Northern Nicaragua Fitness Holiday!


Sometimes people want a holiday where they can do absolutely nothing. Eat, drink, sleep with a book on the face. Sometimes that leads to extra pounds added to the extra you were trying to get rid of anyway. Stress fades a bit and life seems more tolerable. It’s great!

But it could be oh so much better! What we are offering you is a recalibration week that feeds the soul, mind and the cells. Come adventure with us in the wild and rustic Northern Nicaragua. This is a perfect retreat to loose weight, slow down, get reconnected with your body, reflect on where your at and have some fun adventure. Plus hang out with some stoked individuals who are there to support your personal journey.

I spend a good chunk of the year in my southern home. Playing in the sea, surfing, fishing, eating from the local abundance and working as a life coach and fitness instructor with my company Stoke Your Fire. I am so grateful to have an amazing community here and I am pumped to be working with the talented and rad human – Grace Van Berkum of the Gracious Living Oasis.  It’s such a gift to meet people like myself; living their dream and sharing it with others.

March 10-17/ 2018, we are offering a fun filled week of Yoga Fitness Fusion. Daily fitness and yoga classes, plant based menu for optimal cell health, life coaching and lots of laughs! We have tonnes of additional activities available. Surfing, SUP, massage, horseback riding and so much more! This is a Co-ed retreat for all levels of fitness. Check out all the details here and book your trip!

The Return


Traveling is sometimes easy and sometimes a complicated dance ranging in varied levels of difficulty. From the minor headaches to the challenges that leave you shaking your head while marching for the nearest beer to slug down, followed very quickly by another one.

Our return south was challenging, yet after a few cold ones and a night panting in front of the fan blowing an inch from our faces it feels as though we had never left!

In our latest stint away from our heart home of Nicaragua, we had been to Canmore Canada, Spokane WA, Cache creek BC, Pennsylvania, New York City, Washington DC, Holland, back to DC to pick up the dog we had left on her own short vacay, threw her on a plane to go south. Dragged ourselves onto our flights and in what felt like the blink of an eye we found ourselves enjoying a rum cocktail while floating on paddle boards on a lake. The setting sun leaving brilliant streaks of pink and gold across the sky, content in the company of lifelong friends.

I keep shaking my head at how time can seem so irrelevant, as well as how much a person can fit in a short period of time if motivated. I enjoy a peaceful morning at the keyboard, savoring the moments while others still sleep. The first few days in a new location have me way too excited to sleep for long. Picture the hyperactive and overexcited five year old that ate too much sugar, minus the meltdowns.

Morning in the historic city of Granada, is filled with tropical birdsong, the breeze off the lake rustles the leaves on the mango trees above. Roosters announce the new day, although I am curious where they actually live, now that I think about it. A massive iguana blinks at me from the roof above, as the dogs pant at me feet; tongues as wide as they can go, and bellies pressed into cool tiles.

Heat and humidity opens the pores wide, allowing a person to sweat profusely from strange places like ones scalp. I recommend a cloth handkerchief or in a pinch a folded piece of paper towel to dab the upper lip and occasionally make a full swipe of the forehead, under the breasts or the classic sternum or belly wipe catching the rivulets making their way to the belt line.

During the acclimation phase little is worn in the home, shirts are off and shade with a bit of a breeze is a coveted piece of real estate.

Time slows down, as it just seems too hot to complete anything at a fast pace. Already I have slid into the lazy flip-flop walking pace of the tropics. Time in town is fun, but the sea murmurs in the back of our minds.

We heed the surfer’s call for the salt on our skin and waves beneath our feet.

Our return to the beach is filled with warm smiles, and many days of bumping down the dusty back roads at 5 kms an hour to greet old friends after almost 9 months away.

For the first time we truly feel home. All errands that used to be arduous due to lack of translation, extreme heat, and figuring out the ropes, now are performed as old pros.

We know where to go, how to keep cool, how to negotiate the chaotic streets in the city filled with bike taxis, horse and cart, and a plethora of wild dogs and people.

