Figuring it All Out!


In 2017 we packed up our life, and quit the 9-5 to head out into the world.  We came with no expectations, we only wanted to experience life.  Since we have left, we have packed more fun and adventure into our lives than we ever could have imagined.  Being on the road now for over a year, has brought with it the freedom to explore what it is that we want to do to create an income for ourselves, the time to pay attention to the things that are truly important to us, and the adventure to truly make life fun and interesting once again.  We left seeking an exciting life, and we have not been disappointed!  Join us as we explore as much of this big old world that we can!


I spent some long overdue time this morning cleaning out my wallet and other storage vessels of receipts, airline tickets, and other paper items that I have been lugging around and obviously don’t need anymore.

At first I was just taking glances of what was there and throwing it in a pile, but as I went through them, things started to catch my eye.

The first few I grabbed were ferry receipts from the time we finally had sold all of our things, and left our small, ferry access only, town in Canada (yes, I RARELY clean out my wallet!), they were from September 2017.  Next came the odd receipt from a restaurant in Costa Rica.  Then came the receipt for Chris’ cell phone that we had to purchase in Costa Rica, it’s 1 year guarantee had expired, plus I don’t think we would be going back there to get a new one anyways.

More receipts, more receipts, next was a few from Guatemala.  One that stood out to me was one of our water bills that we had to pay for the house we were renting in Guatemala.  It struck me as something that was significant.  Suddenly I realized that my wallet was a bit of a timeline of things we had done in the last 20 months,  a collage of not only things we experienced, but of things we had had to figure out.

Guatemala Water Bill
Guatemala Water Bill (This equals about $7/month!)

Each and every place we have travelled to, we have had to figure out the ins and outs of how to do things.  Whether it is getting a new sim card so that we can have a local phone number, to finding out how to pay our water bill, to learning that we need to have a LOCAL driver’s license (which is the case now) to legally be allowed to drive in a certain country.  Every place has it’s ins and outs, and every place has mysteries to solve.

I realized that these things were never something that we had worried about before we got to each place we went.  They were all things that just sort of popped up once we got to a place, and as people generally tend to do, we problem solved, and figured it all out as we went along.

I think, in general, people spend a lot, like a lot A LOT of time, worrying about the ‘what if’s’ or the ‘how to’s’.  I see post after post on some of the nomad forums that I am a part of with people asking tons of questions about a certain place that they are going to.  They want to know all the details about a place, before they even get there.  Of course, some things are legit, like whether or not you can bring in certain medications, or how complicated it is to bring a pet or an animal into a country.  But much of it is simple and mundane things that really aren’t that big of a deal, and will easily be figured out upon arrival.

How many of us get so stuck on the details, that we get frozen in place?  How many of us wonder so much about the little things, that the big thing is forgotten about entirely?  I think it’s important for each of us to realize that worrying about the little details, is impacting how we live our lives, and how we move forward in general.  This isn’t specific to travel, this can be about anything.

Anything that is worried about in the future, is taking away from our time now.  You are wasting your precious time here on Earth, and are thinking about something that you literally have no control over anyways.  EVERYTHING in the future is unpredictable.  ANYTHING can happen at any time!  Doesn’t it just make sense to live life in the moment, take in all that we can TODAY?  Is tomorrow a guarantee?  I don’t think so!

If you are stuck on some details about the future right now, I encourage you to take a step back.  Consider what is in your power in THIS MOMENT, take action on those things, and figure the rest out when it comes.

Living like this, has enriched my life beyond words.  Living like this makes me appreciate my day to day existence by making me more open and aware of my surroundings.  I have power in the knowing that I am making conscious decisions about how I want my life to look.  And I’m not talking about how it’s going to look in the future, I’m talking about the actions that I take each day, that will shape my future.

We will all get to where we are going, step by step, one day at a time.  Do the best you can in each moment, because, at the end of the day,  it is all that you really have control over anyways.

And of course, we will NEVER figure it ALL out!  So please, stop trying to:)

quote_if-you-are-depressed


Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: Nevis Island, St. Kitts & Nevis

Travelling Plans: We have committed to being here until mid-August.  After that we plan to head back to Canada for a visit, before returning to Guatemala to host our art retreat.

To head back to the beginning of our journey, and the moment we decided to sell all of our possessions to travel the world, click here.

To see many travelling photos and to learn about where we are travelling, please follow our Facebook and Instagram accounts by clicking on the appropriate icon in the right hand column.

To learn about where I have previously traveled, visit my Countries Page.

To see all of my blog post headings on one page, (including all of the ones about letting our stuff go) head over to my Blog Post Menu.

To contribute to our Patreon account, please click here.

To learn about housesitting, please click here.

To email me directly, please do so anytime at jillamatt@me.com.

If you like my writing, and want to follow along on our journey, please put your email address in the right hand column to subscribe. That way all of my posts will go straight to your email inbox:)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Life in a Botanical Garden


In 2017 we packed up our life, and quit the 9-5 to head out into the world.  We came with no expectations, we only wanted to experience life.  Since we have left, we have packed more fun and adventure into our lives than we ever could have imagined.  Being on the road now for over a year, has brought with it the freedom to explore what it is that we want to do to create an income for ourselves, the time to pay attention to the things that are truly important to us, and the adventure to truly make life fun and interesting once again.  We left seeking an exciting life, and we have not been disappointed!  Join us as we explore as much of this big old world that we can!


Well, over 10 weeks has gone by since we arrived on Nevis, and I would like to say that I am surprised at how fast time is going, but in reality it’s not really that surprising at all.  We have been thrust back into the life that we left, working 8 hour days, 5 days/week.  It’s definitely been an adjustment, but we are taking it head on and with as much enthusiasm as we can muster.

Puerto Rico!

 

My last post ends with us flying to Puerto Rico for 10 days, so I will start there.  As we didn’t have accommodation booked, and were honestly a little concerned about how expensive it would be when we got there, we headed straight for a tourist office at the airport to ask if they could recommend reasonable accommodation options.  Of course, they had a spot for us located right in Old San Juan for only $40/night.  This was a relief since the only prices I had seen online were no less than $80/night.

We figured that we would start there, then branch out if we felt like it afterwards.  We immediately fell in love with Old San Juan.  The old colonial apartment buildings lined teeny cobble stone streets, worn smooth from years of wear.  The city itself, is located within old fortress walls, some of which were taken down for the expansion of the city, but most of them that remain until this day.  The character of this Spanglish city was intoxicating.  It was the perfect mix of Latin and North American culture.  It’s own version of Spanish was spoken, and most young people spoke English.  We didn’t see too many signs of the hurricanes that have wreaked havoc on these islands in recent years, but we also didn’t leave the city!

After a couple days there, we spoke with our hostel manager to see if we could indeed live out our whole stay there.  Our flight wasn’t until February 21st, so we had some time to kill.  He said our room had no bookings, so it was set.  There were public beaches near by, the fort to explore, buses to take us around the city.  We had it all right there.  Our adventurous selves were screaming to see more, but our practical selves decided that we were best to stay put and see and do all that we could in that spot. Looking back, I can now see that we were exhausted.  We had been on the move since our housesitting gig in Livingston, Guatemala, almost full bore.  Jumping from hotel to hotel, place to place.  It had been 5 full weeks of that, and we really just needed a place to land and stay for a bit.

IMG_4135
The view from our balcony of our $40/night hostel with kitchen! 

It was a great decision.  We REALLY enjoyed the city and the people of Puerto Rico and I encourage anybody that is thinking of going there, to just do it!  The islands need money flowing through them to help mitigate the hurricane damages, and the people and the culture is just so neat.  PLUS if you are American, you DON’T need a passport to go there!  So what really are you waiting for??

Off to Nevis!

When we first arrived to Nevis, the later part of February, there were 7 other volunteers here.  It was nice to arrive with such a welcoming committee as they were able to show us the ropes and teach us the ins and outs of living here.  However, over time, one by one and two by two, they have left, heading back to their countries for the summer season. Upon arrival, we got a permit to stay here for 6 months, so after we had decided that we liked it, we committed to the whole 6 months in the garden.  To say that we LOVE the garden is an understatement.  We both are so happy being there and we have really fallen into a groove with our routines and responsibilities.

We were supposed to get another volunteer here in April who would stay 5 weeks, but he only lasted a week.  He couldn’t hack that life is a little less organized and not quite as efficient as good ol’ England is in these parts.  I get it though…..coming straight to these island nations is hard on the psyche.  Everything happens at a slower pace, nobody works too hard, life is just simpler and easier somehow.

I think because we have already spent 18+ months in these sorts of areas, we have become accustomed to a slower pace, one where it’s okay to stop and smell the flowers, chat with your neighbour for an hour or so, or just sit around and do nothing, with no judgement or opinions of others to wreck your day. We are definitely on “Island Time.”!

