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The long-awaited Costa Rica Retreat has arrived! In today’s special solo episode, Whitney Lauritsen details her trip and walks you through her experience with everything from travel, food, accommodation, activities, and more. She shares highlight moments from the trip and the fantastic food that catered to her sensitivities—all thanks to Max and the chef team. Whitney also notes important takeaways from her trip, including helpful tips you can use if you decide to go on a travel adventure of your own. Immerse in the experience with Whitney by tuning in to this episode and find out what products and practices you can incorporate on your next international travel.
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Escaping To The Jungle: What The Costa Rica Retreat Was Like
I am so excited about this episode because it feels like it’s been a while since I recorded a solo episode. My Monday episodes are always me and the Friday episodes are with guests. The last time I recorded a solo episode like this one was on July 5th, 2022. Today is July 23rd, 2022. I have been back from my trip to Costa Rica, Singapore, and Fiji for 4 or 5 days. It was quite a whirlwind.
I am going to share with you a lot of details, specifically about Costa Rica. I’m going to focus on that. If I have enough time to dive into the Singapore and Fiji experiences, I’ll share them in this episode. Otherwise, I’ll wait and share more about them in an upcoming episode. I have spoken a lot about the retreat that I went to in Costa Rica, so I’m going to spend a lot of time on that.
Some Exciting News
Before I get into it, I have a few pieces of news to share with you that I’m excited about and will come up in future episodes as well. One is that the day I returned from my international travel, I started my well-being coaching training program. Not that I’m leading, but I’m taking. I have been doing well-being coaching very lightly since 2018. It has been a big part of my work on social media and certainly plays a role in this show. It comes up in my marketing and consulting practice.
I have been thinking about expanding my offerings as a well-being coach for a while, so I’ve dabbled in it. I’ve had some clients. I felt fairly confident in that work, but I’ve also wanted to do some training so that I can grow as a coach, be more effective, and legitimize myself more. I am planning to get certified as a coach. It’s exciting. The first step in that direction was enrolling in a program. It was a big decision for me because it was a financial investment and a big-time investment.
The program is from mid to late July 2022 to either the 2nd or 3rd week of November 2022. I forget exactly what date it ends, but it is four months long. As far as I know, it requires about 5 or 6 hours of work each week. There are a lot of unknowns for me, but I can’t wait to share my experience along the way. As I was going through my coaching psychology manual, I was thinking of all the ways I can’t wait to integrate what I learn into the show. I’m noticing opportunities to cover topics that I haven’t dove into. I want to bring on guests who specialize in some of these things too. I feel excited for both of us because I’m learning. I love passing along what I learn and supporting people with their well-being. This training program is going to help me become an even better host for this show and across all of my work. That is exciting.
The other cool thing is I got a brand new sponsor for this show called Athletic Greens. You’re going to notice that I’m mentioning them at least once a week. I’ll have some ads either towards the beginning of the show or the middle of the show. I might experiment with some different things. I will tell you all about them. Their products were a big part of this trip that I took as well. They have this one product called AG1. It says on the box that it’s a whole food dietary supplement. I love it.
I’m so thrilled. I had an amazing call with them. They are a great company. I think that you’re going to love them too. They also make vitamin D3+K2 supplement. It’s a liquid drop supplement that I’ve been taking. They will subtly play a big role in this episode. It’s the idea of taking care of your health. I want to give you a heads up. Try to be very transparent whenever I’m doing anything for compensation. An ad means that I’m getting paid. I do my best to vet out companies to make sure they feel in alignment with me physically, mentally, and emotionally. They feel like good company. I’ve got nothing but great feelings from this brand. It’s wonderful to have financial support for this show.
I’ve experimented with Patreon for this, but I feel like Patreon is not the avenue that I want to go. I’m appreciative to those of you who have supported the show. You can always donate. You can become a patron of the show. I used to try to incorporate a lot and give a lot of bonuses. In fact, one of those was a secondary show called This Hits the Spot. That’s been on pause because it didn’t feel like the value was, for lack of a better word, appreciated. It’s not to say I didn’t feel appreciated, but it didn’t feel like people were as into it as was worth my time.
In the back of my head, I still think about recording episodes of This Hits the Spot because I like talking about products. If you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s a private show that goes out to Patreon and newsletter subscribers. If you’re curious, I did a lot of episodes. They were maybe up to 30. Most of them were with Jason when he was co-hosting with me. After he left the show, I started to dwindle because it was a lot of work to do both of these shows.
This was a long-winded explanation for the fact that Patreon is cool. If you feel like chipping in, that’s great, but it’s exciting when I get in a sponsor of the show because that way, a company is helping finance the show Instead of you. I would love to make this free or inexpensive for you as much as I possibly can.
Costa Rica Travel Experience
With no further ado, I want to dive into telling you all about Costa Rica. If you haven’t checked out the previous episode, I talked about how I was hired to help come up with the marketing strategy for this brand new retreat experience called Sand And Salt Escapes. This happened over the past few months. It’s a brand new project by this man named Max. When I say brand new, he started developing this in the spring of 2022 and reached out to me in early June 2022. He got wheels in motion very quickly and needed support.
He asked if I would go down to the retreat along with a small group of people to test it out. It was a pilot, private experience for us before he launched it to the public in November 2022. As of now, you can sign up. This was the first time I had done anything quite like this. I mentioned in a previous episode I was part of a retreat as an educator or teacher back in 2014, but I didn’t end up going. That retreat was also in Costa Rica. Long story short, I didn’t physically go.The sounds in Costa Rica were really intense and noticeable. Click To Tweet
I ended up teaching virtually, and that was a big regret of mine. I heard so many cool things about the Costa Rica experience and had a very vague idea of what it was like to go there. Even if you’re not interested in a retreat, I hope that you will learn what it’s like to be in Costa Rica, the benefits of it, and also all the different products that I brought along with me.
If you didn’t know this about me already, I am really into travel gear. It’s a relatively new thing for me. It started before my Greece trip in 2018. I started buying some things to support me on my international travel. When I started road tripping in 2019 and 2020, I got into it. It lights me up so much. I’ve been working on making some short videos about all this gear for years, but I haven’t done it. That’s something that I hope to be able to move into. There’s some mental block I have about making videos aside from simple YouTube videos.
