Our Nomadic Kitchen

I can’t say enough about how much we have enjoyed having Our Nomadic Kitchen! 


In 2017 we packed up our life, and quit the 9-5 to head out into the world.  We came with no expectations, we only wanted to experience life.  Since we have left, we have packed more fun and adventure into our lives than we ever could have imagined.  Being on the road now for over a year, has brought with it the freedom to explore what it is that we want to do to create an income for ourselves, the time to pay attention to the things that are truly important to us, and the adventure to truly make life fun and interesting once again.  We left seeking an exciting life, and we have not been disappointed!  Join us as we explore as much of this big old world that we can!


Back when we were getting rid of all of our stuff, selling our house, and closing down our previous lives, we were given an amazing piece of advice by a friend of mine.  She had seen an article, somewhere on facebook, and she shared the article with me.  It was a post suggesting that if you want to be a full time traveller, you should consider taking a kitchen kit along with you.

It was not something that we had considered at that point, but it made so much sense!  How often do you get to an Air BnB or Hostel and the utensils are inadequate.  You can’t find something to take hot items out of the oven, the knives are ridiculously dull, the carrot peeler is piece of garbage.  It’s so true!  It literally happens ALL OF THE TIME!

Are you a foodie?

Well, if you are a foodie like us, and you love to cook your own food, I encourage you to consider creating a small kitchen kit that you can take around with you.  We use EVERY item in our kit on a regular basis, and we have even gone so far as to saying that, besides our electronics, it is our most valued possession!

Although, in the article, there were suggestions of what she would bring in her kitchen kit, we have tailored her list to our needs, PLUS we have also found unique items to add to it along the way.

I can’t say enough about how much we have enjoyed having Our Nomadic Kitchen!  It has saved our bacon so many times, and it’s just nice to know that we have what we need, and can really prepare a meal anywhere and have the right tools for the job.

I know this isn’t everyones cup of tea.  Many travellers like to travel with only the maximum amount to fill carryon bags, but it’s safe to say that we all travel differently, and we all have our own priorities.  My partner and I travel really slow!  We prefer to stay in most places that we go for long terms, 1 month minimum, if possible, and because we aren’t moving around too much, more luggage works for us.  We find that Our Nomadic Kitchen is a necessary and important trade off for our comfort on the road.

Check out what is in Our Nomadic Kitchen!

Our Daily Adventure Kit:

This sub-kit travels around with us in our day pack once we reach our destination.  This part of our kit gives us the tools we need to reduce waste in the world when we are eating out.

Kitchen Kit #2

Included in this is:

3 Pieces of Bee’s Wrap – These pieces of fabric are coated in beeswax, which means you can fold them around food, and they will stick to themselves, keeping your food contained.  We use these for non-liquid leftovers, to wrap breads and other snacks for picnics etc.

Cheese Bag – The brown bag you see is actually designed for cheese making, which it also has been used for, however, we use it more for getting items from the market, washing vegetables, and using it as a giant tea bag for making large batches of teas.

Metal Straws – Of course we are now all familiar with the destruction that straws cause in our world.  Many places we travel already don’t serve straws with drinks, which is great, but we are also happy to tell them ‘no straw’ when we order a drink, so we can instead us our metal straws.  Every little bit helps!  These are easily cleanable by simply pouring water down them immediately after use.

Recycled Plastic Cutlery – This cutlery is stored with the straws in the fabric pouch that you see.  Of course, these too are used in place of single use plastic forks, knives and spoons whenever we can.  A cute story about the pouch; We had been hauling around our cutlery and straws in our backpack with just an elastic holding them in place.  As you can imagine, we were concerned about the bacteria in our backpacks with pulling these out and using them all the time, so we decided to look for a little bag that could hold our items for us.  A day later we were in a restaurant in Guatemala when I saw a sign that they were selling locally grown and roasted coffee.  We decided to buy a pound, only afterwards realizing that the beautiful hand woven bag that it came in, would be PERFECT for our utensils!

Kitcen Kit #5

In the following photos you will see a variety of items. Let me explain them to you below:

Collapsible Funnel – The blue thing in the top left corner above is a funnel that collapses almost flat.  This is a very light weight item, that takes up barely any room!  We use it to transfer liquids into bottles, and sometimes to filter out liquids from solids.  Plus it is silicone, so it is heat resistant! There are many uses for funnels in the kitchen!

Silicone Pot Holders – How many times has your cooking been in the oven and you are scrambling around trying to find something to take your oven tray out with?  The red items at the top are silicone pot holders.  You simply put your thumb in one side, and your other fingers in the other (like you would a puppet), and their heat resistance means that you can grab any hot item from the oven, or use them to take hot lids off pots etc.

Leatherman Multi-Tool – This tool has many different things on it.  We use it as a small knife to take with us to picnics, and it has many different little tools on it that have come in handy for numerous little projects both in the kitchen and around the house.  If you were to have one item from this whole kit, the Leatherman would likely be the most bang for your buck, and should be every travellers companion.  This also travels with us in our day pack when we arrive to our destinations.