BUT, we are also working pretty much 40 hours per week at the garden, then working on our, what now have been dubbed “side hustles” in the evening and on our days off.   One would think that jumping back into work like this would be annoying to us since our schedule has been so free for so long.  But in truth, we are enjoying the routine.

We are enjoying having a place to go, and a purpose.  It’s rewarding knowing that we are contributing to a project bigger than ourselves.  We are putting our heart and soul into a place that thousands of people enjoy each year.  Somedays it’s hard work, sure, but we can see the fruits of our labours right before our eyes, and it is very rewarding.

Working at this garden has also reminded us just how passionate we are about plants, gardens and gardening in general.  It has shaped our future thinking about where we want to go, what we want to do, what specific things are important to us, and we have also realized that it is nice to be in one spot for a while.

It’s nice to rest our bodies and minds.  To be at peace with the fact that we don’t have to figure out where to go next.  We can unpack and make our new place our home, we can get to know our neighbours and make friends with the garden staff at work.

Despite the workload, it is somehow different than when we were at home.  At home I rarely went home at the end of the day feeling like I could just relax for the evening.  There was always so much to do.  But here, it’s different.  Here we know that when our day is done at the garden, we are free to work on our other projects if we want, read a book, do art, and RELAX.  It’s something that I found very difficult to do in Canada, but here it just seems easy.

Have I shed my need to be busy?  I guess so!

It brings back a reminder of a blog post I wrote while we were packing up our house and selling all of our possessions a couple years ago.  In it, I spoke about not knowing who I was if I wasn’t busy.  I was ALWAYS busy!  I ALWAYS had something that needed to be done.  If I didn’t I created something.  I think I was terrified of not having things to do.  Maybe I was worried about being bored?  Maybe I was worried that somebody would think I was lazy if I was doing nothing?  I really don’t know.

IMG_4957
Time to stop and watch a rainbow! 

But I can tell you for sure, that I now sit and do a lot of nothing, and it feels great!  I have the time to sit and enjoy a sunset without feeling like I need to go here or there afterwards.  I have the time to stop and LITERALLY smell the flowers, and I take the time, believe me, MANY times in a day!  I have the time to read a book, hang out on facebook, do art and just ponder life.  It’s a wondrous thing!

If leaving Canada has only helped me change one thing about myself (there are many more though), dropping the need to be busy ALL THE TIME is a great thing to go!

Days in the Garden

Our days in the garden consist of varieties of things.  Usually we arrive and spend a couple of hours doing a basic clean up each day, making sure that the pathways are presentable to guests.  We sweep and rake leaves, do a few small chores that are now daily routines, then head off in our different ways.

For most of our stay here so far, I have been working in the Admin office, bookeeping and helping to get the 2018 financials in order for taxes.  It seems like a bit of an extreme job for just a volunteer, but when I told her the things I was good at, she jumped at the chance to use me to the best possible ability.  I don’t mind it really, other than wanting to be outside with the plants more.  If anything, it has reminded me that my knowledge of such things is valuable, and maybe I should be using these talents to make us some more money in the future. Besides bookeeping, though, I have partaken in couple of painting jobs, and the odd gardening project.

garden quote

Chris has spent all of his time outside on various projects that are underway.  Things keep growing and there are numerous chores that need to be done on daily, weekly, and monthly basis.  

He has also started a composting program, as there wasn’t one in place before.  We dump all of our leaves and as much greenery as we can find, usually mostly in the form of weeds from the ponds, into a big pile, and he rotates and flips them every 4 days.  We are creating a VERY rich dark soil which will go a long way to provide some of the trees with some much needed nutrients.

We Have Kittens!

The cat that we care for at the house where we are living had kittens about three weeks ago.  We figured that she was looking a little round, and weren’t surprised when she started yowling incessantly one evening after work.  We figured that the time was near when she kept insisting that one of us follow her into one of the spare bedrooms where we are staying.  Once inside, we would sit on the bed and she would stop meowing and just sit and stare at us.  We did this in rotations until we decided it was time for bed.

Except that she was still yowling, even harder than before, and now scratching at our bedroom door making it impossible to sleep.  Finally, exasperated, I got up and followed her to the other bedroom.  With her finally stopping meowing, I realized that the only thing for me to do, was to lay down on the bed and go to sleep.  In an instant she jumped up on the bed and curled up next to me on the pillow.

I must have slept a bit before I heard the first of three high pitched meowing screams coming from her.  I realized that this was probably the time, and she was about to have her babies.  I comforted her by petting her and taking softly, and in one final scream she squatted down and out popped a tiny black log of fur.  She immediately took to cleaning it from top to bottom, then actually ate the placenta right before my eyes.  This process repeated itself another couple times through the night, and by morning there were three brand new little kittens on the bed.

IMG_5070
Mere hours old! 

Within a couple days she had moved them into a dark cupboard in the same bedroom.  But I had also noticed her standing by, and picking at a hole in the side of one of our couches in the living room.  A few days after the first move, we came home one night to discover that she had moved all the kittens into the hole, and in essence, to the inside of the couch frame.  I was initially upset and concerned that I now wouldn’t be able to check in on them 20 times per day, but quickly realized that I just needed to let mama do her thing.  She didn’t need my ‘help’ and in fact likely wanted privacy to get to the business of raising her babies.  Besides, we kept good tabs on them, knowing they were okay, when we heard their little squeaks coming from inside the couch whenever they were hungry.

We had heard that it takes cats three weeks to start walking, and I figured that once that happened, surely they will walk out themselves.  Well, sure enough, to the day, I noticed a tiny set of eyes looking out from under the couch. The lining had a tear in it, and they were able to come out from the gap at the front of the couch near the floor.

Of course, I was there with bells on, trying my darnedest to encourage them to come out, while mama meowed and paced nervously back and forth in front of me.  She even went so far as to reach in and bat at them, trying to push them back in.  Was she trying to protect them from the trials and tribulations of life?  Haha, who knows.  Either way, SHE clearly wasn’t ready for them to get curious and start exploring.

However, each day they come out now, they explore just a tiny bit further from the hole, bit by bit they go farther from home before they decide that it is just all too scary, and they need to quickly retreat to the safety of the couch.  It’s a beautiful thing to witness, and we are enjoying very much the ability to watch them progress from day to day.  We can see which one is excited and rambunctious, and which one is quiet and reserved.  They each have their own little personalities, and we are having a great time watching them evolve.

Other than that, life in Nevis is quiet and peaceful.  We were happy to leave behind the hustle and bustle of San Juan, Puerto Rico, to be in a place where we hear the birds  and crickets chirping at night, the doves cooing their favourite tune, and the pitter patter of monkeys on the roof of the house.  There are more donkeys, monkeys and goats here, than there are people, and honestly, we really like it that way!

As we navigate this world of being nomads, we are both learning so many lessons about ourselves.  Life, of course, isn’t perfect all of the time, but we really are happier now than we were then, and to us that is the most important thing of all.  Best of all, we are experiencing new and different things, figuring out how we want our future to look, and we are streamlining our processes and fine tuning it all as we go.  Life is so exciting, and we are so happy to be living it the best way that we can!

One more thing!

We have ALSO been working hard at making an idea that we had back in Guatemala come to fruition.  We will be hosting an art and culture retreat near the city of Flores in Guatemala in November.  We have been working on the website, and now have it published and ready for people to sign up.  To see what it’s all about, head to www.artisticvoyages.com. We think that it will be a fabulous 10 days of art, painting, good food, exploring cultures and seeing mayan ruins!  We can’t wait!  If you are at all interested in coming down to Guatemala and expanding your art repertoire, this will be a fabulous time!

Artistic Voyages Logo from Canva small

Thanks so much to all of you who reach out with an email or message on facebook!  We are thrilled to have you along on our journey.  If you have any questions at all about anything that we are up to, please don’t hesitate to email me at jillamatt@me.com.


Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: Nevis Island, St. Kitts & Nevis

Travelling Plans: We have committed to being here until mid-August.  After that we plan to head back to Canada for a visit, before returning to Guatemala to host our retreat.

To head back to the beginning of our journey, and the moment we decided to sell all of our possessions to travel the world, click here.

To see many travelling photos and to learn about where we are travelling, please follow our Facebook and Instagram accounts by clicking on the appropriate icon in the right hand column.

To learn about where I have previously traveled, visit my Countries Page.

To see all of my blog post headings on one page, (including all of the ones about letting our stuff go) head over to my Blog Post Menu.

To contribute to our Patreon account, please click here.

To learn about housesitting, please click here.

To email me directly, please do so anytime at jillamatt@me.com.