We retrieve our stored car, that although has a coating of dust and bird droppings, needs air in the tires and new paperwork, runs like a dream, and has us mobile once more.

Coquita Muneca, our Nica dog/world traveller, has arrived safe and sound and has slotted into beach life with few hitches. She has quickly learned the ropes of how to guard the house, fit in with the other dog packs in the area and has become a swimming fiend; a fun way to cool off in the afternoons.

Our own adaptation is to the surfer’s life. Needing to drop Canadian winter weight and go through the beat up feeling of the first two weeks, groaning with exhausted shoulders, sore ribs and taking lots of siestas.

As I wander down the beach in the early morning light, Coco chasing pigs and horses, I am mesmerized by the artistic hand of the tide. The sea is a master at sculpting sand twice a day on the endless beach. The San Cristobal volcano commands the horizon, salt and pepper smells of the tropics mingle with the ever present smoke in the air of burning cane fields. We are home.

SUP Rio San Juan, Nicaragua


There is nothing I love more than an adventure on the horizon, off the popular travel paths, and into the somewhat unknown and this fit precisely that description.

While bouncing down a dirt road in Northern Nicaragua, we hit a patch of cellular connection, and a text pinged on my phone.

“Hey, how are you guys? Want to SUP paddle the Rio San Juan next week?“

Grinning I read it allowed to my husband EJ. As cell service dropped once more, we pulled up to the beach and went for a surf, with the text rolling around in our minds.

Once back to our place we pulled out the lonely planet Nicaragua book, and got online to search facts about the river. This was to be one of those epic trips of a lifetime.

The Rio San Juan is 192.06 km of majestic chocolate colored river, flowing east from Lake Nicaragua to the Caribbean coast. Draped with virgin rainforest it winds between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, defining the southern border of the Indio Maize Biologic Reserve.

Not only was the river used to access the Pacific to join the California gold rush, pirates like Captain Henry Morgan paddled up the river in the cloak of night to plunder the riches of Granada. The river was one of the proposed locations for the grand canal connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific. Rusted dredging equipment still looms out of brackish waters in the Caribbean.

Scott and Gea Schmid are the incredible owners of Livit Water, a stand up paddleboard and tour company operating out of Granada. Scott had been eyeing the river for a while,  and wanted to do some recon for future trips with Livit, as well as to potentially be the first person to SUP paddle the entire river. Kayak tours were becoming a bit more popular, yet no one was operating stand up tours in that area.

With the arrival of his brothers in the country and EJ and I in the north, the time was ripe for an adventure with the perfect crew. Aside from Scott and Gea, our minimal paddle experience did not deter us from thoughts of a grand river journey.

Scott and Gea hired two local guides, whose river and animal knowledge was fantastic. Their smiles, humor, and quiet wisdom of their land left us feeling in excellent hands. They organized a support boat to hold all our camping gear, and to offer a fun place to take breaks.

After a flurry of prepping and packing, we found ourselves pushing off into the dawn, filled with a sense of excitement and nervy unknowns. The initial hours of waking up new muscles and figuring out bathroom maneuvers while floating, left us each found our own style and flow.

Travel speed, ability, and proposed destination each night had to be thought of beforehand to ensure adequate supplies and a comfortable place to sleep.

Journal – Rio San Juan,

As we pulled a hard left across the current, floating off a bank draped with vines and bamboo, I hear my husband yelling “We get to camp here?”

 With a mischievous nod and grin from our local guides, we begin hauling paddleboards up a muddy path, stepping into a bamboo island paradise.

 Abandoned between river and dense growth above, sat the remains of one of Vanderbilt’s river steamboats from the California gold rush era. On the other side sat a bamboo cook shack with benches and fire pit. Surrounded by endless jungle and river, we settled into our new routine of setting up camp.

 After a homemade pesto and noodle feast, we sipped on Nicaraguan rum, as I read “The Pirates Code” in both English and Spanish for our mixed crew. I gaze around at laughing faces shimmering in firelight, and shake my head in wonder. Once again I find myself on an adventure of a lifetime.

