Life’s a wave, catch it…
After realizing I had cooked breakfast for almost 90 days straight, we’ve gone out to breakfast at The Outback a couple of times recently. They are known for affordable, delicious food, usually about $5 per meal (they are also known for very large $2 glasses of hangover-inducing wine)
We’ve tried a few items now and enjoy their fresh fruit platter, delicious coffee, pancakes, platanos (plantains), bacon, gallo pinto (rice & beans) and scrambled eggs. We love sitting upstairs, where no one notices us as they walk by on the street below, which makes for perfect people-watching. From the upstairs loft we have a view of the jungle and the soccer field next door, while still being able to hear the waves crashing against the sand.
One of my favorite things about Costa Rica is sitting in a restaurant, but still being able to enjoy the wildlife around us. From our seats we watch as a squirrel builds himself a bed of fig leaves in a coconut tree. He scurries back and forth, hopping from branch to branch, on a squirrel mission to build his squirrel home so he can take a mid-morning squirrel nap.
From the next tree over he is spied on by a large grey bird, trying but failing to camouflage himself in a small tree amongst bright pink flowers. An iguana rustles by us in the leaves outside, pausing to look up as a red dragonfly flutters above him, followed by two yellow butterflies twirling in circles, playing tag in the sun.
We have eaten our fill and notice the squirrel has disappeared, presumably to begin his siesta. The grey bird flies off, in search of another squirrel to spy on. The dragonflies are nowhere to be seen. We decide to follow their lead and move on with our day. In Costa Rica there is no time. We live by the sun and the moon, plan our days around the tide and the wildlife. Driven by nature, giving up control, seeing where life takes you.
Each day is new, and we are free to follow the path life lays in front of us every morning. No plans, no appointments, no dates. No clocks, no meetings, no running late. Just going with the flow of the day, learning to surf the waves of life…
America needs more hammocks…
In Costa Rica hammocks are everywhere. In every house, apartment, on every porch. They are at every beach bar. In every hotel, bed & breakfast, and hostel. At some hostels you can rent just a hammock for the night. Costa Ricans spend much of their free time swinging away life’s worries in a hammock. No wonder they are known to be some of the happiest people on the planet.
"If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live." -Lin Yutang
There is nothing we love more than throwing our two hammocks into our car and heading to the beach for the day. Swinging between two palm trees, listening to the ocean breeze, the waves crashing on the sand, watching the clouds drift by…is heaven. Anyone who suffers from depression should purchase a hammock, take it to the beach and spend a week there. That is the best medicine.
While sleeping in a hammock, with a touch of warm wind, we remember why we are in love with life…
If I was headed to a deserted island and could only take a few things with me, at the top of my list would be a hammock. More people in North America need hammocks. We have plenty of trees, porches, decks, yards...why don’t we have more hammocks? After a long day at work, everyone deserves some “hammock time”. More summer days should be wasted swinging in hammocks, getting lost in books.
“I would start a revolution, but I just bought a hammock.” – Zach Galifianakis
If more people around the world owned hammocks, there would be less war. Being lazy and killing time feels justified while lying in a hammock. It feels right. It feels good, it feels necessary.
Go buy yourself a hammock. You deserve one.
LIFE: the most spectacular show on Earth…
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein
If you’re feeling disconnected from life, take a trip to the happiest place on Earth. Not Disneyland, Costa Rica. Costa Rica, or “The Rich Coast”, has a way of awakening the simple sense of wonder and curiosity that lives inside us all. It brings out your inner child, forcing appreciation for life’s most simple moments and pleasures. This special country will make a nature-lover out of everyone.
Costa Rica. A place where the only alarm clock is the cry of a howler monkey. A country where you can find a fresh coconut easier than a fast food joint. A world where wild horses roam the beaches, bird species outnumber people, and fresh mangoes make the best meals.
Spending a special moment amongst the wildlife of Costa Rica is life-changing in such a pure, genuine way. Feeling a deep connection to, and appreciation for nature’s beauty is the secret to happiness. But even if you can’t take a vacation, go outside right now. Stand on the Earth, look up at the sun and count every beautiful thing you see.
Is it possible to stand on a beach, or in the grass, or in a jungle, forest, or on a mountain peak, in the sun, and feel anything but gratitude and appreciation for the beauty that surrounds us? There may not be wi-fi in these special places but you will find a better connection.
“Just feel the magic in the air and the power in the breeze, feel the energy of the plants, the bushes and the trees, let yourself be surrounded by nature at its best, calm yourself, focus and let magic do the rest.” – Sally Walker
We spent our last couple of days in Samara enjoying our two favorite beaches: Playa Carrillo and Playa Barrigona. We head to Barrigona on a Wednesday morning, with our hammocks and a pineapple for lunch. The beach is completely deserted. Hermit crabs are the only souls fighting for space on this stretch of sand.
We arrive at low-tide and spend the morning walking amongst the tidal pools, as the waves crash on the rocks around us. The day starts out sunny and pristine, a blank canvas for Mother Nature to paint to her choosing. We swing in our hammocks and feed the hermit crabs pineapple, watching as they swarm like an army around the pieces we drop in the sand.
The storm rolls in with the tide. The skies turn dark as thunder begins to warm up its voice. The layers of waves close the gap between us and the ocean. Walls of water envelop the tidal pools we stood in moments before. Swinging in a hammock, being sprinkled with drops of renewal, is refreshing. It may be raining on my journal, but not on my parade.
Andy breaks the comforting lull of the storm and asks “what time is it?” The dark sky suddenly looks like night. We are in an ocean storm vortex, a time-warp, and time has ceased to exist. I answer “I don’t know…I don’t have anything with a clock. It could be 11am...or 5pm.”
We so rarely have a way to tell the time these days, other than the position of the sun and the sounds of nature. We only have one working cell phone and sometimes we go days without looking at it. Back home if we left the house without our cell phones, even just for 5 minutes, we would panic. It made us feel naked to be without our phones.