If you like my writing, and want to follow along on our journey, please put your email address in the right hand column to subscribe. That way all of my posts will go straight to your email inbox:)

Our Plan to Have No Plan, Was a Great Plan!

For us, by having no plan for what was next, we opened our future up to literally ANY and EVERY possibility to come our way. 


In 2017 we packed up our life, and quit the 9-5 to head out into the world.  We came with no expectations, we only wanted to experience life.  Since we have left, we have packed more fun and adventure into our lives than we ever could have imagined.  Being on the road now for over a year, has brought with it the freedom to explore what it is that we want to do to create an income for ourselves, the time to pay attention to the things that are truly important to us, and the adventure to truly make life fun and interesting once again.  We left seeking an exciting life, and we have not been disappointed!  Join us as we explore as much of this big old world that we can!


Well 2 months have gone by since my last post, and mostly, I apologize for that.  When I got to thinking that I really needed to update my blog and let you all know what we are up to, I had that familiar inkling of guilt, for taking so long to write.  I thought a little bit about why I hadn’t done it, and at the end of it all, I really don’t know.

At one point I thought that maybe I was just tired of writing about our lives.  In the beginning it was fun and exciting and I couldn’t wait to share all of our travel adventures with you all.  But as time has gone on, and this just all seems to feel normal to us, i guess I’m not as anxious to write about every little detail.

The other thought is that I really do spend a good portion of my day working on my online business (www.jillianamatt.com), marketing etc, so maybe I was just sick of the computer?

I’m sure if I dug deep enough, I would find a few other excuses, but really, it is what it is and I can’t change it, so I guess there isn’t much point in dwelling on it.  I do know that we have been pretty busy for the last while, and our life has changed, once again, in ways that we never thought possible!  Let me fill you in.

After leaving our housesitting gig in Livingston on January 5th, we headed off into Rio Dulce for a couple of nights.  We had heard great things about staying on the river, so we decided that it would be nice transition from our busier lives with taking care of 3 cats, 4 Ducks, 5 Chickens and 1 Rabbit, to one of relaxation and lounging around for a couple of days.  We stayed in a quintessential bamboo hotel that had a beautiful common area as well as individual cabins.  For the price of about $200 US, we spent 2 nights there which included all of our meals plus kayak rental.  It was really great. Check out Hotelito Perdido Here.

Our days consisted of diving off the dock into the fresh river water, lounging in the hammocks and pretty much just enjoying ourselves.  One evening we kayaked around the corner to a neighbouring restaurant to check out the sunset.  We were not disappointed and afterwards were treated to an absolutely stunning star filled sky for our paddle back.  We even turned the headlamps off to stop and float beneath the cosmos for a while. A beautiful night, and one that we won’t soon forget.

Next we made our way back to Flores where we met Chris’ Mom and Step Dad on the 10th.  This was the start of their 12 day holiday, and we had a jam packed few days lined up for them!  I have another blog post that I am working on that will outline this trip in detail, but we basically did the major sightseeing destinations in Guatemala from Flores to Lake Atitlan!  Every day brought a new and exciting adventure, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that by the end of it, we were all pretty exhausted. Good times were had by all though, and we really did enjoy our time with them and the experiences we shared.

On January 24th, we flew off to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida where we then connected to St. Thomas in the USVI.  We were meeting my parents for a two week holiday to celebrate my Mom’s 70th birthday.  We managed to celebrate it many times through the course of the trip, although her actual birthday was on the last day, February 9th.  We spent one week chartering a catamaran in the British Virgin Islands, then another week on the Island of St. John (USVI) in a timeshare.  It was a nice reminder of days gone by when my family used to head down to the Virgin Islands over Christmas and New Years for many years when I was a teenager.  We visited lots of the old places we had hung out in, plus some new ones, but were a little shocked and saddened by the changes that had occurred since the last big hurricanes tore through the islands. All in all though, I think we all enjoyed going back, just to check it out, and we had a wonderful time filled with fun and laughter with them.  This trip marked the end of our ‘planned’ future, and just as that adventure was ending, another one was beginning.


Now, this is where our lives managed to find the familiar serendipity that we have experienced through this chosen life of ours………

The story starts with us deciding to head the the USVI on a one way ticket from Guatemala.  With our last booked housesitting gig in Livingston behind us, we found ourselves with literally no plan, after the Virgin Islands, of course.  Our future was stretched out before us, every corner a possibility, over every horizon another adventure waiting to unfold.

It was a risky move.  The USVI is NOT cheap!  I knew this heading in, but I really didn’t realize just how expensive it was, as the last time I had been there was 24 years ago.  We knew after the trip with my parents, that we would have to figure out SOMETHING . Maybe find some work on a boat, maybe Chris could tatoo, maybe a housesitting job would pop up in the area (secretly this was my hope.) We didn’t know what was going to happen, we just went and knew that we would figure out something.  The worst case scenario was that we found nothing, then flew somewhere else, if even back to Guatemala.

Once arriving in the Virgin Islands, we vowed that we would take the first week on the catamaran, to really enjoy ourselves and not get too worked up over what was next.  Something would unfold, we had faith that it would. After the sailing trip, we would be spending a week in a hotel with good wifi, so we would figure something out then.  For now, we needed some time to relax and not think about what was next.

Not 2 or 3 days into our sailing adventure, I got a notification for a housesitting job on the island of Nevis, part of the Caribbean country called St. Kitts & Nevis, and only an hours flight south of us.  As soon as I read it, I had that feeling of “YES! I KNEW SOMETHING WOULD COME UP!”  Without hesitation, I messaged the lady to let her know that we were indeed interested in her housesitting position.  Up until this point, I had rarely seen housesitting jobs posted for the Caribbean Islands.  But here one was, and it was right in our neighbourhood! This could not have been more orchestrated.   The only catch was that she wanted us to start April 1st.  Since we knew that our time with my parents was over on February 10th, we didn’t really know what we would do to fill the time in between the dates.  But I messaged her none-the-less to let her know that we were interested.

The post stated that we would have our own self-contained cabin, taking care of 2 dogs and a cat.  Fair enough.  We could handle that.  However, she didn’t reply to my application until a couple days later with a hasty email explaining that she was seriously busy and promising to write us again in a couple of days.  But, she told us, in the meantime, we were to check out her ‘project’ The Botanical Garden of Nevis.   After clicking through to the website and seeing the property and the gardens, I was ecstatic!  I could barely contain myself when I told Chris what she had sent me.  At this point we didn’t know what was in store for us, we just knew that this lady had some pretty awesome gardens that we really couldn’t wait to see!

A couple more days go by and she finally writes us to let us know what the posting is really about.  She is looking for a couple to come and help her with organizing her volunteers at her botanical garden.  We were asked to commit to a bit of a longer term than most of her volunteers that are only 4-8 weeks.  Our housing would be covered, all lunches while working, and a small grocery allowance for each month.

Now, as avid gardeners and plant lovers, I have to say that we both have been missing this aspect of our lives since we set off travelling.  While we have dabbled in a bit of gardening here and there at various properties that we have taken care of, we certainly hadn’t satisfied our gardening itch since leaving Canada.  This was a great opportunity for us to get back to something that we love, all while having most of our expenses covered.  Plus, in retrospect, I think that we were both craving something a bit bigger than what we have been doing.  Most of our ‘work’ time is spent on our art and promoting our various online stores, but at times, that gets to be old, and we tended to be flailing around a little bit with trying to find other ways to entertain ourselves.

This was an opportunity to really get into a project, and a REALLY big one at that. We were ecstatic of the prospect!  Not too mention, we both have put on a few (ahem) extra pounds since leaving Canada, and this would be a good way to use our bodies again and rebuild some of the strength that we have lost.

But there was still that one catch, though.  The post stated that we would be starting in April, which meant that we had 7 weeks to kill before heading there.  With the Virgin Islands being unbearably expensive for us, and no other cheap options in the area, Dad suggested that I just tell her that we are available now if need be.

Again, another couple of days go by…….

Then, gloriously, she wrote back telling us that if we were willing to share a house with another couple that had a shared bathroom, then she could arrange for us to come at the beginning of March.  This was making it better, as we would only have to find somewhere to stay for 3 weeks. OF COURSE we didn’t mind!

Because we had decided that St. Thomas was too expensive, we figured that it would be a good idea to head to nearby Puerto Rico instead, only a 30 minute flight and a MUCH bigger island.  Surely there would be cheaper accommodation and cost of living there!?  I looked online and was dismayed with the prices that were laid out before me.  All of it was still well above our budget, but we still reasoned that we could likely find something that would work for us once we got there.  We knew that there was small villages and towns where we could find something that would carry us through for 3 more weeks before we could head to Nevis.

