After 10 years in the Internet industry, veteran web designer Kelly Hale and developer Mike Schimanowsky sold all their worldly belongings, bid farewell to friends and family, packed a laptop, and traded in the daily 9-5 for a life of nomadic freelancing and travel. Having just completed their first year in Southeast Asia, they’re doing it all over again, this time in Central America. Please enjoy a week-in-the-life of Kelly and Mike (as written by Kelly) from Have Internet Will Travel, as they settle in to their (temporary) Costa Rican home.
We arrived in Costa Rica last night after spending a month back in Canada visiting family and friends, and catching up with a few clients. We woke up this morning around 9-ish and as usual jumped online to check email. We try to make sure we stay in places with WiFi, since we like the freedom of being able to check email and get work done on our own schedules, rather than relying on cafes and restaurants. Plus, when we were in Asia the time difference with Canada made it so we were often online early in the morning or late at night, when most internet cafes and coffee shops were closed.
Given that it was Sunday, email was pretty light so we took a wander around Tamarindo, getting our first look at it in the daylight. We searched for somewhere to have brunch, and found a cute little cafe near the beach that was quite busy and served delicious food.
After brunch we headed back to our hotel for a swim in the pool. It’s supposed to be rainy season here, but you’d hardly know it. By 11am it was already 34°C.
We spent the afternoon lounging around, swimming and enjoying a couple of cold Imperial beer (the local brew). In the evening we went for pizza and then watched tv in our room until we fell asleep.
Once again we got up and checked our email. You’ll notice that that’s pretty much the first thing we do every morning. We both did a bit of work and I spent some time going through all my links from craigslist as well as some other sites trying to remember what I’d bookmarked for housing options in Tamarindo.
We decided to rent a couple of mountain bikes in order to check out the town and see if we could find any ‘For Rent’ signs. Tamarindo is pretty small and we figured anywhere beyond biking distance from town we didn’t want to live anyway.
Once again it was another scorching day, and we only lasted a couple of hours. Sweating, dirty and starving we stopped for a couple of sandwiches for lunch, and to give our butts a rest (it’s been a long time since either of us have been on a mountain bike). After lunch we rode to the supermarket to see how far it was then headed back to the hotel for a swim.
We spent the rest of the afternoon online, working and setting up a bunch of appointments for the next day to check out some places. That night we went to a little Mexican restaurant we found while we were out biking earlier that day.
Our first appointment wasn’t until 11am so Mike ended up sleeping in. I had a bit of work to get done so got up around 8 and worked from the porch of our bungalow so I didn’t wake him up. At 11 we headed out to meet Igor, who was taking us to see three apartments in the area.
The apartments were alright, and one of them was a possibility, but to be honest none of them were really doing it for us. The night before we’d seen a sign for a couple of places on the window of a local realty office, so decided to pop in there between appointments. Turns out the owner was someone we’d already made an appointment with later that afternoon, so we kept that appointment but were able to add a couple more apartments to the list of places to see.
By the end of the day we’d checked out seven places and had a clear winner. It was a little more than we were hoping to pay but it was somewhere we knew we’d be comfortable and actually want to hang out. One of the hardest parts about living in Asia was finding an apartment that we felt comfortable in. There was always something slightly off and often times that small annoyance ended up driving us crazy to the point were we couldn’t wait to leave. This time, since we’re planning on spending several months in one place we had a pretty good idea of what we were looking for, and just what being “comfortable” meant to us. We emailed the property manager and arranged to sign the papers the next morning.
That evening we got our first taste of the rainy season. Without an umbrella, we were forced to wait it out, so ended up having a late dinner close to our hotel.
We headed into the real estate office around 10am to sign the papers. When we showed up however, we were informed that there might be a problem… The owner had just rented it for a month right in the middle of the time frame we wanted. The property manager wasn’t sure of the details, but told us to come back in the afternoon, and he’d see what he could do. So, we headed back to the hotel to get some work done.
I’m pretty sure everyone else staying at this hotel thinks we’re crazy, since every time they walk by we’re sitting on the porch with our laptops. I can understand their confusion; I mean we look like any normal couple on vacation, except instead of enjoying the beach or seeing the sights, we spend all our time online.
We had a late lunch of burgers and beer at a little joint by the beach, and then just as we were finishing up to head back to the real estate office the sky opened up and started to pour. So we had another beer…
We managed to get things worked out with the apartment. We’ll stay in the one we saw for six weeks and then move to another place in the same building. We were hoping not to have to move, but since it’s in the same building it’s not really a big deal.
Moving day! One of the great things about short term rentals is you don’t have to wait until the 1st or the 15th to move in. As long as there’s no one else in it, you can move in right away. So we packed up our bags and grabbed a cab to our new place.
After a quick unpack (we only have three bags), we ran about looking in all the cupboards, checking out the goods. Blender, toaster, coffee pot, microwave… pretty much a fully stocked kitchen, plus, two boogie boards, a skimboard, and a couple of air mattresses. The only thing missing was a surfboard… but perhaps we’ll take a few lessons before we worry about that.
After a quick lunch we headed to the supermarket. There are three grocery stores in Tamarindo, two not far from our new place and one larger chain supermarket. Since we’re staying put for a few months and needed to stock up, we headed to the large “Auto Mercado”. We were pleasantly surprised at the quality and selection, and although not as cheap as Asia was last year, it was definitely cheaper than North American prices.
That evening we made dinner for the first time in our new place and watched a crappy movie on HBO.
Today was a work day. I know, not very exciting, but had to be done. We both had some client work to catch up on, as well as some much needed updates to our blogs. We did manage to take a bit of time out for a swim in the pool, but for the most part we spent the day with our noses in our laptops.
Today was much the same as yesterday… mostly a work day. Mike had a bit more to do than I did, so I took an hour or so to walk around town. I read online that there was a farmers market every Saturday so thought I would check that out. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find it. I’m not sure if it’s no longer happening, or perhaps it’s on a break for low season; either way I’m hoping it comes back.
That afternoon I made mango salsa, and we had braised pork tacos for dinner. I’m so happy to have a kitchen again! After dinner Mike found a site streaming the Canucks vs. Flames hockey game, and we spent Saturday night like any good Canadians, drinking beer and watching the game.
Sunday (Bonus Day)
Just to show that we’re not always working, we decided to throw in an extra day. Other than a quick check of our email in the morning, we took the day off. We slept in and had a lazy morning, then headed down to the beach for lunch. We had a couple of beers and some tacos at the Witch Rock Surf Camp, and then spent the rest of the afternoon chilling on the surprisingly empty beach.
That evening after dinner we had our first power outage – something we’re hoping doesn’t happen too often. Luckily being our day off neither of us had any deadlines, so we broke out a deck of cards and some candles and spent the rest of the evening on the patio.
Kelly and Mike have been enjoying the last few months of making a home in their new town. They are working on their Spanish, and since Tamarindo is a great place to learn to surf, that is in the works too. After being in Costa Rica for 4-6 months, they’ll check out a few other countries. Honduras, Belize and Panama are on the list to name a few. Feel free to follow their adventures at Have Internet Will Travel.