 After waking to brewing coffee and egg burritos, we pack up in the early morning mist, the excitement of the unknown has me bouncing and like every day I wonder what amazing things will show up around each turn of the river.


The variety of accommodation led us to enjoy the unknown of each evening. Our first afternoon found us a boat-access hotel, complete with a trained chef from Managua; an absolute blessing after a long first day. From our remote island campsite and a homestay with a Costa Rican artist, to cooking on the steps of a riverside immigration building while chattering about our daily adventures.

The river itself had a variety of moods. Fast water shooting through narrow channels between small lush islands, to sluggish and wind blown sections where the paddling was with few words and gritted teeth. A rodeo ride through the rapids of El Castillo left us soaking and laughing, with the stone garrison built in 1673 perched above our sodden exploits.

Scott and EJ decided from the beginning they would attempt to paddle the entire river from start to finish. Stopping the support boat or pulling ashore to eat, they longingly eyed the rest of us getting an easy tow for a break or playing cards and listening to music as the river slipped by.

Gea and I took on cooking duties; straddling atop our stacked boards after a few hours of paddling we prepared sandwiches and easy snacks to pass from the boat. Ryan and Kevin had varying days on the river, sometimes pushing hard with Scott and EJ, or joining us for laugh.

Land slid by us with cows staring from green riverside pastures, scarlet Macaws squawked overhead, and toucans perched high in old growth treetops. Spider monkeys swung through the canopy, while howler monkeys’ deep throated calling echoed through misty forest.

Bubbles on the water or splashes from the banks reminded us of the crocodiles living in the area, yet the odd tail or quick view before they slid out of sight was thankfully as close as we got to the beautiful prehistoric creatures.

Dense jungle gave way to marshy river delta; narrow alleys of water lazily wound through verdant grasses. Our final day was a blur until we could hear the surf pounding on Caribbean shores and together we passed the finish line as the Rio San Juan met the sea.

Greytown was met with dirty taped body parts and hoots of triumph. Slumping into plastic chairs, cold beer slipped down our throats as we shared favorite moments and personal challenges. With a fried fish meal and a night out at the local bar we crashed into the deep sleep of the accomplished.

The boat ride back up river was a slow reflective journey, retracing our memories from beneath improvised sunshades. Five days on the river suddenly felt too short; all agreed we could have continued on a longer trip, as a map of Nicaragua spread across our boards, dreams of other river adventures already formed in our minds.

Nica life. Sometimes for us “ex-pats” it’s a bit complicated.

Stop signs and no street names in Chinandega (our closest city). Complicated. Locals who grew up there know where the stolen stop signs used to be, or what street is what. The rest of us have to have a hair raising guess as carts being pulled by horses, sugar cane trucks, taxis, took-tooks, dogs and locals giving you the finger wag of “wrong choice” make you second guess any decision you were about to make.

Or when you have super explosive diaharea belly and need to find a bathroom that is not a plastic wall in front of a bunch of people at a bus stop, soccer game, or in a bikini at the beach. This situation often leads to jumping over barbwire fences and hiding behind a cow, tree or just your own self-disgust.

Internet or cell phone function. Always complicated. Everything is pay as you go or “saldo” that can be sold at any grass roof, mud hut with a sign outside. Often includes pigs, chickens, and smiling yet slang speaking locals, who are a bit challenging to understand. Then you have to send in a text or sms, all with different terms of conditions. So you send 10 different texts hoping one will work.

That paired with dust covered, salt encrusted electronics, it’s really a hit or miss. Coming from plugged in North America, and friends who are addicted to Facebook and phones, they wonder why we have dropped off the face of the earth. It also becomes less complicated because we just stop caring. The give a #@!$ factor drops to absolute 0.