I have to admit, I love not caring about a phone. It’s so nice to be completely unplugged. To be reached, only when you want to be. We do not miss spending days being hunched over cell phones. Sometimes to connect with the nature that surrounds us we must detach from the things that distract us.
Spend more quiet time meditating. Turn off your cell phone and tune out the noisy world around you. Your soul knows what to do, the challenge is to quiet your mind.
You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.
Meditating is being in tune with your inner energy source. I may not meditate in the typical way: on a yoga mat, in a yoga studio, with legs crossed and my cell phone silenced. When I meditate it is usually on a beach, in a hammock, listening to the waves, watching the clouds, while eating a pineapple.
Do what works for you. You can meditate anytime, anywhere, in any way.
Happiness is an inside job…
If I asked you to name all the things that you love in the world, how long would it take before you named yourself?
The hardest thing for people to see is themselves. Stop searching for someone who can change your life and look in the mirror. Don’t look to others to meet your every need. Only you can do that for yourself. Wherever you go, there you are. Stop running from yourself and spend some quiet, alone time with the only person who can actually make a difference in your life.
Take quiet moments, as God whispers and the world is loud…
Learn to enjoy your own company. If you can’t, how do you expect others to? Don’t feel lonely. The entire universe is inside you. Learn to be happy for no reason. If you’re happy for a reason, that reason can be taken away. Just keep smiling and one day life will get tired of upsetting you.
Don't just be good to others. Be good to yourself too.
The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others…
Happiness is homemade. You are only as happy as you think you are. Inhale confidence, exhale doubt. Stop comparing your behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s ‘highlight reel’. Everybody has problems. Everybody has bad times. But do we have to sacrifice all the good times because of them? Difficult roads lead to beautiful places (especially in Costa Rica).
Life is ebb and flow, ups and downs. Without the bad, how would we recognize and appreciate the good? Hard times are character-building. They are a blessing for the person they force us to become. Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you choose to deal with it. Attitude is the difference between and adventure and an ordeal.
“When you think everything is someone else’s fault you will suffer a lot. When you realize that everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy.” – Buddha
Until we meet again Samara…
Seeing how hard it is to leave Samara for only a month, I’m already dreading the day we leave forever. At least for now it’s just hasta luego, and not adios.
The first day we rolled into town our first stop was The Flying Taco for lunch. They had ice-cold Blue Moon beer, served with an orange slice of course. Looking back, that was the moment I knew I wanted to live here: eating fish tacos, drinking familiar beer in an unfamiliar town, absorbing the pura vida beach vibe that flowed through the muggy air like static electricity. You feel the special quality of this place the second you stroll into town.
Samara: the only place in the world you can see a grandpa surfer named Bambi doing a handstand on his surfboard, while riding a wave, at sunset. The only place where Ticos and Gringos are one, living together in rebellion on the same side of the line drawn in the sand by society. A place you have to stop your car to let wild horses cross the road. A place where you find heart-shaped mangoes that weigh five pounds. A place that has a habit of making residents out of visitors. Somewhere people show up, but never leave. A place where everybody knows your name.
Even when we do leave Samara for good, it will never be far. A part of this town, and the people who live here, will always live inside us. We will always be able to travel back in time, in our minds, and relive our time here. Our feet may leave someday, but never our hearts.
We will always have Samara…
Takes Two to Mango…
“Taste every fruit of every tree in the garden at least once. It is an insult to creation not to experience it fully”.
– Stephen Fry
Have you ever had a bite of the perfect mango? It is life-changing. A juicy, ripe mango is the most satisfying thing I have ever eaten. I didn’t think I could top the experience of the perfect pineapple, but now I’m in the midst of a mango obsession. I scour every store and fruit stand we pass for the perfectly ripe, ready-to-eat mango.
Mangoes are king of the fruit and have historically been known as a symbol of life and happiness. They are one of the most popular fruits in the world. More fresh mangoes are eaten around the world every day than any other fruit. Mango trees, also known as “wish-granting trees”, are discussed in different theological writings. Buddha himself has acknowledged the special, peaceful quality of a mango tree, and is known to have meditated in lush mango groves.
One afternoon I was cutting up a mango when Andy was at the beach. It was, as each one is, the best mango I’d ever eaten, a record sure to be broken by tomorrow’s arrival. Each bite was pure ecstasy, melting in my mouth. I was trying to save Andy some of this magic mango, so he could appreciate its perfection…but I couldn’t stop eating it!
I managed to get some self control and saved him one perfect bite. When he got home and I handed it to him, he savored it, rolling his eyes in ecstasy. He paused, looked around the room, as if searching for more, and says “That was the best thing I’ve ever eaten. We need to get more of that immediately.”
So off we go, again, in the hunt for another perfect mango…
When life gives you lemons…throw them back and yell “I wanted a mango!”
Run for the border…
We’re running for the border, but not to Taco Bell. To Nicaragua. If you are living in Costa Rica, but are not a resident, you have to leave the country every 90 days to renew your visa. These trips are known as “Border Runs”.
Nicaragua is the closest border to Samara, so we load up the forerunner with our friends Kalin & Eric for our 1st Border Run. They have both done quite a few border runs and know the ropes, so we’re glad to have them along. We left early so we’d be able to cross the border, come back and make it home by dark. (We hired someone to dog sit Sophie for the day so she wouldn’t be home alone.)
We are lucky and make it to the border in less than three hours. The lines are short and we fly through the process, minus a few bored people who try to briefly harass us and question our paperwork.
Everything is much cheaper in Nicaragua. Andy buys a handmade hammock from a guy for $11 (they are $30 in Costa Rica). We then stop in the duty-free store to stock up on half-price booze. Most alcohol is imported into Costa Rica, causing it to be twice as expensive, due to import taxes. Even the local beer in Costa Rica is about $10 per 6-pack. In Oregon I don’t mind paying $10 for a 6-pack of delicious ice-cold microbrew, but I won’t pay $10 for six knock-off-crappy-pee-tasting-wanna-be-budweisers. EW, that offends my soul.
