Monthly Archives: September 2015

Keeping in Touch

Ways to keep in touch while living abroad. Skyping from Granada

Above the culture shock, language barriers, and cold showers, the hardest part of moving abroad is being away from the ones we love. But being out of town doesn’t have to mean out of touch.

Thankfully, there’s a world full of technology and cool ways to keep us connected when we can’t be there.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Skype – We’ve been Skyped in on a few family gatherings so far and I can’t tell you how cool that is. To be miles away and not feel like you’re missing everything is truly a gift.
  • Voxer – Use it as text, talk, or sending pictures. It’s free and simple. Group Vox’s are my fave – I can always count on my Therapy Line ladies or the Family Vox to brighten my day. Listen live or listen later, messages hang out until you’re available and a simple status visibility let’s the sender know if you’ve heard, seen, or read their message so they know whether or not to expect a reply soon. For someone without reliable access to Internet (which is the case for many expats) it’s a pretty helpful feature. Bonus: you can access via web browser which comes in handy should your phone succumb to humidity. (Happened.)
  • Sincerely – I’m a big sender of snail mail and presents and it pains me knowing we miss special occasions and the opportunity to shower the ones we love with cards and gifts (at reasonable shipping cost anyway) so we’re big fans of Sincerely apps to handle that for us! Postagram is perfect for a quick ‘wish you were here’ picture postcard (that pops out!), I love Ink for more formal greeting cards, and Sesame covers the gifts. Order straight from your phone within minutes and send anywhere in the US, Canada or Europe. I’ve been a fan long before we left the States and can’t say enough about the ease of use and beautiful quality (and it’s cheap!). The best news? You can try it for free! The lovelies at Sincerely have provided an exclusive promo just for Little Girl, Big World readers! Get 2 Ink Cards or 4 Postagrams right this second – sweet!

sincerely cards

How to redeem:

Download the apps: Ink / Postagram

Once in the app, apply promo code LGBW15 via Settings > Apply Promo Code

Choose from awesome designs, add photo’s, text, and send. Simple as that!

Promo Code: LGBW15 is worth 20 credits (good for 2 Ink Cards or 4 Postagrams) It’s limited to 1 use per person and expires 12/31/15.

Now, go, go! You’re going to love it!

(But please come back and tell me what you think!)

Oh, Ometepe

Ometepe, Nicaragua

Oh, Ometepe, you quaint and quiet little island. We spent three days living like locals, practicing our Spanish (sometimes known as charades) with our lodging staff, and relaxing in the fresh volcanic mountain air. Below are a few of our photos and recommendations from our lovely stay. It’s a little less comprehensive than my typical guides because in all honestly we laid pretty low. Three days provided a nice chance to rest and was the perfect amount of time for us before heading to Granada.

Ometepe, Nicaragua Ometepe, Nicaragua Ometepe, NicaraguaIMG_20150821_09354820150820_100310IMG_20150819_165359853A5889IMG_20150819_140253 20150820_10102420150820_095524 20150820_103747 20150820_104310 853A5923 IMG_20150819_133053~2IMG_20150820_121305~2

 

How To Get There

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You’ll arrive by ferry, as Ometepe is a volcano island. Depending on the point from which you depart this could be a casual jaunt, or the ride of your life. We experienced both. The first boat rocked and swayed and splashed for nearly two hours as we watched the mainland fade and two volcano tips come into view. I battled nausea while fixated on a mother and her no less than two week old newborn in awe. The return trip was much less intense, on a larger ferry carrying passengers and cars, and didn’t feel nearly as long.

 

What to See and Do


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Ojo de Agua
This natural spring pool is filled with clear water from an underground river that comes from volcano Maderas. It’s a cool (literally and figuratively), refreshing way to spend a day. Admission is $3 USD.

Charco Verde
Exploring the trails in the area will likely give you visibility to monkeys, butterflies, and the usual tropical inhabitants. It rained on our day so we only snapped a few photos but I can only imagine how wonderful the views of the lake and nice the shade must feel on a sunny day.

Atlagracia
Stroll through this tiny town and get a glimpse into history via stone idols at the parroquial church, the archaeological museum, and don’t miss the model of Ometepe in the park.

Hike a Volcano
Ometepe, Nicaragua is an island housing two volcanos, one active, the other not. Though you can explore them by foot, we opted out of this adventure for two reasons: 1. It takes a while, 2. It’s intense, and even more so with a baby. However, if you’re up for the challenge, definitely go for it. Everyone says it’s worth it!

