Travis is one of the founding members of Bodhi Surf School, and the first person to whom we can give credit for its existence. There are several themes that been predominant throughout Travis’s life: sports, the ocean, altruism, and entrepreneurship. Today, Travis is probably best recognized as the connector at Bodhi Surf School: he connects us and others to various people, companies, organizations, and goings-on all around Costa Rica. But what trajectory did he take to lead him to where he is today, an owner and operator of a surf and yoga camp in Costa Rica?
Early life and sports
Travis James Bays was born in San Diego, California. As a kid, he got into sports such as football, soccer, and especially baseball. He played pitcher and was the first freshman to make varsity baseball in ten years, and was first team all league for three years. During his high school years, he also played for the San Diego Gamers, an elite travel team made up of San Diego’s top players. Several of his ex-teammates and competitors made it to the major leagues (Adrian Gonzalez, Carlos Quintin, Mike McCoy, Mark Prior, Royce Ring, Aaron Harang). Travis too had dreams of making a career out of baseball, and up until college, he was following this dream and playing competitively.
Around the same time that he got seriously into baseball, he also became enamored with “Mother Ocean” (as he still lovingly calls it to this day); first finding a passion for the waves through boogie boarding, and in his early teens, becoming hooked on surfing. It seemed that these two sports competed for the number one spot in his heart, with surfing eventually winning out as he left the pitcher’s mound and started his life around the ocean.
Altruistic at a young age
People who meet Travis almost always notice his fierce passion for being an active participant in his community and encouraging others to do the same, and this is something that has been a common theme throughout his life. Here is an interesting story from his childhood about doing good in his community, which he describes in his college entrance essay:
At the mere age of 6 I discovered how important it is to contribute positively to the community and surrounding people. An event took place in my life that I’ll never forget. It was in October 1987 when the news flashed a panicked mother sobbing, “Time is running out for my daughter.” This mother was concerned with her daughter LeNora Flowers, then 18, lying in a hospital bed listless. She’d die soon without a new heart but her family couldn’t afford the 70,000-dollar transplant.
The emotions I had are indescribable. I was upset to see such a young life about to fade away. The news station displayed a number for the transplant fund and I wrote it down. It was at this point, that I realized no matter how small my contribution would be, it could help LeNora.
Six months earlier, my friends and I had organized a club to take out neighbors’ trash for, 25 or 50 cents per load. The deal was to take our earnings and split it between the four of us. All I could think of was how sick LeNora appeared, so I made phone calls to my pals and convinced them to donate their profits, too. The total amount was $40 but it was a significant donation, leading to the influence of other people. Channel Ten followed with a story on my gift to LeNora and more donations poured in. By March 1988, $72,438 had been collected, and LeNora received a new heart.
I received the Channel Ten-Leadership Award for my positive contribution and personal efforts that make a difference for San Diego. My personal feelings about this experience have never left my heart. LeNora has passed away but I rejoice that I contributed to extending her life a few more years. I learned being kind and generous, no matter what you give, will make a difference. Donating your time and effort is always appreciated.
I am a learner as you are to, and learning is a staircase that we keep climbing. We broaden our perspective day by day, with experiences that we confront. Sometimes we may stall at a stair, only to regain our footing and keep achieving our goals. My experience with LeNora at such a young age provided me a commitment to strong values: education, hard work, respect for others, respect for nature. With these values I am confident. Not because what I have achieved, but what I know I can accomplish.
Education and travel
He got into travel during his teen years, taking surf trips up the coast of California and down to Mexico with both family and friends. He found that travel was the ultimate educator, and was especially engaged by those experiences that travel is famous for providing: getting us out of our comfort zone, stretching our boundaries, and re-orienting us. In 2002, in his Junior year of college at the University of San Diego — interestingly enough, the first semester after 9/11 — he did a semester abroad in Madrid, Spain, where he deepened his understanding of the realities of life and began to better comprehend that people do fundamentally view the world differently.
During his study abroad, Travis became immersed in certain aspects of Spanish culture, he was studying anthropology and spent considerable amounts of time sitting on corner streets and observing the people. He also connected deeply with his host family, and enjoyed delving deep into Spanish culture, and experiencing more than just the tip of the iceberg. After his semester was over, Travis did some traveling around Europe, visiting Italy, Switzerland, France, and Portugal. Both during and after college, he jumped on opportunities to travel to Brazil and mainland Mexico.
Entrepreneurship and work experience
Travis has always had an entrepreneurial streak to him. During college, he owned and operated two small businesses, a surf school and a yacht-cleaning business in San Diego called Evening Glass LLC. After he graduated, he was offered a position working for L. Christopher Yachts, who then had offices in both San Diego and Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Mexico. He decided to sell his shares of the business and moved to Guerrero, Mexico for a year. After leaving that job, he started Seven Seas International, an import-export company servicing the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo area but it failed and Travis fell into debt, sleeping on peoples’ couches and sometimes in his ‘79 Jeep Cherokee until he finally “slapped [him]self on the face”, put his ego in check, and moved back home to start a full-time job search.
He interviewed with American Express, JP Morgan, and Wells Fargo Financial — the latter offering him a job on the spot which he immediately declined, but a week later accepted. He graduated their three month training program and led in sales, but after the first month realized he was heading down a path that didn’t reflect his values. It only took a few months for Travis to realize that this work wasn’t for him. Like so many who work jobs they don’t like, he remembers that sick feeling he would have on Sundays knowing that Monday he’d have to go in to work. However, unlike many, he made the decision to go a completely different route. He had always wanted to do something like the Peace Corps, and after attending an expo at USD he was greatly inspired by the regional recruiter, Rudy Sovinee. He made the decision to apply and was accepted to start in May of 2005. Interestingly enough, 2015 is not only Bodhi Surf School’s fifth anniversary, it also marks the ten years of since Travis first came to Costa Rica to begin his Peace Corps service.