I’m going to share what it’s like to travel to Costa Rica and be there as an American who doesn’t speak a lot of Spanish. I’m also going to share more details about the retreat experience in case you are interested in checking out Sand And Salt Escapes and want to book for as early as November 2022 or one of the future retreats they do.
The plan that Max has is to host the retreats at the center in Nosara, which is one of the blue zones of the world. There are only five blue zones, and Nosara, Costa Rica is one of them. That’s an area that has a bunch of different little towns, as far as I’m understanding. I’m still a little confused about geography. The town that we were in was called Playa Guiones. That was a beautiful place that had eight different bungalows that we stayed in. There’s the main area with a kitchen, a dining area, and various places where you can hang out, work, relax, or do whatever you want to do. There’s a pool there, and then there is an outdoor fitness or activity area. I’m going to go through what that was all like. That’s all at this specific location.
Sand And Salt plans on hosting numerous retreats there and then eventually do other locations in the world. I don’t know exactly where yet, but it’s cool to watch it all develop. When Max, the retreat organizer, reached out to me, I felt good about it. I talked a lot about this in a previous episode, but to summarize, he’s a wonderful, very passionate, and trustworthy guy. I felt a good connection with him and still do.
I couldn’t say no to this opportunity. We spent a very short amount of time planning. The retreat started on July 6th, 2022. It was probably only about a month that I got to know him in the retreat. I got to watch the website come to life. I’m helping guide the social media strategy and all the different other elements of marketing that go into this. It’s been a cool journey for me as a marketing strategist, but then I got to simply go on this trip to experience it.
Max’s plan was for me to be there and do minimal work. I did find it hard to do zero work whatsoever. In some ways, I chose to do some light work. As I explained in a previous episode, I have a number of different clients in addition to Sand And Salt Escapes. I alerted them that I was traveling. One of my clients decided to take a vacation himself with his family, so there was super limited work for that client.
With another one of my clients, we put everything on pause because we’re mostly doing a show together. There was no work involved for that. With my fourth client, there’s always work to be done, so it was hard for me to disconnect. I probably got away with a maximum of 30 minutes of work for that other client and then chose to do a light amount of work for the retreat.
In addition to going down there to experience it, I wanted to ensure that we were capturing content. I was assisting the brand strategist and the social media manager with how she was taking photos and videos and writing captions for that. You can check Sand And Salt Escapes on Instagram or LinkedIn and see some of the posts we’ve put together. It was cool to do that in real-time.
You can also go to my personal Instagram @WhitLauritsen. In that personal account of mine, I posted three videos from Costa Rica that is ASMR style. I have one of it with pouring rain, a waterfall, and the ocean. I plan to do some more on there through Instagram Reels as well as TikTok. If you want to check that out and get some more visuals, I encourage that.
Let’s get into the details. I’m going to pull up my photo album and go through it moment by moment and walk you through the experience. My trip started on Wednesday, July 6th through July 13th, 2022. I got driven to the airport. I was very determined to avoid COVID to the best of my ability. As far as I know, I did not get COVID on the way in or out of Costa Rica nor during the experience. As I may share later on, I’m still worried that I got COVID on the way back from Singapore and Fiji, but that’s a whole other story.
I felt great the entire time I was in Costa Rica, Singapore, and Fiji, so I’m happy to report that I didn’t get any sickness aside from the discomfort of jet lag. I believe that was to do with the fact that I chose to wear two masks. I wore an N95 covered by a KN95. This was at the recommendation of a few scientists and immunologists that I follow. I also purchased a face shield. That was interesting because I don’t think I’ve ever worn one of those before. It’s a piece of plastic with a headband that you put over your face. I got that mainly so that when I chose to drink water or eat any snacks on the plane, I wanted to have an extra layer of protection for any time I took off my mask.Everyone felt so relaxed and comfortable and chill. Click To Tweet
I managed my entire flight to Costa Rica not to take off my mask at all, which was challenging because that was one of the few times I’ve worn an N95 mask. I’ve mostly worn a KN95 or a KF94. Those are other variations from other countries and much more comfortable. I had no idea how uncomfortable an N95 mask was, especially wearing that under another mask. That was rough. The N95 goes around your head and neck, so maybe it was the way it felt on my face. My heart goes out to anyone who wears them all the time or has to wear them because it’s quite unpleasant, in my opinion.
The face shield, on the other hand, was awesome. The one I got was with a padded foam on the top of my head and was very adjustable. The plastic shield itself was very clear. It didn’t fog up. It did dent very easily, so I had to learn not to jam it into anything. That combination, plus staying super hydrated before I got on the flight and after, was great. Before I got on the flight, I drank this huge bottle of water. It was somewhere between 32 to 40 ounces. I added some electrolytes to that. I had several snacks before I got to the airport and then kept it all on.
At some airports like LAX, they have outdoor pet relief areas. I got to the airport pretty early so that I had plenty of time to get through security, get to my gate, and get all settled. I had probably an hour and a half to two hours extra time once I got to the gate. The pet relief area was awesome. It was outside in fresh air. I went out there, took off my mask, and relaxed. There were cats and dogs walking around. It was sweet and the perfect place for me to be before that long flight.
The flight from LA to Liberia, which is about two and a half hours from the retreat center, was approximately 5 or 5 and a half hours. I flew with Alaska Airlines. It was okay. I remember, in the past, having very good experiences with Alaska, but it was super crapped. The plane was full. At the time that I flew, they had removed the mask mandate, so very few people were wearing masks. I felt a little bit uncomfortable from a COVID concern standpoint. The seat wasn’t super comfortable. There wasn’t a ton of leg room. I was in economy. I’m sure premium economy would be much better, but I felt a bit like a sardine.
However, I might have taken some melatonin. I tried to sleep as much as possible. I watched a little bit of television, but barely. I thought, “I’m going to sleep so I can be fresh and ready to go for the retreat.” I don’t know how well it worked, but I purchased this product called Nozin, which is a nasal antiseptic. It’s like a hand sanitizer, but for your nose, and you swab your nose inside. I liked that. I may have mentioned in a previous episode how the last time I flew in 2019, I got sick after a flight across the country. It wasn’t a COVID concern. I was just afraid of getting any type of sickness. Nozin was some extra security. I highly recommend looking it up. It’s quite pricey, but it was a nice peace of mind.