Rent a Scooter
Another adventure we didn’t do, but it was recommended by so many people it deserved a mention. You can use it to make your way to all of the above!

 

Where to Stay

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Per our new usual, we used Airbnb to book our accommodations. We upgraded our stay at Ometepe Guest House to include breakfast and dinner each day which I highly recommend.

The area where stayed was in a pretty remote area, and we didn’t explore any of the local hotels or hostels during our short time. However, a comprehensive list can be found here.

 

Where to Eat

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Having most of our meals provided at the guest house meant only one meal in town, which happened to be at a lakeside restaurant in Santo Domingo, where Alex chowed down everything in the picture above. If you like fish, you’ll be in for a treat in this town. But have no fear vegetarians, there’s plenty for us, too!

 

Travel Tips:

  • Prepare to be fairly “off the grid”. Cellular and data service can be spotty.
  • If traveling with a baby, bring plenty of diapers, food, and the like essentials. There are a handful of stores but you’ll likely overpay.
  • Of our travels thus far, Omepte was the biggest test of our limited Spanish. You won’t find too many English speakers here, but it’s manageable through hand gestures, etc. and everyone we were in contact with was very friendly and helpful in trying to understand us. It’s all part of the adventure!

 

Sunday Best

sunday best 9-27

I don’t know about you guys but this week flew by!  I put some personal deadlines on myself so I’m guessing that’s the reason… time always seem to pass at a more rapid pace when a due date is looming. I was excited to (finally!) share our Granada trip but I can’t say I accomplished everything on my list either, there were just too many pretty days which required my immediate attention to snorkeling, swimming, and splashing around with baby girl.

I hope your week was wonderful. Here are a few fun stories and links from around the web.  Happy Sunday!

 

 

The Great Granada, Nicaragua

A destination guide to Granada, Nicaragua

It pains me to admit that before moving to Central America I hadn’t given much thought to Nicaragua. I might have seen a few travel pictures on Instagram and heard about how dangerous it was somewhere down the line, but beyond that, it was a country I felt neutral towards, never dreaming I’d one day fall prey to her charms.

My acquaintance was made via the expat community, because as border country to Costa Rica, Nicaragua is a popular destination for visa runs. Ask around and you’re bound to hear stories regaling Sunday Funday, (the infamous weekly hostel party celebrated in San Juan Del Sur), ramblings of the beautiful city of Granada, and a lot about how hot it is.

Prior to our visit, I’d also heard I’d probably contract Dengue via a rogue mosquito, be mobbed by street gangs, and punched in the face while they stole my camera. The term “endless revolution” was even thrown around. Great, looking forward to it.

Maybe its happened to you, too. You form a vision of a place based on things you’ve heard on the news, from other people, or accept a general cliché. I’m used to having a different opinion (surely I can’t be the only one who thought Gigli wasn’t that bad?) but in regards to Nicaragua I didn’t expect to feel so mislead. And when I asked the locals what was up with the less than favorable (mostly inaccurate) reputation they said, “Shhhh, let’s keep it that way. It keeps it affordable and enjoyable.” Well, sorry locals, it’s just too good not to share. So here’s my scoop, based on our nine days of experience, whatever that’s worth.

Continue reading

Chasing Waterfalls

Costa Rican Waterfall

Yesterday we explored water falls in Costa Rica and I learned about patience. Yep, you read that right. It wasn’t the beauty of the outdoors or marveling at mother earth that moved me. It was the waiting that taught me the most.

Buses in Costa Rica aren’t always punctual (or even reliable) and as we waited, and waited, for the bus to take us to our adventure, I realized I was truly being patient. I didn’t feel anxious or annoyed. I actually didn’t think much about it until it had been nearly an hour and the possibility that it might not ever come crossed our minds. This matters because if you look up the definition of “impatient” you’ll find my picture. That quote, “Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting”…yeah, I failed on the regular.

A closer look reveals that the real issue stemmed from time, and the feeling that there was never enough. Even when there weren’t any pressing issues or demands of a deadline, I operated as if time was my enemy, always needing to be doing something or else I was wasting it. As loved ones will attest, my life motto is, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” (I have the hat, and EVERYTHING.)

