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Kayaking the Florida Everglades and The Bahamas – Part 2

Published March 29, 2017 by jillamatt

**This is a multi-part series about a trip that I did with my ex-husband in 2001-2002.  Unfortunately, I do not have access to my journals that I kept during this trip, so this is all from memory.  Some dates, places and timelines may be slightly skewed. **  If you would like to start from the beginning, click here.

 

The night before we left to kayak to, and through, the Everglades, we had taken out our marine chart book out to determine what our route would be, and to try and figure out how long it was going to take us to get across the Florida Bay to Flamingo.

Blackwater Sound has an almost impenetrable circle of mangroves around it. In looking at the charts, we realized that there is only one area where narrow channels would bring us out to Florida Bay, and the many islands that lead across to Flamingo, the entrance to the Everglades National Park.  Using my charting skills that I had learned on my previous sailing voyages, we did a rough estimation of the compass heading that we would need to follow, in order to access “The Boggies”, the name of the main channel.  It seemed easy enough, how hard could it be to find this passage?

Blackwater sound

The Boggies

The Boggies and the only access to Florida Bay.

However, I quickly realized that any thoughts I had about it being easy, were VERY wrong!

We had literally NO experience with Mangroves before, and had no idea that a small channel, like the one we were seeking, is easily disguised by the thick foliage.  Unless you are literally RIGHT AT IT, you cannot see these channels from any angle as the shoreline just blends into a tangled mess of brown and green.  Less than an hour of paddling our tandem kayak out to who knows where, we were already fighting and arguing because we couldn’t find this channel.  Seriously!

Looking back, this set the tone for the entire trip.  We argued more and yelled at each other more while we paddled that bloody kayak, it was a miracle that we managed to keep our relationship going.

Obviously, in the end, we finally managed to find it, but it took a really long time, and some slow meandering along the shoreline before we happened upon it.  This may have been our first lesson that this wasn’t going to be such a piece of cake as we thought.  Not to mention that my lower back and shoulder started to hurt almost immediately, and it took a few weeks for my body to sort out this new way of moving.

Blackwater Sound to North Nest Key

The top island on the left is North Nest Key

After popping out of Blackwater sound, and feeling much freer, we set our sights on North Nest Key where we were to camp for the first night.  North Nest key has an actual campground set up already, complete with a couple outhouses mounted on a dock.  This was our first experience with something like this, but soon realized that because they were emptied by boats, it made sense to have them out hanging over the water.  We had a fairly uneventful paddle there, after our ridiculous start that morning, and an uneventful first night as well.

first camsite

Our first campsite on North Nest Key.


dock at first campsite

Out houses on a dock. Complete with a birds nest on top! A small indication of the bird life that was to come!


first dinner

Spaghetti Dinner, first night.


Heading out

Getting ready to head out.  Note the shallow waters as far as the eye can see!

The next day we had our sights set on Flamingo.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure on the distance we had to cover that day, but things didn’t exactly go as planned anyways.

Because we were in a kayak, we felt that we could just paddle wherever we wanted to, as long as the water was a foot deep or so.  And so, instead of paddling in a somewhat straight line to Flamingo, which would have taken is into deeper water, we headed north/northwest, to get ourselves closer to the shoreline so that we could see some scenery on shore.

This turned out to be a bad idea.

As previously stated (and likely will be stated repeatedly throughout the course of this story), we had no idea what we were doing, so we paddled for a while in shallow seas that were likely about 2 feet deep.  However, they quickly turned to about 1 foot deep, which makes it incredibly difficult to get a full paddle in the water.  This forced us to do shallow paddles, which puts unneeded stress on the upper body, as you aren’t able to fully use your torso and leg muscles, to get those good, solid, deep paddles.

fishing

Our only prospect of a meal got thrown back!

We started to realize that at the rate we were going, Flamingo was a long way off. We’d been paddling for 6 hours or so at that point, and I was in full time complain mode as my lower back and shoulder were killing me, and the shallow paddling was making us both crazy, as each time you dipped your paddle in the water, even with shallow paddling, you would connect with the muddy bottom not too far below.

Norrth Nest Key to Shark Point

We paddled from North Nest Key on the far right, to Shark Point, the left hand finger on the left hand side of the photo.

So, after consulting our charts, and realizing that we were  both exhausted, we decided to hug the shoreline, and kept our eye out for a good place to pull in for the night.

On one long finger that stuck out into the bay, called Shark Point, we managed to spot a flat area, not much bigger than our tent,  that looked to be somewhat free of mangroves, and we figured that it was as good a place as any to pull up for the night.  We were just desperate to rest our weary bones, and we would complete our mission to get to Flamingo in the morning.