I made it there. I was with Max, who was on the same flight with his wife. The three of us got off the plane. The Liberia airport was nice and very modern. We arrived around 6:30 PM local time and got our bags and things. I did carry on only. I highly recommend that if you can. I do encourage you when you travel, especially internationally, that you don’t just measure your bags for carry-on, but weigh them. I had a bad experience flying to Singapore because I didn’t weigh my bag. I’ll save that story for another time.
I did carry on. Only Max and his wife did some checked bags. We waited for them, and it didn’t take a ton of time. The airport felt very quaint, small, but super nice and clean. I was very impressed with that airport. Once we were all ready, we walked outside, and there was a transportation guy holding up one of those signs that had all our names on them. We got in the van with him. It was a nice, roomy van. He drove us two and a half hours to the location. That was a little tricky. I knew that was going to be the case. After flying for over five hours, doing another long trip felt like a lot, but we had snacks with us. He stopped and let us use the bathroom halfway through, so it wasn’t so bad.
The challenge is that in Costa Rica, there are a ton of paved roads. The first hour and a half or so were very smooth, but the last 45 minutes to 1 hour was on a bumpy dirt road. I also knew this was going to be the case. That was a little interesting. It was completely no big deal. It just felt like a very long ride. I wish I had checked my watch when we left the airport. Since I didn’t do that, I had no sense of time. It made it feel like it lasted forever. I feel like if I had set a timer, I could have at least paced myself mentally.
Costa Rica Retreat Experience
We finally got there a little bit before 10:00 PM. On the first night, the three of us stayed at a different hotel called Norte. That is also a retreat center, but it’s open to the public. Unlike the place where Sand And Salt Escapes was held, anybody can go to Norte. People can host retreats. They have open yoga classes. It was so cool to step out of the van late at night and enter this literal jungle experience.
This area of Nosara is right by the beach, and in between this little town and the beach is a jungle. We get out of the car, and we can feel the humidity in the air and hear all the noises from bugs, birds, and animals. There are monkeys in the trees. There are iguanas roaming around. The sounds in Costa Rica were intense and noticeable to me.
I remember the humidity feeling very noticeable. My room there was quite muggy. I don’t know if they didn’t do a great job with the dehumidifier because it had a bit of a mildewy smell. That’s what I think of when I think of Norte. When you walk in there, there’s a pool and little bar. There were a few people out there drinking and hanging out. They had a neon sign that said, “Welcome to the Jungle.” When I saw that, I thought, “It’s fun,” but in hindsight, I’m like, “They really meant welcome to the jungle.”
This place felt hip and modern. At least one of the people that were there was American. She also lives in Los Angeles. We talked to her for a bit. We were still hungry despite having some snacks. We were trying to get some food, but there isn’t much open that late at night. There was a little mini market that closed at 10:00 PM. We arrived at 9:45, so we quickly dropped our bags off in the room and walked around the corner.Tip for you if you decide to go to Costa Rica is to bring cash, even if it's just USD, and, most importantly, don't just bring big bills. Click To Tweet
One thing I like about this part of Nosara is that everything is close by. You could walk through the whole area in about fifteen minutes if you didn’t stop at a ton of shops. Within a few minutes, we were at this little market. I was pleasantly surprised to see a ton of vegan things, including very American vegan food. There was Beyond Meat, Follow Your Heart cheese and mayo, and a local coconut ice cream. I ended up trying it. It wasn’t that great.
There were a ton of American snacks, some local foods, and chocolate. It had truly any major thing you can think of. It was a whole refrigerator full of great-looking produce. I got a cucumber and some local hummus as my snack. They got some tortilla chips and cheese. We sat outside at the Norte picnic table next to the bar, ate our snacks, and went to bed. I was pretty tired.
I woke up the next day and they had already left Norte to head over to the Sand And Salt Escapes location. I had some extra time before check-in, which was at noon, so I slept in. I got up and took my time getting ready. It was interesting because I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had that moment of, “I’m in a new country. Where do I go?” I felt a little vulnerable, but it was cool to embrace that feeling.
I packed up my bags. I had my carry-on on, which for that part of my trip was a duffle bag style. I have a cool carry-on bag from this brand Pakt. They sent this to me years ago to review, and this is one of the first times I used it on a trip. I’ve taken it on a few small trips and road trips, but this is the first time I flew with it. I have to say. It wasn’t quite big enough for a week-long trip to Costa Rica. I can see why Max and his wife checked bags. It was filled to the brim and also super heavy. I was carrying it on my shoulder.
After I left Norte, I went to the beach, which was about a ten-minute walk at most. I was carrying something heavy on my shoulder. I had a backpack and a fanny pack. I use that across my chest like a cross-body bag style. That’s where I stored my phone, wallet, and passport. I liked that setup. I also had a great backpack where I could store my laptop and various other things I use on the airplane, and then everything else went in this Pakt carry-on bag.
There I was, wobbling down the dirt roads in Costa Rica, heading to the beach. I showed up at the beach and felt like a fish out of water. Everyone else there was either local or somebody on vacation that was in their bathing suits and hanging out. There I was with all my luggage and fully dressed. I just stood there. I didn’t feel like sitting down. I didn’t want to get super sandy, so I found a little area of the beach and stood there. I looked out at the ocean and took it all in.
I remember feeling a little physically uncomfortable and vulnerable but also so excited about this trip. The beach is beautiful. One of the Instagram Reels on my @WhitLauritsen account is of that beach at sunset. This was pretty early in the day, between 11:00 AM and 12:00 PM. I was taking in the smells, the sound, and the beauty and noticing how the jungle meets the ocean. There were dogs running around. The one cool thing about that beach is there were dogs everywhere. Most of them seemed to be with their owners. I don’t think there were a ton of stray dogs. They were freely roaming around.
