Moldy Clothes and Falling Coconuts

I do a lot of research before trips (too much to be honest), so I felt pretty prepared when we decided to move to Costa Rica for 3 months. But I’m realizing that google can only get you so far in life.. It’s been a wild ride figuring out life outside of OKC, but we’ve gotten into a groove and we’re pretty comfortable here- as long as I don’t get bit by anything poisonous, I’m good!

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Things the internet can’t teach you about living in Costa Rica.

  • Everything molds, even if you thought it was completely dry when you put it away... it will mold eventually. Nothing a little cleaning can’t handle but but seriously, I pulled out my extra pair of glasses today and even those were a little fuzzy. *everything except for this backpack. I always carry my canvas one onto the plane when I fly but I really wanted to find one that would be practical for this trip, so I ordered it right before we left and it was the best purchase by far. The biggest pocket is a leakproof cooler so we use it all the time for beers and snacks to take hiking or to the beach.
  • We don’t have a doorbell or glass windows, just screens to keep the bugs out. So when someone comes over they just yell or whistle to get my attention. “Helloooo?” “Kels?”. It cracks me up every time.
  • Shaking the covers is part of our nightly routine. Gotta watch out for those poisonous scorpions. (So far we haven’t had anything besides a few giant ants in the sheets)
  • We have to sit on top of the dryer to get the best wifi connection. (Update: now it only works while we’re sitting on our bed or in a VERY particular spot in the middle of the pool, it’s always changing.) #firstworldproblems
  • The loud sound of coconuts falling and hitting the sand is as normal as hearing a dog bark, it happens all day. We’re used to it now but we still have to remember to *look up* when we’re walking to the beach.
  • I didn’t know Netflix has country restrictions, so when we got here we realized we were blocked from watching some of the normal shows we watched at home. But there are ways around it- VPN ftw! Gotta watch Frasier somehow.
  • Crabs and geckos get in the house all the time. At first I was freaked out but once I saw our favorite little kitchen gecko eat a mosquito, I realized that more geckos = less bugs.
  • We pretty much only wear our swimsuits because it’s hot and #whynot. But hard lesson learned: wear a shirt when you’re frying tacos. I have a battle wound on my stomach from oil popping me in the belly button. (PS this applies to you no matter where you live, I’ll admit I’m 28 and I should’ve known better.. lol)
  • My skin is always shiny. I laugh out loud to myself when I think about how I used to wear highlighter on my cheeks at home so that they would look “dewey”. No problem with that here since l’m naturally dewey 24/7. I’m probably going to wrinkle up like a prune when we go home because I’ve gotten so used to the moisture.
anywhere with you.
  • When people rake their leaves, they burn the leaf piles afterwards. It took me several weeks to get used to the smell of smoke at 3am without having a minor panic attack and jumping out of bed to make sure the house wasn’t on fire. You know when you forget to turn your straightener off, and you hope and pray you don’t smell smoke when you get home later? (no, just me?) Well that’s a similar feeling.
  • At home in Oklahoma, we have bird poop everywhere. Here, the iguanas are the ones doing the pooping, and let me tell you.. they can do some damage.
  • The howler monkeys go nuts when motorcycles drive by. That’s one of the sounds I’ll miss the most for sure. (I’ll miss the hideous macaw squawk too though)
  • We have to hardcore meal plan. It’s not like at home, where we’d plan on grilling chicken and then change our minds at the last minute and decide to  get $5 Little Caesar’s pizza instead. We have to buy meat at a store an hour away and the vegetable truck comes by twice a week. So if we don’t plan ahead then we’ll end up eating a packet of cheap ramen for dinner. (which we’ve done and actually, I’m into it. I never thought I’d eat it again after college but it satisfies my craving for Asian food while we’re here. And if you add in cilantro, green onions, sriracha, maybe an egg.. it’s pretty delicious ;)
  • Bonus: it’s every bit as awesome as I read it would be to be able to see birds and animals pretty much everywhere you turn. We’ve seen sloths and monkeys, whales and dolphins. Basically if you want to see wildlife, all you have to do is open your eyes.

Thoughts on brain fog and focus.

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I love documenting every little moment of our lives. I don’t have a good memory so it helps me in that way, but it’s also a fun hobby for me. I know some people can’t relate, but I actually really enjoy arranging my breakfast on the plate in an aesthetically pleasing way. 😂 And I like posting to my IG stories, adding some doodles, and looking back on what I did that day. It’s a creative outlet for me. It’s also how I find potential customers and clients, so it’s a big part of my life and business.

Somewhere down the line, though, it turned into something else- something that doesn’t allow me to be fully alive in my current moment, because I’m only half there. I don’t like to admit it because it feels silly, but it’s true.