In the past, a one hour wait would have ruined my day. I would have whined and complained, claiming my schedule was wrecked. And maybe it was. We were busy people with lots going on. It was a life of events, and errands, and exciting opportunities. But I always hated that feeling of never enough time because it robbed me of being in those times. While doing the current thing on the list my mind constantly wandered off to the next thing on the list. (And, oh, was I good at making lists.)

But yesterday I got a taste of what it feels like to not be that person. To be accepting of the minutes passing before me without feeling rushed or worried. The practice in patience was a good one for me and I’m grateful for the beautiful scenery, the company of friends, and buses that never come.

(We took a taxi.) :)

Costa Rican WaterfallCosta Rican WaterfallCosta Rican Waterfall20150920_120011-00120150920_124308-002

“You will get there when you get there and not one moment sooner.

So relax, breathe, and be patient.”

Sunday Best

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After last week’s rain having the sun around this week felt glorious! In my almost three months of living here I’ve yet to see the sky or the water so clear. We finally got back to our morning walk routine, jumping in and out of the ocean as we went, soaking up rays and splashing with the baby. (Which sometimes extended it to mid-day but you gotta get when the gettin’s good, eh?) And in true ‘nurture our nature‘ form, stepping away from the computer and closer to the outdoors got our creative juices flowing and resulted in some pretty exciting ‘walk and talks‘ and ideas for the ‘ole blog-er-oo. (More details coming very soon!) In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these links and stories. Wishing you a lovely week ahead!

Nurture your Nature

How to tune out the world and into your self.

Several weeks ago I posted this photo on Instagram along with some healing affects of nature. Since then, I’ve been pondering it a bit more and wanted to share some thoughts.

Though I’ve always appreciated a good dose of the outdoors through semi-regular camping trips, weeknight walkabouts, and summer days on the lake, there’s nothing like a full immersion to realize what you’ve been missing. To say we pretty much live outdoors is no exaggeration…our home has only screen windows, we bike for transportation, and the majority of our activities take place, you guessed it, outside.

The most healing moments are the ones where you’re able to absorb the scene around you with as many senses as possible at once. So, sitting on park bench scrolling your smartphone isn’t nearly as effective as sitting on a park bench watching birds play for a few minutes. But I mean, duh, you already knew that.

What you might not be aware of though, is not how disconnected we are from nature, but how disconnected we are from our nature. The awareness of our body, mind, and spirit, and how to nourish and heal them. And before you close this page and declare I’m turning into a hippy dippy spiritual spouter, just hear me out. This is good stuff. Continue reading

Sunday Best

Sunday Best: Things and Thoughts for the Week

How was your week, friends?

Between fighting off a family cold, relentless rain, and gray skies we didn’t enjoy the outdoors as much as we’d like but sometimes it be that way, hey?

I made the most of indoors though, sorting through the rest of our pictures, updating the site, and writing a lot. I was so excited to share my first official destination guide and am looking forward to more of those. It was an honor to be featured and shared by so many individuals and web based news and travel outlets.

In the height of all the feedback, with several irons in the fire, and at a really bad time in general, my phone went on the fritz. I’d been too lax with keeping it in the protective covers we use now and with all the extra dampness from the rain, tropical humidity took it’s toll. So off and into a bag of rice in went and crazy went I. We joke about being addicted to our devices but it’s really no laughing matter. For the first few hours I felt completely lost, almost freaking out that I was going to miss something important. Nevermind the fact that I have a fully functioning laptop available if needed, but what I needed, wanted, was that phone in my hand.

And then, I stopped caring. At the end of the first day, I logged onto the computer, handled what needed handled, then shut it off. I hadn’t “missed” anything, didn’t leave anyone hanging, and realized that I accomplished more in that short time than I would in a day of being attached to my phone. So I decided to leave it in the rice a little longer just in case.

After a few days my phone dried out and I’m happy to report is fully functioning again. And me, well, I’m turning it off more often and fully functioning, too.

Now for the links… have a happy week!

Benefits of Traveling with a Baby

5 Benefits of Traveling with a Baby

That’s me, arriving with E in Costa Rica.

Our daughter was only four months old when news broke of our decision to move and reactions ranged from, “Oh my gosh, that’s awesome!” to “With a infant, are you crazy?”.