Everyone felt so relaxed, comfortable, and chill. That was the overall feeling I got. I probably stood there for 20 to 30 minutes and then started walking to check in at Sand And Salt Escapes. I stepped in and it looks pretty much like the pictures. One thing that most people who went to this retreat said is it’s even better than it looks. It doesn’t surprise you with the appearance. If you go to the Sand And Salt Escapes website, you can get a feel for it, but in person, it was bigger than I thought. It felt even nicer than it looks in pictures.
As I talked about in one of the previous episodes, I knew it was going to be a nice experience. It’s a little hard to describe because there are elements of luxury in this retreat experience. You get your own private bungalow. There’s full maid service there, so it always feels clean. It’s private. There were private chefs there that gave us breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Everything was taken care of.
Max, the retreat organizer, had sunscreen, bug spray, coffee, and snacks all laid out. I walked in there and immediately felt taken care of, excited, supported, and like I was getting special treatment. I felt like a VIP. I was 1 of 10 people, including Max and his wife. It felt intimate and good. In some retreats, I perceived it as maybe feeling like they were on top of each other. Maybe you’re sharing a room with somebody or right next door to somebody, so you don’t have a lot of privacy.
Even the retreat I was supposed to be part of in 2014. Jason, who used to host the show with me, went to that. I remember him saying that they were running out of food at times. They were scrambling and didn’t have a lot of staff members. That was not the case at Sand And Salts. There was always someone there. There was a manager of the property who was so nice. His name was Bradley.
There were multiple people involved in the food experience and two chefs. There was a man there that answered any questions for us as guests. He spoke a good amount of English. He brought over the food to us and put it right in front of us. Everything was beautifully plated. There was also a woman there, one of the daughters of the chefs. She spoke English extremely well. She came and made sure that there was nothing lost in translation.Every class made a really big impression on us as a collective group of people. Click To Tweet
The staff was wonderful. There were multiple people cleaning and taking care of the pool and the property, but none of them felt invasive. They were only there as needed, and then they were gone. We felt like we had the place to ourselves. There was also a security guard at night, which was cool. I wasn’t expecting that. The area felt very safe and had good peace of mind. The security guard roamed around the property to make sure there was nothing unexpected. That made me feel really safe with the items that I brought. There were also safes in our rooms. Out of peace of mind, I’d always lock up my computer, iPad, passport, and money whenever I left.
Speaking of money, a huge lesson I learned is you can use your credit card at a ton of places. I got a travel credit card that had no foreign transaction fees. Most things were quite affordable there. They were pretty equivalent to what I would pay in Los Angeles, usually a little less. That part of Costa Rica is on the more expensive side. It all depends on what you consider expensive, but I didn’t think it was that much money to buy.
Most things were covered in the retreats. It was almost entirely inclusive. Most of those restaurants in that area had vegan food on the menu. There were also some fully vegan restaurants. It was so cool. That was all extra. Most of those places took a credit card, but cash was needed for some things. In hindsight, I would have A) Brought more cash and B) Had some colones, the Costa Rican currency, on hand. Most places took US dollars, but at times, it felt a little bit easier to pay in colones. There were ATMs, but you sometimes pay a little bit more.
A tip for you, if you decide to go to Costa Rica, bring cash, even if it’s USD, and most importantly, don’t bring big bills. I brought a $200 bill and a few $20 bills. I believe I brought $300 total. I wish I had brought maybe $350 to $400. I wish I had had some $10s, $5s, and $1s on me because trying to get change, especially in US dollars, was remarkably challenging. I had to go to multiple people at one point to get changed that I needed to reimburse somebody and give tips for things that stressed me out, but that’s a side note.
On day one, I walked in there and was greeted warmly by everyone. People were showing up over the next few hours. We all hung out and settled into our bungalows. Some people went swimming, and then dinner was served. The other amazing thing is that Max, the retreat leader, knew all of my food needs. If you didn’t know this about me, I’m vegan, gluten-free, and have sensitivities to soy, corn, and almonds. I also have a lot of minor sensitivities.
I found on this trip that I have major reactions to histamine foods at the moment. I’m not going to get into what that means, but navigating food could have been a challenge if it were not for the incredible leadership of Max and the chef team. They knew what I typically avoid and made sure that I was included with every meal using modifications.
About 6 out of the 10 of us were either vegetarian or vegan. Only four people were eating meat or fish on this trip. They received one type of meal. The vegans and vegetarians all received a plant-based meal, and then I received a plant-based meal that accommodated all of my food preferences and needs. That blew my mind. I didn’t mention that when we walked in, we were all given fresh coconuts. That was very cool. For dinner, it started off with a “ceviche” because it was plant-based and had no fish. It had mango, a few other things, and onions. It was super fresh. They gave us some taro chips to scoop that up, which was wonderful. We then had a salad that night with quinoa and mustard dressing. It was so fresh. The produce down there was wonderful.
I also didn’t mention that right before that snack and dinner, we had our very first movement class. It was a wonderful private yoga class held at the center. I mentioned how there was this outdoor area that was almost like a platform right next to the pool. It provided the perfect amount of space for the ten of us to do fitness. On that day, we had this wonderful yoga fusion class. We did a little bit of Vinyasa, a little bit of Kundalini, some breath work, and some meditation. Thinking about it was so wonderful. We all loved the teacher there. She was an American who moved down to Costa Rica. In fact, there were a lot of people that we met on this retreat.
We then went down to the beach for sunset. It was wonderful. There were some mosquitoes. I was very grateful that I brought two different types of mosquito repellent. I brought a spray from Earth Kind. They make this nice little portable spray that was the perfect size for a trip like this. I also brought these mosquito repellent bands. You can wear the band on your wrist or your ankles. The brand I purchase is not waterproof in hindsight. The waterproof brand is called PARA’KITO. It looks pretty nice. I decided not to get that. It felt like I wasn’t necessary.
The brand I did get was nice. You can reuse them to a certain extent and then throw them away. I believe they have biodegradable material. They were all plant-based, a little loose, and not waterproof, but they were decent. I’m glad that I got them. I still have plenty more for other trips. I did not bring that bug spray or the bands down to the beach that night, and I regretted it because there were a good amount of mosquitoes. It was probably because the jungle leads to the ocean.
