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Photo Sunday: Nosara Fun

First time I ever saw a zip line place that would let two people go at the same time, and take video while you went. Loved it.

This is the little guy we saw hatch, crawl out of his hole and start heading for the water

Here’s the mama turtle in action. Wowzers.


When people found out about our plan to sell everything we own and move to Costa Rica, their reactions seemed to fall into one of two categories. One was, “Wow, that’s awesome!  I wish I were in a position to do that. You’re doing what the rest of us wish we could do.”

The other response was, “Why would you do that? Are you sure? What’s wrong with you? That makes me sick to think about.”  One of our friends literally looked like he was about to be sick. The most memorable response was from our 75-year old neighbor – a successful business man now retired. His comment to me was, “You’re doing what we wish we would have done when we were your age.”

We’ve walked away from a 4,500 square foot home with all of the comforts a human being could ever wish for. Nice cars, a tub for two, fantastic appliances, and even two sinks in the bathroom! Now we’re living in a tiny little apartment, no more than 300 square feet, stomping on ants, washing dishes by hand, choosing which trickle of water coming out of the shower head to stand under, and learning to live without a car.

And guess what…we couldn’t be happier.

We made efforts to fit into the typical American lifestyle. We’ve both been doing the “responsible/stable” thing our entire lives (e.g., attend and graduate from college, get a job and a career and slowly accumulate more and better things). But it felt like we were always rubbing against the grain, and it didn’t truly make either of us happy. We bought the big screen flat panel HD TV because they looked so cool. Then it sat there with no television service other than what we picked up out of the air and our best component for it was a five-year old DVD player. And then there were all the comments we’d get about how we were always gone traveling – which is true. If three months went by without a good trip for us, we got restless.

So we dumped all the stuff that was holding us back and went to live our lives a little differently. Imagine the newly discovered brain power when you don’t have to worry about all the stuff around you. We have zero concern for weeds in the yard, or the fact that the car needs an oil change, or that the fridge needs a new water filter, or – the curse of our generation – that the cell phone is ringing and because it’s a cell phone, the person calling has a reasonable expectation that he can reach us at any time. (It’s coming up on two weeks of not having to answer a single phone call or text. Liberating doesn’t even describe the feeling that comes from that.)

All of those things have been beneficial side effects of our decision to leave, but none were the big “Why” we chose to.

We took a good look at our lives and realized we weren’t truly happy.  Neither of us felt like we were making a really positive contribution to this world.  Neither of us could say we were living anything like what we’d dreamed of when we were kids (I know many of us came up short of being Super Man or the next Michael Jordan, but that’s a topic for another day.)  And with so much on our plates trying to keep up our lives the way we thought we should be living them, we weren’t finding the time for important habits and things that keep us feeling balanced and enjoying life every day.

If you look around you, how many people do you see that are truly happy?

We realized that for us, trying to stay in the typical pattern of the 9 to 5+ job, at the beck and call of bosses or clients, eek out a two-week vacation every year if we were lucky, and finally control our own lives after we’d given our best years to that system, just wasn’t going to work for us.

There are people in the world who have broken the mold and found a different way to live, one that involves making a significant impact on the lives of other people. One that doesn’t involve dedicating your life to a boss or suffering through pointless Monday morning meetings. There are people who see a problem, and rather than wasting an hour debating with their colleagues what was that problem’s cause or who were the idiots in charge, and then return to their unfulfilling work, they will go out and invent new ways to solve problems.

We’re not saying we should all be Mother Teresas. In fact, we don’t want to be. That’s not our gift and we wouldn’t be very good at trying to do what she did. But we realized that we all have our own gifts and at least one thing we are passionate about, and that if we figure out what that is and actually do something with it to benefit others, our lives could be a lot more meaningful and fulfilling. 

So what are our passions? We can safely say it’s not tax returns or selling life insurance. Those gigs had nothing to do with our talents or dreams. There has always been the travel, the cooking, reading, and being outdoors. And over the last two years, we’ve found something else to be passionate about. We’ve seen firsthand the impact that the food we choose to eat has on our bodies. Watching Kelli’s health improve almost instantly after making a few changes was mind jarring. Brad feeling his own body improve as he made those changes with Kelli was amazing. Telling others about what we were doing and hearing about the improvements they were experiencing was very rewarding. Wondering how similar choices might positively impact others in a big way gave rise to a purpose.