Shark Point

Shark Point on the left.  Since looking at the maps to write this, I see that there are roads to the ends of both of these points, and that Shark Point, now has a dedicated camping “Chickee”. Chickees are man made camping platforms that will be introduced in the next chapter. 

As we pulled into shore, the water was incredibly murky, and we knew that we were going to have to step out of the kayak, into the muck below, in order to get our boat to the shoreline.  It was daunting to say the least.  We knew there were saltwater crocodiles in these parts, but had no idea where, and the thick foliage and other icky things, was all mixed into the muddy soup that we were about to dip our delicious looking white calves into.  Are there Piranhas in Florida? I think we both did a sharp inhale and braced ourselves emotionally before we took that step.

There was a stiff breeze blowing as we pulled our boat up out of the water, and set up our tent.  We made a quick meal and then hung out in the tent for the night.  After all, we were surrounded in thick mangrove foliage all around, and there was really no place to explore.  Not to mention I think we were both very uncomfortable with where we were camping, and felt safer in the tent, like it acted as some sort of invisible barrier to whatever lurked outside.  Little did we know how important our barrier would be!

At some point, after dark, the wind died down and we started to hear a soft humming sound.  It seemed to amplify and get louder, and we couldn’t, for the life of us figure out what it could be.  Were there power lines in the area??  That was the only logical conclusion to the constant humming that we heard.  We really had NO IDEA what it could be and we both slept fitfully that night, with many uncertainties about this strange land and it’s strange creatures surrounding us, running through our minds.

When we awoke the next morning, we were instantly aware of what the humming sound had been.  MOSQUITOES!

Because the wind had been blowing when we pulled in, the mosquitoes had been kept at bay.  However, as soon as the wind died down, they smelled fresh blood, and had been buzzing our tent all night long, likely desperate to get at us.

The only thing that separated us from the 30 or so mosquitoes on our tent, was a very thin mesh.  We hadn’t put our water proof fly sheet on the night before, as there was no forecast of rain, and no need for privacy.  So we laid there face to face with these beasts as they patiently waited for us to come out of our barrier.  We thought that maybe if it got too hot, they would eventually go away.  Or maybe the wind would start up again and blow them all to their hiding places amongst the mangroves.  We waited and waited for what seemed like eternity, until Jamie finally decided that he was going to make a break to the kayak to grab some food.  How bad could it really be??  There were about 30 mosquitoes attached to our tent screen at any given time, surely he could withstand a few stings in the minute or so it would take to grab a couple things to eat.

So we hatched a plan, he would open the zipper and run out quick, as I zipped it closed behind him.

Okay, no problem, this was going to be a piece of cake.

So, in one foul swoop, Jamie unzipped the door and jumped out. The buzzing instantly amplified, and  within a split second, there were AT LEAST 40 mosquitoes now zipped up INSIDE the tent, and Jamie was already screaming “Let me in! Let me in!”

He figured he had been stung about 30 times in that second, and I had my fair share too!  He came barging back in, bringing with him a new wave of mosquitoes, while we both screamed bloody murder.  I’m sure if ANYONE had been within even 100 km of us, they would have thought somebody was indeed getting murdered.  It may very well have been the most frantic second of my entire life thus far.

We spent the next few minutes squishing mosquitoes and smearing them along the inside of the tent walls, all of them filled with fresh blood!

We sat in our tent breathless, and took some time to get ourselves back together physically and emotionally, so we could figure out how the hell we were going to get out of here.

But first, we were still hungry and really needed something to eat.  We were determined to get some food back to the tent so that we could hang out and figure out, with rational minds and full bellies, our escape plan.

We finally decided that if Jamie covered himself with sleeping bags, blankets, towels, sarongs and whatever else we had in the tent, he could shuffle to the kayak and just grab anything that was on top, and then run back as quick as possible.  The kayak was only about 10 feet away, so it was definitely doable.

And so, amidst another wave of mosquitoes flocking INTO the tent, more ridiculous screaming at the top of my lungs, and more sustained mosquito stings for both of us, he managed to bring back some small staples that fed us substantially for the moment.  I seem to remember crackers, or something like that.

As we sat there helpless, watching them flitter back and forth, bouncing around on the mesh of the tent, and smearing their sisters and their (our) blood across the inner tent walls, we finally satisfied our hunger, and came up with another plan.