A 12-pack of Nicaraguan Tona beer is only $9 once you cross the border, and bottles of vodka and rum are around $8 each instead of the usual $20+. You are allowed 6 bottles of liquor per person, so we stock up and will have more than enough to last until our next border run, and through the upcoming holidays and family visits.
Buying 12 bottles of good-quality booze for just over $100 in Nicaragua = priceless.
On our way home we stop at a jungle bar we’ve driven by many times, that Andy’s always wanted to stop at. We order cold drinks and enjoy the view of the lush jungle valley and the sound of a nearby waterfall. Andy and I spot two rare green macaws soaring through the jungle valley, calling to each other as they fly by.
Our jungle bar view:
After getting home we decided to celebrate our quick and successful border run with dinner at Hotel Giada with Kalin and Julie. We order a delicious thin-crust pizza with gorgonzola, jalapeno and onion. Then we head out to karaoke night at The Flying Taco. It was a fun-filled, memorable evening full of new friends, bad singing, cheap beer, and drunken dancing.
If you’re not barefoot you’re overdressed...
nelipot (n.)– one who walks barefoot
“Coming from a farming background, I saw nothing out of the ordinary in running barefoot, although it seemed to startle the rest of the athletic world. I have always enjoyed going barefoot and when I was growing up I seldom wore shoes, even when I went into town.” – Zola Budd
It’s very common to see locals walking around barefoot in Costa Rica. The bottoms of their feet are made of hard, worn leather, and they feel no pain as they effortlessly glide over the sharp rocks and shards of glass littered amongst the gravel roads. Boys sprinting, families walking, girls skipping…all barefoot. Maybe that’s why Costa Ricans seem to have a deeper connection to Mother Earth. Going barefoot is grounding. Walking barefoot is like being radiated with the heartbeat of the ground with each step you take.
“When you walk with naked feet, how can you ever forget the Earth?” – Carl Jung
Walk barefoot in the sand, or the grass, and feel the sunshine on your shoulders. It feels like freedom. Happiness is walking on the beach with naked feet. You were born barefoot for a reason, so take off your shoes and get your feet on the ground.
Be water, my friend…
“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless. Like water. You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put water into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee
Our bodies are 72% water. Every living thing is made of water. Water is the driving force of all nature. Water is life. Pure water is the world’s first and foremost medicine. The water cycle and the life cycle are one.
“A drop of water, if it could write out its own history, would explain the universe to us.” – Lucy Larcom
We are not a drop in the ocean, but the entire ocean in one drop. Together we are the ocean. The sea, life’s biggest playground, awaits. Floating effortlessly in the salt water, watching the cloud shapes lazily tumble across the teal sky above, is bliss. You can’t hide from yourself in the water. Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone.
“I want to be like water. I want to slip through fingers but hold up a ship.” – Michelle Williams
Saying goodbye to Samara…for now.
We are winding down our last week in Samara, before we move to Playa del Coco for November. We’re excited to check out new beaches, towns, and waterfalls, but are sad to leave behind this special place and the friends we’ve made. It’s nice knowing we’ll be back for December and January, but it’s still sad to leave the life we’ve made here, even if only briefly.
When we return in December it will be a different town, in the midst of “busy season”, which we have yet to experience. We’ve heard stories of packed beaches, crowded bars, no tables at our favorite places…so we are savoring the laid-back, mellow month of October, where the town feels like ours. We’re spending our last week here doing our favorite things: eating at our favorite restaurants and trying new ones, spending lazy days at our favorite beaches, killing time at our favorite beach bars with our favorite people.
Our last night here happens to fall on Halloween, which is also the opening of a new bar downtown: Media Luna. There will be a costume party, along with a live band and a D.J. later in the evening. We’ll have to make it into a mini going away party for ourselves.
Hasta Luego Samara, you’ve been good to us! Try not to miss us too much...
Love is my religion…
“Spirituality is about being true to your soul. Are you a kind person, getting joy from your existence, causing no harm, and doing good to others? Love is the ultimate religion.” –Dr. Brian Weiss
On a recent morning beach walk, there are hearts all around me. Everything I see is in the shape of a heart: pieces of coral, shells, even patterns in the sand. I watch five wild horses playing in the surf. Two are touching noses, sharing love kisses, and the outline of their bodies forms the shape of a heart.
“Act from the heart – the true, loving heart – not the head. When in doubt, choose the heart.” – Dr. Brian Weiss
It’s a clear message from the universe that love surrounds us. It is everywhere, in everything. But we must choose to see. What surrounds us is what’s in us.
Only love is real.
“Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand”. –Mother Theresa
When the lights go down in the city…
When the power goes out, we go to the beach. It’s an unwritten rule. I actually like it when the power goes out during the day, it’s like the world is saying to us, “go have a beach day”. And we are not ones to argue. So when the power went out unexpectedly the other day, we decided to walk up and down the shoreline of Samara. We ended our walk at Lo Que Hay, and enjoyed ice cold beach beers & pork tacos. We noticed quite a few surfers in the water, so we walked down the beach to watch them.
Samara is not known as a top surfing destination in Costa Rica. The waves come in waves, and are inconsistent, which can be frustrating to an experienced surfer. But at the perfect time of day, when the tide, waves and sun are just right, the local surfers trickle out and form clusters in the ocean, fighting for space. There is a parallel line of surfers in the sea today, patiently waiting for the ocean to deliver the perfect wave, before the sun goes down.
They read the ocean like a book, their instincts take over, and they begin to paddle furiously. Two surfers fight for the best spot in one wave, and battle it out, narrowly avoiding a salty collision. A kayaker rides the crest of the next wave into the shore, paddling with strain to keep himself straight. At the last minute, just as it appears he has made it, his kayak drifts sideways, and the wave tosses him out of the boat, churning him into the ocean floor.
