A new life in Costa Rica

Sharing our journey from the U.S. to the Osa region of Costa Rica


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The fountain of youth?

Often when asked about my age, my response is met with disbelief. This happened again recently, when the inquiring person seemed convinced I was joking when I answered, “48”. A discussion ensued about many of the healthy changes we’ve embraced in our lives and…perfect blog entry!

One approach is to take you through a typical day at the Hinson homestead in the southern Pacific mountains of Costa Rica. Upon rising in the morning, the first priority is ‘oil pulling’ with organic coconut oil. What is oil pulling? It has been a staple of Indian ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years and has gained more and more followers in the west. Simply put about a teaspoon of coconut (or other) oil in your mouth and swish around for 10-15 minutes. Spit it out, then rinse twice with water and discard. It may sound crazy, but oil pulling can lead to countless improvements in your dental and overall health. Just make sure to use chemical free coconut oil so you “detox” instead of “retox”.

Next up is what we call the Water Chug. I drink about a liter (one quart) of room temperature water as quickly as possible…in about 30 seconds. Different folks have different capacities for the volume and timing, but the idea is to drink as much water as you can as quickly as you can. Why? Think of it as turning a hose to your GI tract, flushing everything that settled in your system overnight. It’s a great approach to detoxing and can produce incredible health benefits. Don’t confuse this with getting plenty of water during the day. The morning water chug is something entirely different.

After my coffee, the next unusual ingredient in our morning is a drink containing diatomaceous earth (DE). Made up in water or juice, DE powder is stirred in and quickly consumed. Why drink the fossilized “skeletal remains” of ancient algae? The outer shell of diatoms is largely composed of silica, along with a few other ingredients. DE is incredibly versatile, useful as an abrasive, for filtration, insect control, and pet and human health. For people, make sure to purchase food grade DE. The far reaching benefits for human consumption are beyond this blog entry, but please read up on this amazing natural product. We treat it as a general part of our detox routine, and we have good reason to believe it’s making a difference.

After all that…breakfast! There are far too many elements to our diet to summarize here, but suffice it to say we know the source of the vast majority of food and drink we consume. You are what you eat…let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food…etc. We gave up beef, pork and poultry years ago, but we do enjoy fish and seafood a few times each month. The rest of our diet is heavy in locally grown rice and beans, along with a variety of eggs, fruits and veggies from our homestead. A common ingredient in much of Jill’s stellar cooking is organic coconut oil, something known to promote brain health. Results with coconut oil and dementia patients are often stunning. Turmeric and black pepper are also used liberally in the Hinson kitchen, for their many benefits when combined.

BreakfastPlate

Quality, all natural personal care products comprise another point of focus for our family. High quality soaps from Red Mountain Goodness are extremely important to us, since commercial “soaps” are typically nothing more than a patented combination of detergents and chemicals. When you contemplate changes you can incorporate in your life that have the biggest impact, ponder what else do you spread over your entire body once a day. Now consider that your skin is a highly absorptive organ. Don’t believe me? Try rubbing a clove of garlic on your bare foot and count the seconds before the taste appears in your mouth! Shampoos should also be all natural whenever possible.

Deodorants that contain aluminum, polyethylene glycol, etc? If you consider the ever increasing breast cancer numbers in the “developed world” , you might want to avoid such ingredients. Baking soda is a very simple yet effective deodorant you can use. And the more “detoxed” your body becomes, the less need you’ll have for deodorant! Commercial toothpastes are another problem, and we’ve been working on our solution to that for the past year. As with anything that goes in or on your body, just make sure to read and understand the ingredient label.

Finally, our wood fired cedar hot tub is one of the last ingredients in our healthy routine each day. Not only does it help us to relax by lowering blood pressure, it’s another great way to remove undesirable toxins from your body. If we’re away from home for several days, I can literally feel the effects of not using our hot tub.

HotTub

One final note…any of these changes in your healthful routine can initially produce side effects such as headache, upset stomach, general achiness, etc. If that happens, stick with the change for a few days and see if the symptoms subside. Often it’s due to the toxins buried deep in your body beginning to surface on their way out. During this transition period you may sometimes feel uncomfortable, but in the long run it is a short term price worth paying.

