A Glimpse of the Costa Rican Highlands

Our house was perfect! We giggled with joy as we scoured every corner and checked it all out.


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…….


Just a warning, this post is a long one!!!  Read on…….

As we bumped along the dusty road to El Silencio, my heart leapt with excitement at a new adventure, a new place to explore.

We had been house, dog(s) (4 in total) and cabina sitting right smack on the beach in Matapalo, Costa Rica, for the past 4.5 months.

We had met Joseph, in Matapalo.  He is a mutual friend of other friends back in Canada that we connected with, and made fast friends.  He would come down to visit us once in a while, getting out of the mountains for beach days and a swim.  Over the course of our knowing him, we had discussed many times that we would love to come and help him out with his property as he transforms it into a retreat of sorts.  After having been lazy blobs on the beach for so long, we were ready for some hard work and exercise.

Having now finished our time in Matapalo, Joseph’s was our next planned stop, and we were now traveling with him, back into the mountains, back into the jungle.   The road we were travelling on connects El Silencio and the main highway, and is unpaved and very bumpy.  This is a normal road in Costa Rica once you leave the tourist tracks.  We wove back through thousands of acres of Palm Tica palm trees that line the valley of the Savegre River and beyond.  Palma Tica is a monopoly palm oil producer in Costa Rica, and possibly throughout Central America.  I was told by a local that the oil plant had been in the area for possibly 50 years or more, but he couldn’t remember how long, because it as been more than his whole life.

As we arrive in Silencio, the road turns to pavement to give some relief to vehicles, at least for the length of it’s downtown core, which is less than a kilometre I’m sure. We were told that originally there was only 21 houses that lined this road, 21 original houses that made up the whole town.  I squealed inside with delight at how cute that was.  And here I thought I grew up in a small town!

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Just as the pavement starts though, Joseph takes a hard right down another gravel road. At this juncture it is becoming obvious that we really ARE heading into the mountains.  Immediately the foliage increases, the road narrows and starts to degrade, more and more as we drive down it.  Joseph puts his truck into 4×4 on these roads, although there are also locals who drive it in their Sedans on a regular basis, I have to say that my vote is to have a vehicle capable of 4×4.  These roads are no joke on vehicles!

As we wind down into the river basin, Joseph prepares to drive across the river bed, a regular crossing along his route home.  There are no car bridges in this area, just a man bridge that will take motorbikes, and people walking.  At this time of year, the peak of the dry season, this river bed is down to a trickle, barely reaching the hubcap.  But in the rainy season, this river can become a raging torrent with little notice, which makes it impossible to drive across at least a couple times per year.

Tiny little Costa Rican homes pop up along our route.  Simple homes, not much more than walls and a roof on some of them.  Friendly faces wave and locals walk back and forth along the road announcing “Buenas” or “Ola”, sometimes “Puravida” as we drive by.

We are to rent a house from Josephs closest neighbour, a Tico family that lives a bit less than a km from him.  Their matriarch of the family had been living in a house high on the top of a hill, overlooking the road down below.  In her 70th year, she decided that she didn’t want to climb up and down the hill to get to her home anymore. So she moved down to road level, and the house has been vacant for the couple years ever since.

In January, Joseph had friends from Canada rent it and try it out.  We had spoken to them about it, and they had enjoyed their stay there, so we decided to give it a whirl.  At a price of $60/week, it’s hard to turn down such an opportunity to try out living in a truly traditional Tico house, back in the jungle none-the-less.

The plan was to come and hang out with Joseph for a few weeks and do some work on his property, plus experience life in the mountains for a bit.  He has 32 acres of some of the most pristine jungle you have ever seen, and is currently cultivating it to become a retreat of sorts in the future.  Originally from Canada, Joseph has lived down here for over 2.5 years now.  We had visited his property a couple of other times since we arrived down here, and fell in love with the possibilities and potential that his land offered.

