Two Months in the Jungle

Moments after the car honked and we kissed the kids goodbye for another school day, backpacks on their shoulders, I heard excited voices outside and opened the door. In the bright Costa Rican sunlight stood my soft-spoken/board shorts/no shirt/six-pack-abs/carpool-driving neighbor holding his flipflop and swatting repeatedly at the back of Kai’s red uniform shirt. He then bends over, raises the flipflop like a hammer and smashes something on the ground with a crack. Scorpion! Welcome to the jungle.

Homemade BBQ
Homemade BBQ
That's how you serve bananas. This way the birds, butterflies and humans call enjoy.
That’s how you serve bananas – the birds, butterflies and humans can all enjoy.

It’s different here. We live on the edge of one of the world’s five Blue Zones, unique places where, for some inexplicable reason, many people live to 100. One can go days without shoes or shirt. Makeup does not exist. Nary a manmade light mars night’s sublime emptiness. We four arrived with five rollie suitcases which was three too many.

Nature does not play here. She rules. And conquers. One must surrender. Become her lover. Enjoy the ride. Or perish. Last week, both boys experienced gut-wrenching hold-downs in the surf, after which they told me they actually thought they were going to die. Not what a dad wants to hear, but the most effective way to learn respect for the elements in which you live and play. The rain, when it comes, comes hard. Fierce poundings in which swarms of small black bugs magically enter our home and cover the ceiling in the evenings, only to magically disappear the next morning. 

Wild monkey!
Wild monkey!


Shut up and dance!
Shut up and dance!

Our most compelling new reality is the repositioning of time. I’m not a particularly early riser yet, since day one I’ve awoken with the sun around 5:30, rested and ready. These early misty mornings begin alone on the veranda behind binoculars, scanning the layered distance for movement in the trees: monkeys, yellow/blue/red birds, pizotes (raccoon meets anteater). I still feel compelled to read the bitter U.S. news in the morning, but less and less of it. Daytime hours fill themselves like tide pools: surf, yoga, art projects, writing, reading, cooking, homework. The kids hit it hard at class each day as do my wife and I at Spanish school (past tense irregular verbs … que dificil!). I run my business affairs with a phone and a laptop. Darkness falls 5:30ish, when we eat dinner. Rich sleep takes our youngest soon after 8. The rest of us before ten.

Mi vida!
Mi vida!
Homework with a view.

We are not on vacation. In fact, September and October have been milestone months in my career. As part of the For Freedoms 50 State Initiative, “the largest creative collaboration in U.S. history,” I’m proud to be employing creativity in an attempt to inspire solutions to our existential problems. This collective effort has been covered on CNN, Vanity Fair, the NYT and many more. Read more about my project here.


Art World Ballers!
Fine company: David Byrne, Gordon Parks, Hank Willis Thomas … 

An integral aspect of this effort is its widespread activation – a nationwide network of over 300 artists and 200 institutional partners producing public art installations and local community dialogues that inject nuanced, artistic thinking into public discourse. My For Freedoms Billboard sits on I-95 in Miami, geared to urge voters to find candidates who support reasonable gun safety policy to make America a less militant & violent place. The New Tropic really captured the essence of the workI urge you to join this epic collaboration – donate a dollar just to say you were part of something that just might change the game. 

A friend asked me if I ever saw myself living in a remote corner of the world. Short answer is no. I’d say I’m more a city boy. My wife too. Yet, we’re both enjoying being utterly and gloriously disconnected from the life we left just 2 hours, 17 minutes northeast by plane. No night time sirens here. Just the buzzes and chirps of cicadas and geckos and god knows what else. And our kids, who can already surf and who run out the door to play with the lovely children just next door, have never been happier, more joyous, more their best selves. Just finished lunch of fresh mahi caught yesterday by aforementioned scorpion-slaying carpool neighbor. I’m not missing home yet. In fact, in the new digital dystopia, I’m trying to get a handle on what home means.

Stay tuned… 

Find it. It's out there!
Find it. It’s out there!


41 thoughts on “Two Months in the Jungle

  1. Have always loved your writing, your artwork decorates various walls in my home, I fully support your 50 States Initiative, and you continue to lead and inspire through your example!! Please continue to share with the world. GE

  2. So happy to hear you and the family are enjoying the connected wild. More and more folks I speak to are moving across the border. Meridia Mex., Lake Chapalla, Baja Sur etc. The espanol will get easier, I don’t like the irregular verb stuff either!
    Pura Vida Stuart and family! ????????

  3. I lived in Panama when I was 7,8 and 9. My fondest memories today. Beach, warm weather. Swimming all the time. Loved the animals and jungle in the back yard. I had a parrot as a pet. So glad that was part of my childhood. You’re kids will never forget……………….

  4. I have the chills. I feel blessed that you are allowing us a vision into your new life. I wish all of you Godspeed.

  5. What a thrill for me to live vicarious through the four of you. We hope to visit at some point. For now keep the stories coming. We miss you!

  6. I’m enjoying so much reading about this phase of your life. You know that Lori would have moved right next to your house. Her ideal life. Congrats on your project. Felicidades y Buena Suerte.

  7. Wow Stu, what a blessed gift you’re giving your boys and yourselves!!! Thank you for letting Max, Natalie and me join you last month for a bit of the ride. Love you, E

  8. The Sheldon clan is a force of nature, here embraced by nature. I love your awareness and committed sharing thereof. You are raising two champion children who know more about what matters in life than many adults several times their age. The jungle is happy to have you!

  9. I commend you and Jodi on stepping outside the box!! This is a gift to your boys that can reshape their futures. I had to laugh, that homemade BBQ brings back distant memories for both of us, eh? Email forthcoming, mate!!

  10. Returned to the Garden of Eden. Congrats for making that choice.
    You have successfully escaped the high intensity prison of Patriarchal Society and Modern Culture! What a joy and relief.
    Lead the way brother. Continue to follow the Yellow Brick Road. Feel the fear and lead anyways!

  11. Such a wise decision. I admire you guys so much.
    Miami’s not going anywhere (for at least a decade).
    Like Mia said above, lead the way and maybe some of us will follow.
    Seems like you’ve found utopia.
    Thanks for sharing it with us.

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