July Workshop Photos

This July workshop, we learned a lot about ourselves and our missions as artists and writers. We also had a lot of fun! Thank you Ariana Seigel for helping us rediscover our best selves!



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Locals & Expats: Join Our Workshop!


Are there any expat writers working in the Grecia, Atenas, Alajuela area in Costa Rica? Join our writer workshop from 10-1 pm July 16, 17, 18, 20 and 21!

The full writer workshop, for those coming from out of town, includes meals and a place to stay. But if you’re already in town and want to pop in for just the workshop portion, join us next week at Norma’s Villas! All 10 hours of classes for $200. Pay via Eventbrite or Paypal. Ariana Seigel will be helping us overcome writer’s block and any other creative blocks getting in our way.

Hope to see you there. Email lisaatnormas@gmail.com to pay via PayPal, and avoid the EB fee. Pura Vida!

Two Kinds of Expats: The Re-settler and the Nomad

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Some people move to a new country and set up an entirely new life: They’re in love with the culture, the people, and the new locales. These people are true re-settlers—They start up businesses, get their papers, and open local bank accounts in a whole other country.

But increasingly, there’s another kind of expat: the perpetual nomad. This is a person who works remotely and travels unrestricted. They may get paid online using services like PayPal or Venmo, and have several forms of side hustle, or use an all-online, international bank.

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Heather of Sea Bird Sailing Excursions is a re-settler: She discovered Costa Rica in 1999 and immediately knew she wanted to move here. Inspired in part by a Prince song (“Be glad that you are free. Free to change your mind. Free to go most anywhere, anytime“), Heather finally made the move in 2006 with just $13,000.

“I had never been scuba diving before but have always been an ocean girl…surfing, body boarding, body surfing,” Heather remembers. “I figured I could buy some PADI courses and become a professional diver.” After discovering that she would be making $400/month working for another tour company (what her rent was at the time), Heather decided to work for herself and start her own sailing tour business.

But the road to entrepreneurship was not without hiccups. To help protect herself and her investment, Heather obtained her Costa Rican residency quickly. Many expats find themselves doing ‘border runs’—That is, crossing the border every three months to renew the ‘tourist’ status.

“I realized that since I was going to be responsible for someone else’s 45′ yacht…I should start the residency process. I contacted Marcela Gurdian with Immigration Experts and we met one day for a coffee and she explained to me what needed to be done and how she could help.” Heather soon found that the immigration process was not always seamless. “It really helps to smile, say por favor and gracias…and be respectful even when totally frustrated! Anyway, I have permanent residency now and can easily renew the cedula with Banco de Costa Rica.”

“I feel much more secure being legal, having the CAJA insurance, even though I never use it…it’s there in case of emergency.”

Some pros to living in Costa Rica?

“Overall, living in Costa Rica and running a sailing tour business has been an awesome experience. I love this job and this country. People on vacation are always happy and the scenery while out on the water (and under water!) is such a joy to be around every day. I’m healthier here too since I eat more fruits and veggies and life is less stressful.”

What’s next? The business, which is highly rated on Trip Advisor, is now for sale! Could expat life in paradise be for you?

static1.squarespace.com.jpgPhoto Credit: Jennifer Dienst

Jennifer Dienst, who was born and raised in Florida, is the other kind of expat: the nomad. She is currently in Medellín and earns a living writing.

“I went freelance kind of by default,” Jennifer says. “I got laid off from my staff editor job and after a couple of years in PR and mulling law school, I was offered a few freelance writing/editing gigs that paid enough to support myself so I decided to make a go of it.”

After being laid off, Jennifer strongly considered a new career before going freelance. “Everyone kept telling me that the industry was dead and that I should find a new career. I’m glad I stuck it out, because they couldn’t have been more wrong. Yes, the industry has changed a lot and you need to be able to write for more than just print to be successful, but making a living as a freelance writer is definitely doable.”

Jennifer has been working freelance since 2012, but only went truly nomadic last year.

How many countries has she been to? About 25!

“I adored Myanmar; it was surreally beautiful and probably the best example of ‘exotic’ that I can think of. Spain, for its art and insane food scene. I’m in Colombia right now and I’m loving it. The landscape is stunning, I can’t get enough of it.”


Photo Credit: Jennifer Dienst

Jennifer, like Heather, recommends joining Facebook groups to find other expats. She also recommends finding a co-working space, because it’s easier to strike up a conversation than in a coffee house.

“Everyone wants to be a travel writer, so the market is super saturated,” Jennifer warns. “I write for consumer travel magazines sometimes, but my bread and butter is writing for travel trade publications, specifically about meeting and event planning. It’s a small niche but it pays well, the work is consistent, you get to go on press trips to cool places, but you’re not competing with 5,000 other freelancers to get the work.”

