Top 10 Pleasant Surprises of Living Abroad (with kids)

Living in Tamarindo has been quite an experience.  It’s not a vacation, it’s not traveling, we uprooted our lives of work, early mornings, blocking off stairs, grocery shopping, laundry, dinning out, beach time, happy days, sad days and non-stop twin energy and just planted it at a healthier pace.   I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and there would be ups and downs, but I wasn’t expecting the ups to surprise me so much.  Here are 10 things I have learned while traveling with kids.

1)  The kindness of strangers. Maybe it’s because Costa Ricans love kids so much but my faith in humans as a caring species is restored daily. People are more than happy to let me go in front of them in line just so they can make faces at or high-five the twins.  It makes the twins happy, it makes the people happy and it furthers my theory that twins are little happy making machines.

2) Conversation starters and stoppers.  People love seeing twins and they love asking questions and talking about twins.  Unlike the conversations I was having at home “Were they conceived naturally?”,  “Oh God, I was terrified I was going to have twins” or “Must be double trouble”, here people of all ages (including teenage boys) come up and gush about how cute, how happy, how fun and how wonderful twins are. These conversations are great ice breakers with moms and travellers and if the conversation starts to get weird or boring – I just say “it’s almost nap time” and walk away with out question or guilt.

3) You’re a hero.  You have twins and you’re in a foreign country – you’re a hero.  One baby walks into view and people smile but the second baby joins and it’s like a SUCKER PUNCH of cuteness and awe.  Even when the twins are fussy and I am 100% to blame because I have skipped their nap, forgot their bottles, or kept them in the stroller for WAY too long, people see twins and have so much sympathy for me that they accept the fussy behaviour.  “It’s probably just teething”  or “It’s extra hot today, we’re all fussy”.  What they’re really saying is… you have twins, and you’re HERE … you’re a hero.

4) Constant Entertainment.  Not only do they entertain strangers with their dancing, singing, clapping and high-fiving, but they entertain us… EVEN BETTER they entertain each other.  No matter where we are, they find things to do and to show each other. When they are finished showing each other, they show us, other kids, other kids parents, the guy walking by until they are eventually leading everyone in a group clap-along. It’s the best entertainment out there.

5) No reservations needed. Eating dinner earlier than most means we never wait for a table at a restaurant, highchairs are always available and the food comes out quickly.

6) Adaptable menus. There are some interesting (and not surprising) articles on the lack of nutrition in “kids meal” options at restaurants. We’ve come up with a few ways to ensure meals are balanced.  Either we order them a vegetable based starter to share (like a Caprese salad or pita with hummus or guacamole) and then J and I share our main entree with them which usually has a protein and carb option.  OR we order them a main (pizza, pasta, burger, etc) and substitute slices of avocado, tomato or cucumber for the fries.

7) Test driving the furniture.  When they start to climb on chairs or bang on tables you’re not as worried about damage because it’s not your furniture. I’m not saying we let the twins tear our unit apart, but I’m not attached to the pillow they may throw or the chair they may knock over because it’s not mine.  You can’t stop them from exploring but this way you’re not stressing about minor bumps and spills.

8) Playing is for all ages.  We play outside every day.  Sometimes with buckets of sand, sometimes with water bottles and leaves.  Seeing as it is always sunny here, you are always outdoors. This has made our “no TV until after 2” philosophy easy to follow and has given us the chance to brush up on our sandcastle building skills.

9) Sunrise/Sunset.  The sun rises and sets around 6am and 6pm every day.  With the sun being the hottest between 11-3, you take advantage of the cooler mornings and afternoons.  I think J has made the most of this timeline getting a sunrise surf in before work and then wrapping up his day just in time for us to catch the sunset together.

10) Happy Hour.  2 x 1 drinks, by the beach, mid day, with your kids (they are welcome at EVERY restaurant/bar), without judgement = PURA.VIDA.

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