We notice a surfer on an over-sized surfboard, practicing his hang-ten. The size of his board dominates the surf, as others dive out of his way. We observe a small, local kid, who always seems to get the best waves, leaving everyone else in his surf dust. He must have a special relationship with the ocean, it seems to favor him. He carves a path into the roaring wave, cutting left and then quickly right, trying to create more momentum. He glides across the water with ease, precision and pure athleticism. It’s as if he was born in the ocean and instead of feet he grew a surfboard. He is fascinating to watch and we are mesmerized by his moves, as the sun sets behind us. The ocean reflects the setting sun and sparkles with hues of pink and orange. Life looks like a painting.
We slowly drift in the direction of home. We stop at the Super Samara and buy a fresh pineapple and mango for dessert. They smell amazing and make my mouth water. It is moments like these I’m so glad we moved to Costa Rica. When the power goes out, we go to the beach, and marvel over the beauty that now lives outside our door. Hunting for the perfect pineapple to end the day with, is one of life’s simple pleasures. It’s the small things that count. Years from now, when I reflect on our time in Costa Rica, I know I will remember this pura vida day of power outages, wave-battling surfers and perfect pineapples.
a lover of rain; someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days.
“Nature always reflected the image of my soul. On days filled with tears the heavens cried along with me.” - St. Therese of Lisieux
After a night of rain beating furiously down on our metal roof, we awaken to a new world. The power of the rain is a force to be dealt with. The torrential downpours have washed away old patterns, replacing them with new ones. Dawn shines on a different world today.
Walking the beach we notice the power of the water flow has carved new rivers into the sand, bleeding into the ocean, exposing unseen rock beds. Everything is changed, new. The rain has left its mark. What was before, is now gone. What never was, now is. The world is starting over, painting a new beginning.
“What is the scent of water? Renewal. The goodness of God coming down like dew.” – Elizabeth Goudge
The best thing to do when it’s raining is to let it. Every storm runs out of rain. It can’t rain forever, but into each life some rain must fall. Birds will always sing again. You can find peace amidst the storms that threaten you. Through hardship comes renewal. If you weather the storm, the rain brings sun. No rain, no rainbow.
“Some people feel the rain, others just get wet”. –Bob Marley
Act like summer, walk like rain.
“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather”. –John Ruskin
Cuckoo for Coconuts…
Fresh, ice-cold coconut water cures everything. Especially hangovers. I know this because we found a place that serves a $2 glass of wine, and when I say ‘glass’ I mean ‘half of a bottle’. After three of these (maybe four), and not eating much, I woke up with a horrific hangover. As soon as I opened the fridge and saw the coconut inside, I knew it would help, even if that meant having to find the machete and go outside and chop it open at 5am in my pajamas.
Coconut water is incredibly hydrating and is packed with potassium, which is a key nutrient for feeling better, fast. The sweetness makes it easier to get down than regular water, especially when hungover, and it’s full of vitamins, minerals & electrolytes. Coconut water is Mother Nature’s sports drink. It tastes like happiness.
Not only does it hydrate the body, but it also kills intestinal worms, breaks up kidney stones & kills cancer cells. It is antibacterial & antifungal, controls vomiting, flushes toxins from the body, aids digestion, alkalizes the system, balances blood sugar, supplies energy, improves circulation, burns fat and is great for our skin. It is also a known remedy for cramps, constipation and anxiety. It can also be used, in emergencies, as a substitute for blood plasma. Coconut water is sterile and has an ideal PH level. It is liquid endosperm – it surrounds the embryo and provides nutrition. It truly is a miracle fruit and proves Mother Nature knows what she is doing.
I’m going to savor every coconut I crack open. I miss many things about home, but I already know none of it will compare to how much I’ll miss drinking fresh coconut water every day once we leave this special place. That thought reminds me to savor every single coconut-loving minute of our Costa Rican journey.
“I drink a lot of coconut water. It balances out all the other toxic stuff I put into my body.” -Rihanna
We lose ourselves in books, but we find ourselves there too...
Amidst the power, internet and water outages, you must be able to entertain yourself around here. Doing nothing is easier when you have working internet. My kindle is convenient and very nice to have, in fact it is necessary in Costa Rica. When packing our stuff to move here, weight was an issue. I knew I could not bring paperback books. Especially my well-worn collection of favorites. But paperback books, written in English, are hard to find here. So the kindle saves my day when I feel like getting lost in a new world of words.
When I finish a book on my kindle, it’s very convenient to be able to instantly download another. Yet I miss the feel of an actual, physical book in my hands. A book doesn’t need to be charged in an outlet. The battery of a book cannot die when the power goes out. I dream of my favorite books back home, and holding them in my hands during a dark, rainy power outage. The smell of a book, the feel of a book, the history of a book and the wonder about those who have previously held it…I never knew I would miss those things. The comfort of sitting down with my favorite book, one I already know I love, one whose words I have memorized, is something I miss.
“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” –Oscar Wilde
A book is a dream that you hold in your hand. A gift you can open again and again, portable magic. A library is a hospital for the mind. Only a true reader knows the devastation of finishing a great book. After turning the last page I must take time to mourn the end, to reflect on the lessons learned and the impact it has made on my soul, before I can give myself to another book. I need to get to know the new version of myself, after reading it. Books have a way of coming into your life at just the right time…
“You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.” –Paul Sweeney
I’m quitting life to become a mermaid. Who’s with me?
I must be a mermaid. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.
95% of the ocean is undiscovered. No one can tell me, as a proven fact, mermaids don’t exist. So I choose to believe. Everyone must believe in something, so why not? We are confined only by the walls we build ourselves. Call me crazy if you must, but mermaids do not lose sleep over the opinion of shrimp.
