I arrived at Xandari in time for a little snack lunch and was assigned the same room, Villa 19, that I was in last August also for just two nights (they’re expensive is why short stays). See the room gallery for last year if you want to know what it looks like. All rooms are very nice here!
I walked the inner-circle trails photographing only these four butterflies and a whole lot more flowers and other nature which I will share later. It was bright sun and hot all afternoon, which is what butterflies like and there were a lot flying around but not stopping for a photo, especially the yellows and I saw some Julias too, but only these 4 landed where I could photograph. Tomorrow I will walk some deeper forest trails which have different butterflies and birds, though I got no birds this afternoon. Birds will be in the morning.
This is my second time to photograph the Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak, Strymon istapa, in my garden. The first time, back in November when one was on a Heliconia flower being attacked and eventually eaten by a Jumping Spider. See that blog post. This one was at the top of my garden along the top of the garden wall, flitting from plant to plant. A tiny, thumbnail sized butterfly in the Gossamer Wings Family, Lycaenidae. See both sets of photos in my Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak GALLERY.
You could use this day to start 2023 with a pop, or possibly several hundred. 🙂 But instead of driving your family crazy, think about how the packing material could be used to make art. For an amazing example, check out the work of professional artist Bradley Hart (bradleyhart.ca). 🙂
Or better yet, see this cool YouTube Video on making art from bubble wrap . . .
And I’ll share a few others of the many strange and silly “special days” during the rest of this year – maybe one a month – just for fun or to bring a smile. Doing something different makes one smile and live longer! 🙂 So look for another silly national day here on this blog during each month this year! 🙂
As much as I love traveling around Costa Rica with my camera, I am slowing down a little this year for multiple reasons, mainly health and money! 🙂 I’ve lived a long and exciting life already, mostly as a high-energy person, ready at all times for the next adventure! But with much less energy after cancer radiation treatments and having three pretty serious falls last year on trips, I must “start acting my age” in some respects. 🙂
Plus, my savings have been cut back a good bit with all the cancer treatments and I’m beginning to feel the tightness of money more, so fewer trips and shorter trips is part of my plan for this year with enough “wiggle room” to add a day trip at the last minute when I feel the need. 🙂 Like the 2-night trip this week just added to nearby Xandari Resort . . .
Here’s My 2023 Travel Plans
2 nights – Xandari Costa Rica Resort, Alajuela, my #1 best location for butterflies and one of the best for flowers! It’s this week! And you can see photos from 5 previous visits by browsing through my Costa Rica Trips Galleries, 2022, 2020 (twice), 2019 & 2018. 🙂 I will be giving the resort gifts of two copies of one of my newest photo books, Butterflies! The Hidden Art of Xandari for them to add to the only complete library of all Charlie Doggett photo books!
4 nights – Tortuga Lodge & Gardens, Tortuguero National Park.This will be my 4th trip to Tortuguero NP but my first time to this Lodge which is a sister lodge to the Monteverde Lodge and Gardens I visited in 2019 and considered a little nicer than the more rustic lodges I’ve visited here before, Turtle Beach Lodge in 2019 and Laguna Lodge in 2016 and with Caravan Tours in 2010. Tortuguero is often called “The Amazon of Costa Rica” with most nature hikes by boat and an amazing amount of wildlife from an occasional Jaguar to almost every tropical bird! 🙂
5 nights – Maquenque EcoLodge & Reserve, Boca Tapada. I sometimes call this my favorite lodge because of the large number of birds and other wildlife I’ve photographed there in the past and because they have treehouse rooms from which I’ve photographed both birds and monkeys in the nearby trees. But for the first time there I’m staying in a ground level cabin, one on the lake which may give me different wildlife photos from my room and I will be in less danger of falling down the 50 metal steps going up to the treehouse room. 🙂 You can see the photos of my 3 previous visits there by browsing through my Costa Rica Trips Galleries, or directly to 2022, 2020, & 2019. 🙂