We booked our flights and felt good that we had a new plan moving forward, and were ecstatic to get to Nevis to start our journey there.  Well, within a couple days of booking our flight, she said that if we wanted, we could come anytime after February 21st.  This meant ONLY 10 days in Puerto Rico!  This was getting better and better by the minute!

We flew out of St. Thomas on February 10th, ending a wonderful 2 weeks spent with my parents, and jetted off to Puerto Rico to wait out our 10 days until we could head to Nevis.   New adventures were right around the corner, and we couldn’t wait to see what was next!

TO BE CONTINUED…………


Now, I will continue our story soon, I promise (!), but I want to just touch on a couple points with what has taken place in these last couple months.

  1. We had NO PLAN.  I believe that this is one of the scariest things that humans have the capacity to do,  live a life with no plans.  So many of us have completely constructed our life so that each day is meticulously laid out, each hour scheduled, each year has its holidays, x number of years means retirement.  We take comfort in the knowing what’s next, and we feel like we have no worries when it is all structured and neat and tidy.  But with that structure comes a life of predictability,  a life with less excitement and adventure. and possibly can lead to life that is stagnant and somewhat boring.  For us, by having no plan for what was next, we opened our future up to literally ANY and EVERY possibility to come our way.  Because we did this, there were literally infinite amounts of things that could fall on our laps.  We didn’t have a structure laid out, we just sat with the unknowing.
  2. We got hired because we had no plan.  A couple days after she had emailed us with the info about the Botanical Garden, my parents commented that it would be nice if we knew for sure that we had the job.  There had been no mention of others applying, but one never knows.  This was posted on our housesitting site where we apply for housesitting jobs, other do as well, of course.  But I had a knowing in my gut that we needn’t worry about any others.  I stated out loud “Don’t worry, we got the job if we want it.”  It was a brazen and bold statement, and of course Dad said it was so.  “Well surely other people will be applying as well?”  He stated. Sure, they would be, but at the end of it all, how many people can apply that have managed their own businesses (and crews), one being a landscaping company, absolutely love gardens and anything to do with nature,  PLUS (this is the biggy), have the time and flexibility to stay as long as she needs.  THIS was the catch, and Dad agreed on that point for sure. BECAUSE we have NO PLAN, we are able to orchestrate each day as it comes, and figure out every moment by every moment.  I can’t tell you how much stress this has taken off of our shoulders.  One would think that having our life structured before us would make us comfortable and relaxed with the knowing.  But the problem with constructing everything, is that you are then expected to make it all work.  You are suddenly tasked with deadlines and expectations.  If you don’t get your to do list finished, it’s a failure because then your next day is set back.  This could set back your week, unless you work harder to make up for it so that it doesn’t leak into your next week.
  3. We got this job because we are FLEXIBLE.  When I initially told her that we were flexible and could make anything work with our accommodations and any arrangements that she had for us, this set us above most others as well.  Even since we have been here for 2 weeks, we have seen her turn away potential volunteer candidates that asked a thousand questions, challenged her on why things were certain ways, and obviously displayed to her that they had their own agendas and expectations.  We didn’t have that when we agreed to this.  We were open to anything really.  I believe that by being flexible, and displaying to her our willingness to make this work, she felt more comfortable in our commitment level and seriousness of taking on the job.

So, you can see how this job, in the words of my mother “fell in our laps”.  However, it is also important to understand the reasons that it did seemingly do so, as I have outlined above.


From the beginning of this journey, and since letting go of so much,  I have felt fully supported in all decisions that we make.  And I feel like the more that I trust in that support, the more I feel like somehow, someway, somebody out there is looking out for us.  By letting go of so much that tied us down, we are in the position to let the universe guide us, and in doing so, the most beautiful and wondrous life is unfolding in front of us.  Day by day we are thrilled and excited by life.  It is constantly changing, morphing and rearranging itself to provide us with so many wonderful experiences.  Through the places we have seen, the wonderful people that we have met, and the ‘pinch ourselves’ moments that we have had, we have found a life that is full filling in ways that we never could have imagined.

My hope is that you too can build yourself a life filled with wonder and excitement, a life of adventure and a bit of unpredictability.  Because, let me tell you, it is the most exhilarating way to live!

(a sneak peak of the gardens!)


Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: Nevis Island, St. Kitts & Nevis

Travelling Plans: We hope to be here for up to 6 months, but we are taking things day by day, and haven’t committed to anything long term at this point.

To head back to the beginning of our journey, and the moment we decided to sell all of our possessions to travel the world, click here.

To see many travelling photos and to learn about where we are travelling, please follow our Facebook and Instagram accounts by clicking on the appropriate icon in the right hand column.

To learn about where I have previously traveled, visit my Countries Page.

To see all of my blog post headings on one page, (including all of the ones about letting our stuff go) head over to my Blog Post Menu.

To contribute to our Patreon account, please click here.

To learn about housesitting, please click here.

To email me directly, please do so anytime at jillamatt@me.com.

If you like my writing, and want to follow along on our journey, please put your email address in the right hand column to subscribe. That way all of my posts will go straight to your email inbox:)

 

Happy New Year – 2018 Review

Within each of these simplified paragraphs, lies a wealth of other stories.  Stories of different experiences, friends we have made, people we have seen, and places we have witnessed. 


In 2017 we packed up our life, and quit the 9-5 to head out into the world.  We came with no expectations, we only wanted to experience life.  Since we have left, we have packed more fun and adventure into our lives than we ever could have imagined.  Being on the road now for over a year, has brought with it the freedom to explore what it is that we want to do to create an income for ourselves, the time to pay attention to the things that are truly important to us, and the adventure to truly make life fun and interesting once again.  We left seeking an exciting life, and we have not been disappointed!  Join us as we explore as much of this big old world that we can!


HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Well, we have all collectively made it into another year, and the last year of the 2010’s.  This last year has been a hell of a ride for us as we have lived in 3 different countries!  When I sat down to do some writing today, I realized that it had been almost a month since my last blog post, and that I kind of left everyone hanging.  I still haven’t written my “San Cristobal Part 2” yet, and I kind of had plans to do that today.  But then I realized that with the New Year, comes a good time to reflect on all that we did in 2018.  And so, my San Cristobal Part 2 post will have to wait, as I decided that instead, I wanted to do a recap of what this last year has been like for us.  I must say, after writing it all out, it’s amazing to see all the things that we have done and the places we have been.  Within each of these simplified paragraphs, lies a wealth of other stories.  Stories of different experiences, friends we have made, people we have seen, and places we have witnessed.  Along with each of these paragraphs, we lived a wild and exciting life, and we are both incredibly grateful for all that we have seen and done in the last year.  As you read, you will notice highlighted words.  These are links to relevant blog posts that will catch you up on that particular area if you are interested.  Unfortunately, I lost my mojo to write around October, so the last bit is missing some posts, but I hope to get caught up on those in the next couple weeks, though I’m also not going to put too much pressure on myself to complete them, as we have some big experiences coming up right around the corner.  We will see.  Anyways, for now, enjoy the recap!

January started us off managing a cabina rental in Matapalo, Costa Rica.  Matapalo is located right on the beach in the southwest corner of the country.  It is smack between popular tourist spots of Dominical and Manuel Antonio National Park, and it is often overlooked as people pass right by from point A to point B, not realizing that there is a 12 km stretch of beach adjacent to the highway, that barely has any people on it at all.  We didn’t complain about that though, as we enjoyed the first 2.5 months of 2018 (following 2 months at the end of 2017) hanging out on this perfect, quiet, and picturesque beach.

In February we volunteered at a huge music festival called Envision.  It is held annually in February near Uvita, which was only a short drive south of us.  We spent 6 days frolicking about, dancing and partying and really had a great time.

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The middle of March saw us moving up to El Silencio, a remote mountain village set just at the base of the mountains.  We rented a house there for 3 weeks, and enjoyed watching the toucans, scarlett macaws and many other types of wildlife pass by our place.  We visited an incredible waterfall, swam in the river and hung out with our Canadian friend who owned property adjacent to where we were renting.  It was a lovely break from the more hectic life at Matapalo where we were managing the cabinas and taking care of 3 dogs.

By the beginning of April we were eager to move on, and because we had a housesitting gig set up in Nicaragua at the beginning of May, we decided that we were finished with Costa Rica, and we longed to see something new.  So we packed up and headed north to volunteer at an earth bag construction project with a girl that I had gotten contact for when we were volunteering at Envision Festival.

