What’s it Really Like to Live in the Costa Rican Jungle?
When we see beautiful photos and dreamy stories on travel and lifestyle blogs, it’s easy to create fantasies about the life of the blogger. Perhaps seeing someone live in a way that we’ve always dreamed of gives us the confidence to pursue it ourselves. On the other side of the coin, perhaps we judge our reality against the fantasy that we’ve imagined and feel inadequate by comparison. There’s a fine line between being inspired by blogs and feeling inferior.
This is exactly why I speak to you as authentically as I possibly can. I share my challenges, my heartbreaks, my frustrations, so you see that I am working through this human experience just like everyone else.
And it’s also important for me to share my joy and bliss, because I truly and authentically can say that even my worst days are better than I ever imagined my best could be back when I lived in North America.
My life is always in flux since I travel constantly, but I spend about half of the year resting in nature and connecting with my community in this jungle beach town that my heart calls home. I’ve written a lot about life on the road, but today I want to talk about the other part of my life. With the hopes of cutting through illusions, and inspiring you all to live with immense joy and purpose, today I’m sharing a candid glimpse into my life here in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.
A small note: I wish I had more authentic photos to share with you. The truth is, when I’m here just living my life, I’m not taking many photos. It’s a time for me to enjoy a break from documenting and just feel my surroundings instead. For that reason, I don’t have many candid photos of my life. So, I’ll do my best in this post to share the photos that evoke the feelings I have as I’m going about my day. Oh ya, and for the record, I actually do spend most days barefoot in a bikini with a hibiscus flower in my hair. Cause why the heck not?
Here’s a typical day in my life living on the South Caribbean of Costa Rica as a single female nomadic travel blogging yoga teacher.
No matter what time I go to sleep, when the monkeys start howling I’m awake. I’ve recently started dream journaling, so immediately upon waking I’ll spend about five minutes meditating on my dream, and then scribble it down on a notepad beside my bed. Half asleep I roll out of the tangled mosquito net and walk across the creaky floor to guzzle a big glass jar full of purified water. I throw on a bikini, leave everything else at home, and walk down the dirt path from my house to the beach, watching closely for leaf cutter ants who march in seemingly endless lines on this path.
When I arrive at the beach just a few minutes later, I sit on the shore and watch the sun rise up from the horizon, stunning pink casting her light across the sea. I usually meditate as she rises, then I may take a walk, do some stretching, or go for a swim. I spend about an hour at the ocean and then walk back home.
6:30am Yoga and Dance
When I get home I do some kind of dance, yoga, hula hooping morning practice on my porch that overlooks a private garden. I love my house, especially because it’s so close to the beach, but I don’t own it. It’s a rental that I like to stay in whenever I come to town. The tricky part is that sometimes the owners come back and I have to move out, or tourists will pre-book with the place and I have to go stay with friends. During high season it’s so expensive I can’t afford to live in it and I have to look elsewhere or go travel for a while. Unless you own a place here in Puerto Viejo, your living situation is usually in flux. Fortunately, I’m flexible from living on the road.
After an hour of yoga or dance I take a restful meditation of at least ten minutes. If I’m feeling it, I may turn to an oracle card deck and choose a card to help guide me for the day.
Some mornings I teach yoga at the studio Om in town, which overlooks the ocean, or I’ll attend another teacher’s class. On those days I usually do my writing work early in the morning, just after sunrise, and then ride my bicycle into town for yoga at 8:30am.
8:00am “Work” Time
When I’m actually disciplined, I sit down at my computer by 8am and drink a morning tonic of ginger tea with lemon and a big glass of water kefir that I brew myself. If I don’t turn to my to-do that I wrote the day before, I’ll get completely distracted by email, Facebook, and the general busyness of the online world. Typically, I go to the checklist after being distracted for about half an hour and will usually work on writing my blog posts or doing promotional work.
I do all of my work at home because it’s too distracting in the cafes here. When I’m traveling I love to write in cafes, but here everyone knows me so I end up socializing and not getting any work done. For this reason, it’s important for me to live alone, in a quiet and beautiful space where I can be creative. The house I live in now has a beautiful garden and a huge outdoor deck with a big dining table where I sit and do my work.
At some point I take a break from writing to make myself breakfast. I usually like to be up for at least a few hours before I eat, focusing on hydrating and moving and stretching in the morning. I like to feel empty and clear for a while after I wake up.
For breakfast I make myself the same thing every day, a big green smoothie bowl covered in superfoods. I load up the blender with a whole bunch of kale, a frozen banana, the water and flesh from a fresh young coconut, chia seeds, half of an avocado, and cacao powder. I like to make it super thick and then pour it into a bowl and top it with sliced strawberries, papaya, nuts and seeds. This breakfast keeps me full for hours.
I buy almost all of my groceries at the Organic Farmer’s Market every Saturday, and at the one organic shop in town, the BioMercato. I get my fruit and young coconuts from the stand just at the end of my street from a local family who grows it organically on their farm up in the hills.
1:00pm Play Time
By noonish I try to finish up my work, since the sun will usually be blazing and the beach beckons as I’m dripping sweat onto my keyboard. Truth be told, it’s very hard for me to stay disciplined here when it’s sunny and I often miss my self-imposed deadlines because I want to play at the beach. I try to make up for it on the rainy days, getting as much writing done as possible and staying home away from distractions. The times when I’ve actually really grown my business, I have never been here in Costa Rica. The rhythm of nature and the rhythm of the online world don’t seem to work well together. It’s a challenge for me and I strive to find the balance between productivity and play every day.