Mindful to bring and wear some mosquito repellent. Max did provide that, but none of us thought to bring it with us. That was a lesson learned. For the rest of the trip, I wore it. Everybody relaxed that night. I started watching more episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. That was my show on this trip. I had pre-downloaded it on Amazon Prime before I went on the retreat so I didn’t have to use the internet.
However, the Wi-Fi was plentiful at the retreat. There were multiple Wi-Fi signals because they had this whole mesh network set up. The signal was pretty good in the room. It was also great outside my room and in the common areas. I ended up doing work and using the internet a ton. It was nice to relax each night.If you're budgeting for things like this, make sure you bring some extra money for tips. Click To Tweet
There wasn’t a TV in the room, so I used my iPad and fell asleep. I also used the Sleep Pod by the brand Hug Sleep. I mentioned this in a previous episode about how I got that in place of a weighted blanket and also my body pillow. My weighted blanket and my body pillow from Essentia are a game-changer for sleep. When I travel without that, I feel like something is missing, but I don’t want to bring a weighted blanket. I’m so glad I didn’t because my bag was stuffed and heavy enough. If I had a 10 or 15-pound weighted blanket, it would have been miserable. It probably wouldn’t have even met the weight requirements.
I’m glad I had the Hug Sleep. I wore that to bed every night on my trip. It helped me sleep. It provides some compression. It also helped me from sleepwalking because I do not recall sleepwalking on any of this international travel. I did not wear it on the airplane. I was laughing at imagining how I would look wearing the Hug Sleep. Imagine a thin sleeping bag. That’s what the Hug Sleep looks like. I thought I was going to wear it on the airplane, but it was too much of a hassle, so I didn’t.
I took six flights, and none of them involved the Sleep Pod, but I did use it every night. On the first night, I slept well. I woke up the next day and started off with a fitness class at 8:00 AM, which was very early for me. I’m someone that does not do a lot before 11:00 AM, so getting up early felt slightly challenging, but it was wonderful. We had this great fitness instructor. He was more of a movement and mindfulness instructor. He taught us all different ways to move our bodies.
We then had our first breakfast, which was a chickpea omelet. It was this thick legume-based omelet-style thing. It was almost a tortilla meets an omelet. You can use chickpea flour to make this. I made it many times. The name is escaping me, but I’m pretty sure that’s what this was. Every dish was served with a side of fruit, and that was lovely. We also had fresh orange juice.
We did the optional activity of surf lessons, and almost everybody on the retreat opted in. It was $113, including tax. This was part of the reason I brought a few hundred dollars in cash. This was my very first time surfing. They had the most incredible instructors that guided us. They were 90-minute long lessons. I had the most amazing time. I’m so glad that my first time surfing was in Costa Rica because everyone raves about how warm the water is and how great the waves are.
The instructors were super knowledgeable and patient. They guided me every step of the way. It wasn’t as hard as I expected because I figured it out and got the hang of it pretty fast. They even stood up on my board, which I wasn’t expecting to do the first time. The instructor gave me clear instructions and guided me along the way. I felt very safe. Since I haven’t been in the ocean for so long, being in the waves was exhausting. Surfing is hard. I couldn’t believe how much upper arm and shoulder strength that took. I only stood up a few times, so my legs didn’t hurt that much, but my arms were killing me the next day.
Also, they were manta rays swimming around us. I didn’t see them, but the other girl that was doing the beginners lesson with me saw five manta rays swimming underneath her surfboard and around her. She was terrified of them, but I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. Apparently, manta rays are either harmless or not generally harmful. That was pretty cool. That was the only sea creature I knew was there. There were no dolphins, but there were other fishes swimming around. The water was pretty clear when the waves were not crashing. The ocean was wonderful there.
We came back for lunch, and lunch that day was a stir fry with fresh avocado. We then hung out. People went into the pool. The pool is nice there. I didn’t fully go in at any point. I didn’t feel like swimming a ton, believe it or not. I put my feet in a lot, but I didn’t go fully in. I went into the ocean a few times but opted not to get into the pool, unlike everybody else. I don’t know if it would go over your head at all, but it could go up to your shoulder. It has a nice depth. It is a rectangular-shaped pool. If you look at the pictures on the Sand And Salt Escapes website, you can see how the pool looks. It’s very prominent on the property. It was a great size, especially for ten people.
Everybody hung out and then it started pouring rain. The rain there is delightful. This is one of the videos on my Instagram that got the most views. It was a 20-second long video I took of the rain coming down into the pool. I loved that. Since July is the rainy season in Costa Rica, or at least Nosara, it rained every single day. I was deeply grateful for it. It’s the warm rain, and you’re out there barely wearing clothes.
That was one thing I also wish I had been a little bit more aware of. I knew it was going to be humid and warm, but I didn’t realize how little I would want to wear. I wish I had brought more shorts. I brought three pairs of shorts and the rest were long workout pants. We worked out every single day at least once a day, so we constantly needed to change. I brought two bathing suits, but I didn’t use them that much. I wish I had more tank tops and shorts. That’s a piece of advice if you go down. Costa Rica’s weather is like that year-round, but I could be wrong.
On day two, we all walked in the rain to our next yoga class. This was our first full day of the retreat. We went to a full Kundalini class, and that was in a different location down the street. It was about a five-minute walk away. The teacher was delightful. She was also an American that moved to Costa Rica. She hosted her class in this other hotel-like space in this open-air but covered workout room. It was a phenomenal class. We were talking about this class throughout the whole trip. Every class made a big impression on us as a collective group of people. We walked back, hung out, and relaxed for a little bit after class.
For dinner, we had kebabs. My kebabs had a variety of squash, tomato, carrots, and zucchini. They were so good as chefs using a lot of different types of vegetables. Everything looked beautiful. My pictures don’t do it justice because the lighting was dark. I’m trying to make a little video montage of everything I ate on this trip because it was remarkable. We then went to bed and got up the next day.