Mini Mortar and Pestle – We found this beautiful little mortar and pestle at an artisan market in Palenque, Mexico.  When Chris saw it, he knew that we needed to have it!  In Central America the spices are sold whole in the markets.  You can shop in the grocery stores for bottles of spices, but the ones in the markets are local and fresh!  This little mortar and pestle allows us to crush the delicious fresh spices that we come across, which add so much delicious flavour to our food.

Silicone Tongs – These are great for so many reasons as well!  Because they are silicone, they are again heat resistant, and can be used to remove hot items from the oven, mix up salads, transfer food from pan to plate and so much more!

Knife Sharpener – The red item at the bottom is a portable knife sharpener.  It not only keeps our knife sharp, but we sometimes sharpen the knives where we are staying as well!

Muddler – Of course, there are so many fresh herbs and spices growing all over the world.  It is wonderful to pick fresh mint and then muddle it into a lovely drink……like a Mojito! We actually bought this at the Bacardi Distillery while we were in Puerto Rico!

Small Shred Grater – This grater is fantastic and is used for so many things.  It actually stands up into a pyramid, and you can use it to grate cheese, spices, vegetables and so much more!  The reason it is dyed orange right now is because Chris has been grating fresh tumeric on it!  It also works fabulously for fresh ginger!

Costa Rican Coffee Sock – These socks are how Costa Ricans traditionally make their coffee.  They simply place the ground coffee in the sock, hold it over a mug, and pour boiling water through it.  We have 3 of these and we use them for both coffee and teas.  They are a fantastic item and can be used over and over and over again!  Plus, we NEVER have to look for a coffee maker, or be frustrated when we don’t have one that works!  All we need is boiling water, and we are golden!

Cork Screw/Bottle Opener – This item is actually excessive as we have a wine bottle opener on our Leatherman.  Plus Chris can open bottle tops with his ring!  So, one day this will likely be purged or passed on to a fellow traveller.

Kitchen Kit #3
Not pictured:  1 good quality vegetable peeler!

Folding Serving Spoon – The spoon at the top actually folds in half, making it marginally smaller.  It’s uses are obvious and it is surprising how few places have soup ladles or large serving spoons.

Silicon Pastry Brush –  Again the silicone means that we can use this in high heat situations.  This is a glamorous item in our kit, but we use it a lot to mostly brush sauces onto things in the oven.

Can Opener – I will admit that this item is not used a lot, since we primarily try and cook foods from scratch, and don’t buy much in the way of canned food. However, we still do once in a while, and this makes opening them a dream.  Again, can openers, like vegetable peelers are often in poor working order in most kitchens on the road.

Spatulas – It is probably redundant to have 2 spatulas, but one is great for large bowls and pots, and one is great for taking with us on a picnic to get sauces and dips out of their containers.  For the size and weight of having 2, we really aren’t that worried about it.

Global Chef Knife – I can’t express enough how nice it is to have a knife that really cuts, and that we can rely on!  Every traveller knows of the crap knives that are in many kitchens around the world.  It’s like the managers keep them dull on purpose so nobody cuts themselves!  Many people have asked how we are able to travel with it, but all of these items go in our checked bags, and we haven’t had any trouble yet!  (Knocking on wood here!!!)

First Aid Scissors – Thankfully we haven’t had to use these for first aid just yet! (More knocking….) But they can cut through pennies, so they have come in handy for many different things both in the kitchen and around the house, like cutting rope, wires and who knows what else!

Stove Lighter – We found this handy lighter holder in Costa Rica, and have only seen one other one since!  Check out the pic below to see how awesome this device is!  You put one regular large lighter into it (remove the child safety if there is one), then you push from the bottom and it provides an easy way to light stoves (kind of like our Bar B Que lighters in North America, but reusable forever!) This has been invaluable in so many kitchens where we have been travelling.  Most stoves are gas, and they are normally flanked by a tiny box of wooden matches.  These are a pain in the butt to use compared to this beauty!  We LOVE our lighter!

Not pictured:

Vegetable Peeler: We have a really great vegetable peeler that we can always rely on to do the job.  Again, this is an item in most kitchens that barely works and is frustrating to use at best!  Knowing that we have a good one makes our cooking experience so much better!

Kitchen Kit #4
Just so easy!  When you close it, you push up on the part where the spring is, and viola, you have flame!

Kitchen Kit #9

Food Storage Bag Clips– These clips come in handy for so many things.  We used to have more of the plastic ones on the left, but when we started losing them, we resorted to buying just standard binder clips from the office supply store.  These keep your bags fresh and your food good, especially in damp and humid climates!

Not Pictured

Zip Loc Bags – When we left Canada, we left with about 6 large zip loc bags. We always wash our bags and dry them out to re-use them, but over time, even they disintegrate.  When we had family visiting us in January, we had them bring a few more for us.  Although we don’t like using plastic, they are necessary for storing liquid food if there are no containers, plus they protect any bottles of liquid that we happen to be travelling with.  They are great for storing food for picnics, and come in handy for storing things like coffee, rice, lentils and other dry goods.

Kitchen kit #8

Whenever possible, we try and build a small clothes line for hanging our coffee socks and ziploc bags so that they can dry properly.  These small clothes pin clips are available in most stores where you travel, or you can bring a small selection of them with you, plus a small piece of string, to make one where ever you go!