Movies like “Splash” and “The Little Mermaid” made a mark on girls of my generation. Doesn’t every little girl dream of being a mermaid? Of having salt water running through her veins? Isn’t it better, down where it’s wetter? If there is magic on this planet, it must be contained in water. The ocean is home. Have I dreamt I am a mermaid, or am I a mermaid dreaming I am me? If it’s the former, then I have to admit…kinda pissed about not being a mermaid.
Write your secrets in the sand and trust them with a mermaid…
advice from a mermaid:
~get your tail to the beach~
*don’t get tide down*
-be shore of yourself-
~always sea life’s beauty~
*come out of your shell*
-take time to coast-
‘keep the beach clean, it’s my home sweet home’
Blue Zones: where people live the longest.
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned or won. It is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude”. – Denis Waitley
“Blue Zones” is a concept used to identify a demographic and/or geographic area of the world where people live measurably longer lives, only occurring in a handful of places on Earth. This concept is the result of research by Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain, as they identified 5 areas with the highest longevity they called “Blue Zones”. These places have a high concentration of people over age 100, and there is a substantial disability-free and disease-free life. People live significantly longer happier lives, in these places, than anywhere else in the world. The Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica, is one of these known longevity hotspots. People living in this area of Costa Rica are more than twice as likely, as other Americans, to reach age 90.
Studies have shown that the people who inhabit these Blue Zones seem to share 9 significant life characteristics:
1- A REASON TO LIVE - plan de viva – have a life purpose.
2- HAVE FAITH – engagement in spirituality or religion is common.
3- FOCUS ON FAMILY & FRIENDS – before other concerns or focuses.
4- WORK HARD – a strong work ethic is always present, physical activity is a regular part of life.
5- DRINK HARD WATER – Nicoya’s water has high amounts of magnesium & calcium, drinking & cooking with this water results in strong bones and muscles.
6- EAT YOUR VEGGIES, a majority of food consumed in Blue Zone’s is from plant-based materials, including many nutritious, rich, colorful fruits and numerous fresh vegetables.
7- GET LOTS OF SLEEP – The people of Nicoya are known for sleeping & waking with the sun, and for getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night.
8- GET SOME SUN – a healthy, daily dose of sun: mother nature’s anti-depressant
9- DON’T SMOKE CIGARETTES – smoking is not common in Blue Zone communities.
And, it would be safe to assume, these Blue Zone people don’t forget to stop in their own pursuit of happiness, to just be happy. They realize that being happy or miserable is a choice we make every day. The amount of work is the same. So why not choose happiness? If you want to be happy, BE.
Luckily you don’t have to move to a Blue Zone to live longer. If you implement the above list into your daily life, you can create your own wherever you are. Play your Blue Zone defense, in order to tackle life’s hardships. Change the way you see your world and create your own “happiness hotspot”. Just get in the Zone.
“walk in the rain,
stop along the way,
go on field trips,
find out how things work,
say the magic words,
trust the universe.”
We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.
The other day Andy heard Sophie screeching outside and rushed out to find her sitting in the grass, calmly, with an entire crab leg attached to her foot. He later found the crab, both claws missing. Poor little crab, he didn’t have a chance against the Sophinator. She showed no mercy, ripping him limb from limb. But it was the crab, or Sophie I guess. No room for both, it is a small town.
Costa Rica makes such an animal lover out of everyone. I can’t even think about that poor leg-less crab. Seeing a squished iguana in the road, the other day, made me want to cry. We should have at least stopped and had a little service for him, or said a prayer. But what does one say at an iguana funeral?
The wildlife here is so special, it’s a tragedy to witness the early demise of a Costa Rican critter. The eyes of an animal speak a universal language. Maybe we have more to learn from animals than animals have to learn from us. Some people talk to animals, but not many listen.
“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.” –James Herriot
Walking through rivers and Cornholio…
We visited Barrigona beach again (hidden surfers beach), this time Sophie came along. The river you have to walk through, to get to the beach, was about waist deep. Andy carried Sophie through the first crossing, but she swam herself across on the way back. She is a pretty good little swimmer. You’d think something the size of a hot dog, built like a tank, would immediately sink. But maybe she is a water dog after all.
The beach, when we got there, was completely deserted. We found a great spot in the shade and walked the short stretch of pure, white sand. Sophie hunted hermit crabs, while we napped in the shade. Andy collected sand, to fill his cornhole bags with (sandhole?). The beach slowly began to fill up with families, lovers and surfers. The day was a bit overcast, making the temperature bearable, with a nice side of ocean breeze.
The next day we took Andy’s freshly painted cornhole boards down to the beach in front of Lo Que Hay, and broke them in. It’s so much fun playing on the beach, in the sand with the waves crashing in the background, as the sun goes down. The boards turned out great, one is the Costa Rican flag and one is the flag of Guanacaste. Andy got a few locals to play, hopefully it’ll be a hit here. It’s a perfect beach game.
TRAVELING – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller
The animal watching is a full-time job around here, and I take my new job very seriously. Around each corner is a new, exciting animal encounter.
We had a small, adorable porcupine living in our mango tree for four days. The other day Andy saw a yellow-bellied sea snake at the beach, swimming in the bay. I get to watch hummingbirds and iguanas from the window in our shower. Wild horses constantly roam the streets of Samara. We’ve heard stories of a baby hammerhead shark recently being caught in Samara Bay, and the story of the crocodile that lives in a cave at the end of the beach.
After sharing our experience of seeing a crocodile at Playa Carrillo, we are told more stories of the four crocodiles that live there, one is reportedly a MONSTER. And grander stories of school kids fishing for crocs on the bridge, with hot dogs tied to strings. Apparently the crocs jump out of the water to eat the hot dog, which is quite the sight and always draws a crowd. I’ve never seen hot-dog-crocodile-bridge-fishing on a tour brochure before, but we better add that to the bucket list.