Every morning, I had coffee. The retreat location had several different ways to make coffee. They had a drip coffee maker. They also had a bunch of French press, including different sizes, where you could have made cold brew, traditional French press, or drip coffee. They had an espresso machine, which is my favorite. The staff there brought me some Nespresso pods from the local grocery store. I don’t think they sold them at the mini market. If they did, they’re probably very expensive. The grocery store, which was about 10 or 15 minutes away, not by foot but by car, had the pods for $6. I gave them some money and they brought them back for me, which was super nice. Every morning, I would have a Nespresso.
Both the big market and the small mini-mart in town had all different types of plant-based milk. They were shelf stable, so when I first went to that store, I didn’t see them in the refrigerator. I thought, “Maybe they don’t have any plant-based milk.” The person working there showed me the bottom shelf in one of the isles. They had practically every milk you could imagine, like coconut milk, soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, and hazelnut milk, so I got a few bottles of that. Every morning, I had a nice latte. I always appreciated that.
I also drank the Athletic Greens powder every single morning. It’s so great because it’s full of 75 vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients, including probiotics and digestive enzymes. Since I was trying to keep my immune system high and my digestion in good shape, I was super grateful for Athletic Greens, especially to have it first thing in the morning before an exercise class. That 8:00 AM movement class happened every day, and I went to all but one class. There was 5 total, so I went to 4 of them. It was a nice way to start off the day. We did lots of stretching, breathing, mindfulness practices, and all different things with our bodies. It was cool.
For breakfast, we had pancakes. I don’t know what mine were made of. I remember they were quite thick. Maybe it was rice flour. They made a special fruit jam on top of it. That was great. On that day, we went on ATV rides. One girl stayed back, so 9 out of the 10 people at the retreat opted to do ATVs. They were the same price as surfing. It was $113 with tax, not including tip. If you’re budgeting for things like this, make sure you bring some extra money for tips, however you want to tip.
I wasn’t sure about going on an ATV ride, but since almost everybody else went, I thought, “I’ll give it a try.” It was quite the experience. It was more fun and a little bit scarier than I thought. It was a little challenging at times. This was at least three hours, twenty minutes away from the retreat by car, and this guide took us all over. The full experience of riding was about two hours. He took us to a waterfall. We had to hike through the jungle to get to that, and that probably took at least 30 minutes of experiencing this waterfall. It felt like a lot of time.
It was beautiful riding up these hillsides and mountains. They were steep areas. We saw monkeys up in the trees and butterflies all over the place. We were looking at all the beautiful greenery. Since it’s been raining a ton in Costa Rica, everything felt so vibrant. The sky at that time was perfectly blue since it wasn’t raining. That was awesome, exhilarating, and scary. We had to go over bridges that were super small and through deep puddles. It was quite the adventure, and I loved it.
We got back, hung out, and relaxed for a little while, and then we had lunch. There are no photos of lunch, but I’m almost positive that day we went and had lunch at a local restaurant. It was an amazing place that had vegan, gluten-free, and keto options. It felt like a very LA restaurant, but much nicer because it was in Costa Rica.
That night, I walked down to the beach by myself. There were little red crabs on this one path everywhere. I was walking back right after sunset. It was starting to get dark. All around me, it seemed like, were hundreds of crabs. They were scurrying across the path. It was a little bit creepy but cool to see bright red little creatures. It was a little unnerving because they are almost spider-like. I was simultaneously fascinated and slightly uncomfortable.
For dinner, they made me this curried cauliflower rice dish with zucchini, eggplant, carrots, bigger pieces of cauliflower, and broccoli. We also would bring back snacks and wine from the local markets. There was that mini-mart that had these incredible vegan truffles in the refrigerator section. There was also a separate store that had affordable wine that you could buy. People would bring back wine or beer to share. Some people made cocktails.
There was no pressure to drink. The retreat did not provide any alcohol. Alcohol was very much the preference of attendees. Most people on the retreat chose to drink, but nobody cared if you did or didn’t. I liked that energy. I’m a social drinker. I don’t get into drinking outside of being in the presence of others. I had no craving for alcohol. I could have gone on the trip without it, but it was fun to experience some of the local wines. They had organic wine there. It was fun watching people make cocktails and enjoy each other. It also took a few days. It was halfway through the retreat that people started to drink wine. One night, we were playing a game together, and it loosened everyone up and became very fun.
The next day, there was an out-on-the-beach fitness class. The same guy with the 8:00 AM class did this cool workout that included running. We were jumping over logs and branches and balancing on rocks and sticks. He was so cool in the way that he designed his workouts. It was very thoughtful. We then went back for breakfast. There was this beautiful, well-portioned chia seed pudding with toasted coconut, kiwi, and banana slices on it.
That afternoon, we had an at-the-beach painting class. It was supposed to be the night before, but I believe the weather prevented it and it was rescheduled for an afternoon. It would have been nice to do it at sunset as initially planned, but it was great during the day. Some people went and painted in their bathing suits. There is a Costa Rican instructor there who provides all the painting supplies. He set the easels on the stand. He encouraged us and gave us ideas for what to paint, but it was a free do-what-you-want type of class. You could paint anything you wanted to paint.
He would walk around and say words of encouragement or give you tips on how to paint certain things. It was so wonderful. I didn’t bring back my painting mainly because it didn’t have room in my packed bag, but also, it was one of those paintings I could take or leave. I took pictures of it and I feel satisfied with that. Some people painted some really nice things and brought them back as memories. That was so cool.
For lunch, most people got a burrito. My burrito was wrapped with rice paper. That was cool. It had lettuce, some roasted vegetables, avocado, tomato, pico de gallo, and guacamole on the side. I could remember how all this stuff tastes by describing it and looking at the photos. We then had a few hours of free time. People sat around and read. I did a little work. One guy went and meditated on his own for an hour. Some people went swimming. We had more coconuts. Everybody was relaxed the rest of the day. Sometimes, people took naps. It was nice.
For dinner, they gave us these huge plates of sushi. It was probably the equivalent of four rolls each. My plate was filled with it. For some reason, they wrapped all of my sushi with rice paper, which was great. I don’t know why they didn’t give me any seaweed. Maybe they thought seaweed wasn’t vegan. Mine was clear and delicious. It had avocado, cucumber, and carrots in it. It was great. That was my third meal with rice paper. They took the rice paper thing seriously for me being gluten and corn-free.