Our house was perfect!  We giggled with joy as we scoured every corner and checked it all out.  It was almost as simple as they come, tile floors, wooden walls, and definitely NOT bug proof.  No screens on the windows and huge gaps at the top of the walls to outside, made that pretty obvious.  Not to mention that the upstairs balcony was wide open, as was the entire top floor, at least the top 1/3 of the walls anyways.

 

We didn’t think much of it honestly, and after deciding that it would be best to protect ourselves from bugs, rodents and snakes at night by just setting up our tent on the bed and sleeping in it instead of a mosquito net, we felt comfortable staying there.  I can’t tell you how nice it was to crawl in there at night and be 100% sure that nothing was going to get us.  We both decided that we aren’t cut out for full time life in the Jungle, just a glimpse was enough for us sissies!

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The first few days were spent getting to know the area.  It was a 2km or so walk into the main part of town where there was one store and one hotel and restaurant.  Our house had what we needed to cook food, so we mostly just shopped in the small store for the duration and cooked for ourselves.  We did however have a couple meals at the restaurant, and even stayed in the hotel one night on our 5 year anniversary!  The restaurant was also our number one go to place for wifi, so we would slink into town every couple days to check for emails or Etsy orders and use that as an excuse to have a couple beers each time.  Hehe.

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Beautiful sunsets from the restaurant!

During our first few days that we spent time up at Josephs, we went to his swimming holes, and explored the area.  In no time at all we were feeling very at home and really enjoying our new location.  At night, the hills literally sung with many indescribable sounds, birds, bugs and who knows what else, would sing their hearts out all night long.  Safe in the comfort of our tent , we would listen to the scufflings of many creatures as they likely scoured our house for our left over goodies from the day.

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This is on Joseph’s property. His house on the right and workshop on the left. A true Jungle paradise!

 

In the morning we would have coffee on our porch that overlooked the valley below.  We were at treetop level with some of our trees, and had our eyes peeled for the Woodpecker family that lived in a close one, and we would watch them come and go all day.  We also spotted numerous other birds from our perch including many types of Parrots, Scarlet Macaws, Toucans and the Toucans close cousin the Fiery Billed Aracari.  In fact their were two of those guys, and they were actually trying to get into our woodpecker families nest! (We don’t think they succeeded thankfully!)

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The view of the valley below our house.  If only all neighbourhoods could exist like this below the jungle canopy!

With constant life surrounding us, and billions of creatures coming and going on a constant basis, we couldn’t help but feel more alive during our jungle stint.  Everywhere you look there are bugs crawling, birds doing something, butterflies flitting about, cows mooing, roosters crowing, ……..it just literally never stops around there.

We got to meet a couple of the local characters that work for Joseph.  One is Guadelupe, a 72 year old Costa Rican man that may just have the strongest handshake I have ever felt. In fact, his hands have worked so hard in his life, that they are permanently hooked.  They have become tools.  Tools for what he needs them for, survival on a day to day basis.

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Guadalupe, a 72 year old Tico man born and raised in the mountains of Costa Rica. He arrived on his horse to bring us fresh beans from his property and pants for Chris!

His slight body is probably 110 lbs and I’m sure he is no taller than 5’4″.  We chatted with him a few times one day and I couldn’t help but fall in love with his gentle attitude and friendly vibe.  One day he showed up at our house, after riding his horse right to our front door, to deliver a pair of pants that he was giving to Chris.  When we worked with him our first day, Chris had mentioned that he didn’t have a pair of pants to work in.  His last pants already bit it, and we haven’t had the chance to get him a new pair.  With pants and rubber boots being the outfit of choice while working in the jungle (think bugs, snake bites and any other manner things that will get our white raw flesh), Guadelupe had decided that Chris certainly at least needed some pants.