So as we search for the best application of our desire to help others improve how they feel through healthy lifestyle changes, we knew it was time to start living a life that we could be proud of.  In Utah we complained every time winter came, so we knew we had to leave the state. Every time we went on vacation to a tropical climate we didn’t want to come home, so we’ve decided to go live in one. We’ve always wanted to see so many places in this world, and knowing that sooner or later we’ll need to pick a spot and put down roots, we decided to go see which place we like the best. (How do you know until you try them?!)

We were square pegs trying to shove ourselves through the round holes of the typical lifestyle. Since we felt stuck in the lives we were trying to live, we’re really excited to be kicking the status quo to the curb and shooting for something amazing.

What’s our “amazing”? Yet to be seen. Might we fail? Of course. Scary? Sure as hell it is. Will we regret it? We can’t possibly imagine.



Yes, Classic Rock everywhere.  As Brad and I walk down the main street of this beautiful beach town, music from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s is making its groovy way out to us from every restaurant and store.  Brad teases me that I’m in music paradise here.   I can’t argue.  Classic rock has always made up the majority of my music collection.  And with music from bands like Fleetwood Mac, Styx, Kansas, Aerosmith, Guns N Roses, Carlos Santana, and, of course, plenty of “Hotel California” from the Eagles (that seems to be the most favorite song here), I am in music paradise.  If the locals are trying to cater to the Gringo tourists here, then consider this Gringo thoroughly impressed.    

Speaking of music and classics, “I think I’m gonna like it here.”  That’s a line from a song in the classic movie Annie (the original).  This is an absolutely beautiful place to live, and we’ve already met so many genuinely friendly, nice, and helpful people.

 Also speaking of music, we were in a larger city called Liberia the other day when we heard Christmas music coming from a park we were walking past.  We went to investigate.  There was a large crowd of mostly school-aged kids playing instruments and dancing.  It was so fun – I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  Here’s a quick clip we captured on our camera: 

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So, just a couple more things I’ve learned here in Costa Rica:  1. Keep your arms and legs in at all times.  Now we are walking everywhere on the two-lane highways and roads with no shoulders, oncoming traffic, bicyclists, other pedestrians, etc and you can often feel the swish of cars and trucks flying by.  2. They really do cut the grass here.  Literally.  With machetes.  No joke.  Not long ago I learned that many people in the Southeast U.S. call mowing the lawn “cutting the grass.”  Even though most of them use machines now, I wonder if this is where the expression originated….?


Just to record a few first for my posterity

In the two weeks we’ve been here Kelli and I haven’t done any real exercise other than a lot of walking and playing around in the pool. We’ve been looking for a yoga class to go to but evidently those don’t start until ‘high season,’ which begins about the second week of December. (Costa Rica’s tourist industry has brought back a lot of ‘owning a hotel in Nauvoo’ memories for me. I didn’t know it before hand, but the whole country is quiet for nine months and then gears up for the busy season – December through February. Everyone keeps on talking about the high season coming, how quiet things are right now, and how when high season comes it’ll get really busy. And some touristy things are closed waiting to open for the crowds that the next few months will bring. It brings back memories of all those times suffering through the dreadful dearth of a Midwest winter, getting ready for the busy season at the hotel and store, then hanging out in Nauvoo for the summer. So glad those days are in the past.)

So, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, no yoga right now. But we did find a hotel just down the road that offers a 2x per week water aerobics class. You know what that means. Yep. Picture it: Kelli, me, and a crowd of twenty or so over-75, overweight ladies. Honestly, I almost lost my nerve as we came around the corner and saw the crowd. I wondered if I could just walk by and pretend like I was dropping Kelli off on my way to catch some waves at the beach.  But heck, nobody knows me in Costa Rica, right? So I did it, pink water noodle and all.  I can no longer say that I have never done water aerobics. Here’s another thing I have to admit…it was hard! Honestly, I think I broke a sweat underneath the water.The teacher saw Kelli and me and never broke her gaze. She made us do three reps for everyone else’s one. She yelled at us at least a dozen times and even blew her whistle at me when I did something wrong. (The first time wasn’t even my fault. When we first got in the water one of the old ladies was telling me how cool it was that I came to the class and that her husband wasn’t secure enough in his manhood to do it. [That didn’t help.] And then I got in trouble for talking. Welcome to class school boy.)