I had a breakfast burrito the next day. It was also delicious, and then we had free time. I went down to the beach with a few people. We went swimming and sunbathing. For lunch, we had a big salad. It had peanuts, zucchini, and a neat dressing. One thing I appreciated about the retreat is there were tons of time to do whatever you wanted. I highly recommend bringing a book. I brought my iPad and read a ton of things on there. You could do some work. I did choose to do some work, but most people did not open their laptops.
The other cool thing is most people barely use their phones. I probably used my phone more than anyone else because I was taking a ton of pictures, but I barely used social media aside from posting a few videos. I barely used TikTok, which is nuts for me because I am on TikTok very frequently watching content. I wasn’t texting a lot or surfing the web. It was so nice to spend minimal time on my phone. It was great to be around other people who weren’t doing it either. I felt a little bad at times because I was carrying around my phone to take pictures. I didn’t want anyone else to feel encouraged.
We had the peacefulness of having hours to spend. You could go walking around town. A lot of people did that. There were shops, restaurants, and cafes to go to. There was a great coffee shop I went to one day. One of the attendees also led some fitness classes. A lot of people at this retreat love to work out, so they offered bonus workout classes on top of what else we were already doing. That was neat. We hung out at the pool.
By the end of this night, we had a breathwork class with this wonderful woman. I also think she was American. Most of our teachers were American. I believe ex-pats is the term. Those were the people that moved to Costa Rica. She had the most peaceful demeanor and brought us through a 90-minute deep breathing and transformative breathing class that put us in an altered state.
What was so cool is that it started off on this beautiful clear evening, and then it started pouring rain. We were under the covering of this open-air workout space. We were all laying down on our yoga mats with blankets and pillows under the pouring tropical summer rain. That was one of my favorite moments. The only downside to that is, depending on where you were in the area, you were either dry or getting wet.
There were a few people in the retreat that was in a bad spot, and the rain was coming in on them. Since we were all in this trance-like state, they were afraid to move. They ended up laying there in the pouring rain, which to me, sounds cool, but they did not seem very happy about it. Another thing to keep in mind is to be mindful of where you are when it rains and also find the courage or confidence to speak up if you’re uncomfortable. It’s a great metaphor or message with a piece of wisdom.
I also had a lot of respect for them for not moving. I wondered what I would have done if I had been laying in a spot where the wind was blowing the rain onto me. It gave me this interesting reflection on how each person is having a different experience depending on where they are. For me, I was hearing the pouring rain. It was coming down right next to me, but it wasn’t blowing on me. I was completely dry and in this place of bliss because I loved the sound of the rain. Other people a few feet away from me were miserable because the rain was getting them super wet. We had an interesting discussion about that as a group. We sat around and chatted about that.
There were multiple restaurants in one little section of town where you all sat in the same place but could order from different spots. The layout was a little confusing to me, but there is a bar. You could order margaritas, wine, and beer. They served wood-fired pizza, including gluten-free and vegan. They didn’t have vegan cheese, but it was delicious with sauce and veggies.
We then sat outside and enjoyed a pizza as a group. We each got a pizza because of the size. They were somewhere in between personal and regular-sized pizza, but the crust was super thin. It was the perfect size for one person. I remember eating the entire thing so fast and being so grateful to have it all to myself. They served the special garlic sauce you could pour on it. I got a watermelon margarita too and loved it. I felt like I wanted to get a cocktail at some point.
The next day was our final full day. I haven’t been counting each of the days as I’ve been sharing this experience, but that was our final workout class at 8:00 AM. It was perfect weather. I took a ton of photos. The teacher taught us how to climb palm trees and how to pay attention to our bodies and movement in some unique ways. He was really good at that.
Our final breakfast was pancakes again. They looked slightly different than the pancakes we had before. They were topped with pineapple and dragon fruit. It was unbelievable. We also had fresh orange juice. The juice changed based on the day. There was maybe papaya juice one day, and then we had more free time. A lot of people went swimming and did some more exercise.
Lunch was one of my favorites. They were tacos. They used that same chickpea flour to make my tortillas. It was almost the same as that omelet-style chickpea dish I had for breakfast one day. They made the tacos and filled them with all these fresh roasted vegetables. On the side, they served us cassava sticks. They looked like mozzarella sticks, but they were all cassava roots. If you didn’t know, that’s where tapioca comes from. That was of the best things I had.
During our free time that day, I walked with a few people over to the local vegan restaurant. They also served wood-fired pizza and practically any vegan dish you could imagine, like burgers, incredible desserts, bowls, and salads. It was fully plant-based and gluten-free. It was heaven, an incredible location and atmosphere.
The prices were pretty reasonable. I didn’t think any of it was crazy expensive. It was probably under $15 a dish. For me, in Los Angeles, that’s not bad. They went over there to get some food for their plane ride. Since I didn’t plan to eat on the plane, I went along to check out the restaurant, but I didn’t order anything. However, I did get a coffee at the local Single Origin coffee place, that was incredible. They had espresso, cold brew, lattes, and ice drinks. They also made their own lavender syrup. I’m pretty sure I put that in mine. It’s making me drool thinking about it. The guy working there was so nice.
When we got back, it started pouring rain. The hardest it rained the entire time. It was a little bit of a bummer because we were supposed to walk about twenty minutes through town to get to another hotel or yoga center to do a sound bath. I was really looking forward to it, but the rain was so intense. There was no comfortable way to get over there.
We could have taken a car, I suppose, but there weren’t a lot of taxis. I don’t even know if they had Uber there. The main mode of transportation was walking, biking, and taking these little tuk-tuks. They fit maybe 2 or 3 people. They were tiny motorized carts that you could rent to drive you around. They weren’t that expensive. I never ended up taking one. For the group of ten to get over there in the pouring rain, it wasn’t going to happen, so they ended up canceling that. It was a little bit of a bummer, but since that was our last day there, it was so nice to hang out with nothing to do. I read, lounged around, and talked to people. People were painting, drawing, doing puzzles, and relaxing.