Vehicles are another never ending delight. Feels more like owning a money pit boat than a car. Driving washboard at best dirt roads, and sand beaches jars your vehicle parts to a state of loose or fallen off. Driving in our car “Juanita” the other day, we are happily pulling off boards to go for a surf. Suddenly the electronic window does not want to roll up. After pulling off the door panel and wiggling some wires EJ was successful in getting it closed. Yet once returning to our car, now the door would not open. The stereo decides to stop working and just as we get one thing fixed, the windshield wiper falls off mid swipe. All you can do is laugh, give “Juanita” a little pat on the dusty dash and put it on the manana list.

We used to have a saying on surf trips. If you have a job to do it takes 4 days.

Day1 – You think about it

2- You push it to manana

3- Come up with a plan

4- Finally tick it off the list.

Here it’s dragged out to more like a week. I am the queen of making excuses not to go to town for another day, and am willing to gum down a bag of refried beans for dinner not to have to go. Then once you pump your self up and declare to make it fun, you get the Chinandega beat down. Inevitably 3 jobs turn into 8 or 10, and we limp out of town covered in sweat and city grime with our tails between our legs.

All that said, most of our complications are from our own white boy and girl “chele” problem of just not knowing. It takes time to get to know a country, and it’s quirks. To adapt, and learn the way things roll. Just like a Nicaraguan would have to get used to being in Canada or the US.

You either learn to adapt a relaxed attitude or survival is unlikely. All these things are endearments of the passion we have for this country and the adventure of adopting another country to be our home.

And you know what’s not complicated? The wonderful routine in-between the complicated, of wake up, beach walk, surf, eat, surf, nap, go adventuring, eat, sleep. I sign off with that oh so satisfying feeling of having a full fridge (most importantly cheese), and most of our job list done.  The ones not? Refer to the above formula.

Your not afraid of snakes are ya?

As the afternoon wanes it is always with a sigh of relief that you made it through the heat of the day. I begin to stir and stretch out of my panting, and sweat covered nap. I pull on some shorts and as I walk out onto the deck, gulping from my bottle of water, I turn the corner and run into my husband looking sweaty, frazzled and pale. With wild eyes, the only words out of his mouth are, “I need a fucking beer.”

He turns on his heel and begins walking up to the restaurant in search of a calming and cold beverage. I’m to be filled in as he slugs back his first beer and begins to relax with the second.

“So how do feel about snakes?” Kim asks, as he and EJ stand outside a bodega full of piled and drying wood. Both of them stand relaxed, arms crossed, clad in board shorts and unshaven faces. EJ shrugs, and makes a non-committal sound.

“Ok cool, cause our caretaker said there was a really big snake living in here, but I haven’t seen it.”

As Kim says these words he is simultaneously climbing up onto the woodpile and jumping up and down, making a general clamour. Meanwhile in EJ’s mind he is thinking, “Is this guy nuts?”

Kim steps off with a last glance and a point, “Your boards are at the back, I have to take off. Good luck!” Leaving EJ staring at the boards and beginning to sweat.

Yes it’s hot, but that’s not the issue at hand. The one thing in the world EJ is not of fan of, is snakes. More like scared shitless, but since the move south he’s trying to come to a peace with interacting with them, let’s say a wary and respectful co-existence.

“The caretaker is a local Nicaraguan, and he thinks it’s really big… What the hell does that mean?” EJ wonders as he sizes up the pile. Images of a giant man-eating Anaconda conjured up in his mind.

He breathes deep, thinking, “They are so close yet so very, very far away.”

Being a project manager, as well as a climber and mountaineer, has taught EJ to fine tune the art of assessing risk.

“OK so the car radiator is acting up and if I get bitten how the hell am I going to get help.” He wonders.

Walking across the yard he jumps in the front seat of our beaten up car, turns it facing down hill and directly in the dirt track. He sizes it up, and then decides to go fill up a jug from the rain barrel to top up the water in the radiator.

Feeling like he’s done all he can to prepare for the worst, he steels himself at the entrance. Taking a good look around the inside he spots a broom, and quickly grabs it for his defence. He glances at the ceiling beams, and thinks if it came to it, he could jump up to hide above and out of reach of gaping jaws.