I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list…
We’ve been discussing where we want to live next. We will be in Playa del Coco for November, and then back to Samara for December and January. But we have no plans beyond that. People always ask us what our plan is, and our only plan is to have no plan.
“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” – Rosalia de Castro
Monteverde is a place we’ve heard great things about. We’d like to experience living amongst the rural mountains, volcanoes, the famous cloud forest, and cool air. We’d also like to see the remote Osa Peninsula, and be surrounded by more nature and less people. And of course the gorgeous Caribbean side. Maybe even onto Panama for a while, and possibly Nicaragua. We could spend a month or so in each place, longer if we really like one area. We love Samara, and want to spend more time here before our move back to the states, but decided we may as well travel while we have the time. Once we move back to Oregon, we will most likely spend the rest of our lives living in one place. We have to embrace the freedom we have now, and the ability to open the map and say “where to next?” We want to see every drop of this beautiful country.
The world is big and we want to get a good look at it, before it goes dark.
We took another road trip to Playa Corozalito. The pothole-ridden, narrow road makes the trip slow, but interesting.
Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey. Driving that slow allows us to truly appreciate the jungle and wildlife surrounding us, as we are constantly on the lookout for new animal sightings. We are lucky and come across our first white-nosed coatimundus, known locally as pizotes. They are a member of the raccoon family and remind me of a mix between a monkey and a raccoon. He gallops across the road, pausing briefly to look up at us, and then disappears into the trees. Almost to the beach we notice a bush surrounded by hundreds of dragonflys, all different colors. We pull over to admire the sight. It appears they are all gathered for a very important meeting and are oblivious to our arrival.
Driving down the bumpy beach road we notice the beach is deserted and we find the perfect covered picnic table to claim as our spot for the day. The wooden hut is painted a turquoise that matches the ocean and the picnic table is surrounded by low-hanging coconut trees. We spend the afternoon walking the beach, cutting down coconuts, shell-hunting, body surfing the waves, and beach-napping. We stay hydrated with lots of fresh coconut water. Coconut water tastes like happiness. I’m so grateful for the image that will be forever seared into my memory of Andy karate chopping coconuts with a machete mid-air, on the beach during a lightning storm, wearing nothing but a bright blue sarong tied around his waist, like a skirt. You never know when you’re making a memory.
The thunder and lightning put on quite the show for us, as the afternoon storm rolled in quickly. I see five simultaneous lightning strikes over the ocean, and the thunder answers. The roar of the thunder matches the roar of the ocean, as if they are competing for our attention. The cool breeze of the storm filters through the muggy, salty air.
When we pulled in I noticed a pile of broken glass in the sand. It doesn’t look like a broken beer bottle, but more like someone’s car window was shattered. This puts me on edge and I tell Andy we better not wander too far from the car. In Costa Rica everyone says to never leave valuables in your car, locals will sneak up and break your window and steal your stuff in less than 30 seconds. A lot of times they hide in the jungle and wait for you to go swimming and stop paying attention. They know the roar of the waves will mask the sound of glass breaking.
As I was relaxing at a picnic table, Andy decided to go body boarding in the big, angry waves. I was zoning out, enjoying the sounds of the ocean and the birds. All of a sudden I got a bad feeling in my gut. Looking around, I didn’t notice anything to be wary of. The beach was deserted, we were the only people and the only car in sight.
I get up and slowly walk over to our car, and as I get close I notice the body of a man, shirtless, sneaking through the jungle in the direction of our car. Foliage blocks his face, but I watch as he takes slow, deliberate, stalking steps. The way he was walking gave me the creeps, like he was trying hard not to be seen or heard, and to blend into the jungle. It appears he is trying to sneak up behind our car, with the car between him and Andy. I assume he has seen Andy swimming and probably thinks this is his opportunity to break into our car, not knowing that I was there.
Suddenly I can see his face and our eyes meet. I watch the realization that he has been seen wash over his face. He is a deer in the headlights. In a flash he turns and sprints in the other direction, instantly disappearing into the jungle, confirming my suspicions that he was up to no good. I start to follow him because I wanted him to know he had been seen and that we were not easy targets. He may have gotten away with taking advantage of innocent, naïve tourists before, but this was his first encounter with an angry S.C. country girl from Oregon…
But I’m all talk (or writing I guess), and he melted into the lush jungle, never to be seen again. We were on high alert the rest of the day and felt as if we were being watched from the foliage. If he was watching us, I’m sure he was eventually scared off by Andy’s skirt-wearing-machete-coconut-chopping-beach-dance-routine.
animals are beautiful people…
October is a special month here. Slow season. The beaches are deserted, the town shuts down yet comes alive with a new vibe. The tourists melt away, replaced by authentic Costa Rican wildlife. The animals (and locals) seem to wait for everyone to leave, and then come out to enjoy the quiet world. Spending the afternoon at Playa Carrillo recently, we witnessed this first-hand.
Walking along the shoreline, to the tidal pools, we began the afternoon by spotting a stingray jumping out of the ocean in search of food, briefly flying parallel to the sea and then quickly disappearing below the surface. Up ahead we spot a recently hatched sea turtle egg, resting on the warm sand. A single pelican soars above us, prowling the water surface for any sign of life. A huge golden dragonfly flies over us, sparking in the sunlight. He must be king of the dragonflys, wearing all his riches on his back…
It is a perfect day for tidal pool exploring, the sun is bright and the water is clear. The pools are overflowing with sea creatures. We admire a pack of tiny electric blue fish, circling a sharp, black sea urchin. A gang of multi-colored hermit crabs, some the size of a grain of sand, patrol the sand floor, fighting for the best hiding spot. We notice a huge, bright blue puffer fish with yellow spots, trying to hide under a rock shelf, surrounded by a school of black fish, circling like security guards. A giant football-sized shell rests in one pool and we watch, with fascination, as whatever animal lives inside slowly maneuvers the awkward shell deeper into the water. We watch another puffer fish, this one yellow, try to swim from one tidal pool to another, briefly getting stuck in a shallow spot and furiously flapping his fins until he is able to move again. We are followed by a large monarch butterfly, while a smaller yellow butterfly follows him. As we are leaving we see a family of twelve howler monkeys swinging in a fig tree, howling at us. We howl back.
