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Some Observations of Costa Ricans…..

Published December 1, 2017 by jillamatt

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…….


There is this guy and his little puppy that are often sitting on the same log on the beach when we walk by with Omber in the morning, or afternoon. The puppy is the cutest little thing, but we can’t get near to it as it barks it’s head off and seemingly wants to tear us limb from limb. Usually we are walking down at the bottom of the beach, while they are sitting at the top of the beach. The man looks to be about the friendliest person you could ever lay eyes on, he has a huge Afro and a great smile. We always collectively laugh at the state of the puppy going crazy, and even from 50 yards away, you can see this mans massive smile light up, and he sends a friendly wave our way.

Today, I was at the top of the beach walking, and I could see from down the beach a ways that he and a friend were sitting in the usual spot. This time I decided to try and get closer to say hello. The sun is shining today, and it’s been a bit of a dismal week around here with cloudy and rainy days seeming to never end. We exchanged a few words about how nice it is to see the sun, we asked each other how we were doing, the puppy barked it’s little head off, and then I decided that I better get going.

I had a task to do, you see, I was walking the dog.

After we walked to our usual spot, and returned down the beach, we were further down by the surf, but he and his friend were up at the top still, just chilling. I kept walking and started to think about the fact that we had been passing this guy and his puppy for a month, and still didn’t know his name. I immediately started to feel bad for not asking his name, and finally getting to know him a bit. I realized that I too could have just sat on that log and chatted for a while. ‘Why didn’t I do that?’ I asked myself.

Oh right! I remembered.

I was on a mission, you see, I was walking the dog!

And in that moment, I caught myself, I suddenly, miraculously, realized that I too have all day to chat if I so desire. I too could just sit on a log and hang out for hours, if I really felt like it. Omber would be happy to just chill in one spot. There really was no rush. Besides, what could be better then practicing some Spanish and making new friends?

Hmmmmmmmmm…..

A few hundred yards further down the beach, Omber decided to run to the top of the beach to chase through the palm trees where I couldn’t see him. Of course, I walked up there to find him, and a man was doing some raking amongst the palms. As soon as he saw me, he immediately waved a friendly hello. “Hola”, I yelled.

This got me realizing how pleasant our exchanges are with the locals. Rarely do we walk by someone, whether on the beach, or on the road, where they don’t take the time to say “Buenas Dias, Hola, Pura Vida, (Good Day, Hello, Pure Life) or some combination of all three.” In fact, as we walked the road the other day to the bus stop, a man crossed the street and shook Chris’ hand, wanting to know who we were and whether or not we owned some piece of property in town. We chatted with him for a bit, then were on our way.

It also got me thinking that we have literally not seen one bad exchange between people here. There have been no children throwing tantrums, no people yelling at each other in hatred or malice, no aggression of any kind has been displayed, in fact.

Hmmmmmmmmmmm…….

Chris had a tattoo job the other night just down the street from us. I popped over after a bit to see how it was going. It was the father that was getting tattooed, and his wife, 9 months pregnant with a second child, was busy in the kitchen. Their little girl was playing in the corner as quiet as could be, with her dolls and a handful of toys. They were not spread all over the room, they were in one spot, and she happily toodled away talking to them and playing by herself, with hardly a peep to anyone.

I asked her mom how old she is, and they told me ‘5 years old today’! You can imagine my immediate surprise as this certainly didn’t seem like your average 5 year old on their birthday, at least where I come from. There were no streamers and balloons hanging up, no huge party with a thousand other kids running amuck, no big deal was being made…….at all! I told her “Feliz Cumpleanos!” (Happy Birthday), and she turned and gave me a shy “Gracias”, then busily got back to playing. In the two hours we were there, she never once bothered her mother or father for anything, just happily, and QUIETLY played in the corner with her dolls.

When I had initially arrived to the house, I immediately walked over to see how the tattoo was going. The father said hello and asked me how my day was going, in English. Without really realizing what was going on, I just told him “Oh it was okay, I was lazy today.” Later I realized that I never even asked him how his day was………did he notice, did he think badly of me. What was my problem?