It was now about noon, and we didn’t see an end to these things.  I’m sure you are wondering how we went to the bathroom amongst all of this.  And I can honestly say that I don’t remember, and can only assume that we peed into a water bottle or something, as there was NO WAY that we would have been able to leave the tent to do so.  We realized at this point, that the 30 mosquitoes that were dancing around on our tent, obviously had MANY other sisters lurking in the grasses, just waiting patiently to feast on the fresh meat they could sense was nearby.

We also knew, from growing up camping around lakes etc. back in Canada, that bugs usually stick to the shoreline, and don’t venture out into the water very far.  So we knew that if we could just get our stuff on the boat, and push off, even 30 feet from shore, we would be free of these things, and then could sort our gear out once we got out there.

So, we came up with a detailed game plan, complete with tasks for each one of us, that would allow us to literally just jump out the door, collapse the poles of the tent, bundle it up as much as possible with everything in it, throw it onto the kayak, and then just push off.

This is what we did.

After about a minute of franticness, with both of us fiercely determined to get out of there alive, we managed to complete our plan with not a word to each other.  We were like robots, in total survival mode, and adrenaline coursing through our veins.  Mosquitoes stung us in every orifice, through whatever clothing we had on, and over every inch of our exposed skin.  I will never forget the feeling of small darts poking me in my butt cheek, right through my bathing suit and thin shorts that I was wearing.  Never in my life had I been stung by a mosquito on my tender white butt skin!

We heaved the kayak into the water and pushed off as hard as possible.  Within 30 seconds, we were blissfully floating out on the water, with nary a mosquito to be seen.  Although the top of our kayak was piled high with our belongings, the peace that washed over us was wonderful, and we took a minute to soak it in before we both erupted in uncontrollable laughter.

We looked at each other with wide open eyes and a look that can only be described as; Holy Shit!  We had heard that the bugs could be bad in the Everglades, but never in our wildest dreams, or nightmares, could we have imagined that.

We were in awe, we were in disbelief, we were amazed and we were humbled.  We had nothing but utter respect for the power of the bugs in this strange land where we found ourselves.  And finally, us 2 naive Canadian kids, now knew the answer to the question of how bad the bugs could be.

THEY WERE BAD!  Bad, in the biggest, baddest sense of the word!

It was a valuable lesson learned, early in the trip, and one that would stick with us for the next three weeks as we navigated the waters of the Everglades.

*Thanks for reading!  Stay tuned for Part Three of our adventure, coming soon!*

*My boyfriend and I are currently transitioning from a “normal” life to that of an adventurous one!  We are selling everything to head out into the world to make traveling a priority in our lives.  If you are interested in reading about our letting go process, please read my first post here.*

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March 23, 2017 – Regret

Published March 23, 2017 by jillamatt

***Jill’s ‘letting go’ Diary***

This is part of a series of posts (ordered by Dated Titles) where I am recording my thoughts and emotions as we tackle getting rid of all of our possessions.  From the day that I came up with this idea, to sell everything and travel the world, I have recorded my thoughts on certain days where I feel like writing.  These are real time, and not edited (except for grammatical corrections.) 

As I pondered a topic for this blog post this morning, I thought about the number one word that has stuck out to me over the last couple weeks.  That word has been REGRET.

Most importantly this word is included in sentences about selling our house.  “I hope you don’t regret selling your house.”  I have heard it time and time again, and my response has started to be “I don’t really live with regret, so I’m not really worried that I will regret this.”

I suppose I am fortunate in that I haven’t lived a life full of regret.  I am keenly aware that every moment of our lives, has transpired into where we are today.  And I suppose, that if I was in a place where I was utterly unhappy, then I guess regret may play a more prominent role.  But, even through the trials and tribulations that I have had in my life,  I have mostly chosen a happy path.  Whenever I start to find myself in an unhappy situation, I know that it is time to change things up, and I realize that it is time to go out and find what it is that makes me happy.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always roses.  I’ve had many things that have happened in my life that I consider to be failures.  Failed businesses, a failed marriage, failed friendships.  Sometimes I just FEEL like an utter failure, and sometimes the unhappiness creeps in when I’m not looking, and I find myself in a bit of a rut before I have some major breaking point that snaps me out of it.

But, the point IS, is that I do eventually snap out of it!

__

I’ll never forget an experience that I had when I was kayaking in the Bahamas at the age of 24.  (Some of you will have already read part one of this adventure!  If not, read here.)  My ex husband and I were paddling a chain of islands called the Exumas.  There were a few fresh water cisterns that dotted the islands, and were indicated on our marine charts, but they were usually quite brackish and didn’t look very appetizing.