You can follow Jennifer’s journeys on www. jendienst.com! She is also a former participant in Remote Year, a program where remote workers travel with one another to all kinds of amazing corners of the globe (with wifi, of course).

What kind of expat are you? Would you want to re-settle, or endlessly roam, and where would you go?


Free Workshop Intro for 10 Writers!

The “Forget Brand: What’s Your Artist’s Mission?” workshop by Ariana Seigel has been taught in LA and NYC…and now we’re bringing it to Costa Rica!

This week-long workshop from July 15-22, 2017 will include:

(The mangoes will also just so happen to be in season!)

How do you know the workshop is right for you before taking the leap?

We’ve decided to give 10 interested writers a *FREE* intro to Ariana Seigel’s workshop—first come, first serve!

Ready to get over your writer’s block? Interested in coming to Costa Rica, but unsure if this workshop is right for you? Write to lisaatnormas@gmail.com with a description of what you feel your creative blocks are: politics, fear of failure, or *gulp* fear of success? There are no wrong answers!

Ariana will then schedule a chat to see how her workshop could best help you reach your creative goals.

Check out our Eventbrite page and join us under the mango trees! But hurry—There are only two spots left!

Interested in hosting an event yourself sometime next year? Send a pitch to the same email address with a description of what you love to teach and why. We accept pitches from qualified workshop leaders year-round.

Feel free to share any of the info about the workshop and the free intro . . . or keep it to yourself 😉


Scared of a Day Job: Update from David Nazario

Speaker and writer David Nazario visited our “Success Through Self-Publishing” workshop in January where he spent practically every spare moment working on his book. What has he been doing since January?

“Since leaving Costa Rica I’ve been trying to connect with as many people as possible and learn as much as possible about publishing my first book. I’ve also been busy with freelance work, part-time work, and starting my writing/speaking business and lifestyle brand, Scared Of A Day Job LLC.

His book focuses on self-love over religion and, like Stephen’s book, is part workbook as well as instruction.

“I miss the peace and tranquility. Costa Rica was all about writing and being around other writers, all day (and fresh coconut juice). I miss that. My mundane, but quaint villa was pretty cool too, and having wine at dinner time and a pool in walking distance was lovely.”

He keeps in touch mainly through Instagram, where he regularly posts what he’s up to and information on his upcoming book, “Why Love is More Important than Religion,” which is set to come out in the summer of 2017.

Interested in our upcoming workshop, which focuses on breaking writer’s block through finding mission over brand? Check our our July 2017 workshop! The code SUMMERINCR will take $100 off your week.

Talking Across Partisan Divides: An Update from Workshop Guest Stephen Cataldo

We’re seeing a lot of division over politics lately, especially in social media, where it’s easy to make a quick, mean meme out of an unflattering photo. The “Likes” may rack up, but how can we encourage productive conversation? Stephen Cataldo, a guest from our January indie writer workshop, aimed to tackle this issue with his latest book.

What has he been up to since January?

“I’ve published and begun marketing Cognitive Politics: a Communications Workbook for Progressives!” He says. The book, which is part research, part workbook, helps advocates of compassionate and hopeful politics to listen and to be heard across that divide.


“Now I’m working on a poster & video Social Media Guide for Progressives: Tweet and Share to Help Your Cause, and have been giving workshops on Talking Across Partisan Divides.”

Stephen took Robert Kroese‘s ‘Earning through Self-Publishing’ workshop in January. The experience changed his initial strategy to take advantage of Amazon’s promotional tools.

“At the workshop, I changed my initial plans and went exclusively with Amazon for the e-book for the first three months.”

What does he miss about Costa Rica?
“I miss the beach, the peace — and oddly, the schedule of the intense sun and boring evenings, which helped me work on a nice cadence with well-spaced breaks. If this first book gets read, I’d love to go back to Costa Rica and start writing my next one.”
How do you communicate your political views with those who disagree with you?

Who Would You Go to Costa Rica With?

Are you a writer holed up for the winter? Are your past five Instagram photos of your computer and coffee? You need a break.

Who would you go to Costa Rica with?

For today only (11/23), I’m doing a ‘Bring a Friend‘ pre-Black Friday special for Week 1 and Week 3 of my writer workshops (Week 2 only has one spot left).

Pay with PayPal (instead of Eventbrite) and save $80 each on writer workshops. ($1000 for a week for two people, instead of $1160 with Eventbrite fees).

The week includes yoga and food. I will give belly dance classes upon request.

Drinks and outings to the beach/zip line/monkey tours are extra, but will be coordinated by me.