To go along with that first, I also got my first sunburn on this trip. It was only a matter of time and was bound to happen sooner or later. But why didn’t I think to put on sunscreen before spending an hour in the pool with an equatorial sun directly over my head?

Here’s a funny one: we haven’t eaten any sugar at all since we’ve been down here (not super intentional, just hasn’t happened). Our snacks have been fruit and nuts. So at the grocery store tonight Kelli said, “Let’s buy some more nut snacks.” Say that one out loud once or twice and you’ll get it.

And another first: I’m actually considering purchasing a man purse. In Costa Rica you don’t get paper money until you get to 1000 colones, which is about two dollars. And their coin money is heavy! It’s a total pain to carry around in your pocket and try to keep track of.

Water aerobics and a man purse. I feel like I need to eat some meat and fart and belch in public tomorrow.

[Hey Kevin, I hear they have some cool coin purses over there in Australia, ones with no seams or anything. At least my man purse would have some testosterone in it. Hook a brother up.]

kangaroo scrotum pouch


Photo Wednesday: Our Town


Church Costa Rica Style

Often times in an LDS church meeting you’ll hear a comment about how the church is the same all over the world. It’s not. Whoever says that hasn’t ever left Utah. However, one thing that was very similar, surprisingly similar, was watching adults try to get their teenagers to stop texting and pay attention. I’m not kidding. There we were in this tiny branch in Liberia, Costa Rica, and all of the teenage girls in front of us were texting through the whole meeting. I looked over my shoulder and the boys were texting right along with them, probably to each other. Makes a former young men’s leader like me feel right at home.

This Sunday Kelli and I went to our first Costa Rican church meetings. There is a chapel in Liberia, the branch that we belong to. The building is long and skinny with a sidewalk running the length of one side. Doors off of the sidewalk lead to each of the rooms, maybe 6 or 7 in total. Sacrament meeting involves the three largest rooms on one end of the building. Once that meeting was over, chairs were turned from facing the pulpit in the front to face sideways towards whiteboards on the walls. Then heavy curtains were pulled to divide what was the “chapel” into three classrooms, now to be used for Sunday School classes. Even in Brazil I had never seen that approach used. It really is an efficient use of space. But those curtains were not much for sound barriers. When it came time for Relief Society and Priesthood to sing opening hymns, there seemed to be a competition between the two groups as to who could disrupt the other more. And of course they made up their own tunes as they went along. Hilarious.

I think most people understand that church will be a different experience depending on where you go. There were a few members of this branch who have obviously been members for a long time, and many had served missions. But I don’t think there was one adult who wasn’t a first-generation member. What was fantastic to see was their zeal for the church and gospel, firm as rocks in their testimonies.

For sacrament meeting they chose the four longest hymns in the hymnbook, ones with beautiful music but difficult notes in some places. But I couldn’t believe how loud they all sang, belting out their testimonies in song. So as we’re all signing I Believe in Christ, miserably, and at times comically off tune and time, the spirit during that hymn was the strongest I’ve felt in quite some time and for me, one more evidence of how true this church is.

The same everywhere? Not even close. True everywhere? Absolutely.


Week 1: It’s On!

It’s on like Donkey Kong. 

It’s our first day without a car and settling into “real” life in our new place, and it feels like Costa Rica is a big bronco trying to buck me off.  Bring it.

The first week has been great – all sorts of ups and downs.  I’m sure my posts will reflect the roller-coaster of experiences and emotions (read: I’m not bipolar, in case you start to wonder).

Just to fill you in a little, on Saturday we drove out here to Playa del Coco to look at a studio apartment.  Coco is a cool little beach town, and the apartment is about 2 blocks from the beach.  Amazing.  We flagged down a guy on a bike to use his cell phone to call the property manager so we could take a look at the place.  Despite efforts on our first day to get prepaid cell service here, we’re still without a cell phone.