With a few more deep breaths, he slinks inside and slowly climbs onto the woodpile. He reaches toward the board bag but can’t pull it without letting go of the broom. Deciding to slide the bag towards him slowly and as gently as he can, he tosses the broom, jerks the bag full of four boards and gear, and makes a run for it. Mid escape he is glancing over his shoulder imagining a slithering, fanged beast chasing him out.

With nerves frayed, he watches the entrance until feeling safe enough to turn his back and load the surfboards onto our car. As he drives away shaking his head and wiping sweat off his face with his t-shirt he mutters, “Only 6 months more of this crap to go.”

The Journey back

Sunrise San Cristobal

My number one goal while lying stoned on pain meds and unable to get to the bathroom alone, winter deepfreeze crystalizing the landscape and frosting the window above me, was to be standing in the sunset palapa.

Drinking a glass of local rum on ice with a lime from out of the tree. To watch the sunset and know we were there. We had done it. Hardly an end but an unknown horizon ahead.

And there we were.

Tears streaming down my face, savoring each shift of light, the birds, the setting sun. Searing pink streaks and brushes of peach and gold across a fading blue sky.

An old playlist; casually put on, was the perfect soundtrack for a goal 7 years in the making.

I sobbed with happiness. Grinned with absolute joy and clung to my husband. An incredible new adventure so longed for, now a very surreal reality.

After another Fall of being laid up in bed with back flare up after flare up, made getting here that much sweeter.

I said to EJ, “ I feel like I am getting all my tough life lessons out of the way so I can have the best year of my life yet.”

Just getting on a plane crippled me during the first leg of our journey, then two weeks later, a bit more mobile with less medication, I whispered to EJ just get me to the sea and I will heal.

I would go slow. I would be patient. I would communicate my injury and get the support from my new family of friends. I would walk and swim and lay like a lizard in the sun or like a happy panting dog in the shade. If I am not mobile, I will get a puppy, perfect my Spanish, and learn all the plants and trees in the area.

It was a rough start to my 40’s, not knowing who I was without using my body in sport and play. Not knowing if I could ever surf again. Not really able to see my next ten years, to truly be able to visualize a future.

And now one month later, I sob once more with absolute soul filled joy.

This morning after 3 hours of sleep, I woke. Wrestled out of the mosquito net with creaking back and hamstrings like beef jerky. Staggering by the light of my I phone, out into a slight offshore breath of wind.

I breathed deep and gazed up, smiling under a full moon and the glimmer of dawn creeping. Constellations setting, as the sun tries to climb high enough to kiss the moon before he sinks below the shimmering sea.

I walk past the security guards thanking them for another quiet night. Their grinning missing-teeth smiles follow me as they place their guns and machetes on the table to be put away until sunset.  I wander down the lane as the light grows stronger, old traveling songs making my heart ache through my I pod.

I walk smiling and fighting off tears. Waking dogs barking, fires burning in hearths. I wave to families stretching out of hammocks above mud floors and grass roof dwellings.

I feel my back and hips stretch as I watch the sun spread her fingers over a volcan San Cristobal, just a silhouette in the distance. Pigs grunting, cows on their daily commute from pasture to pasture. Friends on motor bikes begin to pass on their way to work, with a fast honk and a wave.

I turn to see my husband, pulling up beside. Boards loaded, water jugs full. We grin at each other, munching on peanuts, and have our normal morning banter as we bump down worn dirt roads.

We turn the corner to see bigger swell and waves heaving onto the beach. We recognize friends in the water and trucks pulled onto sand dunes.

Sun shimmers across an out going tide. I stretch some more, and for a moment consider if I’m strong enough to paddle out. The question rolls by with another beautiful wave and I don’t think twice.

I time my exit to the back of the line up. I stroke off to the side, and within moments a perfect peak rolls towards me. I look around and it’s only me. Without a thought, I do what my heart and soul loves more than anything.

I paddle into the wave of the morning, making a deep drop and carve across a fast glistening section; a long wall that makes me yip with joy. I carve like before, unhurt, confident, and pull off with a dolphin dive off the top of the wave to swim below the depths and squeal with joy. Popping up to cheers of friends and relief of my husband.