We had with us 2 collapsible 5 gallon water jugs.  When we ran out of one of them, we usually got antsy about getting more water.  So we would look at our Marine Charts, and would figure out where the closest popular boat anchorage was located.  Most boats had mechanisms to desalinate (ie. remove salt) from their water, so they could use ocean water for drinking, which vastly reduces the need to fill up cargo space with water.

We would simply paddle up to boats and start chatting with sailors, and as soon as they heard what we were up to, they would generally not only offer to fill our water up, they would also offer to give us food.  Now, this was never our plan, to get more food, but if someone offered, we sure weren’t going to say no.

On a side note here: Sailors, and the sailing community in general, have got to be the most community minded and helpful group of people there is on the planet.  Never have I experienced a large group of people who are so eager to help out one another, that they literally clamber at the opportunity. 

One boat in particular had an older gentleman that was so intrigued by us.  In the course of us staying in one spot for about 5 days, he would repeatedly come and find us on the beach where we were camping, just to chat and ask us questions.  The last day we saw him, we had paddled over to his boat, as he had told us that he had some food and stuff that he wanted to give us before we continued on our journey.  We paddled up to his beautiful trawler and he stood above us with his hands on the railing.

He was a man that appeared to have everything.  A beautiful boat, nice things, an easy life.  But when we pulled up to his boat, he looked down at us with the most sorrowful eyes I think I have ever seen, and said, “Boy, did I ever live my life backwards.  I worked my butt off my whole life so that I could retire and do what you are doing now.  But never once did I consider that by the time I retired, I would be too old to do the things I wanted to do in my twenties.  You guys are really doing it right.”

I get chills even now when I think of this experience in my past.  The regret in his eyes in that moment, pierced my soul.  It subconsciously became a marker of how I have lived my life, and I believe was instrumental in helping to shape the person that I am today.  It has made me fearless in trying new things, with re-inventing myself when I feel like it is time, with always moving forward, and never regretting my decisions in the past.

And so, as we move through this phase of our lives, we will not look back.  We will not regret.  We will launch out into the world completely open and vulnerable, BUT safe in the knowing that whatever is out ahead, is far more exciting than what we have left behind, and NO MATTER WHAT, our lives will be better for it.

And let’s not forget the most important thing of all:

A house, is simply, just a house.

Our lives, and what we put into them, is everything!

** Thanks for reading!  This is part of a larger group of blog posts about us letting go of all of our possessions to go traveling.  If you would like to read from the beginning, click here.**

To learn about where I have previously traveled, click here.

To see my blog post menu, click here.

 

Kayaking the Florida Everglades and The Bahamas-Part 1

Published March 22, 2017 by jillamatt

**This is a multi-part series about a trip that I did with my ex-husband in 2001-2002.  Unfortunately, I do not have access to my journals that I kept during this trip, so this is all from memory.  Some dates, places and timelines may be slightly skewed. **

As Jamie and I pushed off from the sandy beach behind the kayak store in Key Largo, my parents stood on the shore and waved to us.

It was a surreal moment.

We had never kayaked before, but the guy at the Kayak shop assured us that we were buying the “Cadillac” of tandem touring kayaks, a Current Design Libra XT.

Most of our hatches were stuffed with brand new gear that was first stuffed into black garbage bags.

We literally had no idea what we were doing, but we had a plan!

South Carolina

We had arrived in the States a couple months earlier, shortly after 911.  It was October 2001.  We had worked our butts off all summer in anticipation of a winter of fun and adventure.  A family friend and his wife had purchased a72 foot sailboat that not only needed some serious repairs, but it also needed 2 new masts to be built!  The captain of the boat told us that if we came down there to work with them on the repairs, we could sail with them down to Florida, and crew for them on their planned charters from Miami to the Bahamas.

It sounded like a good gig.  We were in our early 20’s and were always looking for adventure.

We flew into Charleston, South Carolina.  Immediately, we were shocked by the presence of Army and Marine personnel at all of our travel stops.  Coming from Canada, the west side at that, we were a fair distance away from what had happened on that fateful day in New York.  The gravity of the event hung heavy in the air everywhere, but we had seen no physical evidence that anything had changed, until we touched down in the States.  As we sat in bus stops, we eyed up the soldiers that were headed off to Afghanistan.  Off to fight George Bush’s war.  They were our ages. They were young, full of vigor, with a huge life ahead of them.  The reality of what they were up to was not lost on us.  We were both thankful that we weren’t in their shoes, and happy to be heading off into a winter of fun and adventure.