The place was as perfect as we could imagine, so we got signed up for a six month lease.  There were only a few hiccups at this point: the unit we looked at is promised to the lady next door who beat us by a week.  It’s definitely a superior unit, so it’s no wonder she wants it.  So here’s the plan: we move in for about a week, until the owner gets here and we will stay  . . .we don’t know where . . . while the owner does a couple day’s worth of remodeling in the unit and installing a full-size fridge, then we move back in for another week or so, then we switch places with the woman next door at the beginning of December.   

We decided not to bother unpacking, but we did go and get some groceries (lots of produce) so we could start cooking our own meals.  A few hours later, we discovered the fridge didn’t work at all.  We also realized we had lots of animals living in our place with us (mostly lizards and huge red ants that don’t die), probably due to the broken window screen.  Trying to feel settled in was not going very well.

But that didn’t bother us much for the first several days.  Brad put up a great post about what we did with our last three days of having our rental car.  Going to see those volcanoes was awesome.  It was so nice to get out and see beautiful parts of the country without the stress of not having a place to live.  It was so nice to do things we’d normally do on a vacation.

Today we’re settling into everyday life here.

It’s noon.  We haven’t had water to our place for over two hours.  According to our neighbor, Hurley, this isn’t unusual. 

According to everyone, it’s only beginning to get hot here, which is hard to imagine.  The rainy season just ended as we arrived.  Enter dry and hot season.  As I’m typing we have all windows and our door open and our ceiling fan going, and let’s just say I’m not dressed for company.

Now it’s 1:30, and still no water.  We’re honestly – and I’m not kidding – about to drink the ice cubes.  Oh yeah, our fridge / freezer just died again for the third time since we got here, so it’s a good idea to drink the ice cubes.  They’re going to melt soon anyway.

It’s 7:00.  We just finished an awesome meal (thanks, Brad) of rice, beans, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, avacadoes, and fried eggs.  Unfortunately we lost the broccoli, squash, and some other produce that didn’t survive the weather outside the fridge.  I made an attempt at fried bananas (in coconut oil), and they were a great dessert. 

It’s 2:00 in the morning.  I woke up a couple hours ago because it was so hot, despite running some air conditioning for a little while before we went to bed.  I opened the windows back up which helped alleviate some heat, but I still can’t sleep.  As soon as I opened the windows, the smell of burning foliage flooded our apartment (the locals here burn piles of downed palm leaves and whatever else is lying around; sometimes it’s so strong it make me think of what it would be like to wrap my lips around the exhaust pipe of one of their trucks here).  We have great insulation here but you can hear everything through open windows.  Everything. 

We did end up drinking the ice cubes, and shortly after that we had water again.  I was so happy I was able to do laundry.  As we got ready to go to bed, we noticed a resurgence of the huge red ants.  I mean they are everywhere – all around and in my suitcase, all over my nightstand and lamp, all over the floors and walls. 

So, today living in Costa Rica felt kinda tough.  But I’m not going to let that win.  At the end of the day, even a day like today, I really like it here.  This was my workday today: take a walk on the beach, work with Brad on our web pages, take a swim in the pool, work on the computer a little more, and walk into town to explore where we live and enjoy the most gorgeous beach, ocean, and sunset.  Follow that up with a great meal. 

And then there’s Brad.  By far the most important thing I brought with me.  Among many other things, I’m really appreciating his optimism and humor.  In a completely serious but cheery tone he’s saying stuff like, “Good thing it’s not hot” (as our fingers sweat onto our computers), and “Good thing they’re so cute” (as the huge red ants are crawling everywhere while we’re turning down the covers).

And I finally have that naturally wavy hair I’ve always wanted.  Yep, things are looking up. 

Here are a few more things I’ve learned: 

Yes they do make sheets in a thread count of 25 (special see-through edition); if you turn on a hot water handle and no water comes out, there is no hot water – try the cold; it can actually get too hot to wear ear plugs; cell phones and almost everything else is more expensive here than in the US; hold the flush on the toilet about 10 times longer than you’re used to; Sprint plan cell phones do not come with SIM cards nor do they have the capability to place SIM cards in them; apparently it is customary for a repair man to eat some of your food and leave his dishes in the sink when he works on something in your home, even if he didn’t get it fixed.