All of these items fit with ample room into one of our packing cubes.  The cube pictured measures 14″x10″x3″ and weighs 3-4 pounds.

 

There is still lots of room in it to add items as we see them, but as minimalists, we try really hard to make sure that each item we buy is necessary in our lives, before purchasing it.

What kitchen tools are we missing from our kit?

Although we are pretty happy with our kit, there are a couple items that we would love to add to it, just to make our lives that much easier. We have been on the hunt for a small cutting board that will fit right into the kit.  We are looking for something small and light weight, for those times where we need to cut something while we are away from the kitchen.  Cutting boards, however, are usually found in most kitchens and hostels as a bare minimum, so this would be a luxury item for sure.

We also are regretful that we didn’t keep our flat potato and veggie masher that we had in Canada.  It functions as both a masher and a whisk, and when we head back to Canada this summer, it is definitely on our list to buy!

Are you ready to put together YOUR nomadic kitchen?

As stated above, I can’t say enough how important this kit is to us, and how much we use these items.  We LOVE to cook and are constantly trying new foods and coming up with new ideas of what to cook.  Making your life easier in the kitchen means that you will eat out less, and eat fresher, healthier and more invigorating food.  So what are you waiting for?  Get started on putting your Nomadic Kitchen together today!

PS. I would LOVE to hear stories about your Nomadic Kitchen! Comment below if you, or someone you know does this as well! Or tell me all about the one that you make after reading this post!

Nomadic Kitchen


Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: Nevis Island, St. Kitts & Nevis

Travelling Plans: On August 5th we will start our long journey back to Canada to visit family and friends for a couple months.

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Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica – Destination Guide

As we were only staying for 2 nights, our main priority was to go to Manuel Antonio National Park. Chris had yet to see wild monkeys, and I knew that this was the place to be guaranteed a sighting.

I have noticed that the title “Travel Blogger” can have many different connotations. Some travel blogs simply tell of the travellers experiences. Some travel blogs tell people how to travel; ie. what to pack, how to secure medical insurance, what kind of currency to bring etc. Some travel blogs tell people about locations and destinations, specifically how to get there, what to do, where to stay, and all the ins and outs of each spot.

As I do with how I live my life, I like to think that I don’t necessarily fall into any specific category. My ultimate joy is to share my experiences, those that I feel are WORTH writing about. They might be inspiring, they might make people laugh, they might bring insight into the places that I am visiting. But above all, they are what make me WANT to write. They give me great joy in sharing them with the world, which in turn inspires me to “put pen to paper” (I do try to still do that once in a while!), and to just get them down and out of my head.

However, I too realize that there is also great value in me sharing the things that I learn along the way. By sharing a few local statistics, information about where we stayed, what we did, and where we went, I may be helping those out there that are just getting started traveling, and who may need a nudge in the right direction. Or I may be helping those that feel like my information helps to give them a little insight into a place, which will make them more comfortable with going there. After all, there IS a reason that the website Tripadvisor is so popular. It’s because people can either recommend places, or not. In the grand scheme of things, all information that a person can gather before heading out, helps them to have the best trip possible.

But don’t forget one important thing! Some of the best experiences do not come about from sitting in front of a computer, doing hours of research about a place. They come from just TRYING it, from just DOING it, from just LEAVING your house, and heading out into the world! The beautiful thing about travelling, is that it is absolutely impossible to plan for every eventuality that you may encounter. That is the exciting part! That is what makes it so much fun! That is why we keep doing it over and over and over again. We get away from our day to day, predictable lives, to places where anything can happen, at any time. It sends our endorphins into overdrive, alerts our senses, and makes life adventurous. Humans are adventurous by nature! It is in our genetic make up that we want to see new places, explore different horizons, try new experiences. We wouldn’t have spread ourselves all over this planet, in every nook and cranny, if we didn’t.

So, what are you waiting for?

Get out there, have fun and explore!

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Manuel Antonio

To read about our interesting arrival to Manuel Antonio, please click here. 

Manuel Antonio, best known for it’s National Park, is located just south of the larger city of Quepos in the Province of Punteranas.  The town mostly services the National Park, and is heavily populated with hotels, restaurants, gift shops and other tourist amenities.

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The Air BnB we stayed at in Manuel Antonio was a great find, as it was located in a Tico neighbourhood, a little off the beaten tourist track, but accessible to all the amenities as well. (Email me at the address below if you would like the Air BnB link to this place, it cost us roughly $20/night, but prices may increase during high season.) Just a 5 minute walk from our place, got us to the main road leading down to the beach, and the National Park. For only roughly 350 colones (roughly 75 cents USD), we could ride the bus down the hill, and check out whatever was down there, then could catch the bus back up again. In fact, that bus came all the way from Quepos, and runs constantly throughout the day.  Even if you have your own vehicle, I would recommend this option of getting there as parking is limited.

As we were only staying there for 2 nights, our main priority was to go to Manuel Antonio National Park. Chris had yet to see wild monkeys, and I knew that this was the place to be guaranteed a sighting. However, much to our surprise, we did manage to see them swinging from the power lines, and climbing on our roof and trees, at our Air BnB early that morning as well!