Beaufort map

We arrived in Beaufort, a small town on the ocean, where “Paradise” had sat literally rotting for many years.  The boat, a 72 foot ketch, had been neglected by the previous owner.  Having lost both masts in a storm, he had managed to limp it back to the dock, where he lived on it for many years, never taking it out to sea again.  He also didn’t take care of it at all, or take it OUT of the water, meaning that the new owner, our Skipper, had to put it in dry dock to rid it of years of marine build up.  Apparently the above decks leaked so bad, we were told, that on rainy days it was a constant run around trying to keep the many buckets from overflowing that were catching the dripping water from above.  Thank fully most of the miserable work that was done on the hull, and the leaking decks, was completed before we arrived.

Beaufort close up

Beaufort is nestled in a vast network of waterways that line the shore of the Carolinas. 

 

Paradise

Paradise docked just outside of Beaufort, South Carolina

By the time we got there, Paradise was out of dry dock, and back in the water.  It was located in a prime spot next to a giant metal building, which was the perfect housing to build a couple masts.  The dockyard reminded me of where Forest started the Bubba Gump shrimp company from.  In fact, I would not be surprised one bit if the film was filmed right in that area!

We met some seriously interesting characters from our little marine perch.  One guy, his name was Jerry, came down to the dock almost every day, and was always maneuvering large pallets of bags that looked like dog food.  Jamie finally went to talk to him one day, and found out that it was actually bags of monkey food!  Just off shore, there was an island that held captive a society of monkeys.  Unfortunately for them, they were akin to lab rats, as they were used to test pharmaceuticals for future human use.  This was definitely an eye opener for us small town Canadians.  There were rumours that places like this existed, but not once did we think they actually did!  And certainly not in the United States!  I laugh now at how naïve we humans are as young adults.

monkey food

Monkey Food!

Jerry was in charge of feeding the monkeys, and we enjoyed listening to his Southern Twang as he regaled the most hilarious stories of his encounters with them.  However, it wasn’t all good news as many of them were very sick, likely from whatever they were being given for the “testing.”   We decided that it was best to not ask too many questions.

We had some great food, and a large share of shrimp for sure!  Some days we ate feasts of crab as fisherman would come in with their catches, and throw up a basket of claws just for us.  Nights like this were heaven!  We would feast on crab, garlic butter, and nothing else and just feel like life could never get better.Crab claws

Most of our days were spent working on the boat, but the odd time, we were able to escape into Beaufort, and even managed a short road trip to Savannah, Georgia.  We were fascinated with the Deep South.  The architecture is grand and moss hangs off the trees like long wisps of witches hair.  We vowed that someday we would return.

spanish moss

The streets of Savannah, Georgia

After a few weeks of some serious elbow grease, and the erection of 2 brand new masts, Paradise was ready for the trip to Florida.  She was all shined up with a nice paint job and a new beautiful blue stripe.  We never did get around to stringing any sails, so we knew that we would be motoring to Florida.

masting paradise

Stepping the Mizzen Mast

masting paradise 2

Stepping the Main Mast

ratlines

Hanging the Rat Lines!

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On the day we had decided to leave, they were announcing a small craft warning on the weather reports.  Typically this means, to many sailors, that it isn’t necessarily safe to go out in the open water,  but apparently our Skipper decided that we were bigger than a ‘small craft’, and wanted to get going, so get going we did.

sparkling paradise

All cleaned up and ready for the voyage!

heading to sea

Adios Beaufort!

We headed out around 3:00 in the afternoon, and had barely left port when the Captain asked Jamie to go down to the engine room to check on something.  We were motoring straight into the waves that were pounding down on us, making it feel like we were riding a bucking bronco.  Most sailors know that this motion is NOT good for those who may get sea sick.  Jamie had never really been out in the open ocean, save for one experience in the Whitsunday Islands in Australia, not nearly the same experience as taking a head on beating by the wide open Atlantic Ocean.  Well, sure enough, within a couple minutes of him coming back up, he announced that he didn’t “feel that good.”

For 3 days we bounced along the coast, past Georgia and into Florida.  Jamie was a puddle on the salon floor for the majority of that trip.  We encountered some pretty interesting seas, but I had recently been part of a program for students called Class Afloat.  It’s truly a story for another day, but we essentially sailed around the world on a 188 foot tall ship, from the West Coast of Canada, to the East Coast…..the long way around.