To your health!

June 2020 update….

Though this information remains completely relevant today, I do need to make a couple of additions. A newer part of our daily routine is grounding, or placing our bare feet in contact with the earth for 10 minutes. The reason is that doing so resets our energy to match that of Mother Earth, and the health benefits of that are amazing. See “The Earthing Movie” and “The Grounded” on YouTube for more information on grounding, and different ways to accomplish it. One excellent way is to simply ground your bed using a grounding sheet that you purchase or by using your own approach.

The other big addition to our health routine is taking bamboo charcoal powder. Though there isn’t a great deal of information about this supplement online, a similar commercial product is C60 Purple Power. You can read about that product to get an idea of the wide ranging benefits of taking charcoal powder daily. We mix our powder, made here at our homestead, with olive oil (1 part charcoal powder to 2 parts olive oil), then take 1 teaspoon of that daily. Typical results include increased energy, better concentration and multitasking, improved digestion, and many other reported benefits. My theory is that since the charcoal powder is almost pure carbon, and since we are carbon based, our bodies are able to use the excess carbon to optimize systems. That is why we hear that the powder tends to help with whatever health problem an individual has. But since charcoal can be detoxifying, heed my earlier advice about possible early aside effects. If you buy charcoal powder for daily consumption, make sure it is NOT activated. That is great for short term detox, but not for daily use.

Finally, including naturally fermented vegetables in your diet (not to be confused with pickled or canned!) adds powerful microbiotics that will improve your digestion, and quite possibly improve your mental health as well.

Let me know if you’d like more information about this amazing gift from God that you can make at home.

December 2020 update….

An important recent addition to our wellness routine couldn’t be much simpler. When drinking water throughout the day, we now add baking soda first….about 1/4 teaspoon per liter. This easy and inexpensive practice helps maintain an alkaline environment in our body, and this is key to protecting against most all diseases. Cancer and many other diseases require an acid environment to thrive. By maintaining alkaline conditions you stop them before they get started.


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Shedding more light on our move to Costa Rica

Honestly…why in the world did we pack up everything and move to a Central American country?  For the longest time, we decided to keep one of our most significant reasons for moving to Costa Rica to ourselves.  The predictions I had for where the U.S. was headed were just that…predictions.  But with those predictions now playing out in the news (if you follow an honest news source), I feel it is now time to explain one of our more important reasons.

Of course the Land of the Free is VERY far from it.  Drive with cash and the police can seize it without charges. Step outside the lines just a bit and get your kids snatched up by “Child Protective Services”, so they can place your children in foster care and collect their promised bounty from the U.S. government.  Have puddles on your land after heavy rains?  The EPA could easily declare your property a protected wetland, severely limiting your use or even seizing it.  Feel like having a telephone conversation or exchange of texts or emails without the content being reviewed by strangers?  As Edward Snowden informed us all, good luck with that!  And the most recent freedom of the press rankings placed the U.S. at #45…right smack between Romania and Haiti!

I could go on and on about the many assaults on the concept of freedom…a concept that Americans still proudly boast about.  And certainly those were some of the compelling reasons for our move to a much freer country (for example, Costa Rica recently ranked 21st in freedom of the press).  But our decision to move goes far beyond the concept of freedom.  Simply put, the U.S. could be headed for a tsunami of such epic proportions, it could make the Great Depression appear like an episode from Happy Days.  What is this coming storm?  The end of the U.S. dollar as we know it.  Sound crazy?  Permit me to briefly explain.

Since WWII, all trade between countries has been transacted in U.S. dollars through banks in New York City.  This position of the dollar as the world’s currency reserve has forced all countries to hold U.S. dollars for their international transactions.  Let’s say Australia wants to buy product from China.  The transaction must be conducted in dollars and be routed through New York City.  Sound crazy?  I agree.  But that may all be about to change.

Some time back, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (“BRICS”) became fed up with the current global financial system that rewarded the U.S. at every turn.  Many times they asked the IMF to end their blind allegiance to the U.S. dollar, but their concerns fell on deaf ears.  So in July 2014, they agreed to form their own international development bank and establish a new reserve currency or basket of currencies for trade.  This will permit members of the bank to conduct transactions with each other in currencies other than U.S. dollars, something China and Russia are already doing.  What will this mean to the dollar?  When a group of countries near simultaneously decides to sell their U.S. dollars, it creates a potentially serious problem when they dump those dollars onto the open market.  Basic law of economics…when many rush to sell the same item with few interested buyers available, the item’s value typically plunges.