Home to 109 different mammals, 184 different bird species and many different reptile types, Manuel Antonio National Park is a very diverse coastal jungle. It’s one of the number one visited parks in Costa Rica, attracting 150 000 visitors a year, and was listed in 2011 as one of Forbes 12 most beautiful parks in the world.

Obviously it was necessary to go there for more than just monkeys! The scenery, the beaches, and all the other wildlife, are truly spectacular as well.

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When I was last there in 2004, the entrance was along the beach, and I have to say, much more ‘entrancing’ (pun intended) than it is now. Almost immediately, when you would walk in, the monkeys would be hanging from the trees, and you could see the beautiful beach and ocean on your right hand side.

As the park is now under some pretty major renovations, while they install miles of gangways and walkways that loop themselves through the trees, they have moved the entrance onto a non-descript roadway, where you have to walk for some time before spotting any wildlife.

I can see that these renovations are important, and will cut down on damage to the jungle floor, but in the meantime, the entrance is not what one would expect from one the 12 most beautiful parks in the world! They are also constructing a massive Welcome/Interpretive Center, which will definitely add value when it’s completed, hopefully soon.

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As we were told that it’s an absolute zoo in the high season, we were happy to have been there during the slower months. Apparently if you don’t get to the beaches by 9:00 on some mornings, you will barely find a spot. Not my idea of a relaxing day out. However, on this particular day, there were minimal people, but it was still busy enough to see that the high season would be much more difficult to even move around on the trails.

NOTE: The park is CLOSED on Mondays!! Guess the monkeys need a day off as well:)

As predicted, we saw many, many monkeys. And despite signs every 100 feet or so to NOT feed them, we did see some silly tourist throwing them an apple core! Argh! I had flashbacks of a trip that I did about 8 years ago, back to the popular tourist destination of Lake Louise, in the Canadian Rockies. My middle name is derived from this place and I grew up just down the road in Canmore. I witnessed chipmunks being fed directly from peoples hands and was thoroughly horrified by their domestication.  They certainly had never done that when I was growing up in the area, and they have now become quite the pests!

PLEASE! If you visit the park, DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS!! The animals will become more and more dependant on these food sources, will lose the ability to forage for food themselves, and will eventually become aggressive and hostile if not fed. When this happens, as it always does, people will get hurt, and monkeys will be killed. It’s a cycle that, unfortunately, plays out everywhere around the world where there are close encounters with wildlife. In the end, the animals ALWAYS lose this battle!

Upon entry, we heard the distinct howl of the Howler Monkeys, and were able to spot one high up in the trees. Though we heard more howlers through the day, the White Faced, or Capuchin Monkeys were the ones we saw many of. We also saw a sloth moving slowly through a tree, a South American Coati and a cool Iguana was hanging out near us at the beach.  Of course many different birds, insects and butterflies were spotted as well.

We did a bit of hiking and hung out on one of the beaches for a bit. Our total visit was probably only about 2-3 hours long, but it was a nice day and we were lucky as it had been raining many days leading up to our arrival.  We actually had decided to cut our visit short, because we didn’t bring any food with us into the park, and we were getting hungry.  Needless to say, I think it’s proabably a good idea not to bring food into the park, as it inevitably leads to what I mentioned earlier.

After the park we gave into one of the many street vendors outside the gate that had earlier tried to sell us a fresh coconut, to drink the juice inside. However, this one came with a catch! He added a shot of Rum to it, and we happily drank our coconut juice with rum, and (sort of!) re-hydrated ourselves, after having felt dehydrated from the sweltering tropical sun.

After poking around a bit, and grabbing a quick bite to eat, we headed down to the public beach outside the park, beautiful in it’s own right, and relaxed until we were chased away by the rain. We were able to very quickly catch the bus heading back up the hill, and we retreated back to our Air BnB to cook some dinner and relax for the evening. Well, Chris didn’t exactly relax, as our roommate and new friend, “Aaron from Canada” (as our host had called him) at the BnB wanted a tattoo! Chris happily obliged, further solidifying his thoughts on making a living as a travelling tattoo artist.

We didn’t really experience much more in Manuel Antonio, and I have to say that as a lover of places that are quiet, and less touristy, I would probably not go back there.

Where we are now, is so much more up both of our alleys! For example, yesterday as we laid on the beach relaxing with a book, I looked in both directions and saw nothing but sand, sea, palm trees and sun for literally miles. Not another soul was in sight! Plus, we have monkeys in our trees almost every day, and Iguanas that actually LIVE on the property. We even saw a sloth today high up in a tree on the side of the road!
But, I won’t spoil it all for you, because this place surely deserves it’s own blog post……..or 6!  Stay tuned……..

Manuel Antonio National Park facts:

Park Entrance – $16USD – tickets must be purchased from a bank that is about 100 meters from the entrance to the park, on the left hand side of the road, one block back from the beach and bus drop off area.  There are guides that are available to hire, and I’m sure you will see much more wildlife than we did as they have long telescopes that they carry with them.  Only hire guides that are part of the park service! 