I can see and feel the future we have been working so long towards.

I am home and nearly whole in body, with wisdom and support to go slow. My heart overflows and I am the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.



I have dirty feet. For real. And I am the kind of person that if I’ve been at a killer beach party, or chillin’ around my outdoor/indoor house and am tired, I AM NOT WASHING MY FEET before getting into bed. I know so many of you will think this is disgusting, but too bad It’s not happening. So, new plan for our future Nica house? No white fluffy bath mats or mats of any kind near a white or beige hue. Foot baths (to rinse sand and perhaps keep the black feet a trifle at bay) at entrances to every door, followed by a DARK towel wipe off. And lastly have a good supply of nail polish remover on standby. For I have realized I’m not going to clean the sand under any nails 50 times a day. So really it’s just easier to paint all nail growth some fun and bright color that distracts people from the fact I do not have a mani or pedi and hides my true beach bum lack of much personal grooming.

I also just hit an all time new low of travel living.

I have a bag for the beach, with some hair product that occasionally tames my irate frizzy, matted surf hair into a surfy yet somewhat beachy doo, that is not too scary. I have a change of cloths to put on after we rinse off either with our beach bottle of water to get the salt off, or under a hose at our friends local restaurant. We were planning a nice dinner after surfing sunset, so I thought I was all prepared until I found myself without any brushing paraphernalia. Usually I can use my fingers but my hair was having a bit more than a few unruly days. So being the resourceful woman that I am, I dug through my bag, and found a solution. All time low? Brushing my hair with a plastic fork I had saved from a take out stand, as I did not want to throw the plastic away. Did a not bad job actually, I will keep it for other emergencies.

Shaving thy face. When it happens, and that can be weeks, EJ’s latest trick is to use the worlds slowest and dullest electric razor to shave his face in odd locations. Flaked out on the bed talking to an adopted cat, in a hammock, or overlooking a sunset. Takes 30 min but looks very relaxing.

Living in an open concept house. Creatures inevitably come and very thankfully go. We have had a bat dive-bombing us daily in the palm frond roof of our palapa, until EJ was worried of getting a mouthful of hairy, smelly, salty bat. Like the two turtle doves, it found it’s way out eventually.

Or the monster spiders that decided to live in our electronics bag that is filled with ipod chords, batteries, and chargers. They were helped out with a broom. The baby skunk that was sitting mesmerized in our living room having a stare off with EJ, contemplating to spray or not to spray? It turned tail up and trotted off thankfully taking it’s ripe scent with it. Or the termites that moved onto one of the supporting poles in the bathroom, quickly (like overnight quickly) making what we fancy as a poo tunnel to hide in, that reaches from ceiling to the bathroom sink.

Washing cloths? It does not really happen much unless really needed. EJ’s new trick is pick the stinkiest shirt and go surfing in it, rinse, and throw it in the sun to dry. Voila clean! If it still does not smell perfect, smear on some clear deodorant and your good to go. That’s almost as bad as taking our dirty cloths for a swim in the neighbors pool.

Life down here becomes so slow and simple that you begin to see the clear reality of life back in Canada or the US. Gone are checking phones every minute or sending needless texts. We are happy to be able to work from here, check emails occasionally, and have a local crap phone that you do not want to text much on because it’s too much work.  Facebook is good to keep in touch but we go days or weeks without logging in, and when we do find ourselves on it, sending a quick hello or pics. People come to our house if they need us, the rule being if the stereo is loud and we are not seen, wait half an hour or come back later.

One thing that is very similar to home is that our place seems to be a hub of BBQs or sunset antics. New friends that feel like old ones, both local and expats, filter in with a bottle of rum or fresh fish for the BBQ. Someone is always coming or leaving and there seem to be endless reasons to get together. But as we flow with the days, we seem busier than ever as we accept cool opportunities or make our own.

Truth: I really love my new machete and slingshot.