We were located in a very rural part of Nicaragua, well off the beaten track.  We volunteered and lived in our tent for 3 weeks in very dusty conditions, and literally had to pull at least one tick, if not 4, off of our bodies every night before bed time.  It was an interesting experience and we really enjoyed it, but I’m not sure if it is one that I would want to repeat.  April 18th, a civil war broke out in Nicaragua, and as we were supposed to start housesitting in May, it made for an interesting couple of weeks, trying to decide if we actually wanted to stay in the country or not.

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San Jorge Beach looking out over Lake Nicaragua and the to volcanoes that make up the island in the middle. 

We did decide to stick it out, and met the homeowners at the beginning of May.  We were supposed to housesit until the beginning of September but we only lasted about 4 weeks.  We hated to leave Nicaragua, but the political scene was volatile, many people were getting shot in the streets, and all but a handful of tourists had fled the country.  It wasn’t a very nice scene, but again we hated to leave.  As most of the violence was in the north of the country, we had no choice but to retreat back to Costa Rica, to try and figure out our next moves.  At that time, the only other concrete plan we had, was to housesit in Guatemala at the end of November.  So we had a few months to fill in and try to figure out what we wanted to do.

Not realizing how shell shocked we actually were from the experience in Nicaragua, we arrived to a hostel in Samara, a place we had stayed almost immediately after arriving in Costa Rica at the beginning of this trip in October 2017.  It felt good to get back to some familiarity and the warm, welcoming and safe arms of Costa Rica.  We were surprised when we arrived at the hostel to find a small group of us that had fled Nicaragua.  We called ourselves the Nicaraguan Refugees, and we made fast friends and shared many stories.  The owner of the hostel ended up asking us to paint a mural for him in exchange for our accommodation, and we happily obliged.  We really didn’t know where we wanted to go anyways, and we took the time we needed to fully recover and feel like we were ready to move on in our journey and figure out a plan.

We spent about a month in Samara, and left the hostel bound for San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica, on July 4th.  We decided that it made the most sense to fly north, as we needed to get to Guatemala to housesit anyways, and had discovered the city of Flores in the northern department (like provinces and states).  It is an island city, located on Lake Peten Itza, and upon arrival we immediately fell in love with the area, and started searching for a house to rent for a couple months.  The universe provided for us and we lucked into a perfect rental house for about $220/month.  While in the area, we of course visited the famous Mayan city of Tikal, once the center of the Mayan culture.  We fell in love with the jungle, the people and the area, and we extended our initial 2 month rental period to 3.

After a couple of months of being there, my parent’s came down to visit us for a week.  We had some nice days with them, and headed back to Tikal.  Unfortunately Dad got food poisoning the day we arrived, so he spent a couple days in bed.  Shortly after they left, we started painting a mural for a coffee shop/restaurant/bar owner that we had come to know as it was our favourite place to hang out and use the internet.  However, after 90 days of being in the country, we needed to leave Guatemala to renew our visitor visa, but we still weren’t finished the mural.  So we headed up to Mexico for a week with the plan to renew our visa, then return to Flores to finish it.

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On the steps of Temple IV at Tikal with my Mom. 

We headed across the nearest border crossing, finding ourselves in Palenque in the Southern State of Chiapas.  We were anxious to see how the internet speed was in Mexico, as we had struggled with it immensely in Flores for the time that we had spent there.  As we were both still in the progress of really getting our online shops going, we found the internet issue really challenging especially when we needed to upload high resolution images to our online shops.  So we thought of Mexico as a place where we could get caught up on some projects as well.  Unfortunately, the internet in Palenque wasn’t too much better than in Flores, but we did take a few days to get some work done, but we also frolicked in some amazing waterfalls, relaxed in the park, and headed to the equally famous to Tikal,  Palenque Mayan Ruins.  After the week was up, we returned to Flores to finish our mural(s) (there was actually 3 different walls that we painted on, so I guess it was more ‘murals’ instead of just a ‘mural’.)

By October 19th, we had finally completed the murals and headed back to Mexico as we had plans to go to Oaxaca City to be a part of the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival, one of Mexico’s premier celebrations, at the beginning of November. We first headed back to Palenque, then we were off to San Cristobal, high up in the mountains.  We spent about 5 nights in the busy city, then continued on an 11 hour bus ride north east to Oaxaca.

The city of Oaxaca and the festivities of Dia de los Muertos did not disappoint!  We took part in multiple days of festivities, hung out with friends that we had initially met in Costa Rica, visited a Mezcalaria, visited some artists workshops, went to the botanical gardens and visited the cemeteries to see the fiestas that were happening amongst the families.  It was an incredible cultural experience, and I PROMISE that I will try and get a blog post written about out time spent there.  It was a wonderful 2 weeks, and we FINALLY had found some fast internet.  So we wasted no time in updating our shops, and really getting the balls rolling with them again before the busy Christmas season descended on us.   After 2.5 weeks there, it was time to return back to Guatemala to start preparing ourselves for our upcoming housesitting job.

We returned through San Cristobal once again to REALLY cold temperatures.  We had found it cool on our initial visit, but this time it was down right COLD!  The nights went down to about 9 degrees, and a couple of days it was only about 12 in the day time.  Not too mention that the city is at 7000 feet, so we were pretty much in the clouds which made everything damp and bone chilling.  This normally is not too big of a concern in the north where you have a nice warm house to go into at night, but bear in mind that there is no central heating in these places, and because it was only just a cold snap, nobody had fires burning in their hotels either.  We wore our long johns and toques and pretty much ever other layer that we had, day and night.  We had returned because Chris wanted a tattoo from our new friend that we had met there, so once that was finished, we were happy to be moving on.

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We were REALLY cold! 

Getting back to Palenque (after a bit of a hellish 11 hour bus ride on an alternate route because the normal route was closed by a teacher strike road block) we were so happy to see the jungle again and sit in the warm tropical air.  We decided that 3 days in San Cristobal in those conditions was winter enough for our fragile, and obviously spoiled, bodies.  Living in the tropics for a year has clearly made us soft.  We spent a couple nights back in Palenque, staying in a completely different part of town, which was pretty neat as we hadn’t even realized that that part had existed on our previous 2 visits.  The last day we left San Cristobal, I received news that a childhood friend of mine had succumbed to his short battle with cancer at the age of just 40, back in Canada.  So the time in Palenque served as a mourning stage as I wrestled with the first feelings of homesickness that I think I have ever felt.  With all of my friends from my small home town gathered together to mourn and celebrate his life, I felt very distant and alone, and it took a few days to get back to my normally cheerful self.

We left Palenque and headed back to Flores where Chris had some unfinished tattoo work that he had to complete.  We fell back in with our Flores family like we had never left, and spent another week there visiting and hanging out with the gang.

On November 25th we descended down the Rio Dulce by boat to our next housesitting post in Livingston, Guatemala, which is where we sit now.  Livingston is located on the Caribbean Coast of Guatemala, on a tiny bit of land between Honduras and Belize.  It has a very funky and lively Garifuna (they came from the Island of Trinidad) culture which is mixed with the latino Guatemalans (think reggae culture but speaking spanish).  The community is water access only, no roads reach here, but there is a decent population base, which makes it feel like it isn’t too remote.  We are staying in a fantastic wooden house that was built by the owner.  He grew up here, but his wife is from Holland, which is where they went for Christmas because she likes the Christmas celebration better in Europe (it really doesn’t even exist here), and he doesn’t like the heat (go figure) and loves going to the European winter for a break.

Over the course of our time here, we have had 3 sets of visitors.  Alejandro visited us from Guatemala City.  He was one of our fellow Nicaraguan refugees that were staying in the hostel in Samara while we were there.  He is Guatemalan and has returned home to make some money and save up to go travelling again.  Tom is from England and we met him on our last return from Palenque to Flores.  He spent a few days in Flores, and we got to know him quite well.  After travelling around Guatemala a bit, heading down to Honduras and El Salvador, he decided that he wanted to come and spend Christmas with us instead of in a hostel with nobody that he knew.  And finally Sandra and Ed are friends from the town we last lived in in Canada who are currently travelling around Belize by camper van.  They popped down here for a couple nights over New Years.  So, our time here has been eventful and busy, but we have enjoyed it immensely.

As I type this, we have 2 days left before the owners arrive back, and we will be continuing on our journey.  We have a very exciting month ahead of us as Chris’ Mom and Step Dad are arriving to Flores to see us on January 10th and we will be travelling around Guatemala with them for almost 2 weeks.  Then at the end of January, we fly off to the US and British Virgin Islands where we will be spending 2 weeks with my parents for my moms 70th Birthday celebration.

Beyond that, the only plan is that we have no plan.  Our hope is to find some work there on boats, and somehow make our way back to Guatemala, before we head north to Canada next summer.  Between now and then we have about 6 months to fill in, and I am realizing by now, that 6 months can contain a wealth of experience and excitement like nothing I could ever plan or expect.