Check out our new wheels…they look like legs

A week of firsts, first of many I’m sure. I’m not really positive what day it is, so by week I mean a string of consecutive days.

Finding a place to live for the next six months on Saturday was huge. Our place is tiny, and I emphasize tiny, but it was such a relief to be able to pull our stuff out of the rental car and know where we’re going to be staying.

Trying to take advantage of our time left with the rental car (we rented it for a week), we spent the last three days driving around to visit nearby national parks and get a feel for this part of the country. Our first excursion was to Rincon de la Vieja National Park, named for the huge volcano in the center of the park. We went on a three-hour hike around the volcano. Three minutes into it, we were already stopping to watch the monkeys in the trees.

We climbed all over the volcano, walking by boiling mud and water pits, steam vents, a gorgeous waterfall that’s only around during the rainy season, and traversing a few rivers. More monkeys, big white ones. Some were curious enough to stop for a few minutes to stare down at us while we were staring back at them. We even got a view into their personal life when one started going to the bathroom. Honestly, it really is quite a site to watch a monkey pee from 50 feet up in the air, and then turn his butt toward you and squeeze out a few ______ [whatever you wanna call them]. That’s some serious distance, and I’m very glad this one wasn’t directly above us. Those things were solid and made a loud thump when they hit the ground.

Monkey in Rincon de las Viejas

Our first monkeys

shameless monkey

This is the shameless monkey

Near the end of our trail we were stunned to see a large iguana running down the side of a tree at full speed and come all the way onto the ground right next to us. He seemed at first to be intrigued by all of the butterflies flying around nearby, but then his head snapped around as he registered a beetle crawling across a stick just a few yards away. He trotted over to it, lowered his head, and snapped it up with his mouth – the crunching noise completely audible from where we were standing. Nature is alive and kicking here.

Iguana in Rincon de la Vieja

Killer iguana

swinging on the vine

What's a trip to the jungle without swinging on the vines?

mudpits in rincon de la vieja

Boiling Mud Pits

Yesterday’s journey was a trip to the amazing Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal. I’ll post pictures of that one, but I’m sure none of them will do justice to this place. This volcano is what inspired all of those pictures of volcanoes that we used to draw when we were kids. You remember the type, a perfect cylinder of a mountain with red lava oozing out of the very top. That’s Arenal. To say it’s gorgeous doesn’t even come close to describing how amazing it is. On the northern side (the way we approached it) is bordered by Lake Arenal, a crystal blue lake surrounded by the green of the forest, a scene that you think must have come from somewhere in Switzerland. The only thing I can say about Arenal is, come see it. Wow.

After a long drive down the west coast then looping back onto the Pan-American Highway taking us toward home, it was time to take back the rental car and figure out our way on foot. Now we’re really living Costa Rica style. From the big town of Liberia we found that the bus back to El Coco was just about ready to leave. An hour bus ride, then a 10 minute walk from “downtown” Coco: now we are the people walking along a high speed two-lane no-shoulder highway playing chicken with oncoming traffic. We made it home in time to take a quick swim in the pool and make up a plate of our favorite local fare: rice, beans, salad, and fried eggs. Tan me up and call me a Tico.

Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano

volcano and lake arenal

A view of the volcano from Lake Arenal


Blendtec baby, Blendtec

It worked! After all the work of packing a dang blender, sacrificing other things that we could have brought, and then lugging the thing around in my backpack for the last week, it finally paid off.

Kelli and I have a home. We found a great little place in a cool beach town called Playa de los Cocos. It’s small, but we went to do some grocery shopping last night and we couldn’t believe what we were seeing: organic gala apples, organic soy and almond milk, and all sorts of good leafy green vegetables that we use in our smoothies and salads. So I’ll give you one guess what we had for breakfast this morning. Yep, tropical smoothie goodness tons of greens snuck in. I love you Blendtec blender. Thanks for getting my back…and finally getting off it.


