Disco Diamond New Year's Eve from Studio Bicyclette

Posted on Wednesday, 30 December 2015

I always have the best time working with Paige and Emily on shoots. This disco themed New Year's party came from the wildly creative mind of Paige with the inspiration coming from Bash Party Goods. We drank pink champagne, played around with all the glitter and danced around in Paige's kitchen on a Monday night. To have both friendship and creativity combined makes life so much more amazing, and I wouldn't trade these nights for anything. To see the full shoot head on over to Studio Bicyclette Blog.  Also check out all the bling from Armed, another local lady love talent. 

Party Supplies: Bash Party Goods
Photograher: Jason Matos
Models: Emily and Ana

Assistant: Abigail Ballanger 
Clothes: Honey
White Skirt: Breeyn McCarney
Jewellery: ARMED
Styling and Creative Direction: Studio Bicyclette 

Manuel Antonio

Posted on Wednesday, 16 December 2015

I am listening to a wintertime warmth playlist on songza and as soon as I opened by blog to type, the song The Wooden Sky by what is now known as The Wooden Sky began. This coincidence I do not take for granted, this song was our lullaby when we were driving through the 11,000 ft Cerro de la Muerte, which translates to "mountain of death." The soothing folk was the only thing quiet and pretty enough to take the edge off the drive. It was raining, we were engulfed in a cloud at a unknown altitude, fog rolled around every corner, somehow this song was our guide. It's funny how a song can evoke a feeling and a visual of an experience tied to it, I can see the foggy road, the sound of the rain hitting the windshield, the dusk setting over the valley, there was something quite profound and beautiful about it all.

We stopped on the side of the road at what looked like an artist cabin, playfully named Jack and Charlie. A costa rican woman greeted us with excitement, we must have been the only tourists that stopped all day, it was raining season and she did have her shop on the "mountain of death." We perused her shop full of trinkets and souvenirs brightly coloured with costa rican landscapes. Alison bought coffee bean earrings and a settled on a moon wind chime. The shop owner gifted us with lilies and we hugged goodbye, and I asked her name, "Ana" she replied and I said "me too" with a smile. My Croatian name was quite popular in Costa Rica, I guess its a Spanish name too. I like how we can share these things amongst different cultures, makes me feel even more connected to this country. We continued on our drive, now with the lilies on the dash, the gesture bringing a sense of calm to the drive, our new driving charm.

We hit darkness, it crept in while we were descending the mountain, but there it was - another obstacle on our journey. I kept my focus, we were going to reach Manuel Antonio and without a scratch. At this point we felt like veterans on the road, coaxing at it, asking it to show us what its got because we were ready. We reached the town, rain still pouring but we were happy to have reached our destination. In that excitement we missed the tiny street that would lead us to our airbnb. It was ok, we got this, we just need to turn around. We pulled a u-turn and I attempted the now very sharp turn onto this tiny street and I couldn't make it. Maybe it was the darkness or the rain or both but I didn't see the incline on this turn, so there we were inches away from hitting a parked car hilariously in front of the "muchos" gym. I've been driving standard for 10 years I think I can handle backing up the hill. There were three attempts and each time I inched closer to the car, we were stuck and there was no way out. Once again we had to be resourceful, once again the ego was left in the car. Alison ran into "muchos" gym and ran up to every muscle man in there, and finally found our guy. The universe wanted to give us one last task before settling in for the night, we got away too easily on our drive.