I ended up seeing a bunch of monkeys in the trees. They would make these intense sounds. It was so cool. The most monkeys I saw were on that final day. There were five of them right outside the retreat center. There’s a jungle around you. It integrates into the town, so the monkeys would come from the trees nearby. The iguanas would be crawling around the retreat center. There would be all different types of birds and little lizards. It was so neat.
We then had our final dinner. They did a pasta dish. For me, they used zucchini and cucumbers to make my pasta. It was so good and creative. I had a lot of zucchini, cucumber, avocado, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and lots of rice paper. As our final group activity, we all gathered together in a circle on that little workout platform. Max had each person share something that they noticed or learned from one another. We took turns. Each of us was in the spotlight and everybody in the circle would share something. When it was my turn, every other person would share something about me. After the share, each of us was granted a nickname.
It was a cool activity. It took us hours because to get through each person probably took fifteen minutes or so. Everybody was outpouring love and thoughtfulness. I took notes. We were each given a little notebook. I wrote down all of the different things that people said about one another. I didn’t take too many notes for myself because I was trying to listen intently. A few things I wrote down that people called me were inquisitive, asking a lot of questions, insightful, deep, vulnerable, and someone who jumps in and does things even when scared. Those felt like some cool things to receive. I shared with people how I felt they were patient, kind, creative, funny, down-to-earth, sweet, resilient, adventurous, present, brave, honest, caring, creative, bold, supportive, and generous.
It was so neat to spend the time in the end, having met most of those people for the very first time and spent seven days with them. We shared all these wonderful experiences to reflect on how we felt around them, what we learned from them, and what we noticed. It was nice, profound, and a great way to close out the retreat. We all hung out drinking wine and some beer together, and then sadly, we all went to bed. It was especially hard for me because I didn’t get to bed until between 11:00 PM and 12:00 AM. I had to get up at 3:45 AM to get a van and go back to the airport.
My flight left at 9:00 AM. It only took about a two-hour drive that early in the morning, and then I had to go through customs and security, which was easy and fast. I got to the airport with barely anyone there. It was 6:00 AM when I got there. I checked in right away. There was one family in front of me at security. Security was so laid back at this Liberia airport. I sat outside for a little bit as I did at LAX and soaked in Costa Rica one last time. I drank tons of water, ate a snack, and then walked to my gate. It was chill. I was so relaxed at this airport.
I sat there for about an hour or so and got on my plane. The plane ride back was packed. Most people weren’t wearing masks again. It was Alaska. I had nonstop flights from LA to Costa Rica both ways on Alaska Airlines. It was fine. I don’t know why I had higher expectations for Alaska. There are no complaints, but it wasn’t great. Maybe it was an older plane. I was shocked at how tight the seats were for leg room. I felt like I had no room between me and the stranger next to me. Luckily, the people next to me on the way back to LA were wearing masks. That gave me a little peace of mind.
I landed in LA at 1:30 PM on that Wednesday, July 13th, 2022, and spent six hours outside of the airport. I went to lunch, repacked my bags, and then went back to the airport to fly to Singapore. Since this episode has gone a little on the long side, I’m going to pause there. You can read about it more in part two of my travel adventures. I’ll tell you about what it was like to go to Singapore and spend a little time in Fiji.
I didn’t end up talking about products as much as I thought I was going to. Aside from the bug spray, I brought some sunscreen with me which was nice. I had some new clothes. I bought some clothes from Old Navy. I was very surprised. Old Navy had great bathing suits, so I bought a bathing suit from them and some shorts. I also tried to go secondhand shopping but couldn’t find what I wanted from those stores. I ended up going to Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and Target as well. I don’t know how much I bought.
I bought some things on Amazon. One of them that was great was a hat that you can roll up. It was a beach-style hat. It was cool because you could un-Velcro the side of it and roll it up. I was grateful to have a compact hat that would block the sun. I also brought a baseball hat, a black one, that I ended up losing at the airport on my way back somehow. It was with me after I got off the plane, but somewhere between getting off the plane and getting into my transportation at the airport, I lost my hat. It was a bummer, but I got over it.
I had a third hat, which was a hat that you would wear to block the sun while hiking or gardening. It was also compact. I didn’t use that as much. I brought that with me for surfing, which is cool. I didn’t wear it in the water, but I wore it when we were on the sand. That was nice. When I went to ride the ATV, I brought that hat, but I didn’t end up wearing it because we had helmets. I didn’t use that hat quite as much, but I’m planning to use that on my next road trip. I was glad I bought that.
I told you about the Hug Sleep. I brought different supplements, like the Athletic Greens. I brought some melatonin supplements to help me sleep. I could go on and on, but I’m going to wrap up here. I’ll have more products to share with you in the next episode where I’ll talk about the next part of my international travel. I’ll then hopefully do some videos. When those videos are done, I will incorporate them into this, so go check that out at Wellavatr.com.
As always, thank you so much for reading. I feel like I’m talking to a friend about all of my adventures. I hope you feel that way too. I would love to hear from you, so any comments you might have. Have you been to Costa Rica? Have you traveled? When was the last time you went on a plane? Where did you go? It has been almost three years since I was last on a plane, so this was quite the experience to dive back into travel. If you haven’t traveled, where would you like to go when you feel ready? Would you like to go to Costa Rica? I would love to hear it all.
You can reach out to me on Instagram through my @WhitLauritsen account or the @Wellevatr account. I’m on pretty much every social media platform. Pick one, reach out to me, and send me a message. You can also email me. My email is on Wellevatr.com or in the bio of all the social media. Hearing from you brings me great joy so we can make this more than a one-way conversation.
I look forward to sharing more with you in the next travel episode. I’ve also got a great guest coming up for you. There is a wonderful woman coming up for the guest episode. We’re getting into self-care, nurturing yourself, and nourishing yourself. This is a good complement to this episode. If you haven’t subscribed to the show yet, that is the easiest way to find out when the next episode is.
We release every Monday and Friday. Mondays are the solo episodes of me chatting with you like a friend, and Fridays are with a special guest or sometimes multiple guests. In some episodes, I’ve had two guests at once. Stay tuned for that. I am always working to bring you some interesting perspectives, new words of wisdom, and stories. As I continue to learn more about emotional well-being through that training program, I am thinking of all sorts of different angles of self-care and wellness that I can cover.
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