Reflections from Flores, Guatemala

Could this be the doors opening that we had been hoping for? Of course it was!


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…….


We arrived in Flores after 3 different flights from Costa Rica, and an 8 hour day.  We hopped our way through Central America, stopping first in San Salvador, where we spent one hour in the airport, but managed to have a glass of beer at the airport microbrewery.  Seriously, not something we expected to find!  Next was a quick hop to Guatemala City where we had a 4 hour layover, allowing us plenty of time to grab our bags, clear customs and check back into our next flight to Flores. 

3 Plane Hop to Flores

Flores is a small island town that is perched on Lake Petén Itzá, in the most Northern Guatemala Department (similar to States or Provinces), also called Petén.  Since we were arriving at night, we were a little concerned with getting to our hotel, which was across the the lake from Flores, a 3 minute ride by boat.  However, our worries were typically needless.  Our very friendly shuttle driver, drove us straight to the boat launch, phoned our hotel to send a boat, and we arrived in fine fashion.  

Guatemala Screenshot

As we entered the Island of Flores, by one single road connecting it to the mainland, we were immediately enamoured with the quaint and idyllic little island.  We could see Bar-B-Que’s happening on the sides of the roads, and plenty of life happening in the streets.  The teeny tiny little streets are just about the cutest little streets we have ever seen (although I think I say that about all the little streets that we see), some of them only big enough for motos and tiny little gas driven tuk tuks.  Small little alleyways, many suitable for walking only wove themselves away from the main roads, and off into the matrix of houses that are intertwined in behind.  As we passed each alley way and road, each of us craned out necks to look down as far as we could.  We were both wide eyed and lost in wonderland and were immediately in love with this place!

Flores Screenshot

Initially our two planned nights in Flores (actually, we learned, the area across the water, where our hotel was, is called San Miguel), turned into 3, and as we met more and more people in and around Flores, we found it really hard to leave at all. 


THE PLAN

Our ‘plan’, when we booked the trip to Guatemala, was to visit Flores for a couple days, then head out to El Remate for a couple more days to see Tikal.  After that we would be off to Belize by bus, heading north to Mexico up the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula.  Our end goal was to get to Merida, the capital city of the Yucatan Peninsula, and where we visited for only 3 days in 2015, but fell in love with it.  Chris had spoken to a tattoo shop there that accepts guest artists, and we have some friends that are currently living there that are from Portland, who we keep telling that we are coming up there.  However, as it is with travelling, and this sort of life, things don’t always go as we plan. 


The morning after we arrived, we were ecstatic to look out of our hotel window to see an island across the way that was literally beaming with colour.  Even from our distance across the water, which is likely less than a kilometer, we could see that there were cute little buildings, seemingly stacked on top of each other.  The coloured roofs seemed to interconnect, making it seem like a giant patchwork quilt set out on the middle of the lake.  In the center of it all, and up on the hill in the middle of the island, stands a grande white church that looks down on the rest of the area.  Needless to say, we couldn’t wait to get our day started, so that we could get back over there to explore. 

A tiny little “lancha” took us across to the other side for just over a dollar for both of us, and we were dropped off in about 3 minutes. We immediately set out to explore what we could, weaving our way here and there up the tiny streets.  Many Guatemalans sat on their front stoops, and I’m sure ALL of them greeted us in some way as we passed.  Over the course of the day, we visited many little stores, coffee shops and bars and met some really interesting people.  We learned that there was in fact a tattoo shop in town, however we didn’t find it that day.  

By mid afternoon, we found ourselves back down by the water, and where we would be catching our boat back across to our hotel.  We had noticed a really neat looking coffee shop along that road that morning, it was covered in plants from top to bottom, and really caught our eye.  So, we decided to head in and have a beer before we headed back across the water.   It wasn’t just the plants, and the lure of feeling like we would be sitting amongst a jungle that brought us in here, though. It was the bright vibrant colours that everything was painted in, it was the funky bohemian decor, and it was just the good vibes and the feeling in general.  We felt very comfortable in that little place right away, and it felt like home to us. We took our boat back across the water after a fulfilling and great exploration day, and decided that maybe 2 nights wasn’t enough for this place.  

The next morning, we told the hotel that we wanted to stay another day, and we headed straight across the water for breakfast, back to San Telmo, the comfy little bohemian coffee shop/bar that we had fallen in love with.  Right away when we got there, we met William, or Docter Gato, as the locals know him as.  He started chatting with us immediately when we came in. Having grown up split between Canada and the US, he has now been in Guatemala for 25 years.  We don’t know how old he is, but I can imagine its between 60 and 70 somewhere.  Although, he is also one of those spirited, spry people, that could easily be 80 as well.  