If you have read this far, I thank you.  It was an event filled year, and it’s so hard to pack so much stuff into a few words, but I hope it gave you a good over view of how our life has looked for the last 12 months.

We both wish you all a wonderful 2019, and hope that you too can find some time to get out of your comfort zone and find a little adventure!


Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: Livingston, Guatemala

Travelling Plans: We are housesitting here until January 5th.  After that we are headed up Rio Dulce for 2 nights to stay on the river.  Then we are off to Flores to meet Chris’ Mom and Step Dad for 2 weeks of travelling around Guatemala.

To head back to the beginning of our journey, and the moment we decided to sell all of our possessions to travel the world, click here.

To see many travelling photos and to learn about where we are travelling, please follow our Facebook and Instagram accounts by clicking on the appropriate icon in the right hand column.

To learn about where I have previously traveled, visit my Countries Page.

To see all of my blog post headings on one page, (including all of the ones about letting our stuff go) head over to my Blog Post Menu.

To contribute to our Patreon account, please click here.

To learn about housesitting, please click here.

To email me directly, please do so anytime at jillamatt@me.com.

If you like my writing, and want to follow along on our journey, please put your email address in the right hand column to subscribe. That way all of my posts will go straight to your email inbox:)

Cool San Cristobal de las Casas – Part One

As we sat in stunned amazement, watching the spectacle unfold all around us, we couldn’t help but realize just how lucky we were to have witnessed this. 


Over the course of 9 months in 2017, my partner and I sold all of our possessions, including 2 vehicles, and a house full of stuff. In order to sell the house for its maximum value, we also completed 3 months of renovations that had been lingering for over 3 years. We wrapped up 2 businesses and left a town and tight knit community that we both cherished. We did all of this in order to seek out a life of freedom, away from the hustle and bustle of the 9-5 life, but most importantly, we did it so that we could travel. This is our story…….


As our collectivo (small shuttle bus running locals from town to town) wound its way from Palenque to San Cristobal, we noticed that the flora and fauna all around us began to change.  And then, just like that, we were up in the mountain tops, not a palm tree in sight!  It was if we crossed an invisible line, dividing the jungle from the mountains, I guess, in essence, that is just what we did.  We were now amongst the pine trees and the higher altitude scrub brush.  The lush tropical jungles that we had grown so accustomed to over the last year, disappeared behind and below us.

We arrived in San Cristobal de las Casas, the first time, at around 6:00pm.  Immediately out of the bus, we could feel the cool crisp air, and I have to say, it was a bit of a relief.  We were excited to not only breathe the fresh mountain air, but we looked forward to spending some days without the familiar sticky humid feeling on our skin that we had grown so accustomed to.

We had heard many a good thing spoken about San Cristobal, namely the amount of art and creativity that the city exuded, so we were eager to check it out.  We had been warned that it was cooler, so we prepared ourselves for that, and were excited to finally use our wool sweaters and other warm weather gear that we had been lugging around with us through the tropics for the last 12 months.

We had left Guatemala only 2 days earlier, leaving behind our beloved Flores, the place we called home for 3.5 months.  We were on a mission to get to Oaxaca, the capital of the Mexican state of the same name.  There we would be celebrating Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), one of Mexico’s premier festivals.  San Cristobal was on the road to Oaxaca, and we would visit it on the way, and again on our return heading back to Guatemala.

Since we knew that there was much to see here, we decided to spend about 5 days exploring the funky mountain town.  The temperature was cool at night, I would venture around 15-17 degrees celsius (59-63 F) (although there would be frost on the grass first thing in the morning, so it must have gotten colder), but was brilliantly sunny during the day with temps at a reasonable 22-25 C (72-77 F).

We enjoyed ourselves as we walked around this magnificent town.  Although, sitting at  2200m (7200ft) above sea level, we found ourselves very tired for most of the time, and also did a lot of sleeping and relaxing as well while we adjusted to the altitude.  The town sits in a sort of valley that is perched between several small peaks that flank its edges.  Normally, atop most of these surrounding peaks, sits a church or other significant building.  Many of them have stairs that go up to them, so we found ourselves huffing and puffing up these stairs, in order to gain a good view, and a better perspective of the city below us.

The streets consist of ancient cobblestone sidewalks that are worn smooth with wear over the centuries that it has been occupied.  The main downtown area, a pedestrian section only, bisects the center of the city and is rife with artisans and street pedlars from all over the world.  From the get go, we could see that San Cristobal was not JUST another Mexican City, it was in fact very multinational.  Because of this, for the first time in many months, we had access to Sushi, Noodle Bowls, Indian Food and more!  In fact, our very first foray into the city brought us straight to a little corner restaurant that served Poutine!  (If you don’t know what Poutine is, it is one of Canada’s national dishes along side Maple Syrup, Back Bacon and Ceasars.  Check it out here.) Of course (!) we just HAD to have some poutine! It warmed our hearts and our bellies, and literally, our bodies, the first night we arrived.

After a couple days we found ourselves climbing some random stairs up a random hill and stumbled upon a funky bohemian bar.  Immediately upon entry, we knew that we had found ‘our place.’  The building functions as an artist coop and we made quick friends with the people running it, plus met the current artist in residence, Jackie.  Jackie is a hand poke tattoo artist, which of course, intrigued us.  She is from LA, but would be living at the coop for 2 months while she promoted her art and secured some business.  She has been travelling and working in many parts of the world, so we had lots in common and tons of stories to share.  We hit it off with her right away.  Most of the rest of our evenings were spent in this spot hanging out, and enjoying what must have been, one of the best roof top terraces with a stunning view over the city, that there was.

On our last full day in San Cristobal, we decided that rather than just hanging out in the city, we had better see something of the surrounding area.  Together with Jackie, we decided to head to Mamut Caves, a cave system that was located just outside the city, a 15 minute cab ride for about $1 per person.  We asked the guys at the artist coop where we should go.  I had heard about Rancho Nuevo, but Meow (local born and raised) said that the Mamut Caves were just as spectacular, and not as busy.  Perfect!

We headed off at around 12:00 and wound our way through the city streets and out into the wilderness.  We arrived to an open field and a young man, clearly not happy with his day (or life) to pay our entry fee of about 50 cents.  I asked him if this was his family’s property, and he begrudgingly nodded.  After walking another 20 feet though, we were approached by another young man, this one asking for 50 cents more.  He gave us a ticket and we reasoned that the first guy was charging us for driving onto his property to get to the caves, and the second guy actually owned the property with the cave on it?  Who knows!  Either way, for the price of $1.00, we weren’t going to put up a stink.

We entered the cave and were pleased to find out that we were, in fact, the only people that were visiting it at this time.  Thank you Meow! We explored the well worn trails that had lights on them, plus went a little further with our headlamps into the far reaching corridors, until it got to the point where we would have had to crawl on our bellies to get any further.  At the beginning of the cave, and the largest ‘room’, we had noted a vent in the ceiling and we could see greenery and light coming down the shaft.

 

After exploring the rest of the far reaches, we found ourselves back at the beginning and kind of feeling like “now what”.  We had explored every nook we could, and it had only taken about half an hour.  We didn’t want this party to end so soon.

As I went over and inspected the vent, I noticed all sorts of greenery, lichens and mosses, growing on the sides of the shaft.  I commented that it would be really cool to be there when the sun shone down, which I was certain that it must do at some point during each day.  Not 5 minutes later, after we had started looking at other parts of the room again, Chris pointed and said, “Look!”

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Looking up the shaft. 

There it was, a single sun beam shining down the shaft.  We were immediately drawn to it.  The cave was quite cool, and we relished in the warm beam that came down and caressed our faces as we stood under it.  Little did we know that the show was just about to get started.

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Playing with the sun beam. 

 

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Favourite pic of the day! 

Immediately, Jackie noticed a green mound at the base of where the light hit.  It was iridescent green like pond algae, and it looked just as slimy.  But when we all touched it, it was hardened rock.   It was a feast for the senses as we took turns touching it.  Water would drip on it from above every few seconds, and somehow, probably because of the tiny bit of sun that hit it, it was retaining some chlorophyl or other green element, that the rest of the cave didn’t have access to.  We were mesmerized by this phenomenon, and we spent much time looking at it, and playing in the sun beams.  We affectionately named the green blob…….well ‘Blob.’  How appropriate.

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This is Blob.  It is solid rock, no slime at all! 

 

 

In no time at all, we started to notice that the cave was illuminating all around us.  Previously missed features that were hidden in dark corners, were now receiving light beams that were refracted from the tiny crystal structures that graced the entire cave.  Light bounced into every recessed corner and we started to see just how intricate and incredible this cave was.  As the sun moved, and the light beam adjusted with it, the light  would bounce around to different spots and we sat for about an hour and watched one of the most spectacular shows that mother nature could ever produce.