I don’t know about you, but my mind bounces around a mile a minute. Always thinking about what needs to be done, what’s coming next. One minute I stand up to do laundry and the next thing I know I’m staring at my computer wondering what my purpose in life is. 🤣 So this week I tried something new (for me). I didn’t check my phone when I woke up in the morning, I focused on my present moment.. what I’m thankful for, what I wanted to accomplish that day, and I kept my social media closed until later in the evening. And man I have to tell you, it was the best.

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I was able to set goals for myself and keep them. I was more productive. I noticed things that I wouldn’t have noticed before. We’re lucky enough to be in Costa Rica right now, so I saw dolphins and macaws that I’m convinced I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I was working on an illustration of a monkey on the balcony when I looked over and saw monkeys in the tree right next to me. I can’t totally explain it.. but I just had several moments where I was like OKAY, world. I hear you. (Also, I realized that my thoughts exist in the form of Instagram captions... is that weird/bad? Haha. Maybe I should channel them into an illustrated coffee table book..)

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The few times I slipped up, I saw how much time I spend in Instagram when I don’t even mean to, which is the scary part. Opening one post lead me down a 45 minute spiral into looking at tiny food, which don’t get me wrong, I live for #tinykitchen. But I’m realizing that I need to have a specific time set aside for scrolling or it creeps in and distracts me from what’s going on in real life.

I’m challenging you (and myself) to do a little refocusing. Be present. Make goals. Schedule out your days and set specific time aside for catching up on social media. (btw I know that “being present” is such a trendy phrase right now- but I’m all for a trend if it helps us become better humans).

How to get a House Sitting Gig

So we’ve officially been house sitting for a week.

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We’re living in a new country, learning new routines (more on that later), meeting new neighbors. There have been some interesting moments for sure, but all in all it has turned out to be better than I thought it could be. Life without AC has definitely been the biggest adjustment. All of the windows are screens so we have 3 fans pointed on us at night and an ocean breeze during the day, it’s pretty steamy at times but I think my body is getting used to it though.

The people here live a much slower paced life. There’s one dirt road in our town, two grocery stores, a small handful of restaurants. It’s the most simple, laid back community I’ve ever visited. Since it’s so remote and most people don’t have a car there is a fruit and veggie truck that comes by twice a week. He parks out front at 9am and honks his horn to let us know he’s there, then we go out and pick what we want and pay him at the back of the truck. It’s one of my favorite parts so far.

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Some people have been asking me how it works so I wanted to answer some questions about house sitting here.

Is it a paid house sitting job? No, most of the ones I’ve seen online are a free swap. You stay for free and they get a free house sitter, it’s a win win. Even though you’re not getting paid, the amount of money you’re saving on housing or hotels definitely makes up for itself.

How did you get it? I made a profile and applied with Trusted Housesitters. I think the key is to tailor all of your applications to the particular house sitting job you’re applying for- similar to any job application. Also make your profile look good, put some time into it and be quick to respond to new listings.

How many people apply? Ours had over 150 people contact the owner but he only interviewed a couple applicants. Like I said, tailoring your application will really help you stand out. If you just copy/paste the same line that says, “I love pets and I’d love to take care of your dog” and then you apply for a house sit that doesn’t have a dog, that shows you’re not really trying. 

Are you still working? Danny is working full time remotely and I’m still doing illustration and design. So hit me up if you have a custom project in mind ;)

What are your responsibilities? They’re all different, but at our place all we really have to do is be at the house overnight. We turn the porch lights on and off, take care of the chickens, sweep the pool sometimes. There is a house keeper and pool caretaker so it’s pretty well looked after, we’re just here for extra security.

But, why Costa Rica? And why 3 months? We had visited Costa Rica twice before and knew that we loved it, and it felt familiar. This house sit in particular was for three months but they all vary, some are just one or two weeks.

*extra application tip: you should set up a bookmark for specific cities that you’re interested in because it’s super important to apply quickly! The good ones will go fast.

You can browse for free without paying for a membership, but if you want to apply for gigs you’ll need to pay a yearly membership fee (which pays for itself once you land your first night at a free housesit). Sign up with my link to get 25% off member fees, and I’ll get a month for free :) 

Let me know if you have any questions! I’d love to chat with you about it.

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Here’s to learning new things and experiencing a different culture, even just for a little while. xo.

3 months in Costa Rica

Hola from Costa Rica! Quick life update: This is our new home for the next 3 months! Keep reading for the long update ;)

At the beginning of 2018 I decided to stop making my plush taxidermy (traveling a lot for my husb’s work made it difficult), and I spent a few months in a weird limbo wondering WTH I was going to do with my business.

For a second, Danny and I thought we were going to open a small music venue with some friends in OKC. We hit it hard for about a month I was like ohh ok, I’ll be working at this place all the time now, this is my new life plan. 🎸🍻🎤🤘🏻We ended up running into too many roadblocks, but the planning process was super fun for me and I think we’d love to try again in the future.