I use my bicycle to get everywhere, which I love for so many reasons. It helps me feel connected with the nature around me, makes an adventure out of getting around, and it guarantees that I always get exercise. To make it even more fun, I often listen to my iPod and dance while I ride. Most of my favorite beaches are about 20-30 minutes by bike from my house, which makes for a pleasant ride. Sometimes there’s road construction and potholes and dust on the street, plus the smell of hot garbage. Other times there’s the scent of a blossoming Ylang Ylang tree or a traffic jam from a sloth crossing the road.
Sometimes I meet friends at the beach, but usually it’s my personal time to rest, recharge, and reflect. I’ll nap under an almond tree, float in the ocean, take a long walk, climb up one of the cliffs and rub myself in red clay, read a book, write in my journal, or do a long meditation/visualization. If it’s the right time of year, I love to go snorkeling at the reef that juts out right off of the beach.
This is a surf town, but I’ve never really picked up the sport. I’ve tried, but I find it frustrating and not very fun. For a long time I was hard on myself about this, now I’ve just accepted that there are so many other things that I love and surfing doesn’t have to be one of them. I also prefer the vibe of the peaceful swimming beaches to the more crowded surf beach near town.
Since my favorite beaches are completely jungle backed, it’s difficult to get food there. So I often pack myself some snacks or a salad with quinoa or hard-boiled egg and a dark chocolate bar (since I’m a total addict), which I often let melt in my mouth during my meditations.
On rainy days I’ll either walk and swim for a couple of hours anyway, or I’ll stay at home and take advantage of getting lots of writing done or reading a book in my hammock. There are often community events and gatherings in the afternoons as well, and every Friday I attend a Cacao Ceremony Women’s Circle for a few hours, which a safe space to ground down and open up with other women.
You can’t technically see the sunset here, since we’re on the Caribbean, but it’s still my favorite time of the day. The heat cools off, the coast is bathed in golden light, and the sky turns a soft lavender. This is usually when I ride back home from the beach and enjoy the birds and the smells of flowers on the jungle road.
If the trees in my yard are bearing fruit, I like to gather and collect whatever has fallen. Recently one of the trees was full of ackee, a special fruit from Jamaica that looks like brains and tastes like a rich creamy delicacy almost like eggs. Collecting it off of the ground like a squirrel was the highlight of my day. I got to harvest the fruit, prepare it, eat it, and go and kiss the tree and thank it for feeding me, which was an amazing experience.
After dropping off my stuff and picking fruit, I grab my hula hoop and walk down to the main surf beach. I often run into friends there and watch the surfers as the sun goes down behind the hills. It’s a nice time for me to be social after a peaceful day alone. Or, if I’ve hung out at the beach with friends in the day, it’s a time where I go and meditate with the sunset alone. I try to balance social time and alone time as much as possible.
6:00pm Go Out or Wind Down
It gets completely dark by 6pm, which took some getting used to for me. It’s really not safe to walk or ride your bicycle here in the dark, even when it’s early, so nighttime can feel prohibitive. At this time of night I’ll shower off the beach, drink another young coconut and a lot of water, and either make dinner or meet up with friends.
If I make dinner it’s usually something simple and nourishing like a pumpkin curry with coconut milk and fresh ginger and turmeric or veggie tacos with lots of avocado. After dinner I’ll typically do more work on the blog or do a restorative yoga practice and watch the stars for a bit from my garden. Because I wake up so early I’m usually asleep by 10pm.
If I’m feeling social, I’ll meet friends in town for dinner at our favorite restaurants, a fusion place with amazing stir fries or the no-name fish place that serves only what was caught that day with a side of grilled veggies and fried potatoes. There are just a few bars in town and just one where everyone goes on a Friday or Saturday night and occasionally my friends and I will go there for some dancing. The vibe is pretty seedy, but if you stay in your zone it can be fun to get sweaty with some Reggaeton.
I often like to organize gatherings and host friends for dinner parties or cacao ceremonies and ecstatic dance. I feel so fortunate to have a beautiful community of friends here who are also dedicated to a life of greater freedom, awareness, and compassion.
Every full moon we have a big bonfire on the beach and watch the moonrise from the ocean. It’s my favorite evening of the whole month. Living here has made me feel far more connected to the moon cycles and the rhythms of nature, which has profoundly shifted my understanding of life cycles and my own internal cycles.
Life here is far from perfect. The jungle and the ocean make everything metal turn to rust, termites eat the walls and the floors of your house, food and housing are expensive compared to local wages, and getting work done can be a challenge. Crime does happen and the cultural differences and resentment towards foreigners can make me feel like an outsider.
But living this way is what feels natural to me. Living in nature, in true abundance, reminds me of my own true nature. And the more I’ve learned to open my heart to this jungle and to this community of all kinds of people, the more gifts it bestows. Be it of smiles or genuine kindnesss or perfect sunrises or the smell of Ylang Ylang or fresh ackee falling from the trees. Every day I feel more and more that I not only love this place, this place loves me.
I hope this little glimpse into my life, which for me feels like pure Jungle Bliss, has given you an even deeper appreciation for all of the beauty that exists in yours. May you too live in the place and in the rhythm that brings you the deepest sense of peace, love, and joy.