There were many more stories as we explored Manuel Antonio, some I like to keep as my own personal stories, for those rainy days that I can sit and think back on our bravery, on our wit, on our instincts. It was beautiful alright, the kind of beauty that makes your senses light up, gives you goosebumps, makes you appreciate the colour blue, the tiny breeze that swirls your hair in a dance. I want to describe it but then I also want to keep it inside, my memories that I cherish because I was there, I witnessed it, I felt the rain - the rain that soaked me to the core. Experiencing these foreign lands is our duty, it makes time expand and makes every moment a moment of awe. I speak of this place with fondness despite some crazy things that did happen, because I feel like I would do it a disservice if I didn't speak with reverence. Because it was here that I found myself again, I found my love of travel, of people, of preserving beauty, of taking in a moment, of taking chances and mostly of trusting the kindness of people. Everyone has the right to feel this way and we should never stop exploring.

crop top and one piece: Jordan de Ruiter
Photos: Ana and Alison


Posted on Sunday, 29 November 2015

Wild hair and wild rainstorms is how I will fondly remember the charming beach town of Nosara. It is a romantic part of Costa Rica with it's sweeping landscape, pastel sunsets, and hazy humid nights with the twang of jungle noises. Beauty is raw here, nature takes over and you get lost with the rhythm of it. There is so much to tell and words not eloquent or pure enough to describe it. The air feels fresh and senses free to explore. We arrived as we did all of the places we visit, long travels, crazy sights and roads, feeling more and more like an explorer conquering a journey. We stayed at the green sanctuary, a resort made of shipping containers by the loveliest couple from Argentina. Everyone had a story of how they settled here, every story with a common theme of that pang in your gut guiding you to a place that calls to be home; the jungle does that for some, myself included.  As soon as we settled we headed out for dinner, plantains can only sustain you for so long. Fernando, our host of the green sanctuary, with his long curly hair and world wildlife fund t-shirt looking like an expat Argentinean surfer suggested we go to the best restaurant, La Luna. We arrived just as the sun was setting over the beach, horses were tied up to the palm tree, jewel-tone colours dancing in the distance, I took a long breath in trying to extract the magic of it all. How can this country get more beautiful by the day I thought, how did I get so lucky? 

The restaurant was busy, you must make a reservation, something we learned after the fact. They created a table for us, the kindness of the Costa Ricans prevails. La Luna exceeded its referral, white walls with moon detailing, nestled on the beach with couches out front to watch the sunset and an abundance of yogis cocktailing for the night after their daily practice. We were zonked and pleasantly stuffed from the pizza and beer so we headed back to our shipping container for the night. An early night was needed for an early morning awoken by the howling monkeys. More like the sound of a hungry beast stalking its prey, the monkeys were our terrifying alarm clock. A 5:30am start meant a full day of beach exploration, visiting the local shops, many walking detours because of the usual road floods and a healthy dose of hitch hiking in a golf cart with our new friend Josh. The town was full of characters, many travellers in their own right who call Nosara their temporary home, sucked in by that pastel sunset I am sure. Josh our golf cart saviour was no different, relocating with his wife and 4 kids to have "a new adventure" for a year, learning spanish and living a life many write on their bucket list but seldom cross off. He told his story with pride and excitement in the heavy rainstorm and excessive potholes that guided our way back to our cabin retreat. I connected with his story of a travelling family and thought how much I would love to meet his wife, a woman travelling the globe with 4 young children teaching them culture and adventure, a woman I aspire to be. We found our cabin and said our thank yous and goodbyes and ran to our room in a shrill as the rain showered us in its glory. How wonderful it is to find the amusement of it all, just letting go and embracing all that mother nature so freely offers. 

We decided to go our for the evening to El Chivo, a colourful mexican style restaurant we saw close by. A relaxing night with no makeup and no fuss, just some good food and drinks. El Chivo had the vibe and the perfect company, a local spot for the surfers and yogis to mingle at their hearts content. Many local pints and tacos were had as we joined some new surfer friends for the night. They even somehow convinced me to join them onstage for a very strange rendition of Britney Spear's '...baby one more time' our version had a rap portion. There's a strong sense of community here with an emphasis on bringing your authentic self, a very chill vibe that included all. If this is what all of their friday nights were like count me in! There is still a wildness about the town that is kept sacred here, like their own little piece of paradise they are willing to share but not willing to destroy at any cost. People are happy here, its not something you need to work for, its embedded in the fabric of the place. 