Hmmmmmmmmmmm……….

The other day, Chris and I caught the bus to Uvita. We hadn’t been there before, and needed some groceries, so we thought we would just go there and hopefully get some supplies after doing some exploring. While waiting for the bus, we sat on a bench in front of the Pulperia (Convenience Store), and had many exchanges with locals coming and going. Old or young, they all had time to say hello and ask us how we were doing.

As we rode the bus to Uvita, we sat in the front 2 seats to the right of the driver. As I watched people get off the bus, most people thanked the driver, one guy shook the drivers hand and exchanged a few words with him. The driver wasn’t in a rush to get going again, it was more important to talk to this man for a minute, then to worry about his schedule.

I watched as the driver eased his big bus through tiny communities, and yelled and waved out the window at familiar faces. Were these people he knew, or just people he saw on his route everyday? “Pura Vida!”  was yelled more than once, and the people on their porches or in their yards returned the exchange with huge smiles on their faces.

In one instance a man was standing on the side of the highway and waved the bus to stop. The driver pulled over and the man simply stood on the ground at the door and spent about 5 minutes asking the driver a bunch of questions about the schedule and where he went. Obviously gathering information for a future trip.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm………..

Our friends that moved here from Canada two years ago, told us of a time when they had first bought their property up in the mountains. For the first while, they obviously couldn’t speak much Spanish, but their neighbours would come over anyways, and just sit with them on their porch, sometime for two hours, with barely a word spoken. They just wanted to interact, to share the human experience. Words weren’t needed to be decent human beings, to show their new neighbours appreciation of their arrival onto their lands.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm……….

All of this has me realizing that these are the sorts of things that you may not notice if you are travelling to a place for a week or two. It’s only after being in a spot for a length of time, when how a society works, is repeated enough for you to you start to notice it, and you begin to realize what really makes it tick.  We have been here now for over 6 weeks, and although it didn’t take us this long to see that people are friendly, it has taken this long to really notice that it definitely is a way of life.

In Costa Rica, it truly is the land of Pura Vida. People have TIME for each other. It isn’t normal to just say hi quickly, and then be on your way. What’s normal is stopping, and actually talking. Looking people in the eye, and asking them how they are doing, asking them how their day was or is. Taking the time to connect with each other and respect and appreciate each other.

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As of today, I am making a commitment to myself to really start to notice when I rush myself, when I push myself to “get going” because I think I have something important to do. When I start to think that ‘getting the dog walked’ is more important than stopping to meet somebody and learn about them, I will stop myself. I will stop this habit of being on a mission, of being in a hurry. As of today, I will stop to connect with people better. I will take the time to learn their names, I will spend the time learning about them, and finding out who they are and what they do. I will make TIME for them, because, this is truly the way it is here. This is what people do here. This is literally how their society functions, and I really can’t think of anything more beautiful than that!

Pura Vida to you all! I hope this inspires you to take a moment to reflect on what you spend your time doing.  And is it meaningful, after all?

NOTE:  Of course, this is our experience of Costa Ricans outside of heavily trafficked tourist zones.  In places where we have noticed that many tourists go, the Pura Vida mentality certainly does not extend as far as it does in these smaller more remote areas.  But it is in these places, where you truly get a sense for how people actually live.  

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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!

Current Location: We are housesitting until December 30th at Playa Matapalo, between Quepos and Dominical.  If you are travelling in the area, please get in touch!  We would love to connect with you.

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

Please follow my Instagram Page Just Some Wandering by clicking on the bottom right hand corner of this feed.

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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November 10, 2017 – No Regrets!

Published November 10, 2017 by jillamatt

***Jill’s ‘letting go’ Diary***

This is part of a series of posts (ordered by Dated Titles) where I have recorded my thoughts and emotions as we got rid of all of our possessions, a house, 2 cars, 2 businesses, and tons of STUFF, in order to free ourselves so that we could live a life of travel. From the day that I came up with this idea, to sell everything and travel the world, I have recorded my thoughts, and still am, on certain days where I feel like writing. These are real time, and not edited (except for grammatical corrections). My hope is that my writing inspires you to live your dream.  You may not want to do it like we have, but whatever that passion is, grab and hold it and don’t let it go!  Xo 


We have been here, at our housesitting job for 11 days, and I can honestly say, that I think things are finally sinking in. In the last couple of days, I have looked around and realized, that this place, this adventure, this journey, has finally come to fruition. We are actually here!