On our way home I ask Andy what he loves most about Costa Rica. He says “the beaches” and I say “the animals”, and we are both full of gratitude and appreciation for being able to spend such a beautiful day enjoying our favorite things.
Nature is painting for us, day by day, pictures of infinite beauty if only we have the eyes to see them.
oh, the humidity…
As I sit in our 93 degree house, sweating everywhere, I try to focus on the positive things that I’m grateful for:
1) I’m grateful that when I take butter out of the fridge it is instantly spreadable, which my toast also appreciates.
2) I’m grateful for cold showers.
3) I’m grateful for my sweat rag. It is the most important accessory and I never leave the house without it. Sweat rags are the new purses.
4) I’m grateful for how moisturized my skin stays in the humidity, it’s like living in a sauna.
5) I’m grateful that I never have to melt my coconut oil, it’s always in liquid state.
6) I’m grateful for ice-cold water bottles, straight from the fridge.
7) I’m grateful for the ocean, always a little cooler than the air temp.
8) I’m grateful for ceiling fans, room fans, window fans, any kind of fan! Air flow is necessary. Now I just need battery-operated fans for when the power goes out. I think I’ll invent a small, portable battery-operated personal air-conditioning unit. How does this not already exist?? (Andy says that it’s impossible, what a Debbie Downer)
9) I’m grateful for my cooling peppermint body mist.
10) I’m grateful for when Andy leaves to run an errand and I can sneak into the bedroom and crank the A/C on full-blast for 5 wonderful minutes.
if you live like money is all that matters, you’re doing it wrong…
In order for us to move to Costa Rica and travel for a couple of years, we had to sell our house. Our home, that we loved dearly. Having lived in Bend, OR for over 10 years, we had already witnessed the booming real estate business crash and burn once. History is known to repeat itself, and we were worried this would happen again. So we decided to put our house on the market, pay off our debt, quit our jobs, sell our stuff and chase our dreams.
Finances have always been difficult, living paycheck to paycheck, making just enough to pay the bills. It was draining to spend so much time each week working, in jobs that didn’t satisfy us. Spending all of our time, the most precious and valuable thing given to any of us, on things we weren’t passionate about. We were both working hard, but to make other people money, to fund other people’s dreams, to meet other people’s goals. After working all week, we had nothing to show for it, except being tired, cranky and unsatisfied with our lives. We became slaves to our house, the mortgage, the bills and the maintenance of it all. The most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want, on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later. It’s pointless to work for the life you don’t have time to live.
In almost 2000 square feet, we had a huge backyard, a hot tub, a mancave, a steam sauna, 4 flatscreen TV’s, 3 HD receivers, 2 full bathrooms. But we were only 2 people. How typical of the “American Dream”. You work so hard, essentially giving away your life to other people, in order to collect “things” you don’t need, to impress others, resulting in your eternal misery. Yet you pretend to be happy and satisfied, because others knowing your true misery would be the real tragedy here, right? So we all smile, pretend, and fake it, not only to convince others that we are happy, but also ourselves. Why not create a life that feels good on the inside and not one that just looks good on the outside?
The day the sale of our house went through was an incredibly significant day in my life. I learned the most valuable, empowering and priceless lesson: that money doesn’t make me happy. Well, that’s a relief. Now I can go off in search of what does bring me happiness, and stop being a slave to the “American Dream”. If wealth brings you happiness, then the rich should be dancing in the streets. But only poor kids do that. If you want to feel rich, count all the things in your life that money can’t buy. Remind yourself that there are people so poor, that the only thing they have is money. The secret to having it all is believing you already do. Work for a cause, not for applause. Live life to express, not to impress.
“DON’T GAIN THE WORLD AND LOSE YOUR SOUL. WISDOM IS BETTER THAN SILVER OR GOLD.”
Mastering the art of doing nothing…
When our friend Julia came to Samara for her first visit she brought her friend Claudia with her. When they got here Julia asked Claudia what she wanted to do during their trip. Claudia said “absolutely nothing”. Julia said she struggled with that, being okay with doing absolutely nothing. She’s a planner, a doer, a typical American who wants to fill their vacation with activities and sights-to-see. Claudia is also an American, but has lived in Costa Rica for almost 2 years. She said it took her 6 months for her to become okay with doing nothing, and a few more to actually enjoy doing nothing. Her husband is Costa Rican and his family’s favorite thing to do is: NOTHING.
She described five hour dinners, where much of the time was spent sitting in silence, just enjoying each other’s company. It took her a while to embrace the awkward dinner silence, and to not jump to fill in the gaps with useless babble and conversation. Once she learned to let go of the awkward silence, the silence became less awkward.
She told us that, in her opinion, most Americans aren’t good at ‘doing nothing’. They come to Costa Rica with a week of free time, they plan multiple activities and fill every second of their day, often leaving more exhausted than when they got here. They leave needing a vacation from their vacation.