Week 1: January 3-10
Acting Exercises for the Creative Writer

Leader: Isabelle Pierre

In Acting Exercises for the Creative Writer, we’ll explore how actors use physical exercises (including Laban, Lecoq, psychology gesture and improv) to explore character. Come ready to move, play and feel a little silly. At the end of the week we’ll have a short reading based workshop discoveries.

Week 3: January 21-28
Success through Self-Publishing
Leader: Robert Kroese

Have you ever thought about self-publishing, but felt that you weren’t tech savvy? Robert Kroese will cover the ins and outs of self publishing, including the differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing, e-book formatting, distribution, and marketing your book.

Who would you bring to Costa Rica for a writer workshop? Email lisaatnormas@gmail.com and let me know what you are writing, who you would bring, and what questions you have about Costa Rica! 

Bonnie Guest Post: From Cubicle to Farm



Our fledgling farm

How does someone go from a cubicle dweller to a farmer in Latin America? I never expected to find out—But In October 2015, my husband Rick was introduced to Moringa oleifera by a friend who had just finished reading a book, Miracle Tree, by Dr. Monica Marcu. Within weeks, Rick was so inspired that he decided to use the undeveloped land at Norma’s to start growing Moringa at Norma’s Villas.

It just so happens that Norma’s in La Garita, in Costa Rica, is ideal for this plant. Rick had never farmed before—In fact, he spent most of his adult life working office jobs in the United States. Since he started planting, he’s down about thirty pounds!

In the weeks ahead, I will share more about how we started growing Moringa at Norma’s, Rick’s metamorphosis into a farmer, Moringa recipes, and the progress of the thousands of plants now sharing space with the mango trees.

Pura Vida!

Guest Post: Bonnie Adjusts to Cooking (and bugs!)

Rick and I have now been living in Costa Rica for seven months and we are adapting well. Aside from learning Spanish, one of the small challenges I have faced living in another country has been adapting my cooking to the local foods. I have also learned to make some of the local dishes (YUM!), and have been creating new recipes as well. I have also started making fresh homemade bread a few times a week, which means I no longer have to find a way to ship my bread machine from Texas. It also means we have to step up our walking routine to work off those extra calories!

So much has been happening in the world of nature at Norma’s Villas that I have had a really hard time deciding what to share! The New Year brought with it some new sights in both the bird and insect worlds. I realize a lot of people don’t care for bugs, and I certainly prefer most of them to stay outside, but once in a while you meet one that makes you go “OOOOO! How cool is that?”

Photo credit: bugguide.net

Meet one that made me say exactly that: the Mexican Unicorn Mantis, Phyllovates chlorophaea. Rick found a small one (nymph) in the kitchen (so cute!), then we saw one in a palm tree. I have always found praying mantises to be interesting, but this one is just so pretty! His tail actually looks like a part of a palm frond.

Until next time,


Guest Post: Bonnie Rios

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A Motmot at Norma’s Villas

Bonnie has been living at Norma’s Villas for six months with Norma’s son, Rick. She’s our guest blogger for today!

It is Christmastime and summer has officially begun here at Norma’s Villas! I am married to Norma’s son, Rick, and we have been living here for nearly 6 months now. While I have visited during all times of the year, this is my first time to actually experience the change in seasons, from winter (rainy) to dry (summer). The biggest change I have noticed so far is that, while it is still quite hot during the day, the winds have picked up, providing a nice respite from the heat. In addition, the nights are cooling off with less humidity and, perhaps my most favorite part: the stars have “re-appeared” (due to lack of cloud cover). I love coming to the pool area a couple of hours after sunset, throw down a blanket, lie back and enjoy the view.

As I wrote this post, there was a group of happy Ticos (slang for Costa Rican!)  whose Christmas party was actually saved by Norma’s hidden salon. This work group had made plans to have their celebration at another location, but they found it to be wanting. One of the employees suggested they call Norma, and now the property is resounding with the sometimes-slightly-off-key voices of partygoers singing karaoke, laughter from the pool, and an all-around festive atmosphere. They left pretty early, and by 5 p.m., the property quickly returned to its normal peaceful ambiance.

I cannot write about Norma’s Villas without introducing some of the “locals.” Today it is the Blue-crowned Motmot, Momotus momota, a brilliantly-beautiful bird that, according to field guides, is quite common in Costa Rica. Interestingly, in the eight years I have visited Costa Rica I have never seen a motmot, even though I searched for them. A few weeks ago, as Rick and I were taking one of our regular walks through the trees on the property, we encountered this show off who allowed Rick to get a few pictures.

¡Feliz Navidad!