But as significant as the BRICS countries are (~40% of the world’s population and growing), could their decision to drop the dollar be significant enough to inflict serious damage?  Maybe, maybe not.  But with plans for the new AIIB bank coming together, the BRICS recently opened the door for other countries to join as founding members with voting powers.  Who signed up?  A harmless handful of rag tag countries?  A very partial list of the 57 members includes France, Spain, Norway, Great Britain, Italy, Sweden, Australia, Israel, and Germany.  (The U.S. did not join, and the membership drive recently ended.)  Just imagine if/when this group of 57 countries unloads their U.S. dollar holdings for the new currency/currencies.  As prices in America explode, the scene could resemble something other than peace and brotherhood.

I could certainly hope that these scenarios don’t play out in the years (months?) ahead, but that would require a hefty suspension of reality on my part.  What I have outlined are facts, not theory or conjecture, and these facts are developing faster than I ever imagined…even back when we decided to pack our bags for beautiful Costa Rica.


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That incredible “Can Do” Tico spirit

After living here in the southern Pacific mountains of Costa Rica for 6 months, many things have impressed me with the country, the area, and the people. But nothing has impressed me more than the remarkable “can do” attitude of most Ticos.

Though I have many experiences to draw from, a recent New Year’s Day event sums up the Tico spirit nicely. We had packed up the Jeep for a multi day trip to the coastal resort town of Jaco (pronounced ha-CO) and headed out for the 2.5 hour drive. But on our way down the mountain, we realized the Jeep was seriously overheating. With the temperature gauge in the red, we pulled into a gas station to fill up and check out the problem. After adding additional water and coolant, we saw most of the liquid appear on the pavement…a serious leak somewhere.

It being New Year’s Day, the gas station attendant told me we’d likely have no luck finding a mechanic to help, and I suspected the same. All car rental locations nearby were closed as well, so were in a bit of a jam. We called our buddy Randy Madrigal to ask about getting a ride back to our house, and planned to cancel our trip. It turned out Randy was out of town himself, but he offered to call his mechanic friend on our behalf.

Michael Mora, the mechanic from Cortes, agreed to come and check out our problem to see if there was anything he could do. After looking around under the Jeep and under the hood, he identified a worn hose that was leaking coolant as quickly as it was added. Given the location of the hose, it looked like it would probably require a trip to the shop the following day. But while we checked into options for a ride home, Michael figured a way to access the hose with the tools he had.

Michael Mora repairing my 2006 diesel Jeep Liberty on New Year's Day.

Michael Mora repairing my 2006 diesel Jeep Liberty on New Year’s Day.

Now in need of a replacement hose and with everything closed for the day, Michael called his friend Alex who owns an auto parts business. Alex had the needed hose, and Michael was off to pick up the part. A few minutes later he was back under the hood of the Jeep replacing the hose. We added water to the vehicle, then started her up. The leak was solved and everything looked good. I asked Michael how much for the part and for his time, considering it was the one vacation day he had. “Sesenta”, he replied…sixty dollars. We happily paid Michael, and were soon on our way to Jaco…just a little later than planned.

I couldn’t help but think that in most situations, we would have been out of luck that day. But as we’ve seen over and over again since moving here, the average Tico doesn’t accept why something CANNOT be done. Instead, they concentrate on how it can be done. And fortunately for us on New Year’s Day, Michael Mora found a way to get it done. Pura vida!


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Our path to food security

What is food security to you? Local stores and restaurants reliably stocking your favorite foods? We had a somewhat different idea of food security when we moved to Costa Rica, and we are getting closer to realizing that every day.