High Season approx. November 15 – February 28

Website: http://manuelantoniopark.com

Phone: 1-800-381 3770

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Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!

To see more photos, and to follow our progress on Facebook, please follow our Facebook page Just Some Wandering.

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To learn about where I have previously traveled, click here.

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To email me directly, please do so at jillamatt@me.com.

 

 

Traditional Living in Costa Rica – Part 2

We stayed on a Costa Rica farm for 3 days, up in the mountiains of Monteverde. A wonderful authentic experience!

Over the course of 9 months in 2017, my partner and I sold all of our possessions, including 2 vehicles, and a house full of stuff. In order to sell the house for its maximum value, we also completed 3 months of renovations that had been lingering for over 3 years. We wrapped up 2 businesses and left a town and tight knit community that we both cherished. We did all of this in order to seek out a life of freedom, away from the hustle and bustle of the 9-5 life, but most importantly, we did it so that we could travel. This is our story…….

To read part one of this story, please click here.

We awoke at about 8:30 the next morning to see blue sky and sunshine peeking through our bedroom curtains. I jumped out of bed and ran straight to the double front doors and swung them open. Spread out before us was a magical green carpet, rife with plants of every description, birds flying this way and that, hummingbirds drinking the nectars of the flowers, and a slight breeze carrying unbelievably sweet smells which floated across the landscape. In the distance, the Gulf of Nicoya was glistening in the sunlight, as the prominent peninsula of the same name, stood on guard behind it.

I sat on the futon, appropriately placed on the front porch, and just stared in amazement. THIS is Costa Rica!

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Need I say more?  This is the view from the front doors of our Casa on the Farm.
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They opened to reveal this!

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We spent much time out here contemplating life and watching the birds and butterflies go by.

After Chris joined me, we ran around the yard and inspected every flower and plant that we could find. Interestingly enough, many of them were familiar and also grew back in Canada, however, many of them were also simply house plants, that never would dare to go outside into the cooler temperatures. Here, they were happily growing in the ground, enjoying the stable tropical temperatures year round.

Soon enough, our host, Orlando arrived to let us know where we could get breakfast, over in the neighbouring property, and made sure that everything was to our satisfaction. I started out trying to speak with him in Spanish, but in no time he realized that it would just be easier if he spoke English. Later we found out that he is 20 years old, but he carried himself as if he had many more years than that under his belt. Well spoken and very friendly, I immediately felt completely at ease with his gentle nature.

We made our way over to “El Rancho” to find some breakfast. Coming into the property we saw that there were a few different buildings, none with any markers or indicators as to what was what. We wandered around for a bit until we found a lady outside of one house. I approached her and introduced myself. Her name was Yolanda, and I later realized that she is Orlando’s mother. In my broken Spanish, I made her to understand that we were looking for a place for breakfast. She understood, and after many back and forth exchanges, she finally realized that we were ready for breakfast at that moment. Little did I know that she was the cook!

She took us up to El Rancho and proceeded to cook up a wonderful feast for us. Gallo (pronounced gai-yo) Pinto, or rice and beans, is a main staple in most of Central America, was combined with Eggs (heuvos), fresh, handmade corn tortillas, fresh papaya, some sort of spreadable cream, and of course, Coffee (cafe). As Chris doesn’t drink coffee in the morning, he was offered fresh sugar cane juice combined with hot water to substitute as a tea of sorts. We sat in El Rancho, and stared off over the land, this view equally as spectacular as the one from our own casa (house).

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Breakfast at El Rancho.
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Okay, seriously!  This was SO GOOD!!  FRESH, handmade corn tortillas, Gallo Pinto, Eggs and delicious fresh Papaya and fruit!  Not too mention Costa Rican coffee and sugar cane juice with hot water for Chris!

We met Orlando Senior, the head of the family, and I had fun listening to him and practicing my Spanish in return, when I had the opportunity.

When we booked the Air BnB, I had sent a message to tell them that we were very interested in learning about farming techniques in other countries, and would welcome the chance to see the Dairy in action. After breakfast, Orlando Junior told us that the milking of the cows would again be done at 4:00pm, and we could come and watch if we wanted.

We eagerly agreed and then headed off in our own directions for the remainder of the day.

Four O’Clock came around and we headed off to the farm. We arrived as the cows were entering the stable, where the milking would take place. Orlando showed us the whole process and explained each step along the way. Now-a-days they have machines to milk the cows, they simply put a machine that acts like a vacuum on each teat, and it milks approximately 16 litres of milk in about 5 minutes. He told us that when the storms happened, and the power went out for 4 days, they had to milk by hand and it was MUCH harder!  His dad also was quick to tell us that he milked by hand for many years, and that the younger generations are lucky that they have it so easy. I sensed a small bit of jealousy in his tone.

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Molasses for dessert!

