Travel Diary: Nosara, Costa Rica

Travel Diary: Nosara, Costa Rica

As I mentioned in my New Year’s Resolutions post, one of my goals for 2018 is to travel to at least three new places, and I am happy to say I can now check one off the list! If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that I went to Costa Rica for a week with my mom. We went for a One Yoga Global yoga retreat, and stayed at the beautiful Blue Spirit Retreat Center in Nosara.

This vacation was the first time I’d taken a full week off from work since I started my new job in October, and it was exactly what I needed. It was the perfect blend of relaxation, sunshine, fun excursions, and of course yoga. Instead of walking you through what we did every single day, I’m going to just share the top highlights from the trip.

The Location/Accommodations

As I mentioned, we stayed at Blue Spirit. We had a great experience there, and I would highly recommend it if you ever get the chance to stay there. One thing to note is that it is for yoga retreats specifically, so if you practice yoga you should definitely try to go on a retreat there. We stayed in a Nature Suite room, which looked like a little cottage with trees all around it which made it feel like a tree house!

There was a swimming pool at the resort, and a peaceful area with a koi pond that was nice to go to when you wanted some privacy. The beach was only a short walk away, so most days we would go for a swim in the ocean, and then go to the pool to cool off.

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Our room for the week
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My mom and I enjoying the ocean view

Besides the beautiful views, the best part of the accommodations was all of the delicious food! We got breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, buffet style. It was almost exclusively vegetarian, with fish being the only meat served. The chefs actually made a cook book, and my mom and I bought it so we can try to recreate some of our favorite meals back in Austin now! Stay tuned for some cooking posts in the future, where I’ll share some of those recipes.

We also became obsessed with drinking coconut water, which we drank out of real coconuts!

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One of the breakfasts. The plantains were delicious!
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Posing with my coconut water

The Yoga/Gong Practice

As you can probably assume from the fact that it was a yoga retreat, yoga was a big part of the trip. We woke up every morning bright and early for a sunrise yoga class, then had some free time before returning for a sunset yoga class, followed by a meditation after dinner. For those of you who are familiar with different types of yoga, we were practicing Kundalini yoga.

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Meditating during a sunset yoga class

Another big aspect of this trip was the gong instruments. During almost every yoga class the teachers would play the gong while we relaxed. If you’ve never heard a gong played before, you’re missing out! It is a very calming, yet transformative experience to lay and listen to the sounds. Our brain actually can’t fully understand all of the tones and sounds the gong makes, because it is so different than any other instrument.

Besides listening to the gong, my mom and I also attended a training course a couple of days out of the week, where we learned all about the gong and how to play it, as well as how to connect it to Ayurvedic beliefs and practices. Despite the fact I had only ever played the gong once before this trip, I actually got multiple compliments about how well I played. I will definitely consider learning more about how to play, and possibly even get my own gong someday!

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Meditating and listening to the gongs
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Gong virtuoso right here!

Zip lining adventure

One of the highlights of the trip was when we went zip lining with Miss Sky Canopy Tours. It is the longest zip line tour in the world, with 21 different runs! If you read my Colorado travel post last summer, you know I tried zip lining for the first time then. This one was actually less scary, but much more fun. Unlike in Crested Butte, we didn’t have to jump off any platforms. Instead, we started on the solid ground each time and went off of the mountains. The views were incredible, and it was actually really relaxing to just lay back and fly through the air!

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The view from the top of one of the lines
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Right before going down upside down!

Refuge for Wildlife

Our last excursion of the trip was a visit to the Refuge for Wildlife, which is an awesome rehabilitation center for injured, displaced and orphaned wildlife such as howler monkeys that have been injured on electrical wires or bitten by dogs. The purpose of the center is to rescue, rehabilitate, and then release the animals back into their natural habitat after they are better.

We got to tour the facility and see some of the different animals that are being helped right now. They specialize in the howler monkey, but they help all types of animals from birds to raccoons. They don’t want us to share any photos publicly, but you can see a gallery on the website here.

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If you look closely you can see monkeys playing in the trees at Blue Spirit

 

Those were the main highlights of my trip! I hope you enjoyed hearing about it and seeing some photos. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever traveled to Costa Rica, and which places are on your travel bucket list. Also, enjoy my travel diary video below!

 

Blogger Interview: Julie Cao

Blogger Interview: Julie Cao

I had the pleasure of interviewing another travel blogger, who has a unique perspective on travel as an expat in Canada, a freelance travel writer and full-time travel blogger. Check out her travel blog and get to know her in my interview below.

When and why did you decide to become a travel blogger?

I initially set up my blog five years ago to provide a journal for myself of living in Hawaii, and to show readers the reality of living in paradise. I wrote a post on the things I learned after living in Hawaii, and readers and my friends in Hawaii told me they loved my post and could totally relate to what I wrote about.  This inspired me to share more of my island life.

In the About Me section of your blog, you say: For me, living abroad is the best way to get to know a country. What do you think you learn from living abroad that a tourist cant learn during shorter travel? 

Living abroad has given me an extended period of time to explore my host city and country, and get to know some aspects of a place other travelers are not aware of. For example, after living in Hawaii for a few years, I realized it was not all paradise. It also has many negative sides – too expensive to live, very limited job opportunities, island fever, and has the second worst traffic in the USA (behind Los Angeles). One cannot notice these parts by just going there on vacation. 