While living in North Carolina, it was a goal of ours to produce as much of our own food as we could from our 1.5 acre lot. Why? Let’s just say our trust in the U.S. food system was abysmally low. We did achieve a remarkable amount of productivity from our homestead, but winter set us back year after year. Some perennials would survive the cold, and others wouldn’t. And the typical hot, dry summers did their own share of damage. When we started looking at new locations to call home, a 12 month growing season with reasonable temperatures and plenty of rain was high on our list. The southern Pacific mountains of Costa Rica checked those boxes, along with many others.

The community that we now call home, Serenity Gardens Eco Village (SGEV), has a number of advantages for folks like us who desire to take control of their food supply. In addition to the year round warm climate and lots of water, one objective of SGEV is to plant the entire property with fruit trees. A remarkable amount of work has already been done towards this goal, with banana, plantain and citrus trees and many herbs now growing along roadsides throughout the community. This is a great start on a food security program, to say the least!

A few bananas from our property, and from friends.

A few bananas from our property, and from friends.

Now the personal phase for us begins. We’ve enlisted the services of Brendon McKeon’s crew to design a permaculture based food production system here on our lot. They completed the draft plan sometime back, and the implementation phase began this week. Brendon and Juan Carlos were climbing all over our lot, checking contours, taking measurements and siting vegetable beds, green house, paths, etc.

When completed and planted, we will have over 50 different types of fruit and vegetables growing here on our property. Avocado, mango, orange, pineapple, black pepper, vanilla, cacao, ginger and many, many more. Many will be perennials, and we’ll also have common annuals planted such as tomato, lettuce, squash, root crops and beans. In addition to food plants, we’ll have a variety of others such as aloe, lemongrass, ylang ylang, and citronella.

The tentative plan for our property

The tentative plan for our property

A chicken coop for 8-10 laying hens will be right off one of the trails, and the girls will have 2 separate yards to graze and hunt for bugs. When one yard gets picked over, we’ll switch them to the other for a while. Speaking of girls, Brendon also recently hooked us up with 2 hives of local honeybees, both non-stinging varieties (Congo and Milliponas), and they’re happily living on our deck in hollowed out logs. They don’t produce the volume of honey expected from traditional stinging bees, but the honey from these two species is reportedly incredible. Milliponas honey is even great for glaucoma treatment!

Our hive of congo bees, early one morning.

Our hive of congo bees, early one morning.

We are currently researching adding mushroom cultivation to our homestead here, much like we did in North Carolina. We currently ferment our own ginger ale, bake sourdough bread products from scratch, and of course I brew my own beer (soon to be Jungle Brew Cerveceria). We are making big strides towards our goals of “food security”, and we’ll continue those strides each and every week. After all, we’ve been on the ground here just over 5 months, and we can’t wait to see what the rest of year one brings!

serenitygardensecovillage.homestead.com/todd.html


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Observations of a gringo

Costa Rica.

Beautiful, peaceful country.  Friendly people.  Incredible natural resources (both food and water).  No military (never bombed anyone, never will!).  Crime rates that, even in the largest cities, are FAR below what you’d find in an average U.S. city.  Real freedoms that now exist only in the history books of countries that claim to be free.  These are a few of the reasons we chose to move to this amazing republic.  Not on our list…a terrific place for gringos to hang out!

Since we’ve moved here, we’ve had the opportunity to meet many Ticos who grew up in this area and have called it home for their entire lives.  Despite our limited Spanish, we’ve made friendships that we now cherish.  We are slowly learning what it means to be Costa Rican, by seeing on a daily basis how kind and helpful so many Ticos are.  When you are in need, they are there with an offer to help.  Randy, Jimmy, Aldemar, Alexis, Carlos, Alonso, Marilyn, Alex and many others.  When we moved here, local families greeted us with fresh fruits from their gardens.  It is not uncommon for a store owner or artist to tell you afterward that you now have a friend in them…just let them know if you are ever in need.

To be part of this amazing country and its people is what we chose for ourselves.  Our residency will be finalized this week and we couldn’t be more proud.  We love the old school values of neighbors helping neighbors, expecting nothing in return except friendship.  Genuine acts of kindness are the norm here, not something you must turn to Facebook to read about.  I could provide many examples, but you get the idea.