5 Nights – Esquinas Rainforest Lodgewhich I’ve visited only one other time, also in the rainy season with one of my largest collections of bird photos in a 2018 visit when I was the only guest most of my days there. It is a small, quiet jungle retreat in the rainforests of Piedras Blancas National Park on the opposite side of that park from the more touristy Playa Cativo Lodge I visited last July, also for my birthday! This year is will be my 83rd birthday! 🙂 This is run by Austrians in conjunction with their university-related rainforest research station there. Being the rainy season, it will definitely not be crowded and I could be the only guest again! That would be okay with me! 🙂
6 nights – Hotel Banana Azul, Puerto Viejo, Limón, South Caribe. This is my annual Caribbean Beach vacation, staying always in “The Howler Suite” room overlooking the rainforest property and beach where I get great sunrise photos each morning plus lots of butterflies and birds and other wildlife including Sloths. It is my most relaxing place to visit and I have no pressure to do anything, plus the food is good and I can walk to most places, though they have their own tour company to take me further if I want explore afar and of course to and from the Limón Aeropuerto. I always fly there as I will also to Esquinas in July, near Golfito. My only 2 flying trips this year. Walter will drive me everywhere else I go this year. You can see my photos of 5 previous visits to Banana Azul by browsing through my Costa Rica Trips Galleries, or go directly to 2022, 2021, 2019, 2018, & 2017.
6 Nights – Hotel Savegre Lodge & Reserve, San Gerardo de Dota. And this year I will spend Christmas in another favorite lodge, in the most beautiful mountains with the 5th purest/cleanest river in the entire world – Rio Savegre! And the best place in Costa Rica to photograph the Resplendent Quetzal birds along with many others! Plus terrific food, rooms and hiking trails! See my photos from there on my 2021 Visit, plus I was in the same hotel in 2009 (smaller then) and I have visited two other lodges in San Gerardo de Dota. Mariam’s Quetzales Cabins in 2015 and Trogon Lodge in 2014, all good experiences!
So fewer trips this year, but each one comes at a time I will emotionally need it and all in places I’ve been before and really love! I’m the luckiest guy in the world to get to spend my final years living like this in the most beautiful nature places in the world! Nothing could be better for my 83rd year of life!
A SPECIAL BLOG POST FOR MY SUBSCRIBERS CONSIDERING A MOVE TO COSTA RICA!
Occasionally someone will ask me such things as “Are you glad you moved to Costa Rica?” or “If you had it to do over, would you do it again?” or “Do you miss the States?” or “When are you coming home?” or “Have you ever wished you had moved to a different country?” or “If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?”
The short answer to all but the last question is that I absolutely love Costa Rica and have never once missed the United States nor doubted it was the right thing for me! And I have not gone back, having no reason so far. Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows why this is true for me and that Costa Rica is a perfect fit for my love of nature. But before I tell you the one thing I think I did incorrectly, a quick summary of what I did correctly . . .
What I Did Correctly Before My Move Here
If you go back to the beginning of this blog in June 2014 you will see that I was pretty meticulous about the details of a move to another country and fortunately I had had the experience once before when I moved to The Gambia, West Africa for 3 years. I followed all the websites’ and individuals’ suggestion of doing my “due diligence” (a popular phrase then) which simply meant lots of research on living retired in Costa Rica and the details of doing it legally, successfully and learning what it would take for me to be happy here, etc. ad infinitum! I did that! (Except not thoroughly enough with the language part!)
Plus I traveled here 4 times before moving and checked out other countries online and in the case of Panama, visited them 3 times (a reasonable option). Plus my last trip here before moving was to take the “Live in Costa Rica Tour” sandwiched on either side of a two-day conference by ARCRon all the details of a move here, residency options, legal stuff, both private & public medical services, shipping stuff here, getting a lawyer to help, etc. And on that same trip I hired a local lawyer who specialized in expat residency and began my residency application which was made easier with still some time still left in the states so I could personally secure all the needed legal documents that would have been much more difficult trying to get from here!
So, Then What Would I Do Differently?
Just one thing!I would have made learning to speak Spanish fluently my JOB ONE!Though I had two brief classes in Nashville, I was a slow learner and not using it there, so to accomplish that . . .
