunteering together and bonding over life changing memories.
  4. “I can’t afford it right now” For some people, like the 23-year-old I sponsor in Uganda who is working to feed and educate his 4 younger siblings after the loss of his parents, this is actually the truth…for others it’s just an excuse and travel or giving back just isn’t enough of a priority.  If you REALLY wanted to go on a trip…you can make it happen!!  If you are reading this thinking…oh my goodness that’s me just full of my excuses and you are ready to live an epic life, seize the day, and find the funds to make that life changing trip happen, check out last week’s blog.
  5. “I’ll do it someday” Of course you will!! When you were unemployed you just needed a job to afford it.  Then you got the job and now you are just waiting for the promotion.  Or maybe you’re waiting for the kids to grow-up and leave for school in what…a decade? Until you lose some weight? Until life isn’t so hectic? Until your parents are less needy?  Until….what??  Here’s the thing…If you don’t really want to travel then don’t.  But if you do want to really see the world, cross off a bucket item list, volunteer abroad, have some “me” time, take that mother/daughter trip, go on an adventure, take that trip of a lifetime…then what are you really waiting for? Whose approval are you seeking? Say yes to YOU!! Take the empowering step of booking that trip and start really living your life today!! Don’t wait for the perfect moment as it may never come!

Take that trip you’ve always dreamed of THIS YEAR! Submit your vacation request today! Call your family today to let them know you are finally taking some “me” time.  Skip this afternoon’s latte and put your savings into your travel account.  Apply now to join UGO Travel for Change for an epic trip of a lifetime volunteering abroad.  I promise you won’t regret it!


Jill Valentine, B.Sc., RT, CLC, – Transformative Travel Coach

Jill Valentine is a co-founder of UGO Travel for Change, founder and author of Dare to be a Dandelion, and a pioneer in the transformative travel arena.  As a Transformational Travel Coach Jill harnesses the innate powers of travel and volunteerism as tools for sustainable personal and global change.  A passionate humanitarian, volunteerism specialist and world traveller, she lives by the words “Make it happen!”

10 Ways to Get to Costa Rica

UGO Travel for Change Costa Rica

“I totally want to, but I can’t afford it.”

What are all the opportunities and experiences you have missed out on because you let money hold all your power and hold you back from what you really want?

Stop letting money get in the way of living a full life now.  If you really want to go to Costa Rica, YOU have the power to commit and make it happen.    

Want to enjoy some Pura Vida – “the pure life” in the Happiest place on earth?  Here are 10 ways to help you fund the trip of a lifetime.


Figure out how much you need to save and break it down with a weekly or monthly plan with specific actions and amounts to help you get to your goal!


Open up a dedicated savings account for your trip that you don’t use for anything else! Set up regular automatic transfers on payday and deposit any money you can into it.  


All of those lattes quickly add up to serious dough you could put towards your trip.  Create a WANT vs NEED list of what you spend your money on and then cut out as much as possible the WANTS and only spend on the needs! Try to avoid temptation as much as you can.  


There are tons of ways to fundraise to volunteer abroad. You can start a crowdfunding campaign on a site like where you can ask family and friends via email and social media to support your service trip.  You might also consider holding a fundraising event where you sell raffle tickets or hold a silent or dutch auction – be creative with themes, venues, and fun ways to raise money at the event as well as through tickets. There are tons of ways to fundraise – get creative!


Go through your entire place and get rid of anything you don’t need by selling it online at a site like or hold a good old fashioned garage sale. Let people know why you’re selling your stuff and they’ll be more likely to buy without haggling!   


Instead of gifts for your birthday or Christmas ask family and friends to give you the greatest gift of all…support for your life changing trip to Costa Rica!  And when their birthdays roll along, instead of spending money on a gift consider giving gifts of service or homemade goodies.


Need an item or service and have a skill or item to give in exchange? Check out or Bunz Trading Zone on Facebook to barter for what you need without having to spend any money.


Borrow a dress from a friend for that big event or hot date.  Hit up the library for the book you’re dying to read.  And check out The Sharing Depot to borrow a ton of other things like camping gear, party and AV supplies, sports equipment, toys and board games.  This could become a whole new way of life!


Post photos of Costa Rica around your house so you keep yourself motivated by reminding yourself of the incredible experience that awaits you.  Choose an inspiring quote that will help keep you on track and make it your phone’s wallpaper.  When you are tempted to spend on a want think about your future volunteering and the difference it will make in your own life and the lives of those you will serve in Costa Rica. Then repeat the mantra “I won’t get it now so I can give it later”.

10. Sign up for the Early Bird Special now and save $1000 off the Program Price! This early bird special is only available until June 30th.


Volunteerism, Costa Rica


Jill Valentine, B.Sc., RT, CLC, – Transformative Travel Coach

Jill Valentine is a co-founder of UGO Travel for Change, founder and author of Dare to be a Dandelion, and a pioneer in the transformative travel arena.  As a Transformational Travel Coach Jill harnesses the innate powers of travel and volunteerism as tools for sustainable personal and global change.  A passionate humanitarian, volunteerism specialist and world traveller, she lives by the words “Make it happen!”