IMG_2047
This formation didn’t have near as much detail as this before the sun came through the vent. 

As we sat in stunned amazement, watching the spectacle unfold all around us, we couldn’t help but realize just how lucky we were to have witnessed this.  Our timing could not have been more perfect, and we were all so grateful.  As the sun beam crept up the wall, starting to leave the cave, we heard voices coming in.  Those voices were followed by other voices, and it became apparent that we were no longer the only ones in the cave.  Although we were sad to not have it all to ourselves anymore, we also couldn’t help but feel sorry for the new arrivals, as they had literally just missed the most awesome event of the day, by mere minutes.

 

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People arrived just as the sun was starting to sneak back up the wall of the cave. 

We thanked ‘Blob’ for the show, and continued outside back into the stunningly sunny and beautiful day.  A little trail wound up the hill above the cave entrance, so we headed up to hang out on some sort of old zipline platform, to decompress from what we had just experienced.  While up there, some butterflies flew by us and all around us, and as they flew away, Chris declared that he wanted a butterfly tattoo on his hand, to remember this experience.  With Jackie being just the girl to do it, our plan was set, we would return to San Cristobal again on our way back to Guatemala after visiting Oaxaca, so that he could get his tattoo.

We hailed a taxi from the side of the road as the sun was setting, and headed back down to San Cristobal, but not before we took a selfie and watched the awesomeness of the San Cristobal valley below.

To be continued………


Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: Livingston, Guatemala

Travelling Plans: We are housesitting here until the beginning of January 2019.

To head back to the beginning of our journey, and the moment we decided to sell all of our possessions to travel the world, click here.

To see many travelling photos and to learn about where we are travelling, please follow our Facebook and Instagram accounts by clicking on the appropriate icon in the right hand column.

To learn about where I have previously traveled, visit my Countries Page.

To see all of my blog post headings on one page, (including all of the ones about letting our stuff go) head over to my Blog Post Menu.

To contribute to our Patreon account, please click here.

To learn about housesitting, please click here.

To email me directly, please do so anytime at jillamatt@me.com.

If you like my writing, and want to follow along on our journey, please put your email address in the right hand column to subscribe. That way all of my posts will go straight to your email inbox:)

Overwhelmed? Stressed? Anxiety Ridden? How Many of us Feel This Way?

Buying stuff WILL NOT make us happier.  Having the latest and greatest gadgets WILL NOT make us happier.  Working our asses off and saving up for ‘retirement’ WILL NOT make us happier!  So don’t let it happen!


Over the course of 9 months in 2017, my partner and I sold all of our possessions, including 2 vehicles, and a house full of stuff. In order to sell the house for its maximum value, we also completed 3 months of renovations that had been lingering for over 3 years. We wrapped up 2 businesses and left a town and tight knit community that we both cherished. We did all of this in order to seek out a life of freedom, away from the hustle and bustle of the 9-5 life, but most importantly, we did it so that we could travel. This is our story…….


In recent weeks, my email inbox has started to receive a few kind messages from different people letting me know that our story is inspiring them in some way.  Whether they are living vicariously through our travels, or they are struggling with getting rid of an overload of ‘things’ in their lives, they are reaching out.

The other day I received the following message from Arnold.  With permission from Arnold, I am able to post his letter here (copied and pasted as written) with the hopes that others will learn from, or be inspired by his story.  He writes:


Hello, I enjoyed reading your story very much.  I am currently at a crossroads myself. I am sixty years old and living in the house I inherited from my parents. This is my fifth house but the only one with only a fifty thousand dollar mortgage left. My dad passed five years ago and I moved from Vegas to Connecticut to be a caretaker for my handicapped mother. She passed a year ago. Because caring for my mom was a full time job I have not worked in five years. I do play in a very popular band which plays about 120 gigs a year but don’t earn much money. In fact I am in debt up to my neck. Getting shut off notices from everyone. I have even been driving without car insurance for two weeks. This alone keeps me awake at night. The house like yours needs a great deal of work but I don’t have the resources to make these repairs. It is currently up for sale as is. Some interest but not a lot. If I do sell I might walk away with $100,000.00. Not much but I need to find a way to unplug from getting a bill from someone every time I turn around. And like you I am governed by my stuff. I have three cars. WTF. I am coming around slowly to getting rid of stuff. Hard for me but I know in my heart and more importantly in my head that it is the right thing to do. One thing that I liked about your story is you live in Costa rica. I have heard many great things about this region and would like to learn more. I have no problem living outside the US because everything, EVERYTHING is so expensive. I know I am not framing my thoughts very clearly but just wanted to say hello and hope that your story inspires me. I want to live life and be happy. I don’t want to be burdened with to much responsibility. Been there done that. Raised four kids and had a business that made millions. All gone. lol I just want simple. I want to unplug and detach from the norm or what’s expected of me. In a way I blame my parents generation. They instilled in us that success was measured by how big your house was, how pretty your wife is, and how smart your kids are. Bullshit. All this mentality does is chain you to seeing these things come to fruition. Work the same job for decades to keep it going. Well I’m going to try to find Minimalism now and watch it. Thank you for lisening. Arnold.


My question is this:  How many of us feel this way?  How many of us are overwhelmed and desperately just want to unplug from it all?

There are a few key points to discuss in Arnolds message, and I will attempt to break them down below.

  1. “I’m in debt up to my neck.”
    • This is a sentiment that rings familiar with so many people across the Western World.  Societies push to have the ‘latest and greatest’ gadgets has created an overbearing consumer society.  People simply do not have the money to purchase items, but they use their credit cards to do so instead with the hope to pay it off someday.  Arnold is certainly not alone in this!  In fact, here is a link to the average debt that American Households have, and being a Canadian, I can guarantee that these stats are just as applicable there as well.