I should not have made finding a place to live the first task, as I did, but I should have enrolled in an Immersion Spanish Language School for the first 4-6 months (in another town since there is not one in Atenas) where they provide a cheap rent living with a Tico family that speaks only Spanish plus daily language classes and local tours in Spanish. Younger people might accomplish this in 3 months to some degree but a slower-learning old man like me needs more time and I’m just guessing on the 4-6 months. I tried one of these immersion schools for one week in Feb. 2020, just before Covid hit us big here, and it was very helpful, just not for a long enough time. It would be harder now while paying higher rent for my more permanent housing. But I’m going to talk to them again and may try additional weeks periodically with follow-up classes on Zoom or Skype. My current teacher is not moving me forward fast enough and nor is Duolingo! I’m ready for a change in my language learning! 🙂 I will report on any change made and what progress if any I make. 🙂
So, my only regret about being “Retired in Costa Rica” is that I am still not fluent in Spanish – though I am immensely better than when I arrived here! 🙂 I speak more Spanish than maybe many of the other American expats (some don’t even try.) I do great in restaurants and traveling 🙂 and okay in the supermercado and other shopping, but I could do better and cannot handle much over the phone. Taxistas help me, so I am better there than on the public buses and the free public medicine that I should be using more is one place I can’t manage with my slow, simple Spanish – that and some casual conversations, especially with strangers, though it helps when a marketer calls on the phone that I can honestly say “Lo siento, no hablo español.” 🙂 Stay tuned for updates!
So what I’m saying is that if I had learned to speak Spanish fluently that first year, the rest of my 8 years would have been so much easier and more fulfilling!
That’s what I would have done differently!
Okay, maybe one other little thing that was not a problem when I first moved, but recently my small Credit Union in the states that I’ve been a member of for 45 years has had difficulties getting a new debit card to me quick enough or wiring money, where a larger international bank would be better equipped to serve me overseas. And I have to have a U.S. bank because my pension checks require that for auto-deposit. I’m still managing and have shifted some of my savings to my Costa Rica bank, but that is one other little detail that one considering a move here needs to straighten out, preferably before the move! 🙂
And by the way, the U.S. Social Security is more accommodating than my other pension sources, as they deposit directly into my Costa Rica Bank Account. And it was easy! I just went to the U.S. Embassy’s SS Window in San Jose and they took care of it immediately with that very next check arriving here! 🙂 Plus that became my “proof of income” for the residency application. 🙂
In my garden the other day as one I haven’t seen much of this year. A beautifully simple butterfly unlike his cousin the more flashy Banded Peacock. You may have noticed that I saw one on the birding hike last Saturday also. See my White Peacock GALLERY for some better photos of this normal-sized butterfly.
A local friend who has connections with a private religious retreat center in the mountains of Santa Eulalia, Atenas Canton, took me and two other friends last Saturday morning for a really nice birding hike that included all nature! 🙂 You can see the photos at:
This is another new butterfly species for me! And in my own gardens! 🙂 Eastern Tailed-Blue, Cupido comyntas(linked to butterfliesandmoths website). Like the other blues, it is very tiny, literally “thumbnail sized.” These tiny ones stay mostly in the grass and are very skittish, so I can’t get close-ups, but rather shoot with my telephoto lens and do a pretty big crop to make it visible for the viewer. Like many other butterflies, the top view and folded-wings view are totally different. Below are my shots of both and then you might want to see my gallery of other blues and tiny butterflies like Hairstreaks in my Lycaenidae – GOSSAMER-WINGS Gallery.
The White-winged Dove (eBird) is one of my faithful regularly seen birds in my garden. Here is in a Yellow Bell Tree behind my house. I also have quite a few photos in my White-winged Dove GALLERY, including what I think was my first bird to photograph here the hour I arrived for a birding tour in 2009. 🙂
I see many more of these large butterflies during the rainy season, but the other day this one was flitting about the different flowers in my garden in spite of the wind! He has to eat, windy or not! 🙂