Life in a Botanical Garden

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

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

Puerto Rico!


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

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

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

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

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

Off to Nevis!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time to stop and watch a rainbow! 

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

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

Days in the Garden

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

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

garden quote

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

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

We Have Kittens!

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

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

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

Mere hours old! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

One more thing!

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

Artistic Voyages Logo from Canva small

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

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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!

Current Location: Nevis Island, St. Kitts & Nevis

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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