Orlando explained to us that they have recently been doing tours for students, to come and learn the techniques of the farm. In the next couple weeks he will be hosting students from Canada, the US and Europe. Over the past few years, he has done much research to learn about different ways that he can make the farm organic, and it has been met with great success. The land has been cultivated differently, trees have been planted in specific locations to provide different nutrients to the soils, and the cows are grazing in rotations, so the grass has time to grow back and provide more nutrients to them. At such a young age, we were very impressed with his ambition to make the farm more sustainable. He told us that in recent years the price of dairy has dropped, but the price of feed has risen, making it harder and harder to maintain a living. By learning about Air BnB, he has brought in much more money to the farm, and is constantly learning about other ways to bring more tourists into the area. This in turn will help the community by allowing them to hire more help from town, and will also help his family prosper more in these challenging times.

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Chris and Orlando!  Meeting new friends while travelling is the best!
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Couldn’t resist a visit to the baby cows!

While there, we told him about other ways to get more help on the farm, without putting out a lot of money. We told him about the Wwoofing (to learn about our previous wwoofing experience in Greece, click here) network, where he can have volunteers come and help on the farm, in exchange for housing and feeding them. He wasn’t aware of this program, and we were happy to give him a different outlook on getting help on the farm, without having to dole out precious income. We also told him about some of the permaculture techniques that we had used in our gardening back in Canada. He was very curious about theses new ways, and he took no time to look them up on the internet, to confirm what we had told him was true.

He also told us that he has taken 2 years of University to learn Accounting. He loves his life on the farm, and all of his education is going towards helping the farm to thrive in ways that his father and grandfather before him hadn’t. Unfortunately, this year, he wasn’t able to go back to school, as his dad needs him around to help, but his goal is to get the farm to a sustainable place, through the Air BnB’s and through farm tours, so that they can maybe afford to hire somebody to help while he finishes his education.

After we watched a few cows being milked, he took us on a tour of the farm to show us some of the agricultural practices that he had put into place in the last couple years. The property is so spectacular, it’s almost too hard to comprehend. We were thankful when he said that he loved it there, and had no need to leave, he only wanted to improve upon what was started. Thankfully his parents are open to new ideas and ways of doing things.

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This is the pasture for the cows.  It’s very different than th eland that most cows in Canada graze on.  These cows are in good shape from climbing up and down hills all day!  Notice the rotation of the grazing, which allows the grass to grow back in nicely before it is grazed on again.

On the way back to El Rancho, Orlando grabbed a bucket of fresh warm milk, and told us that his mom would show us how to make cheese from it. Chris quite quickly realized that the process that they use here to make cheese, is identical to how he had learned in Canada. While Yolanda made the cheese, we chatted with Orlando, met his sister Carolina, and looked out over the land, watching the most spectacular sunset unfold. He said that sunsets like this are unusual for this time of year, and are normally reserved for around Christmas time. I guess we got our presents early this year! The sunset, the company and the whole experience was truly magical!

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Yolanda making cheese with a fabulous view out the “Cocina” (kitchen) window.

When the cheese was finished, we sat down with the whole family, except Orlando Senior, and took part in an incredible feast. Yolanda made some coffee, fresh tortillas and we ate the fresh cheese and an amazing type of bread pudding that is also a traditional Costa Rican dish. It was such a wonderful evening, and I could have pinched myself for being so lucky to have had the chance to experience such authenticity from their culture. THIS is truly what I am looking for. To feel a part of their experience, not just an observer, even if only for a short time.

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Fresh, handmade tortillas, a huge mound of fresh “Queso” (cheese), coffee and some traditional bread pudding.  Soooooo good!!
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This sunset was exceptional!  The end to a spectacular day!

While learning as much as we could about them, we were also able to show them pictures of where we are from, to provide them a broader perspective on the world as well. Orlando said that his dream is to make more money for the farm, and to do more travelling in the future. His ambitions are admirable and we have no doubt that he can accomplish them.

We spent one more night on the “Finca” (farm), and had one more exquisite “Desayuno” (breakfast), and then bid our lovely hosts goodbye. We told them that we had to go do some house sitting for a couple months, but I have a feeling that we will be back in the New Year.

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Monteverde

We also spent 2 nights in the Santa Elena/Monteverde town.  It was also an enjoyable time, but we definitely felt that were more a part of the typical tourist scene.  However, we had some cool experiences…….

Accomodation:  Santa Elena Hostel Resort – We had a lovely stay here.  The rooms are clean, and tidy, the common use areas are well kept, and there are hammocks, a bar and a restaurant where you can relax.  The front fest was very helpful in booking tours and answering any questions that we had.  As we were here during the off season, rooms were 40% off.  We paid $35/night for our own room that could accommodate up to 3 people.

Things to do:   Monteverde Orchid Garden – This is located next to the Hostel where we stayed.  The garden has been cared for a nurtured for 12 years now, and some of the species have been collected for 30.  There are over 100 orchids in bloom here on any given day.  The guide was absolutely excellent and provided us with more information than it is possible to retain.  We highly recommend visiting it.  $12/person for a 40 minute tour.

Kinkajou Night Walk – We took part in a popular jungle night walk.  We went out on the early one that started at 5:30, as recommended by our front desk at the hostel.  We were not disappointed!  The guide was very knowledgeable and told us too many things to remember.  He knew exactly where to look for various animals and we managed to see a Tarantula, Sloth, Kinkajou (a very rare sighting), numerous frogs, 2 Toucans sleeping in the trees, 4 bright green vipers (2 were mating!), numerous stick bugs and many other amazing creatures.  It was a 2 hour tour and well worth the money at $25/person.

