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!


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

2 thoughts on “Happy New Year – 2018 Review”

  1. Happy new year to you two adventure travellers. Bert and I have enjoyed reading about your adventures.you have come along way since grade four,Jill .even back then I remember you as creative and inspired by life. Big hugs from home. Bert And Marilynn . Have a great celebration for Peggie’s 70 th birthday. What fun it would be to be there.

    Sent from my iPad



    1. Thanks so much Marilynn!! Yes I feel like I have had a thirst for adventure and seeing new and different things from day one:) Thanks so much for following along:). Hugs to you and Bert!


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