Well, the fact that Chris is 6’3″ and slightly more than 110 lbs, (like closer to double that) meant that those tiny little pants barely fit on one leg!  But the gesture almost brought a tear to my eye.  The people that live in these parts really do live hand to mouth, but if a neighbour or friends needs something, they will always have something to give.

We had some interesting experiences with bugs, but the worst ones being during the last 3 days thankfully.  One night while we were working on our artwork with the bright lights on, tons of beetles started flying in, circling around the light a few times,  and then dying on our floor.  They were absolutely everywhere and on everything!  They fly completely erratically like moths do, so we were constantly swatting at them to get them from flying into us.  After about an hour of this, I sought refuge in the tent, while Chris sat out on the porch to battle it out.  After a few hours and with signs of them slowing down a bit, I got out of the tent to go downstairs to the bathroom.  Well, the house was a war zone!  There were beetles everywhere, dead, or still squiggling on the white tile floor.  With only one solution presenting itself, I started the process of sweeping them up, leaving a huge pile of bugs that seemed to be moving and pulsing with the few that were still left alive.  GROSS!

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EW!

This happened 2 nights in a row with the second night being worse.  The second night Chris joined me in the tent and we hid in it until they toned it down a bit.  The last night we were there, Joseph had us at his place for dinner, and although he had a few of them up at his place, we were quite pleased when we arrived home later that night to find very few of them.  We aren’t sure if it was just a huge flock of them moving through the area, or if it was a bloom of them that only lived for a day or so.  Either way, it was an interesting experience, but one that I would be happy to not repeat.

We also had a few resident King Toads that would frequent the place.  Many times in our first few days, we would arrive back at the house in the evening to find 2 or 3 of them hanging out in our living room.  At first we decided that we didn’t want them in there and would throw them out the door, but after a while we realized that we couldn’t stop them and they were just eating bugs after all, so they became a constant part of our evening landscape and we would great them as we would any other pet, as they hopped inside for the evening.  However, as luck would have it, they were nowhere to be seen when we had the beetle invasions!  Wow did they ever miss out on a feast!

On our last day, our dinner capped off a magnificent day that was spent with Joseph as he showed us a waterfall that was up the bumpy, rocky road, a few km’s past his house.  The hike was definitely challenging and on the final decent down to the base of the falls, I slid slightly on the trail and was thrown back on my butt.  As I had been looking down at my feet the whole time, I hadn’t noticed that the waterfall was already in view.  As I was thrown back on my butt, I was gobsmacked by this perfect green wall in front of me with an absolutely spectacular wall of water falling down it.  In fact I was so gob smacked that I tried to stand upright, and I immediately fell back again.  I really do think that I was dazed by the beauty of it all.  As we descended down to the base of it, we stopped many times to stare in utter amazement of it all.  What a spectacular sight!

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After I fell on my butt, this is the sight that beheld me as I looked up.
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Easily 150 feet high, this waterfall seemed as though it was falling directly from the heavens, making us all wonder where exactly the water was actually coming from.
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Perfect heated rocks lay below allowing us to bask in the warm sun while enjoying the coolness of the water spray below.
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The canyon walls were absolutely rife with life!  It was a sight to behold!
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Crystal clear clean water was awaiting us!

I told Joseph that it was my quintessential Costa Rican waterfall, and possibly, Costa Rican moment, itself.  I had dreamt of waterfalls that beautiful, but had never seen one quite so spectacular.  There was the main wall of water, but other parts of the canyon walls were just dripping with little trails of water and the lushest, greenest, most perfect growing plants that you can ever imagine.  As we arrived, a bright blue morpho butterfly flitted about the green walls, giving me one of those “Pinch me, is this real?” moments, as I just stood and gazed in absolute amazement of the incredible scene that was laid out before me.

We basked in the glory of it all for a few hours, swimming a bit, but mostly just staring at the many different layers of beauty that was presented to us.  With clouds building, and the threat of rain imminent, we finally decided that it was time to pull ourselves away from this spectacle, and head back along the 40-ish minute trail, back to the truck.