In the meantime I started sketching, just for myself mostly. Sunny beach inspired art. Then I put myself out there and one thing lead to another and I got a few really fun opportunities that made me excited about my business again, and I felt like I knew what I was doing.

Fast forward a few months, and we were sitting on a plane on our way to Zancudo, Costa Rica to housesit for the next three months. It really happened so quickly, we decided on a whim to apply and then got accepted and were gone less than three weeks later. Every time we go on vacation we talk about how awesome it would be to move to the beach, but how sad we would be to leave our family and friends. So this is the best of both worlds! It’s long enough to give us a taste of Costa Rican life but short enough to not make us feel like we’re uprooting our entire life back home.

So far this whole process has been the most spontaneous, outrageous thing I’ve ever done. It probably doesn’t seem like a long time to most people because a lot of people study abroad or move out of state for a job. But I’m a pretty anxious person and I’ve never left home for more than two weeks (even though I love to travel, my traveling is mostly 5 nights or less).

Basically what I’m saying is, don’t bog yourself down thinking about your life plan for the next 5-10 years. Take it as it comes. Take chances. Do something that feels exciting and scary and hope for the best. If I was still busy sewing custom orders and feeling comfortable with my business, then I might never have gotten restless, never started dreaming about doing something a little different. Honestly I have no clue if this is going to end up being the best experience of my life or if I’m going to be crying in a month wanting to go home early and sleep in my own bed. But I’m hoping for the former.

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The Best Costa Rica Airbnb's (under $200!)

One of my favorite things to do on the weekends is spend hours on the internet looking at vacation rentals. (no, for real. I think it's actually a hobby of mine at this point.) I spent so much time browsing that I had a legit Airbnb nightmare last night.. we got there and the bed was missing, the sink was full of dishes, the pool had no water in it.. just a straight up nightmare, y'all. (Ha! I only wish I was kidding.)

I know that for some of you, vacation planning and rental searching is your own personal version of hell. Amirite? Don't worry, I'll happily share the fruits of my labor with you.

Costa Rica is a dream. Wild jungle animals meet miles of beaches, cute little towns, active volcanoes, and friendly people. It's not the place to go for an all inclusive vacation- it's the place to go for an adventure.

I've rounded up some of my favorites that meet most, if not all, of the things on my list. (and they're all backed up by excellent reviews- which I feel is super important when it comes to renting a house in a foreign country)

Costa Rican Airbnb wish list: 

  • Private house with a view
  • Swimming pool
  • Kitchen or kitchenette
  • less than $200 a night
  • Danny wants wifi.. not at the top of my list but I'll admit it definitely makes life easier

Of note: these first 3 options don't have AC, but the reviews all say there is enough of a breeze that this isn't a problem at all. This was our experience as well when we stayed at Mango Valley (pictured at the bottom).

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As if staying in a freaking awesome treehouse wasn't amazing enough, "guests enjoy free 24 hour access to the 12 natural hot and cool springs pools of various temperatures and rainforest trails." And um, hi.. it's only $129 a night. 

Costa Rica airbnb

Private two bedroom villa with everything a family needs on vacation and a shared pool with 3 other villas. Walking distance to Samara beach. $148

Costa Rica airbnb

"Spectacular volcano and lake views from every room" and a spacious balcony. Sold. $118

So I definitely think a tad rustic is the way to go in Costa Rica, but I couldn't resist including a few beautiful modern houses as well. 

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 "Serenity Beach House". $209, gorgeous private pool, AC, full house includes 5 beds.

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Fairly new so not many reviews yet, but so far no one has anything negative to say about this fully equipped, amazing house with open air in the common areas, AC in the 2 bedrooms. $129 and in a gated community close to the beach. 

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This amazing pool with an absolutely killer view pretty much seals the deal for me. (Open air shower, AC, and modern furnishings aren't so bad either.) $247 -more than we would pay on our own BUT it sleeps 4 people comfortably with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, so split between two couples this house is a sweet deal.

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Infinity pool with an ocean view. AC and comfortable amenities as well as 2 bedrooms. $172

Honorable mention. Very simple cottages overlook the gorgeous Mango Valley, this place is an underrated gem. We stayed here one night because it's 25 minutes from SJO and we had an early flight the next morning- although I wouldn't recommend staying here for your entire trip, you can't beat this gorgeous little pool for $67 near the airport.

Also note: most of these places are near the Province of Guanacaste or Arenal volcano area but we stayed here two years ago in Dominical and absolutely loved it. The view is amazing and we saw a wild sloth chilling right outside our window. One of my favorite moments ever.

Now for the hard part. Will you stay somewhere with views of the valley or steps from the beach? Maybe a little of both? Life is full of tough decisions, isn't it ;) Hope I made it a little easier for you, though. Pura Vida.