Costa Ricans are good at doing nothing and they don’t feel guilty about it. We all work hard in life (or we used to at least), and taking the quiet moments to “just be” is exactly what pura vida means. Quiet the mind, so you can listen to your heart. I think we could all use more quiet moments in our lives: peaceful, silent moments, of doing absolutely nothing. Lucky for me, I’m already really good at doing nothing. For others (Andy), this may take some practice…
Andy’s Driving School…
Costa Rica is the 10th worst country to drive in, in the entire world. Only 10th?? I can’t imagine that it can get much worse than this. That is truly terrifying. It is reassuring to know that Andy can drive anywhere. Literally. We had the brilliant idea of starting a non-profit agency here called Andy’s Driving School. We wouldn’t charge anyone, we’d just give out free driving classes since everyone here needs it so badly, to better the country overall. We could make up little business cards and hand them out to the worst drivers on the road. Congratulations! You suck and have been nominated for a free class where you can learn how to suck a little less. Maybe we can help Costa Rica drop to the 11th worst country to drive in. We have big goals in life…
All you need is less…
Life is just simpler here. Easier. I’ve seen so many local women walking around, carrying a baby in their arms. No baby sling, no stroller, not even a diaper bag in sight. If the kid pees they can either walk home to change him, let him run around naked, or embrace the fact that he won’t die if he has on a wet diaper for 20 minutes. They walk their kid to the beach for the day. No swings, no bouncy things, no sleeping pillows, no bottles. No toys, except the best ones: the sand and the ocean.
People make us think we need all this stuff. But do we really? Are we any happier with it? I’ve heard many new parents say they understand the minivan joke (as soon as you have a kid, you end up with a minivan). The van isn’t needed in order to have enough room for the kid, but for all the stuff.
Life in Costa Rica is so simple. Less stuff, less stress.
Do you own your stuff, or does your stuff own you? Owning isn’t bad. But we must understand that there is a price to be paid for everything we own. Owning too much chips away at our freedom. We don’t buy things with money, we buy them with hours from our lives. Don’t buy things you don’t need. If things are not adding up in your life, start subtracting.
To reduce stress, give up your attachment to stuff and things. Collect moments, not things. You don’t need to own a lot of stuff to be happy. All you need is less… (the word ‘stuff’ has been used so many times it has now lost all meaning.)
The difference between men and women…
Andy and I purchased a mosquito zapping racquet (thanks to Katy for bringing it to us!). It has come in very handy as we become avid & dedicated mosquito hunters. Nothing is more satisfying than getting them before they get me.
When searching on Amazon for the perfect mosquito zapper, I made sure to read all the reviews on each one. I found it hysterical that every review written by a man started off with “It works! I zapped myself pretty good, just to see what it felt like.” Really? How idiotic! Who does that?? I just cannot picture a woman intentionally zapping herself with a piece of equipment that is made to kill insects instantly upon contact, with a lethal jolt of electricity. I got a good laugh over those reviews. And once our mosquito zapper arrived, I got an even better laugh after Andy comes inside and says “it works! I zapped myself pretty good just to see what it felt like.”
So that leads me to this question: If we put a group of women in an isolated room with an electric mosquito zapper, how many of them would zap themselves with it? My bet is 0. And how many men would? All of them. And that, my friends, is a factoid…
Don’t let your dreams be dreams…
In May of last year Andy came home from a bonfire at a friend’s house, walked into my office at 10pm on a Saturday night, as I was working, and said “Do you want to sell our house and move to Costa Rica?” “YES PLEASE”, I instantly replied, without thinking, before he even got the whole sentence out. Sometimes you have to stop thinking so much and just go where life takes you. Think less, jump more.
I felt like I had been waiting my whole life for him to walk into that room and ask me that question. I came across a post card many years ago, that really stood out to me. I kept it tacked up in my bathroom for years. It was a picture of this tiny yet cozy cottage, built over the ocean, with a sea kayak tied up outside. So simple, beautiful and peaceful, I considered it my “happy place”. The quote at the bottom read “If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it.” That postcard always felt like home to me and seemed significant, so I hung onto it for all these years. Looking back, I think I needed that message in my head, permanently. So I would know exactly how to react when I was asked to sell everything I own and move to a country I had never been to and couldn’t point out on a map.
Ironically I had my palm read a few months before our big life decision. I recently came across the notes I took and it blew my mind. She told me that I had a major life change coming up, and that I was going to be given the opportunity to go on a very long, soul-searching journey. She said I needed to make sure to go for as long as possible and that this was a life-changing opportunity for me. She said the main lesson in this, for me, was to learn to let go of things in my life that I love, but that no longer serve me. To reduce the clutter in my life and to live more simply. To live outside my comfort zone, because that’s where life begins.
It’s amazing to me now how accurate that reading was. It’s also amazing to me how so many things in my life had to have gone the exact way they did, in order for me to say yes to Andy’s question that night. The books I’d recently read, the movies I’d watched, the conversations I’d recently had, the palm reading, my frustration with my work schedule & work stress, getting bad news about the health of family members and friends, and so many other things, making us realize how short and precious life truly is. Life is too short to wait.
Everything had to have happened just that way, at just that time, to put me in the correct mindset to say yes to that question, at that moment in our lifeline. I knew this was my chance to live the life I always wanted. We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us. Even if we failed, and moved back in 3 months, that was better than to not even try. Not trying is worse than failing. I knew we couldn’t afford to live with the regret of not trying. “I really regret spending money on that epic, life-changing trip” (– said no one ever). After all, travel is the only thing you can buy that actually makes you richer…
The Earth makes music for those who listen…
Lying on the sand, under my umbrella, I take in the sights and sounds. The waves crash steadily against the shore, laying down the beat of a jungle song. The whispering ocean breeze melts through the palm trees, as the pelicans dive, breaking through the surface of the salt water, in search of freshly caught dinner. A high-pitched scream pierces the salty air as a small child sprints across the warm sand at full speed, splashing straight into the ocean, as his concerned parents trail behind, shouting warnings of caution. The deep and steady howls of the howler monkeys fill the atmosphere, as a hermit crab rustles by me in the sand. The sea wind lifts up the edge of my umbrella, allowing the velvety sun to briefly blanket me with its warmth. Lost in thought, lost in the jungle, lost on the beach…it feels good to be lost in the right direction…
Kari Pinkerton Silcox
It would be a tragedy to die, having never really lived. Which is why my husband Andy and I quit our jobs, sold our house and decided to chase our dreams. We moved to Costa Rica without a plan, and this is the story of our adventure.