He sat down to ask us what we do and all kinds of questions about our life.  In an instant I felt like I could tell this man anything, while simultaneously feeling like I couldn’t get enough of what HE had to say.  He immediately suggested that since we had no schedule, we should stay for longer in Flores since it is such a nice spot.  We agreed.   

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San Telmo Coffee Shop

Chris sourced out the tattoo guy through Facebook, and sent him a message asking if he was looking for any guest artists.  He replied right away that he was interested, and, of course, wanted to meet us.  We finished breakfast and then headed to his shop.  We found it with no problem and felt completely at ease and comfortable in his presence, right away.  He seemed excited at the prospect of having another artist in the shop, and we spoke with him a bit about needing a house to rent, if we were to stay longer . He immediately took us through the streets to look at a couple options.

We didn’t find anything that was suitable at that time, but later in the day after we had moved on to other things, Vladimir, the tattoo shop owner, messaged us that he knew of a place in San Miguel that was available and he wanted to show it to us at 9:00 the next morning. He would pick Chris up with his motorbike (actually he thought he was picking us both up at once, as they often do here, but I opted out of that one….) and take him to see the house.  If we didn’t like it, we decided that we would head back over the the Island of Flores, and would stay in a hotel there that was just as cheap, but a little more part of the action than across the water at San Miguel.  

Little did we know, Vladimir was hoping that we would stay in a room at his house!  Him and his girlfriend had completely cleaned out one of the bedrooms, but left the mattress on the floor (a King Size Mattress none-the-less), complete with clean sheets.  He stated that we could stay there for as long as we wanted, as long as Chris was working in his shop, and didn’t want any money or compensation for it at all.  We were astounded at his offer and decided to spend a night to see how it went.  Unfortunately, between many lights not working, a shower that never stopped running (at least while the water was actually working), water constantly on the bathroom floor, and a living area that had no furniture to sit in, we decided that this place wasn’t quite as comfortable as we wanted to be, and we set out the next morning to continue our search for accommodation.  I booked a couple nights at a hotel in Flores, then booked 3 nights in El Remate, where we would explore Tikal from and we resigned ourselves to the fact that maybe Flores wasn’t the place for us to be after all.  After talking to countless people and trying our hardest to find a place to live there over our first 3 days, we figured that no doors opening, meant that other doors would open somewhere else.  At that point, our plan was to see Tikal, and then continue on to Mexico like we had decided before heading up to Guatemala.  Maybe that really IS the best plan, we thought. 

After our first night staying in Flores proper, Chris had decided that he wanted to tattoo Vladimir.  Throughout our stay there, Vladimir had told him how excited he was to have another tattoo artist around, and there were some things that he really wanted to get finished on him.  It turned out that what Vladimir wanted, was something that Chris would design himself, and be something that represented his art style.  Knowing that he had very little money, but realizing that we were leaving, he still wanted to gift Vlad with his art, in exchange for how kind he had been to us, so he did it for free.  At that point, it was our last day in Flores, and it needed to be done then, so Chris headed up to his shop, while I went back to our favourite cafe to do some work on my computer, visit with our new friends, and have some coffee. 

At some point through the day, I left go to our hotel for something, and when I returned to the coffee shop, my initial seat had been taken, so I sat down to chat with a Guatemalan lady that was sitting on her own.  We immediately got to chatting like we were long lost friends, and she started telling me where she lived, back across the lake in San Miguel, where we had initially been staying.  The way she described her house somehow seemed so familiar to me, and I immediately asked her if she had and Air BnB there.  “Si!” She announced.  I really don’t know how I knew this, but the morning that we had woken up at Vlad’s, and after searching out some other options of accommodation possibilities, I had found her house on Air BnB and it was very reasonably priced at $15/night.  I almost messaged her to see what she would charge us for a month, but quickly also realized that it was her house, and that we would be living with her if we wanted to stay there.  This wasn’t ideal for us……we really needed our own space, so I didn’t. 

But all of a sudden, here I was, sitting across a table from the exact person that owned this house.  As we discussed her house a bit, Doctor Gato sat down and I told him the story.  Suddenly these impossible words began spilling from his mouth “she is planning to move out of her house, you should live there.” 

WHAT???!!!  I couldn’t believe it!  Here I had been already, researching this possible place to stay, feeling like it would have been the perfect house for us, but just not wanting a roommate.  However, with her planning to move out, things were coming together perfectly!  My mind buzzed with excitement!

I quickly asked her how much it would be to rent it, and she told me the magic number.  We had been looking for something close to US$200 per month, and she wanted the equivalent of $225.  Could this be it?  Could this be the doors opening that we had been hoping for?  Of course it was! 