We spent 9 months working towards the goal of selling all of our stuff, renovating our house, and unplugging from life. We found out that we had been chosen to do this housesitting job in April, and spent 6 months working our butts off, just to make sure that we got here in time.

And now we are here. And now, I finally have time to reflect on what we have been through.

To say that it’s been a wild ride is an understatement. I don’t think we really gave ourselves time to actually think about what we were doing, as we were doing it. We just did it. We had a goal, and we worked towards it. No questions asked. In fact, this can also be said for how we lived our hectic life. Did we really ever think about what we were doing? I don’t think so, we just did that as well.

I should say though, that I did start to get a restless feeling of “what ARE we doing”, at some point in 2016. I would ask Chris “have you ever considered that there is more to life than this?” He would shrug his shoulders and give me some sort of “What else is there?” kind of answer, but also more of a question. I suppose that my nagging feeling nagged me long enough that what finally came of it on the other side, is this!

Do we regret anything? Not a chance!

As we settle into our routine around here, we are also realizing that we are in a healing process. Some days we feel energetic and ready to take on the world. We do long beach walks, exercise, do yoga and are gung-ho to accomplish things that we had said we would do as soon as we got here. Other days we sleep for a lot of the day, and just relax. Knowing that this is all a process, and that we are on a journey.

When we arrived to Playa Matapalo, we were ecstatic! Neither of us were sure of the location of this house that we were housesitting, other then it’s general area. I suspected it backed onto the beach, but wasn’t 100% sure. In fact, we are about 30 meters from the beach, in a house that far exceeds both of our expectations. It is the perfect sized house for us, and we in fact have a guest room AND spare bathroom. There is a full kitchen, a cozy living room, and wonderful front porch area and even a washing machine! Seriously, down here, we feel like we are living in luxury! Shit, never mind down here! If we lived in this house in Canada, we would feel like we are living in luxury! Minus of course the cold tile floors and lack of double glazed windows……

However, life down here isn’t perfect all of the time. For example we have our water shut off, what seems to be frequently, lately. And there are the odd power outages. Although we have bars on our windows, we still have to make sure that no valuables are close to them at night, as there are the usual neighbourhood thugs (drug addicts we are told) that will stick their hand through and grab whatever they can if it’s of value. The first few nights were a little edgy as I woke up to every weird sound that I heard, worrying that somebody was at the window. But as I have started to realize that we, ourselves, are not actually in any danger, I have started to relax. These people aren’t violent, and out to hurt us, they just try to get anything they can that can be sold or traded for more drugs. And so, we are very diligent with our things, and don’t leave any valuables in sight, or near any windows.

But these ‘problems’, in comparison to the hectic, hamster wheel, crazy, busy -oh so busy- life that we left, really aren’t problems at all. I have actually realized that I would trade that life for any number of other ‘problems’ that we may, or may not encounter down here.

Our (I am referencing ‘our’ as a collective our, as in all North Americans) experience of living in these ‘developing nations’ (I hate these terms!) can be looked at in one of two ways. We can spend our time agonizing on why they don’t do things OUR way, as in how we do it in Canada. Or, we can realize that maybe the things that we worry and stress about back home, really don’t need to be worried about at all.

For example, this whole water being shut off thing. If water was shut off to a neighbourhood in Canada for even 1 hour, without the citizens knowing about it at least a week in advance, there would be absolute massive outcry. Here, like we experienced the other day, the water was shut off for a full 24 hours, with not a word of advance notice!

And guess what? We survived!