Along the way, Joseph’s Dog Ronnie did a strange jump on the trail which alerted Joseph to the fact that something was definitely up.  At closer inspection, he realized that there was in fact a very large snake (roughly 6-7feet long) on the side of the trail.  Of course, we got Ronnie to come back to us, but not knowing if it was venomous, or not, was quite alarming to all of us.  After Joseph threw a stick at it and approached it a couple times, and after it definitely showed him that it wasn’t happy with our presence by rearing it’s head up in a threatening manner, we backed well off and let it move on.  Unfortunately for us, it decided to climb up a tree and onto a branch that was literally right over our heads as we passed under the trail.  Although at that point it didn’t seem as concerned about us, it was definitely still on high alert, and we all moved through that area by crouching down, and obviously, as fast as possible.  Our only regret was that we didn’t get a photo of it, but I can assure you, no one was in the mood for photography at that point.  It was more about getting the hell out of there!

It was my first encounter with a snake of that size, and although I have to say that it’s blue colouring made it very beautiful, I would be totally fine with not having an encounter such as that again!  We made our way back to the house as the rains unleashed, and had a lovely dinner to celebrate our last night in El Silencio.

Returning to our house that night, we were thankful to find a relatively beetle free environment, and we slept well knowing that the next day we were moving on to a new adventure in Nicaragua!

Overall, we loved our 3 week stay in El Silencio!  We were very productive with our artwork, we made a couple new friends, we experienced the jungle (all be it in the dry and mostly bug free season!), and we thoroughly enjoyed our traditional Tico (Costa Rican) house.  We definitely hope to return when we make our way south again from Nicaragua to South America at the end of the year.


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: We are currently volunteering on a farm in Nicaragua.  Building an Earth Bag home and landscaping the land of an American/Nicaraguan lady from New York State.

Travelling Plans: We will be here until the end of April, then will be heading to Rivas Nicaragua where we will be housesitting for 4.5 months.

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

To see more travelling photos, and to follow our progress on Facebook, please follow our Facebook page Just Some Wandering.

Please follow my Instagram Page Just Some Wandering by clicking on the bottom right hand corner of this feed.

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

To see all of my blog post headings on one page, head over to my Blog Post Menu.

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:)

 

Life as a Digital Nomad – April 2018


In 2017 my partner and I sold all of our posessions to hit the road and seek out a life of travel. “Life as a Digital Nomad” is a semi-regular series of posts that keep people updated on how we are now carving out a life and making a living while being on the road full time.


It seems as though time is slipping by, like water slips through our fingers.  I had meant to make my digital nomad posts a monthly update, but since my last one was in January, it’s obvious that monthly isn’t happening right now!  However, read on to see how we are managing as digital nomads now!

Chris and I finished up our Cabina managing job in Matapalo, Costa Rica on March 15th, leaving a steady income and a beautiful spot right on the beach.  We could have stayed for longer as the owner still hasn’t returned, but we had been staying on the same remote beach, with limited transit options for 4.5 months already, and although we were very thankful for the opportunity to not only live in paradise, but make money while doing it, we were both ready to do something different.

Chris had many inquiries for tattoos come up before we left, but unfortunately, as is the Tico way sometimes, nothing came of them.  It seems that his boom in November/December was enough for Matapalo, I think he did 12 in total.  We had a friend come down to visit us in January from Canada, and he brought some tattoo supplies with him, so Chris is all stocked up and ready to do more when the opportunity arises!

He also opened up a Society 6 store with some of his artwork posted.  He as a long way to go posting more items, but he will get there eventually.  Check out some of his items available below!