I’m sure what I experienced at sea on that trip, had made this trip pretty easy for me.  I had seen a lot of crazy seas in that year, and this wasn’t really that bad.South Carolina to Florida

Florida 

We all took turns on watch duty.  It was supposed to be by couples.  Each couple would do 4 hours on, 4 hours off, so we could cruise non-stop through night and day.  By  the morning of day 3, the day that we arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, Jamie’s seasickness finally abated and he joined me on deck for the final watch duty.  I’m sure we were a sight for sore eyes as the rusty streaks, where metal had met seawater (and of which we didn’t know about until we got off the boat), melted down the side of our nice white paint job.   We caught our first glimpses of the city as we slowly maneuvered down the inland marine canals that connect everything together, like roads do in most cities navigating amongst multi-million dollar yachts and mansions that lined the water ways.

Ft. Lauderdale waterways

Back “alleys” were waterways that held the yachts.

Ft. Lauderdale opulenceFt. Lauderdale 2

Most mega mansions on shore, had equally extravagant mega yachts tied up in front of them.  Many of them also had multi car garages, and in one case, as told by a water taxi driver, the house had a 6 car garage, with a lift in each bay, meaning that they could store 12 vehicles in there!  And let me tell you, we saw some of these vehicles (accent on the plural), and they were nothing to sneeze at either!  The place was literally dripping in money!

Yup, we certainly WERE NOT in Beaufort anymore!

We anchored our boat (that was now coined a “rust bucket”), in a small 24 hour anchorage in Ft. Lauderdale, for what seemed like TWO WEEKS (although I can’t say how long it was for sure.)  Eventually we got kicked out of that spot, and had to go somewhere else, so the skipper opted to tie up at a dock for a night or two, then we would go back to the anchorage again for a bit.  We worked on the boat some more, trying like mad to get it looking good and ready for our first charter.

jill grinding decks

Grinding the Decks in Ft. Lauderdale

Finally, the big day came!  Our guests had arrived to charter the boat, and we were off to the Bahamas!

Florida to Bahamas Map

Nassau is the capital of the Bahamas.  It encompasses the entire chain of islands you see here. 

It was only a, really quick, week long trip, but we had a lot of fun. The clients were great, and although the deck was still leaking, (despite our many attempts to seal all holes), we managed to keep a solid rotation of dry sheets, at least keeping the beds comfortable below decks.  I’ll admit that it was a little rough, and at least one of our guests, a dainty blonde, was definitely not quite up to the adventure that this trip provided.  However, in the end, it was a great trip and a great introduction to the Bahamas for us.

rusted boat bahamas

I took very few pics on this first trip over.

The Bahamas is basically a series of sand bars, only 40 nautical miles off the South Eastern coast of Florida.  Because the land is very low lying, 207 feet at the highest point (Mount Alvernia), there is zero run off into the ocean.  The lack of sediment makes the water in the Bahamas some of the most perfect, clear, turquoise waters on the planet.  Couple this with its spectacular white sand beaches, and a whole different kind of Paradise was born.   It was love at first sight and we yearned for more.  But alas, it was not meant to be, we had to return our guests to the safety of the mainland so that they could get back to their normal lives.

When we got back to the hustle and bustle of Ft. Lauderdale, we were told that the next charter wasn’t for another few weeks.  We lauded the thought of hanging out in Ft. Lauderdale, the land of expensive things, for that long.

And so, shortly after hearing this news, Jamie and I decided that we were finished with our time on Paradise (the boat that is.)  Not only were we dreading staying in Ft. Lauderdale that long, multiple weeks of living in cramped quarters had taken its toll, and we had started to not see eye to eye with the Captain and his wife.  In short, it was time to move on.  Besides, we had the whole winter to travel, and it was only the beginning of December!

As we sat on the aft deck one evening, bobbing in the water in the center of the city, we hatched a plan.  We decided that we were going to cut our ties with Paradise, rent a car and head down to the Florida Keys to do some exploring.  I think we talked briefly about doing some kayaking, but we really had no idea what was to come.

Within a couple days, we were headed south.

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Key Largo is the first major city in the Florida Keys.  Right away we found a kayak shop that backed directly on to the Blackwater Sound, and Florida Bay beyond that.

Blackwater sound

The kayak shop backed onto the Blackwater Sound.  The ring around the outside is a thick wall of mangroves, and there was one tiny passageway through to get out to Florida Bay. 

Florida Bay Map

Note Everglades National Park in Green.

 

We immediately were drawn to the idea of kayaking around.  There was water everywhere and we just wanted to get in it!  Besides, we were on a budget.  What a better way to save money traveling then to cut out transportation costs all together!

After chatting with the staff in the shop, and having them show us the beautiful used “Cadillac” kayak that they had for sale, our idea was formed.  We were going to go kayaking in the Florida Everglades!  After purchasing a chart book and figuring that we could just paddle across the Florida Bay to get to Flamingo, the gateway to the Everglades, our plan was set.