Sure, traveling with a baby has it’s disadvantages. They can be pretty unpredictable little creatures. They require extra stuff. And let’s be honest, you probably aren’t inquiring with the concierge for the best wine bar in town. (Sad face.) But let’s focus on the positive, shall we?

Here are 5 benefits I’ve discovered of traveling with a baby:

  1. Front of the line beeetches!
    I’ve yet to feel more VIP than when the baby’s strapped to me. Airports, immigration, customs lines…just watch me roll on by to the front of the line. Girl, bye!
  2. Getting by with a little help from my friends.
    If you’re traveling sans partner, don’t be afraid to ask (or work your best desperation face) for assistance. Corporate America me always had to lift my own carry-on into the overhead bin. Baby toting me hasn’t lifted a finger yet! And always, always say thank you.
  3. Free as a bird.
    Planes, trains, and automobiles…Infants under certain ages travel free on various modes of transportation. Most buses, ferries, and domestic airlines (plus some international) do not require a ticket and/or a separate seat. You can probably expect free admission to museums, venues, and events for the little one as well. Not to mention they’re pretty cheap dates… no kids menu for us, thanks – she’ll nibble straight from our plate.
  4. They love it!
    I don’t know about yours, but our baby gets bored at home. She’s much more content being out and about, observing new things and enjoying a change of routine. Obviously, we take her feeding and sleeping schedule into account when making plans giving us the greatest chance to catch her at her best.  We also wear her a lot (my Google history reveals no less than four related searches to “Is there such a thing as too much baby wearing?”) making her feel safe and secure in new situations.
    4A. They’re still small enough to carry, and baby-wearing means no stroller needed. Yay, less stuff!
    4B. At this age, they have no opinion. As long as mom or dad is nearby, they’re usually good to go. Which means, anything we want to do (situationally and safety appropriate of course), we can do.Moral: if she’s happy, we’re happy. And too many hours in the pack-n-play does not make her happy.
  5. A new way to explore.
    Also known as “Experiencing the world through their eyes.”
    Though this one will probably ring even more true toddler years and beyond, there’s plenty of eye opening happening already. From trying new foods (nothing like watching her squeal in delight at the freshest mango she’s ever tasted to make you appreciate the little things in life), to choosing activities you might not otherwise indulge in (like crashing a nearby hotel pool because it’s too hot to not be near water), or practicing her “walking” on a foreign sidewalks. The best memories happen in these moments. True, some of the moments might not always be pleasant (I’ll never forget you crowded six hour non-air conditioned bus ride through Central America!) but you’ll laugh about it someday.

Traveled with a little one? Share your adventure in the comments!

A Few Days in San José

A photo journey and destination guide to San Jose, Costa RIca

Ask most people for a location recommendation in Costa Rica and the nation’s capital probably doesn’t top their list. Many travelers use San José strictly as a pass through to the coasts or valley, and rightfully so as the country is known for its beaches and mountains. But in my opinion, to skip this city is to miss the heartbeat.

In my short time residing in Costa Rica I’ve heard it described as grimy, somewhat unsafe, and generally just lacking. Luckily, my experiences have been quite the opposite; pleasant even, less than dangerous, and inspiring in their own way. To be honest, my greatest complaint (and the biggest surprise) is the inescapable scent of engine exhaust, even on the less traveled side streets. The pungent fumes linger long after cars have passed and as a Caribbean dweller used to salty fresh air, it gets old. Scents aside, I speculate that ten years of urban living has rendered me less affected by some of the things others find troubling. Combine that, with the suspicion that San José is a town haunted by a reputation that no longer holds true and I’ll gladly white knight for this burst of modernity in contrast to Puerto Viejo’s simplicity. Regardless, you’ll find rough edges or trouble anywhere you look hard enough, and that’s no exception here, but there’s plenty to appreciated otherwise. Historic architecture, culture and arts, green space, eclectic dining… just a handful of things I believe make any metropolis worth exploring. Though small in relation to the cities you may be accustomed to, there’s still plenty to fill an overnight or two.

Recently, we spent a few days in San José between our travel to and from Puerto Viejo and Nicaragua. Being there made me miss Chicago and the energy you just can’t find outside of metropolitan areas. There’s a San Francisco vibe in terms of weather (and hills!) and a Southern California feel with the mountains in the distance.

If words aren’t enough to convince you, perhaps the photo’s will speak for themselves. I’ve also included some recommendations for how to spend a few days in San José down below. Continue reading