Jennifer Turnbull-Houde and Matthew Houde Jennifer Turnbull-Houde and Matthew Houde are the brains behind ‘Two Weeks in Costa Rica’, a travelogue-guidebook that chronicles their adventures and experiences in the country. The couple started vacationing in Costa Rica more than 10 years ago and fell in love with the country’s rich culture and astounding natural beauty! On one of their trips to the country, the couple from Boston decided to start a journal, writing down their experiences in the Central American country. What started as an innocent journal has now been developed into their first book, which has received positive reviews from different critics!!

Recently, Jennifer and Matthew permanently moved to Costa Rica, leaving behind their successful careers in the United States! The couple, who runs their own publishing company, is now looking forward for the launch of their new book on Panama. Apart from blogging and writing, Jennifer and Matthew offer travel assistance to tourists who seek help in planning their trip to Central America.

Is there a singular thing that made you both want to pack up your jobs in Boston and live in Costa Rica?

One of the biggest things that made us want to move to Costa Rica was the pace of life. Back in Boston, we were working a lot and it seemed like vacations and weekends were just too short. We visited Costa Rica, usually for two weeks out of the year, and fell in love with the tropical environment, culture, and unhurried pace. The people of Costa Rica do work hard, but they have an attitude that is much more relaxed. We dreamed of spending more time there but knew that retirement wouldn’t come for another thirty or so years. Since we both share the mindset that life is too short to wait, we decided to take a chance while we were still young.

Did you really find a paradise in Costa Rica?

Yes, we have definitely found what we were looking for, and for us Costa Rica is paradise. Of course like anything else, there is another side to every story. Many people think that we are merely on an extended vacation. Although we do have a lot of fun and are enjoying life more, since we are only in our 30s, we couldn’t just stop working altogether. Instead, moving was like starting new again. We came with a dream to write travel books and expand our website www.twoweeksincostarica.com into a business. Although it sounds dreamy on the surface, making a name for ourselves and starting from scratch has taken a lot of effort. We are actually working just as much as we used to, albeit in a different way, but have a much better view!

Is there a place in Costa Rica that you most frequently visit?

We love the beaches of the southern Pacific coast in an area known as the Costa Ballena. This part of the country is less busy and usually most of the beaches are all but empty. When we want to just relax, there is a secret beach near our house that few people know about. Typically, we set up under the shade of some palm trees and spend the day lounging in our beach chairs and going for the occasional swim. It’s definitely the paradise we came to Costa Rica for.

Tell us about an interesting episode that happened to you during your travels.

In the last year and a half, we have travelled all around Costa Rica. We actually lived in eight different towns and explored even more on day trips, so were almost constantly on the road. On one of our many trips, we suddenly came across a section of road that was closed. Not knowing how to navigate around the detour, we sat on the side of the road trying to get our bearings, map in hand. Costa Rica is notorious for its confusing roadways. Suddenly, a car pulled up and a local man asked us in Spanish if we needed help. Our reply in Spanish wasn’t very good, since we are still learning, so he quickly changed to English and offered his help. He told us to follow him along a bumpy dirt road (that wasn’t on the map) and assured us that it would come out in the right spot. He was right, and when we got back on the main road, he pulled off to the side, waving us over. We stopped and talked with him for a few minutes and found out that he had a daughter living close to where we both grew up in the United States. He then graciously invited us into his home for coffee! It’s those types of moments that reassure us that we moved to one of the friendliest countries in the world.

Holiday season is on, what places in Costa Rica you would recommend to holidaymakers during the festive season?

Most travellers come to Costa Rica to escape the cold weather that they are experiencing back home so choose to go straight to the beach and soak up the sun. That is an excellent choice, but for those wanting to get out and do some exploring, Costa Rica has a lot to offer. Being located in the ring of fire, Costa Rica has several really impressive volcanoes. Poas Volcano, near the capital of San Jose, has one of the largest active crater lakes in the world. At the national park, you can walk right up to the edge and peer down inside to see the blue-green crater lake below.