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Youre a full-time travel blogger and freelance travel writer. How did you transition your passion for writing into your full-time job?

I did not think much, I just decided to do it full-time because it would be the best to combine my profession with my passion for travel and sharing stories. When I just started out, I had no experience in travel writing. I joined the MatadorU travel writing program to hone my writing skills and get myself exposed to the travel journalism industry. There are support groups, valuable resources and work opportunities in the program that helped me transition as well.

What are you most proud of that you have accomplished so far with your blog?

One of my favorite parts of blogging is being a part of the supportive travel blogging community. I have met many bloggers and we have been very supportive of each other. You know the feeling when you get to know someone and totally understand what you are doing?

What are you still hoping to accomplish?

I still want to finish the MatadorU travel writing program. I signed up for the course three years ago and I am still only halfway through it. It is a huge commitment and it’s easy to get distracted, but I am determined to finish this course so I can step up my career.

What has been your favorite place youve visited, and where do you still want to visit? 

Alaska. It is the best place to visit in the USA if you love natural beauty. I have been to Alaska five times and I still want to return. 

I also wish to visit Churchill Manitoba, the polar bear capital of the world with 300 days Aurora Borealis every year and only 3,000 residents. 

North Douglas Island

What is the biggest lesson travel blogging has taught you?

Always be kind and generous. The world is very small and the travel blogging community is no exception. Everyone loves working with those who are nice and easy to work with. 

What are some of the things you are most grateful for in your life right now?

Having the opportunity to live abroad and travel around the world. I have seen poverty and people struggle with daily life and it makes me feel privileged to live the life I want in a developed country and be able to travel.

Who are some of the women (both in your personal life and famous people) who inspire you the most and why?

Julia Dimon, co-host of Word Travel, gave me the idea for travel writing in the first place. Her travel show revealed that it is possible to travel around the world full-time. She is quirky and practical, and you can tell she is very intuitive and smart.

I am also grateful to have met my travel blogger friend, Emily Luxton, when I just started out. We collaborated with each other and she invited me to her Facebook group where I had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with other travel bloggers. She offered me valuable advice on blogging and encouraged me to work with tourism boards when my blog was just five months old. Thanks to her, I was then offered a self-organized press trip to Winnipeg early this year despite my blog being so new.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a travel blog?

Focus on creating high-quality content, and try not to look at the numbers and your blog statistics. I used to obsess over social media, blog statistics and comment pods, but I found it very time-consuming and can only get me so far. If you offer something readers really need and write from your heart, followers will come and ask for more.

What is one thing most people dont know about you? 

I do not like most sweet foods and desserts, but chocolate and ice-cream are exceptions.

 

Make sure to follow Julie on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to follow along with her exciting travels.

 

Explore With Me: Wineries in Fredericksburg, TX

Explore With Me: Wineries in Fredericksburg, TX

Last weekend I got the chance to check “wine tasting” off of my bucket list. My friend Heather invited me to join her and two other friends to drive to Fredericksburg, Texas (a small town about an hour and a half west of Austin) for a fun day of wine tasting! I’d always wanted to explore wineries, and had heard Fredericksburg was home of a lot of great ones, so of course I was game.

Our first stop before the wineries was lunch at Auslander, a popular German restaurant/beer garden. We did not partake in the beer part since we wanted to save ourselves for the wineries later, but the food was delicious! I tried the jagerschnitzel with potato salad, and it did not disappoint.

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Photo courtesy of The Auslander’s Facebook page

Once our stomachs were happy and filled with amazing German food, we drove towards the wineries and ended up stopping at a random one none of us had heard of, but we liked the name: Fiesta Winery. Fiesta had a cute outdoor seating area, complete with an old cowboy singing classic country songs. The tastings were done inside at the bar, so we went in and got to tasting! One of the things I liked about Fiesta was that their menus had descriptions of some of the ingredients and the flavors of each of the wines. We were able to choose six to try, and the descriptions made it easier for me to decide since I had an idea of what was in each of them.

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Sign at Fiesta Winery

After our tasting we sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful weather for a bit, before venturing to our second (and final) stop of the day: Becker’s Vineyard. Overall we enjoyed the atmosphere and general vibe of Becker’s better than Fiesta, but it was also more expensive and fancy, so it depends on what you are in the mood for. The wine list also didn’t have descriptions, which I was disappointed by being someone who isn’t good at recognizing names of wine without more context.

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Soaking up the sun at Becker Vineyard

However, the wine was really good and we were able to sit in the sun and relax for while, and even ate a snack at the food truck they have there. Becker’s is also a lavender shop, which was a huge draw for me. I have always loved lavender, and though I did not buy any of the products they had (including soap, lotion and linen sprays), I will definitely go back sometime and treat myself.

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Lavender store at Becker

Overall, I would rate my first winery experience a solid 10/10 (the great company may have swayed my vote a bit). If you have a free Saturday, I would highly recommend taking a trip to Fredericksburg, or your neighboring wine town, and making a day of it. Fredericksburg also has a lot of shopping, other restaurants, and tons of other wineries to explore, so I am definitely planning on going back when I get the chance.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever been wine tasting or been to Fredericksburg, or if it’s still on your bucket list!