      Here’s the Typical American’s Debt Load

  2. “I do play in a popular band……..”
    • I have to say…….KUDDOS to Arnold for continuing to do what he loves, despite the overwhelming pressure (likely) to get a job to pay off his debt.  If Arnold didn’t do what he loved, he would likely be much further along down the Rabbit Hole of depression.  Stress and Anxiety have reached EPIC proportions in the US and beyond.  It is CRUCIAL to unplug from your worries of life, by being creative in some way.
  3. “if I do sell, I might walk away with $100 000. Not much………”
    • $100 000 in Canada and the US, definitely is NOT MUCH money.  But, after living in Central America for over a year now, I can certainly attest that it is PLENTY for down here.  Chris and I housesit as much as we can, or find locals houses to rent in other places where we aren’t housesitting.  In Flores, Guatemala, we rented a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom house with a beautiful deck overlooking a lake for $225/month.  When we shopped at the market, we would spend about $15-$20 for a week of produce.  Eating out was also inexpensive.  Even in the nicest restaurants in Flores, our meal cost would top out at $30, for both of us, including a couple drinks each, but we also frequently visited the street food stalls that usually charge no more than $4 for a very fulfilling meal.
    • I haven’t kept perfect accurate records of our expenses, but I estimate that the last year of living has cost us about $15 000.  Bear in mind that this does include some travelling and staying in Air BnB’s, plus a flight from Costa Rica to Guatemala.  This is everything combined.  In Arnolds case, if he stayed in one place, and lived like the locals, he could likely get by on $7000-$10 000 per year.  Suddenly, with no bills to pay, and all of his debts paid off, Arnold’s $100 000 will go a seriously long way!
  4. “I am governed by my stuff……”
    • This is an all too familiar sentiment for so many people.  I myself was completely governed by my stuff.  And worse, I didn’t even realize it.  Watching the Minimalism documentary, opened my eyes up to the fact that my stuff was controlling my life.  I had spent years building up mountains of stuff all around me, yes I too wanted ‘the latest and greatest’ gadgets.  My life ran off of credit, house payments, loan payments, car payments……the list goes on and on.
    • After living for over a year with only what I can carry around with me, I can tell you with 100% authority that WE DO NOT NEED ALL THAT STUFF!  Sure you might need a few things here and there to make your life comfortable.  But in Arnolds case, he has 3 cars!  What does one person need 3 cars for?!  When we sold our cars back in Canada, we vowed never to own a money pit like that again!  It is one of the largest expenses that we have in the North!  Insurance, gas, car payments, maintenance…….it all adds up to being so much money!  Then when you go to sell it, it is worth basically nothing.
    • In the last year we have ridden on buses, tuk tuks, taxis and any other means of public transport.  When we can, we walk!  We haven’t walked as much in the last year as we have for most of our lives, I’m sure.  When walking isn’t an option, riding public transport is always affordable.  The people down here rely on these services because many of them certainly can’t afford a vehicle.  They are well used, and cheap!  There is no need for vehicles in any place that we have lived so far.  Sure, having a car would have made our lives a little easier in some spots, but we didn’t NEED one.  That is the difference.  Up north we buy things (whether we can afford them or not) because we WANT them, not because we NEED them.  It’s important to create this distinction for yourself and figure out what it is that you only NEED.  Get rid of the rest! Click here for my blog post about How to sell all of your things to travel full time. Even if travelling isn’t your end game, it will give you insights into how to tackle selling at least some of your possessions.
  5. “Had a business that made Millions. All gone. I just want simple.”
    • It is with sadness that I hear this.  Arnold obviously had a productive life back in his younger years.  Made lots of money, bought lots of stuff.  But where has that gotten him?  Here he is at the end of it all, saddled with debt, an overwhelming amount of stuff, and trying to figure out how to get himself out of it all. How many people have worked so hard their whole lives, just to get to this same place?
    • Well, I’m here to tell you that NO MATTER HOW OLD YOU ARE, it is NOT TOO LATE!  At 60 years old, Arnold hopefully has much time ahead of him.  But you know what?  None of us know just how much time that we have.  It is so important to take the steps to make you happy NOW!  Life is short, and we really need to make it count!  I can not STRESS this point enough!
    • After realizing that I had too much stuff, and also realizing that I constantly was trying to figure out ways that I could do more travelling, I FINALLY came to the conclusion that my stuff was getting in the way of it all.  If I wasn’t burdened with all the stuff, all the bills, all the RESPONSIBILITY, I could unplug from it all, and head out into the world to travel freely.  This realization was the single most important lightening bolt moment that I have ever had.  But the thing is, I acted on it!  I didn’t just sit there and feel sorry for myself.  I got busy!  I started selling things!  In a small amount of time, things snowballed and we kept at it.  And in 9 short months, we were heading off on a totally different adventure in life.
  6. “In a way I blame my parents generation.”
    • Yes, I can understand this sentiment.  Society has structured our lives in such a way that in order to succeed at life, we need to go to college, get a job, find a husband or wife, have kids, work our butts off, then retire.  I agree with Arnold, it is all BULLSHIT.  But you know what?  We can change the dialogue any time that we choose to.  WE can decide that we don’t want to live that way, and that alone is where our power is.
    • Having lived in Central America for the last 13 months, has taught me that there is much more to life than all of this.  Granted, nobody here can figure out why we don’t want kids…..but that’s a totally different story.  But no, here they know how to enjoy life.  If they need to work, they go out and find work.  If a restaurant owner is tired from partying the night before, they simply don’t open the next day.  If a group of men are sitting around on a porch on a Wednesday afternoon drinking, nobody questions it.  Nobody gets mad at the restaurant owner, they just go somewhere else.  Nobody wonders why the men aren’t working, it’s none of their business.
    • There is no pressure to be as busy as you can be.  There is no pressure to work yourself into exhaustion.  There is no pressure to ‘get a real job’.  People in this culture ENJOY their lives.  They live for the day, they live for the moment.  They don’t worry about some far off distant place called ‘retirement’.  If they feel like going fishing for a day to feed their family, instead of working to buy groceries, then they will do that instead.  The community spirit is strong, and neighbours support neighbours.  They work together to help each other if they need it, and everybody has SOMETHING to share with others, despite seeming like they have nothing at all.  It is a beautiful thing!

I know that Arnolds story is not unique.  I know that MILLIONS of people are feeling just like he is, in many parts of the world.  Trying to fit into societies standards has been a great undoing of the western worlds culture.  Until we realize that, individually, we need to live life to the fullest, be our happiest, and do what we love, the world will continue to dump its expectations on us, and we will continue to be over worked, over tired, and over run with anxiety and depression.

Buying stuff WILL NOT make us happier.  Having the latest and greatest gadgets WILL NOT make us happier.  Working our asses off and saving up for ‘retirement’ WILL NOT make us happier!  So don’t let it happen!

It is time that we all, individually, started living life to be happy.  Find something that fills your soul and try not to worry about the money.  If you put your best out into the world, you will be rewarded in some way.  Things will fall into place all around you, and you will be surprised by what life has to offer.  Be a role model for your friends!  Show them how life can really be lived!  Show them how they too can be happy and stress free!

Thank you Arnold, for writing me to let me know where you are at in your process.  And for all of you others out there, that are feeling the same way as Arnold, please don’t hesitate to share YOUR story with me.  I really do care about helping you to become a better version of yourself!  You can do it!  I know you can, and I am cheering you on 100%!


Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: Livingston, Guatemala

Travelling Plans: We are housesitting here until the beginning of January 2019.

To head back to the beginning of our journey, and the moment we decided to sell all of our possessions to travel the world, click here.

To see many travelling photos and to learn about where we are travelling, please follow our Facebook and Instagram accounts by clicking on the appropriate icon in the right hand column.

To learn about where I have previously traveled, visit my Countries Page.

To see all of my blog post headings on one page, (including all of the ones about letting our stuff go) head over to my Blog Post Menu.

To contribute to our Patreon account, please click here.

To learn about housesitting, please click here.

To email me directly, please do so anytime at jillamatt@me.com.

If you like my writing, and want to follow along on our journey, please put your email address in the right hand column to subscribe. That way all of my posts will go straight to your email inbox:)

The Feeling of Home

It makes me realize that home is what you make it.


Over the course of 9 months in 2017, my partner and I sold all of our possessions, including 2 vehicles, and a house full of stuff. In order to sell the house for its maximum value, we also completed 3 months of renovations that had been lingering for over 3 years. We wrapped up 2 businesses and left a town and tight knit community that we both cherished. We did all of this in order to seek out a life of freedom, away from the hustle and bustle of the 9-5 life, but most importantly, we did it so that we could travel. This is our story…….


After leaving Oaxaca, heading back to San Cristobal for 3 days, then returning to Flores, we feel like we have come home.  Chris even said at some point when we were in San Cristobal “We can do that when we get home.”  I laughed and he didn’t even realize what he had said.

But it’s true.  After spending the better part of 4 months here now, and making so many wonderful friends, we do feel like Flores is home, more so than any other place that we have been in the last year.

It makes me realize that home is what you make it.  Most of us focus so hard on creating that one space to call home.  We put all of our money and our efforts into creating that space, making it a representation of ourselves.  But what if we can create home wherever we go?

Although we did rent a ‘home’ here for 3 months, we are now staying in the Bar/Restaurant where we painted the murals.  They have 3 rooms here, and Chris has traded some tattoo work for the owner, in return for our accommodations (plus some cash on top!).  And even though we haven’t decorated it and bought lots of ‘stuff’ to fill the room, it is home, even if only temporarily.

Tomorrow we head off to a small town called El Remate.  Those that follow us will remember that we stayed there back in July before we headed up to the Tikal Ruins.  (Read that post here.) We are going back to meet with a man who owns a large retreat space on Lake Peten Itza.  We are scheming to organize an art retreat there. (Stay tuned for details!!)

After that we are headed to Rio Dulce for a couple nights to visit some friends of ours that are staying there.  Then, we will be travelling by riverboat to the water access only and Garifuna town of Livingston.  We will be housesitting in Livingston for 6 weeks.

Screenshot 2018-11-22 12.54.46Screenshot 2018-11-22 12.55.01Screenshot 2018-11-22 12.55.20

While we are sad to leave our ‘home’ of Flores once again, we are excited at the prospect of being settled again for a few weeks.  We always find that we are more creative, and more productive in our online business’ when we are static in one place for a few weeks.  And so, we look forward to seeing and discovering our new ‘home’ in the coming weeks.

As today is American Thanksgiving, I find it appropriate to express, once again, how thankful we are for this life that we have created.  Never a dull day goes by, and we are constantly inspired and excited by this life.


Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: Flores, Guatemala

Travelling Plans: Tomorrow we head to El Remate, then we are off to Rio Dulce and Livingston, Guatemala.

To head back to the beginning of our journey, and the moment we decided to sell all of our possessions to travel the world, click here.

To see many travelling photos and to learn about where we are travelling, please follow our Facebook and Instagram accounts by clicking on the appropriate icon in the right hand column.

To learn about where I have previously traveled, visit my Countries Page.

To see all of my blog post headings on one page, (including all of the ones about letting our stuff go) head over to my Blog Post Menu.

To contribute to our Patreon account, please click here.

To learn about housesitting, please click here.

To email me directly, please do so anytime at jillamatt@me.com.

If you like my writing, and want to follow along on our journey, please put your email address in the right hand column to subscribe. That way all of my posts will go straight to your email inbox:)