We spent the next 3-4 days running around the keys, stopping in at Marine Shops to purchase a GPS, hand held radio, and any other boating stuff that we figured we needed.  We also grabbed as much camping gear as we could afford, which was not much more than the bare bones basics.  Not knowing a thing about kayaking, we stuffed all of our newly purchased gear into a few black garbage bags (those dry bags are expensive!), and then hastily stuffed them into our water tight hatches.  Who needs dry bags when your hatches are water tight!?

We were greener than green.  I laugh today, some 17 years later, at how astonishingly brave we were.  There was no talking any sense into us.  We had made a decision, and that was it.  How hard could it be?  We could learn to kayak WHILE we were kayaking right!?  No problem!  We HAD this!

Coincidentally, my dad had some business in Miami around this time.  Obviously they wanted to see what we were up to, so they drove down the keys to connect with us.  We hadn’t told them of our plan yet, although they knew that we were finished with Paradise.  I worried a bit about their reaction to the whole thing, but in fact, it seemed as though they were supportive.  My parents have had their share of adventures in their lives, so I never did hear any comments about trying to get us to change our minds, or asking us why we were doing this.  They just quietly allowed us to navigate this crazy plan that we had while simultaneously doing whatever it was that they could to help us along.  I’m sure, as they helped us push off from that Beach, on that December day, they must have wondered, at least momentarily, if they would ever see us again.

pushing off to the everglades

All loaded up and ready to go!

 

*Thanks for reading!  Stay tuned for Part two of our adventure, coming soon!*

*My boyfriend and I are currently transitioning from a “normal” life to that of an adventurous one!  We are selling everything to head out into the world to make traveling a priority in our lives.  If you are interested in reading about our letting go process, please read my first post here.*

March 12, 2017 – Overwhelm

Published March 12, 2017 by jillamatt

***Jill’s ‘letting go’ Diary***

This is part of a series of posts (ordered by Dated Titles) where I am recording my thoughts and emotions as we tackle getting rid of all of our possessions.  From the day that I came up with this idea, to sell everything and travel the world, I have recorded my thoughts on certain days where I feel like writing.  These are real time, and not edited (except for grammatical corrections.) 

Well, 2 months into our decision to sell everything and go traveling, has brought with it a general theme of “overwhelm”.

Overwhelm, according to dictionary.com has a few similar, yet different, meanings.  The 2 that seem to apply to my current situation are;

  1. to cover or bury beneath a mass of something, as floodwaters, debris, or an avalanche; submerge
  2. to overcome completely in mind or feeling

I have made roughly $4000 selling our stuff, and we STILL don’t feel like we have really scratched the surface.  When I look around and think about all the other stuff we still need to either sell or purge, I get a feeling of overwhelm wash over me.  “Will we ever get through all of this stuff?” The thought runs through my mind on a daily basis, and to make matters worse, this thought is generally followed with “This is exhausting, how much longer can I keep this up?”

messy space 2

An overwhelmingly messy work bench!


Messy SPace

This area has already been purged of AT LEAST half of it’s stuff!

My days are spent working, eating, sleeping and selling!  I find myself dreaming up every angle to try and rid myself of stuff, but get some money for it in return.  For example, this weekend I volunteered at a local event called “Seedy Saturday”.  I am the treasurer for a local organization that supports all things food related, mostly focusing on Food Sustainability in our region.  So, I was manning our booth at Seedy Saturday and found myself looking around the house for related items that I could sell at my table.  I ended up taking 2 gardening books with me, and sold them both for $35.

I have been sharing items from my albums on Crafters’ Buy/Sell pages, and local Clothing Buy/Sell pages, and any others that I deem appropriate.  All of these angles are working, but the time put into making sure I line up the pick ups and drop offs, people who want to try things on, and answering random questions, is definitely a feat to behold.

Through all of this, I have started to notice that although it all feels chaotic and crazy, I realized that some weird side of me ENJOYS it!

I definitely pride myself on performing well in pressure cooker situations.  I can multitask like it’s nobodies business, and the things I can accomplish in short amounts of time when I put my mind to it, sometimes is staggering.

Realizing this, and sort of stepping outside my body to look in, has me wondering how this is all going to look when I get to where I’m going.

Who am I without the constant chaos of life?  Who am I without having to be busy all the time?  Who am I without any major responsibilities?  Who am I without having to check my bank balance all the time to keep up with the constant rotation of bills that cross my desk?

What will my day look like when I have no bills to worry about, no meetings to attend, no schedule to keep?

Quite frankly, I am a little terrified of this life that I am working towards.