Selvatura Hanging Bridges –  As we had no other plans to go into any of the surrounding forests of Monteverde, we decided to book a trip to the Selvatura Hanging Bridges.  At a cost of $30 each, including transportation there and back, we expected to have a guide telling us about the plants, something similar to our night walk the night before.  However, it was a completely self guided tour but over 6 pretty impressive bridges.  Being above, or level with, the canopy, gives a different perspective of the forest.  Looking down on massive ferns and so many other plants and trees, was pretty neat.  It’s expensive for what you get, but worth the experience.

At the hanging bridges, there is also a hummingbird garden that attracts the hummingbirds with your standard typical hummingbird feeders.  There were some cool hummingbirds, but overall the set up wasn’t what I would expect.  We both kind of thought that there would be flowers attracting them…..maybe that was over the top wishful thinking.  It was fun to watch them anyways, and they were so beautiful.

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Current Location:  Samara, Costa Rica

Current Travel Plans:  We will be staying here until the 27th of October when we head to Quepos for a couple nights.  From there we will be heading to Playa Matapalo where we will be house sitting for 2 months.  

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Traditional Living in Costa Rica – Part 1

Over the course of 9 months in 2017, my partner and I sold all of our possessions, including 2 vehicles, and a house full of stuff. In order to sell the house for its maximum value, we also completed 3 months of renovations that had been lingering for over 3 years. We wrapped up 2 businesses and left a town and tight knit community that we both cherished. We did all of this in order to seek out a life of freedom, away from the hustle and bustle of the 9-5 life, but most importantly, we did it so that we could travel. This is our story…….

We are on day 4 of our trip, and I can honestly say already that if we had to return home for some unknown reason, that I would be content with our experience. Today was everything that I had hoped to achieve on our travels, and more!

We are currently in Monteverde, a mountaintop community, located in Costa Rica’s northern highlands. “Green Mountain”, the translation of Monteverde, couldn’t be more accurate. Every direction you look, there are plants of seemingly endless descriptions and green mountains stretch as far as the eye can see. We know this for sure, as the Air BnB that we booked is perfectly perched on the side of one such mountain, and the vista below is absolutely breathtaking. We can see all the way west to the Nicoya Peninsula, and in the right light the “Golfo de Nicoya” (Gulf of Nicoya) in front of the peninsula, dances and sparkles in the sunlight.

Read on to hear about our experiences so far…….

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After spending 2 nights in Alajuela, the neighbouring city to Costa Rica’s capital city, San Jose, and feeling that we had recovered sufficiently from our dreaded red eye flight from Calgary, through Toronto, we decided to head into the interior of Costa Rica, instead of hitting the beach. We will be house sitting right on the beach for 2 months at the end of October, so we will have lots of beach time to come. The mountains were calling us.

In 2004, my last visit to Costa Rica, I had visited a small mountain town called Monteverde. I had very fond memories of this place, but such as it was back then, our main motivation was to get to the beach, so we only spent a night or two. I longed to come back to explore more of this area, and to try and get a better feel for life in the highlands.

I did a search for Monteverde on my Air BnB app, to see what would come up. There were many options in many price ranges, but as I scrolled the list, one caught my eye. “Paradise House Monteverde #2 – Farmstay”.  The description definitely called to my yearning to learn more about the Costa Rican life.  Check it out below:

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Turns out that as it is the low season, and the internet had been washed out with the latest Hurricane, we got a discount and only paid $68 for 3 nights!

I quickly read it out to Chris and he said “Yes! Book it!”

Our plan was set! Here was our chance to learn about a traditional Costa Rican way of life. My goal with travelling is always to connect with locals, to see how others are living, to learn their way of life, and to share it with others. This sounded like a perfect fit! I booked 3 nights, knowing that would give us 2 full days to enjoy ourselves in a lovely, peaceful location.

3 nights = $68 CAD

With the help of our host in Alajuela, we booked a bus trip up into the mountains. Costing just $15 US (including a $5 booking fee for booking online), the bus would leave Alajuela at 3:00 and arrive at 7:00pm. In the tropics, every day of the year, it is dark by 6:00, so I knew that it would be dark when we arrived at our location. I messaged this to Orlando, our farm host, and he assured me that since they were located well out of Monteverde proper, he would arrange a transport to pick us up at the Bus stop.

The bus ride was a typical one, driving quickly down paved highways, weaving along the coastline of the Gulf of Nicoya, until all of a sudden we took a sharp, right hairpin turn onto a gravel road. After 2 hours on the road, we were finally headed into the mountains. Immediately there was a sign that said Monteverde 35km. I commented to Chris that surely it can’t take 2 more hours to go 35 kilometres. However, I was sorely wrong!

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Note:  It took us almost 4 hours to reach Monteverde.  Mind you, we were on a large bus, a private vehicle is likely quicker.