After explaining our situation and insisting that we were VERY interested, I asked her if she could wait there while I ran up the street to ask Chris about it.  Of course, I was quite sure that he would be ecstatic about it as well and I arrived breathless and barely being able to get a word out, as I expressed how excited I was about this place.  We agreed that it needed to be looked at, and made a plan with Heidi the very next morning to see it. 

Of course, the house is perfect!  It has 2 bedrooms (one which we can Air BnB if we desire), a beautiful deck, perched high up on the hill with a view of Flores from San Miguel.  It is smack dab in the middle of a teeny neighbourhood of homes, and our closest neighbour makes fresh tortillas every day,  4 for 1Q (about 15cents!).  The house is very modern, and we immediately fell in love with Heidi, she has spunk and a zest for life, and she knows all about Europe and Canada and many other places in the world.

We are so excited that things have worked out for us here.  We really didn’t feel like leaving, we just hadn’t given it enough time for the Universe to lay out the possibilities.  We are looking forward to being able to use this place as a launchpad to explore this area.  Plus, with all the friends that we have made already, we really already feel like we are part of a community, and we look forward to sinking in even more and enjoying this place for a while. It is in the staying in one place where we feel the most productive.  Where we can really sink into our artwork. Where we can make friends, meet people, and really learn about the culture and the people of this land. 

Not to mention that being here on the lake brings with it a certain peace that is hard to quantify.  It feels tranquil, welcoming and refreshing.  After spending so many months on the Ocean, we are very happy to be near fresh water. 

This is the life that we have chosen!  Not a day goes by where we aren’t ecstatic about the opportunities that cross our paths.  Every day is an adventure.  Every day offers a chance to take a different path if we so choose.  However, when you get to those places that bring you so much happiness, sometimes it’s nice to stay a while. 

Next up, we are off to El Remate, as planned, to explore Tikal!  We are over the moon with excitement about this chance to visit these sacred lands.  Stay tuned for a full story on that adventure! 


In other news!

In January I joined a network called Location Indie.  It has about 350 members that are either already location independent, or are working their way to being so.  It offers mentoring and advice on how to achieve a location independent lifestyle.  There are many valuable free workshops, lectures and a great forum where you can post any sort of question, and you will get many answers from other members.

If you are interested in checking it out, and signing up for their newsletter, please click here!

In June, I was honoured to be featured as the monthly member spotlight, and got interviewed on the network for all members to watch live.  The interview was also turned into a podcast!  I am very happy to share that link here (find episode 113). It tells of our journey to location independence, and gives you an inside look at how we did it, and how we are making it work now.  Give it a listen if you like, and sign up for their podcast.  It is very inspirational!

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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 in Flores, Guatemala.  We have rented a house and expect to stay here for a minimum of 2 months.

Travelling Plans: No plans to go anywhere 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 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:)

Author: jillamatt

Basically born a traveler, I long to see every corner of the world. In 2017, my partner and I sold all of our posessions, to pursue a life of travel, wanderlust and a yearning for more; More knowledge, more experiences and more joy. Join us in our explorations of this beautiful planet, we promise to not disappoint! The world is a giant book, and I intend to read every chapter that I can. I promise to whisk you away with me, as you yourself travel the world, without ever leaving your house.

8 thoughts on “Reflections from Flores, Guatemala”

  1. Wow, exciting times, Jill! You must both be so delighted that you made the decision to change your lives. Flores sounds fabulous – we bypassed by taking a driver from Antigua to Tikal, however we may just have to check it out in future as we did truly LOVE Guatamala – its people, its colour, its culture, its landscape flora & fauna – we love Guatamala. That said, we’ll be just across the Belize border in Mexico (Yucatán) in November, just booked our flights to Xcalak for three weeks of snorkelling —then who knows? Keep on having such a delightful life! K xx

    Sent from Kath’s iPad

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    1. Hey Kath! That’s great that you are headed back down here. Our paths may cross yet again! Thanks for the kind words and for following along on our journey. We are certainly happy to have made this choice. Not every day is perfect, but the majority of them are a vast improvement over our past life. Hope the northern summer is treating you well. Xo

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  2. Loved reading your latest blog. Flores sounds wonderful and what a great story about how it all came about. You guys are really living the life. Continue to enjoy and have fun!! Love ya lots!!!!

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  3. I love you Jillian Amatt. I love reading your blog. Your perspective is so wonderful. Enjoy every moment (I’m figuring you will). ❤

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    1. Thanks Susan!! Love you toooooo!! We are doing our darndest to love every moment that’s for sure. Thank so much for following along and being a cheerleader in our corner! It really is appreciated:).

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