 

I have been steadily building my Etsy and Society 6 shops.  I finally got my domain name sorted out (www.jillianamatt.com) after having it not work since last August.  It takes you directly to my Etsy shop until I get my new website up and running.  I’ve had this domain for years now, and used to have a big fancy website for my fractal things.  However, it was to complex and I really wasn’t ready for it at the time.  I shut it down before heading out on this journey, as it was overwhelming to me and wasn’t what I wanted.  Moving forward, when I do get my website going again, it will simply connect to my Etsy Shop where all of my items can be purchased much easier there, than on my own site.

Check out some of my new fractal designs below:

Yes, that is right!  You can now get my fractals on bathing suits and bikinis!  I look forward to seeing these arrive at their new homes this summer season!

Sales have been steadily increasing in my Etsy shop in particular.  I have put a ton of work into my listings, learning about SEO, making sure my tags are correct, and pushing my items to social media whenever possible.  I have to say that I am quite impressed with how well it is doing, considering that many people start Etsy shops and don’t see a dollar for months and sometimes years.  So far in 2018, my Etsy shop has brought in $1520!  Of course, I don’t get all of that, usually about 30%, but it is sales none-the-less, and I am definitely seeing steady growth in traffic.  It is definitely a commitment of time to make sure that it is all done correctly and marketed properly.  Currently I’m considering making an e-book about how to set up an Etsy page.  Could be another income stream moving forward.

I have also been into creating Mandalas lately.  These are all done digitally using mandala programs on my iPad, but I really love how they turn out, and love that I don’t have to get all freaked out about each segment being perfect…….the iPad takes care of that as I only have to draw in one segment and it is repeated throughout.  Cheating?  Sure!  Do I care?  NO!  I’m just having fun creating the images and using patterns and colours.  It’s a great time waster when we are being idle!

I have also been busy with real Pen/Pencil/Ink on paper drawings lately.  I have uploaded a couple of these to my online stores, but have much more to do after spending 3 weeks in a very quiet mountain town with little internet access.  We both found great inspiration there, and spent many days and hours simply doing art.  Here are some of the results of that stay below:

We also built our hosts a dining room table!  They didn’t have one in the house we were renting, so we made one out of cinderblocks and plywood, and then painted the plywood top with some pretty crappy acrylics that we had with us.  Unfortunately we didn’t have time to find varnish or clear coat of some sort for it, but we did mention that it needed it, so hopefully somebody will do that for us.  It was a fun project and you can really see the difference in our art styles, but I think we blended them together well in the end.

We look forward to leaving a trail of art projects behind us as we move around the world!

Chris and I are currently in San Jose, and yesterday we bit the bullet and bought a new MacBook Air laptop.  We were finding it difficult to manage what we needed to with having only our iPad.  Quite often we both wanted to use it at once to do artwork or internet things, and it was becoming difficult to balance it all.  Plus, there are a couple other Print On Demand sites that I want to get my stuff set up on, and their websites don’t cooperate with iPad’s, only laptops or computers.

Another possible income stream that I can do with a laptop is teaching English online.  I received my TEFL certification about 5 years ago through an online course, but have yet to use it to make money.  My preferred method of teaching is one on one, and I was happy to learn about a website called Cambly, where I can do just that.   I looked into signing up for Cambly a few months back,  but unfortunately their website doesn’t cooperate with tablets either.  So hopefully, this purchase will pay itself back with future opportunities for potential income streams.

Well, I think that’s about it for now!  We are both thoroughly enjoying life on the road, and look forward to where our adventure will take us next!

Thanks for following along on our journey!

xo Jill


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: We are in San Jose, Costa Rica, but will be catching a bus to Nicaragua tomorrow morning.

To follow my art page on Facebook, please head to Jillian Amatt Designs

To see more photos, and to follow our progress on Facebook, please follow our Facebook page Just Some Wandering.

Please follow my Instagram Page Just Some Wandering by clicking on the bottom right hand corner of this feed.

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

To see all of my blog post headings on one page, head over to my Blog Post Menu.

To see more items that are available in my online stores, visit my Shops  Page.

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

 

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