The electrical here is what Electricians would call in Canada, an utter nightmare. They have these crazy shower heating units that heat the water on demand, AT the actual shower head. (Not where we are living now, but in every other hostel or Air BnB we have been in so far that actually HAD hot water!) There is a massive knot of wiring that accompanies this device, and it comes right out of the wall, and into the heating unit, with no casing or anything to prevent anyone touching it.

Oh the craziness of it all!!!

But guess what? We survived that as well! And let me tell you, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to electrical (un)safety, or at least what we know it to be!

There are so many things that go on in ‘developed’ nations that are just downright ridiculous. We focus our time and energy on these things, rules, instructions, ways of being, as if we actually COULD NOT survive if things weren’t done that way. Rules are made, insurance companies get richer, we run around trying like mad to stay on top of what we are “supposed” to do to fit in with society, and all that is happening, is that we are getting older, and time is slipping by.

Of course, we are still just feeling things out down there, and I am by no means an expert on the Costa Rican way of life. But I can tell for sure, that life is simpler down here. It is peaceful down here.

Anyway, enough ranting about that…….there is a reason, after all, that we have left that all behind. For now, we are focusing on ourselves. We are taking the time to explore our dreams and desires. We are taking the time to figure out what it actually IS that we want to do with our lives.  And we are being gentle with ourselves.  No more unneeded pressure, no more feelings of HAVING to do things.

The world is an open book, and I intend to read every chapter of it that I can! I will not be told what I SHOULD be doing, I will act on instinct. If it feels right, if it feels GOOD, I will follow that lead.

One of my favourite mottos that I have used for many years is “Life is short, let’s get busy!”  Although, I must say that I have definitely left behind a type of “busy” that I never want to encounter again!  My busy-ness from here on in, will be an important kind of busy.  A busy that I WANT!  A busy that I CREATE with care and kindness to myself.  No more being busy, just for the sake of it.  That is gone now, that is the old me.

And so, I don’t know what else to say, or how else to put it other than – Pura Vida from Costa Rica!

I hope this message finds you HAPPY with your life, EXCITED about your life, and most importantly, INSPIRED by your life.

Xo

It's how we embrace the uncertainty - Quote

Thanks for reading!

With these “letting go diary” posts, my aim is to inspire you to find your passion, to nurture it, and to not settle if it isn’t front and foremost in your life.  My passion is travelling, and as such, I am to inspire others to travel.  If you are interested in travelling, please click on the links below and follow along on our travelling journey.  If you are more interested in the act of selling all of our possessions, and want to hear my thoughts on that process, you can go all the way back to the beginning by clicking this link.  Alternatively, if you go to my blog post menu, you will be able to click specifically on my “letting go diary” posts.  

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

Please follow my Instagram Page @justsomewandering  by clicking on the bottom right hand corner of this feed.

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.

 

 

Wandering in Varna, Bulgaria – Guest Post

Published November 8, 2017 by jillamatt

A few days ago I found a request from a fellow blogger on one of the traveller Facebook pages that I follow. She was looking for people to contribute to her blog and write guest posts on one of their favourite travelling spots.

In 2015, my partner and I did a six week trip to Bulgaria, Greece and Italy. Although, we didn’t spend nearly long enough in Bulgaria, it was actually our favourite country to visit out of the three. I’m not sure if it was the laid back pace, the beauty of it, the friendly people, or the fact that it wasn’t on the Euro yet (which made it much more affordable against our Canadian dollar), but we absolutely fell in love with it, and long to go back someday.  Next time it will be in the summer months!

When I saw Emily’s request for posts on a favourite travelling spot, I couldn’t help but recall our experience in Varna.

Feel free to check out my guest post on her blog here.  Thanks for this opportunity Emily!

Also, if you would like to read more about our trip to Bulgaria, the first post is here.

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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.

Please follow my Instagram Page Just Some Wandering by clicking on the bottom right hand corner of this feed.

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.

 

 

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica – Destination Guide

Published November 8, 2017 by jillamatt

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.

Please follow my Instagram Page Just Some Wandering by clicking on the bottom right hand corner of this feed.

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.

 

 

Traditional Living in Costa Rica – Part 2

Published October 23, 2017 by jillamatt

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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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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