Within minutes, make that seconds, I could see that YES, this definitely could take 2 hours! The road was windy, narrow, steep and seeming impossibly small to accommodate the bus that we were riding on. As we were seated in the front two seats to the right of the driver, my favourite spot to “see it all” we got a full spectacle of what was to transpire. Corner after corner, sharp curve after sharp curve, we wound our way up the tight mountain road. With the recent rains of Hurricane Nate , having wreaked havoc with many mountain roads, we witnessed a few places where part of the road was washed away down the mountain. In these instances, the bus would slowly but surely, squeeze itself down the inside lane, hugging as close as it would dare to the inside ditch, without falling into it. We also watched the Humidity indicator that was located at the front of the bus go from 50% to 90% as we approached the clouds and entered an area aptly known as the Cloud Forest. We watched numerous small frogs leap across the road, scurrying out of the way of the large bus wheels, some we knew made it, others we weren’t so sure. Never the less, we cheered them on as we saw them.

Many times we would come across another vehicle going down the road, each time both of us would squeeze as tight as we could to the opposite shoulders of the road, literally inching past each other. However, in one instance, we came head to head with a driver of a commercial utility truck. It was now dark and drizzling rain and there was clearly no way for both vehicles to pass each other on the current stretch of road.

After both vehicles flashed their lights at each other a couple times, the driver of the truck finally realized that if anyone was to back up, it was him. He jumped out of his truck to survey the situation around him, and to come up with a solution, a way to pull over so that we could pass each other. After realizing that the other driver needed assistance in backing up (so that he didn’t drive off the road and over the cliff side) our driver jumped out to direct him. The amusement in the bus was hilarious as the locals chitter chatted back and forth laughing and carrying on about the situation. I couldn’t help but think about if the same situation would have happened in Canada; Number one, there would not be a public bus driving on a road such as this in Canada (unless of course it was guaranteed to be the only vehicle driving back and forth), and Number 2, if a bus load of people were held up in this way, there would be more than one very unhappy person. However, the mood was jovial, and everyone was just happy to have the entertainment.

Finally, as our driver helped the other driver back up down the windy road, and into a slightly wider section, another man, that we had picked up at a rest stop, and who had been chatting with the driver at the front of the bus ever since, jumped into the drivers seat and started driving the bus down to meet him. Chris and I burst out laughing, as we had no idea who this guy was, but trusted that he knew what he was doing either way. What little choice did we have after all? Thankfully, he safely drove us the couple hundred meters forward to pick up our other driver, but not before passing the transfer truck and another vehicle behind it on the cliff side of the road, with mere inches to spare between us (and I’m sure mere inches to spare with the side of the road, and in turn, the cliff as well.)

I mentioned to Chris more than once that I was thankful that it was dark because although we knew that we were driving up the side of the mountain, we were unable to see just how perilous and treacherous that it was if we were to simply slide down into the abyss below.

As we started to approach a more populated area, made obvious by the lights that now lit the road ahead of us, many locals would signal to the driver to be let off in various areas. Again, NOT something you would necessarily see in Canada.

Despite all of this, we arrived in Monteverde at about 6:50pm. We departed the bus and stacked our luggage against the wall. Other travellers scampered around grabbing taxis or staring into their iPhones to figure out their next move. Nobody approached us about a ride, so I poked my head around the corner and locked eyes with a man standing next to a van. He gave me a look of approval so I walked over to him to show him the address of where we were going. Before I had a chance to do that, and much to my surprise, he showed me a picture on his phone of Chris and I! I realized that it was our Air BnB profile photo, and that our host must have sent it to him so that he knew who to pick up. “Perfecto!” I announced and patted him on the shoulder. I ran off to grab Chris and our luggage, and we were whisked away into the darkness, along another bumpy and washed out gravel road.

Unfortunately, I never did get our drivers name, but he quickly realized that I spoke a bit of Spanish, and we were able to carry out a simple conversation. He explained to me that the reason the roads were so bad was because of the extensive rains that the hurricane had deposited on the area. There were many more washed out areas along the next section of road that we travelled, and even a couple of crews working late into the night to repair them.

After about 15 minutes, we pulled into a tiny gap in a fence, and his headlights illuminated our home for the next few days. It was absolutely pitch black, but we could tell by the lights in the distance and below us, that we were perched on a hillside of sorts. He helped us with our luggage, found the key and opened the door, and then wished us well. I asked about when we would meet our host, Orlando, and he said something about “Manana”. Good enough, we would see him tomorrow.

We quickly unpacked our food and got busy with making some dinner. The house was simple, with 2 bedrooms, a bathroom and a small kitchen where we could make our meals over the course of our stay. We took turns running in and out of the front doors, both ecstatic with our location, and wanting desperately for it to be the next day, so that we could see the fantastic view that we knew was spread out before us.

But alas, we knew that we would have to wait. In the meantime, we ate our dinner, sat on our front porch, and stared off into the vast unknown. Tomorrow would bring the light and a whole new adventure!

** Thanks for reading! This is part of a larger group of blog posts about us letting go of all of our possessions to go traveling. If you would like to read from the beginning, click here.**

To see more photos, and to follow our progress on Facebook, please follow our page.

To learn about where I have previously traveled, click here.

To see my blog post menu, click here.

To email me directly, please do so at jillamatt@me.com.

 

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