Since as long as I can remember I have been busy!  Anytime anyone asks me how I am doing, the answer usually has “keeping busy” attached to it somehow.

Lately I have been having visions of our last day here.  Of driving away from this life and this town that I have spent 11 years cultivating.  Of walking away with nothing, having left all of it behind.  Of seeing the future laid out before us with unlimited options.

It is an exciting feeling, but it is also a very overwhelming feeling.  Is too many options a bad thing?  Is this what tricks our mind plays on us when we leave this crazy path to seek out something unknown?

Is overwhelm a distraction that we create to keep us from living a more peaceful existence?  Does it stop us from accomplishing the things we really want to do in life?

Will the lack of overwhelm in my life, FINALLY be what I need to accomplish my goals, to live the life that I have only dreamed of?

I suppose there is only one way to find out!

One step at a time, focused on the goal, deep breaths…………..

** Thanks for reading!  This is part of a larger group of blog posts about us letting go of all of our possessions to go traveling.  If you would like to read from the beginning, click here.**

To learn about where I have previously traveled, click here.

overwhelm quote

 

 

March 2, 2017 – Inspire

Published March 3, 2017 by jillamatt

***Jill’s ‘letting go’ Diary***

This is part of a series of posts (ordered by Dated Titles) where I am recording my thoughts and emotions as we tackle getting rid of all of our possessions.  From the day that I came up with this idea, to sell everything and travel the world, I have recorded my thoughts on certain days where I feel like writing.  These are real time, and not edited (except for grammatical corrections.) 

Well, here we are, week 7 after making this decision.  So much has already changed for us.  Our money situation has turned around (partly from not spending any, and partly from selling our stuff), we are happier, we are focused, and we truly both feel like we have less on our shoulders.  It’s like we had been holding our breathe, and we are finally able to exhale.

A couple things have dawned on me in the last couple weeks.

Number One is that we belong to an incredible community of people!

It’s not that I didn’t know it before, but I think that because I am in a different head space with everything now, I am able to step back and take a look IN to my life, rather than always looking out.

We live in a small town on the West Coast of Canada called Powell River.  Population 12 000.  The “city” services about 20 000 people in total, the balance coming from the neighbouring small islands and areas north and south of town.  It is a ferry dependent area, meaning that there are no roads in or out, but we are still located on the North America mainland.  I have been here for about 11 years, and I always say that it’s just the right size; not too small so that EVERYONE knows your business, but small enough that you can go shopping and run into people you know, making you feel like you are indeed part of a community.

It dawned on me the other day that when we are traveling, we will no longer belong to such a tight knit community, instead we will be part of a much larger community.  I am excited about the new friendships that we will form with locals from other countries, but also with fellow travelers and expats abroad.  Make no mistake, I will surely miss what I have cultivated here, but as somebody pointed out to me the other day “If you ever want to come back, your community will be here for you.”

Quite frankly it brought a tear to my eye, and I again realized in that moment how lucky we are to be part of such a wonderful community of people.

I also realized that the amount of things that I am selling is directly related to the fact that we are well known, and clearly, liked, in our community.  If we didn’t know anybody, and had not been involved in the different things we are, we surely wouldn’t be able to move as many possessions as we have been.  When friends buy our things, I like to see it as an offering of support.  Don’t get me wrong, they are purchasing some good stuff at some very good deals, but I feel as though it is also their way of helping us along, and supporting us in our dream.  Of course, this is what any good community will do, support and uplift us when it is needed.

Number Two is that we are INSPIRING people!

This hit me hard one day as I received a message from a friend in town that said that they ‘needed’ to come by and talk to us about what we are up to.  They were excited and intrigued by this grand plan.  Many people have said that what we are doing is inspiring, but I don’t think I really realized that I was actually INSPIRING them.

We have had a few reports of friends and family members that are now starting to clear some of their clutter, to reduce burdens in their life. Whether it is the realization that they too can make some extra money to help them along, or deciding that they also need to clear some clutter, we have helped to move them in this positive direction by what we are doing here.

I can’t express enough how happy this makes me!  I have always heard that as humans, the best way we can change the world is by living true to ourselves, and following our dreams.  Leading by example shows others what is possible, and this, in turn, changes the world.

How Exciting!

And so, we will continue to do what we are doing, moving ever closer to our goal.  Bit by bit we will get there, bit by bit we will inspire others, and bit by bit we will change ourselves, which in turn will change the world.

** Thanks for reading!  This is part of a larger group of blog posts about us letting go of all of our possessions to go traveling.  If you would like to read from the beginning, click here.**

To learn about where I have previously traveled, click here.

first-day-of-the-rest

 

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