Randy Madrigal, helping out a fellow Tico

Randy Madrigal, helping out a fellow Tico

Given the beautiful nature of Costa Rica and her people, why do so many expats choose to simply relocate their American lives to a location with better scenery?  Why do so many decide that learning Spanish really isn’t necessary?  Is that consistent with the opinion they held of “Spanish only” speaking folks back home?  Why are the parties typically with other gringos, and maybe a few Ticos who speak good English?  This certainly isn’t everyone who moves here from the states, but it seems to be far too many.

If you do choose to move to this amazing country, might I suggest doing so with a plan to learn what the people and the culture are about.  First and foremost, have a plan to learn the language.  It won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight (believe me!), but chart yourself a course to learn it over time.  You can make no greater statement about your adoption of Costa Rica, and your rewards will be…unlimited.

Pura vida!


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Moving our stuff to paradise

How does someone up and move to Costa Rica?  We get that question quite a bit, so I’ll address one big part of it here…shipping your stuff.

We tapped Great Sunrise Enterprises in CR for our residency and relocation needs, and owner Kevin McNamee was our point person.  We hired a crew to pack the shipping container, but all other arrangements were made through GSE.  Kevin’s made everything as easy as possible up to now, and he gets our highest recommendation.

The day before the 40′ shipping container was set to arrive, the packing crew began boxing items up and readying everything for shipment.  Around noon yesterday, the truck and shipping container arrived and parked at the street.  Our packing crew was Pack & Go Moving out of Sanford, NC, and owner Vernon Jones led an efficient team of 3 guys.  For the next few hours it was like watching giant ants, with box after box getting moved onto our trailer then into the shipping container.  We opted to take our fridge, stove and washer/dryer, so those also went into the ocean bound crate.

After our household items were loaded, attention shifted to my Jeep Liberty CRD.  A Durham towing company took the point on this project and deftly transferred my diesel baby into the container.  With the vehicle securely strapped, battery disconnected and fuel tank near empty (fires onboard the ship are bad), the doors to the container were closed and a bolt seal was locked in place.  The truck pulled away around 5pm, and that’s the last we’ll see of that stuff for about a month.

The packing guys joined me for a well deserved cold beer, and that’s when I learned the Pack & Go crew has some sick musical skills, and member Brandon Maynor (white t-shirt) is one heck of a singer!  I have never seen so many women on a guy’s Facebook page…the dude will be famous one day.

On arrival in Costa Rica, our possessions will be checked against our packing list by a customs agent and duty will be determined.  Once the bill is paid, our household items get loaded into a truck and delivered to our new home in the southern Pacific mountains.  Part of what will arrive…our new wood fired hot tub!  (When did you say you want to visit?)

The Jeep Liberty will be made street legal for Costa Rica…part of the services provided by Kevin McNamee’s GSE crew.  Once declared “road ready”, she can be picked up in the capital city of San Jose.

For the next month, we’re living light with mini fridge, hot plate, microwave and gas grill, and we’ll tap our neighbor for the occasional load of laundry.  A temporary hassle, but a small price to pay for paradise!

 

Loading the trailer    Pack & Go Moving crewLoading the Jeep    DSC_0142Perfect fit!    Closing her up.Bolt seal lock applied    Safe travels!Pura vida!

 


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A brief background on our upcoming move to Costa Rica

Sitting here Memorial Day weekend 2014, this is a good time to reflect on what led us to decide to pick up our belongings and move to Costa Rica.  In a nutshell, we have grown more and more dissatisfied with the direction the U.S. is heading, and we’ve simultaneously discovered a beautiful, inviting country just to the south that is calling our name.

We don’t feel the need to lay out our complaints about the U.S. here, since many folks are more than happy with what has happened over the past 10-15 years.  And to borrow from Pharrell, if you’re happy, we want you to stay that way!  That’s what we’re shooting for, after all.

Costa Rica offers our family a remarkable opportunity to focus on the things that have become so important to us…real freedom, healthy diet, friendly people, and a beautiful, scenic country.  The past few months have laid the ground work for our big move, and the coming weeks will see our preparations ramp up to full speed.

What do I hope to accomplish with this blog?  I’d like to share the process of moving to a new country with our friends and family, and keep everyone posted on the progress.  Check back weekly, as I’ll have regular updates.

Thanks everyone.  I’m happy to have you along for ride!

Todd Hinson

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