6 takeaways Life is Good Co-founder Bert Jacobs brought back from his trip to Costa Rica

One of the Life is Good guys went on a Life is Good Vacation—and experienced more than he bargained for.

Bert Jacobs, co-founder and Chief Executive Optimist of Life is Good, went to Costa Rica last November to experience Life is Good Vacations for himself. He was on a group trip with six people of varying ages, activity levels, and beliefs. But these differences all but disappeared on the zipline or in the surf. They looked out for one another. They shared meals. They even helped organize a spontaneous proposal (oh, yes). The trip reinforced what Bert loves about travel—culture, food, adventure—and it taught him a few lessons along the way.

1. Just about anyone can go on an adventure trip.

Bert has traveled around the world. He’s biked rocky terrain and gone on safari in Africa. He’s used to traveling with people who are as up for adventure as he is, so he wasn’t sure what to expect from a group trip that included everyone from millennials to retirees. But he never felt like anyone was out of their element, even on the zipline or rafting along whitewater rapids. There was enough planned for everyone to feel comfortable—and to venture a little bit outside their comfort zone.

2. A good guide makes for a really good experience.

The group’s guide, Marco, didn’t just love Costa Rica’s unique ecosystem, culture, and history; he wanted the group to love it, too. On road trips from adventure to adventure, Marco took the time to explain the wildlife they passed on either side of the road—and all the beauty that was just out of sight. Bert learned about the vast number of species in Costa Rica, the most biodiverse country in North America, as Marco threw out facts and numbers from memory. Every experience, even the bus ride, offered something new to learn.

3. Eat where the locals eat—and ask for what’s not on the menu.

After a morning spent surfing, Marco took the group to a local restaurant. But it felt more like he had taken them home. Making his way to a table big enough to fit the group, Marco high-fived and hugged people waiting tables and hanging out by the kitchen. They were with a friend, which meant the group would get to eat a meal that wasn’t on the menu that day. “It was a homemade soup, delicious and special,” Bert said.

4. Be open to spontaneity.

A few days into the trip, Tyler, one half of a 24-year-old couple, quietly told Bert and the guys, “I can’t believe I’m saying it, but I’m thinking about getting engaged on this trip.” He had been researching where to pop the question back home in Colorado, but he hadn’t expected to be so taken by Costa Rica’s natural beauty. Just like that, plans were set in motion. Bert ran around with the group, trying to find a device that would reliably play Ray LaMontagne’s “You are the best thing” in the middle of the rainforest. Hours later, the sound of music and birds came together with a resounding, “Yes.”

5. You can make meaningful connections with people you don’t know.

Bert connected with everyone on the trip, but one person stood out to him in particular. Janice had just lost her husband, who was supposed to come with her on the trip, but decided to push through her grief and go anyway. During the group’s whitewater rafting trip, she fell off and got caught in the rapids. Everyone on the raft came together to pull her back in, concerned that this would be her breaking point. But as soon as Janice was back with the group, she had a good, long laugh. After that, Bert said, “The trip just clicked,” and everyone felt a little closer for sharing Janice’s experience.

6. Make time for free time.

Every day, the group had time to go off on their own and enjoy their surroundings. It gave Bert—and everyone else on the trip—time to do more of what they loved. He found himself doing what each of the trip’s activities seemed to aim for: Connecting with others. But there was always time to take the path to the ocean for a little peace, quiet, and that true-blue sky.

Interested in your own adventure? Check out where Life is Good Vacations is going next.