Jennifer Turnbull-Houde and Matthew Houde

Another volcano, located in the northwestern part of the country, is Arenal Volcano. Arenal is cone shaped and looks like something right out of a movie. It stands tall above the popular tourist destination of La Fortuna and has charcoal grey lava fields all around from its last big eruption in the 1960s. The La Fortuna area has a lot for visitors to do like whitewater rafting and zip lining, but one of the most popular activities is soaking in the many hot springs, which are heated by the volcano’s thermal energy. Of course, those looking for beaches can easily pair one of these volcanoes with a trip to either the Pacific or Caribbean coasts to feel the sand between their toes.

You’ve had to get used to the inconvenience of shopping in Costa Rica. What other things have you had to contend with during your stay there.

As we alluded to above, Costa Rica is a Spanish-speaking country, and since neither of us spoke much Spanish before moving here, it has definitely been an adjustment. When we first arrived, we couldn’t even communicate fully with our taxi driver at the airport, aside from telling him the town we were going to. But with some discipline, we began to study a little every day and now, a year and a half layer, we are able to make some small talk and can even communicate (somewhat successfully) on the phone in Spanish. Something that has really helped us learn is that the locals, known as Ticos, are very supportive and appreciate if you at least try to speak in their native tongue. Many will even cheerfully correct our wrong word choice without making us feel bad. And to help even more, a good number of Ticos speak some English, especially in the tourist destinations.

“Costa Rica doesn’t have the endless possibilities that a city has”. What would you say you miss most when you think about Boston?

Back in Boston, we used to love strolling out the door and arriving at any number of amazing bars and restaurants just a short walk away. We had everything from Asian fusion to authentic Italian to pub food and noodle bars. Although Costa Rica does have its share of great restaurants, where we currently live along the coast, they are all at least a short drive away. Something we really miss is that convenience and variety right at our doorstep. Luckily for visitors, many of the best restaurants are found in the popular destinations, and when we want a great meal that is where we go.

You moved to Costa Rica in 2013, what is next on your to-do list for Costa Rica?

Even though we have visited all of Costa Rica’s popular tourist destinations, as well as many lesser known ones, there is still a lot more to explore. We really enjoy hiking, and one place that has been on our list is Costa Rica’s highest mountain, Cerro Chirripó. We have hiked around the base of this mountain but never reached the summit. In order to hike to the top, you must stay in a cabin overnight, making it a two-day hike. We think it would be well worth the effort though since it is said that you are able to see both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea on a clear day.

If you would at all leave Costa Rica, would it be Boston once again, or is there any other place you have in mind to move to?

The Boston area would definitely be high on the list of places we’d consider if we were to move back. Many of our family and friends are still in New England and being apart from them has been hard for both of us. Luckily, we have had a lot of visitors here in Costa Rica and are expecting even more in the future. Moving back doesn’t sound too appealing at the moment though, especially with winter’s cold grasp this time of year.

Your first book has received positive reviews and we heard you two are working on a new book about your travels through Panama. What can we expect from your new book? Will it be on the same lines as your first one?

Yes, our first book Two Weeks in Costa Rica has been more successful than we had originally imagined and has really helped motivate us to write more. A book on Panama is in the works, but we actually just published our second book, which is a travel guide to Costa Rica. That book, called Top 10 Costa Rica Itineraries, was the result of the many questions we were getting for travel advice, specifically on how to design an itinerary. Our hope is that the new book will ease the stress that comes along with travel planning and give people exactly what they need to know. Now that the itinerary book is checked off our list, we’re excited to get back to work on the Panama book which, like the first book, will be more of a travelogue. Panama is Costa Rica’s neighbour but different in many ways. One of the things that stood out during our travels there was the sharp contrast between the booming city built up along the famous canal and the indigenous groups we spent time with who live very simply with few resources.

You have travelled extensively across Central America. What other parts of the world would you like to travel to?

We have enjoyed our trips to Costa Rica’s two bordering countries, Nicaragua and Panama, but would really like to explore some other Central American countries like Guatemala and Belize. In Guatemala, there are several pre-Columbian ruins and Belize is supposed to be great for snorkelling, one of our favourite activities. We also haven’t made it as far as South America yet and would love to visit Peru someday to hike to the famous ruins at Machu Picchu.


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