Day 1: Mommy!

Wow. Enter learning curve.

This morning Brad and I stayed in the hotel until noon, each of us using one laptop to search for places to live, sending e-mails with questions, and finding ourselves a little dismayed about the lack of availability until after the beginning of January on many places.

We discovered that nothing has an address here. Our first stop after we left the hotel was the LDS temple. Its address is literally “600 meters west of the Marriott.” Anything you’re trying to find is a certain number of meters in a certain direction from a landmark that also does not have an address.

Heck yes we went back to our car rental place and got a GPS unit. Even without any addresses to go by, just using it to find a city or landmark was incredibly helpful.

We spent an hour traveling 20 miles to a town called Grecia and looking at a house there. By this time I had already been surprised by many things, not least of which was this city being named the cleanest in Central America.

Before we left the town, we walked around in search of food – we were both starving. We wandered past many a fried chicken, hamburger, or pastry shop looking for something we could eat. It started raining pretty hard (yes, we packed away an umbrella at home for use whenever we return to the desert from the rainforest . . . brilliant). We stumbled upon a Costa Rican version of Seattle’s Pike’s Place Market. We wandered from shop to inedible shop (shops selling either ingredients we had no way of preparing, or food that would put me down). Before we even got through the entire market, shops started closing down right and left – it was 4pm.

I thought briefly of all the comforts we had just left behind in the U.S. What a stark contrast to walking around a dirty, strange city where I could barely speak the language, soaking wet, starving, looking like an orphan pick-pocket and not being able to do one thing about any of it.

As we approached an exit from the market back out into the downpour outside, I glanced to my right and saw several women cooking in a fairly open kitchen. I saw squash and other root veggies in a pot on the stove and heard a pressure cooker going. Could it be? I grabbed Brad and pulled him around. Before I could construct the words in Spanish in my mind, this lovely woman with very kind eyes asked me if we wanted some food. We put in our order, and she served us up that fantastic veggie stew, rice, beans and plantains. It was honestly the best meal I could have imagined. I was so amazed and touched by the kindness and compassion these women showed to us. In my vulnerable state of missing my former home, not feeling well and being cold, wet, discouraged and starving, these women jumping right in with genuine care and concern and doing what they could to make us comfortable warmed my heart more than anything else could have done. At that moment, they all became Costa Rican moms to me.

Costa Rican Mommies

Costa Rican Mommies

Right now we’re back at the hotel checking e-mail responses from this morning and our day tomorrow is taking shape, including where we’re going to lay our heads tomorrow night and if we’re going to need to purchase a car while we’re here.

I’m heading straight for the vitamin C for my lovely head cold that is setting in with a vengeance.

Hmmm. Cars are 5 – 10 times the price here than in the US. A week ago Brad and I joked about driving our Maxima down here. We’re not laughing anymore.

Ok, we just got back from dinner. Brad found us a great place to eat dinner: rice, beans, salad, two fried eggs, and a banana. Ah, yeah (this really is the kind of food we loved eating in the States – seriously). I’ve decided I don’t need to cry myself to sleep tonight after all.

Sorry for the long post, but to sum up what I learned today: Ticos decided not to bother with addresses or street signs; Costa Rica is very different from the U.S., and it’s also different than what I had imagined before coming; there seems to be a big problem here with people being able to jump over 6+ foot high fences (every, every building has a huge fence with rolls of razor wire on top, usually accompanied by guards); most properties look like compounds (see prior comment); having some food in your stomach makes life much more manageable than being extremely hungry; it’s hard to find places to rent in December here; I don’t think CR has any kind of emissions standards for any of its vehicles, and I’m starting to wonder what’s in the fuel here; I can’t tell the difference at first sight between a fried banana and a piece of mystery meat; cow’s tongues are very, very large, and I can actually keep eating my own food while watching someone cut the taste buds off of one; all the people I met today were very kind and generous; the weather here is amazing – perfect temperature and humidity; the mountains are green and absolutely gorgeous; I can see why people love to live and visit here.

In all honesty and sincerity, I’m really looking forward to what I will learn tomorrow.

bungalow in playa dominical

Our bungalow in Playa Dominical, end of day 2