The next morning after our much needed coffees and smoothies we headed back on the road, for another crazy drive to one last adventure on a coffee farm. Pura Vida Nosara! You were the life of the Costa Rican party...

Bathing suit by Jordan de Ruiter
Pictures by me and Alison Sharp
Hotel Green Sanctuary and Nosara Retreat 


Posted on Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Paraiso is a small town southeast of Cartago city in Costa Rica. Paraiso translates to paradise or heaven, and when you gaze over the central valley you quickly discover why. Before arriving we had a full day of travel; testing our limits, our positivity, our forwardness...We picked up our rental car, the most expensive part of this trip, loaded with the top insurance, all the insurance as the roads are not meant for the weary heart. You need to be a road warrior to survive the dirt roads, potholes, mountains, clouds and rain storms blocking your vision...it's quite the test even for the most experienced driver, we passed out of necessity. Once loading up our 4x4 we headed through the busy congestion of San Jose, on route to Paradise. While driving through the city of Cartago I couldn't help but notice the country's obsession with Christmas. Full stores dedicated to selling Christmas decorations, glowing with colourful lights as dusk settled in - there's already a mysticism here, a celebratory feeling of whimsy. 

I felt delirious at that moment from no sleep and too much coffee. And driving! Driving in the jungle in a country where street addresses, road signs, signals, and street names are not very known or visible. Landmarks are how people get around here or in our case developing intuitive maps - something only time and hours of being lost will do. Circling a huge lake and the mountain (really there are only mountains in this country) at night we decided to stop at the only bar we could find at the side of the road. Alison my travel partner and road trip best friend guarded our car, the number one thing everyone warned us about, while I ran into the seedy bar to ask for directions. You learn quickly that in survival mode the ego does not exist, only impulse and bravery have room. I ran up to the bouncer and asked if he spoke english. He pointed into the bar with a sea of ticos. I continued with a hand swaying motion and said "bring me to the english." Somewhere in our hand gestures we understood each other and he brought me over to a table of middle-aged cowboys who looked like they very much belonged despite their cowboy hats. One of the drunk burly men gave me directions and I tried to keep up with his explanation of bridge after bridge, "just keep to the left, always go left." We attempted his directions and another hour rolled by and still this b&b was nowhere to be found. In desperation and trying to avoid sleeping in our car that night we headed back into the city of Cartago, surely there would be someone, anyone that spoke english. And then I saw those golden arches, yes McDonalds (the only one I saw in our entire trip) must have someone that can direct us. I ran in while Alison guarded our car and surveyed the place. And then I spotted them, our soon-to-be new friends Ana Lucia and Daniel. I ran up to their table and asked if they spoke english, with a gracious smile and warm demeanor Ana said yes. She too was confused by the directions and decided to call our host. A brief conversation I could not understand and she hung up her phone and said "follow us, we will take you there!" My heart sang, I could not believe two strangers would be kind enough to help us out. They seemed up for the adventure and I quickly learned that relying on the kindness of strangers is a way of life there, it's a part of their customs. 

We were escorted right to our doorstep, it was night and very dark but as soon as I hopped out of the car on the side of the cliff where the b&b was built into I could hear the waterfall, saw the outline of the jungle and knew we were someplace very special. Our new friends came in for some wine and laughs. They told stories about the area which eerily was called "the brides jump" after a local urban legend. We shared our lives freely as travellers often do, finding a camaraderie in our introduction. I learned so much from their candid banter and grew a strong appreciation for this generation of Costa Ricans. I took note of our shared name and shared spelling, a coincidence that seemed more like a symbol of connection and safety. It is the people you meet and the ones that guide you in foreign countries that teach you the most, that enrich your stories and are people you might spend fleeting moments with but will stay in your travelling heart forever. There were many of those people on this journey and that is the gift you find when you step out of the routine and your comfort zone and head fiercely into the unknown and trust with a faith you didn't know you had inside. 

 Top by Jordan de Ruiter
Photos by myself and Alison Sharp
Location, El Salto Eco Lodge