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Traditional Living in Costa Rica – Part 1

Published October 20, 2017 by jillamatt

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 are on day 4 of our trip, and I can honestly say already that if we had to return home for some unknown reason, that I would be content with our experience. Today was everything that I had hoped to achieve on our travels, and more!

We are currently in Monteverde, a mountaintop community, located in Costa Rica’s northern highlands. “Green Mountain”, the translation of Monteverde, couldn’t be more accurate. Every direction you look, there are plants of seemingly endless descriptions and green mountains stretch as far as the eye can see. We know this for sure, as the Air BnB that we booked is perfectly perched on the side of one such mountain, and the vista below is absolutely breathtaking. We can see all the way west to the Nicoya Peninsula, and in the right light the “Golfo de Nicoya” (Gulf of Nicoya) in front of the peninsula, dances and sparkles in the sunlight.

Read on to hear about our experiences so far…….

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After spending 2 nights in Alajuela, the neighbouring city to Costa Rica’s capital city, San Jose, and feeling that we had recovered sufficiently from our dreaded red eye flight from Calgary, through Toronto, we decided to head into the interior of Costa Rica, instead of hitting the beach. We will be house sitting right on the beach for 2 months at the end of October, so we will have lots of beach time to come. The mountains were calling us.

In 2004, my last visit to Costa Rica, I had visited a small mountain town called Monteverde. I had very fond memories of this place, but such as it was back then, our main motivation was to get to the beach, so we only spent a night or two. I longed to come back to explore more of this area, and to try and get a better feel for life in the highlands.

I did a search for Monteverde on my Air BnB app, to see what would come up. There were many options in many price ranges, but as I scrolled the list, one caught my eye. “Paradise House Monteverde #2 – Farmstay”.  The description definitely called to my yearning to learn more about the Costa Rican life.  Check it out below:

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Turns out that as it is the low season, and the internet had been washed out with the latest Hurricane, we got a discount and only paid $68 for 3 nights!

I quickly read it out to Chris and he said “Yes! Book it!”

Our plan was set! Here was our chance to learn about a traditional Costa Rican way of life. My goal with travelling is always to connect with locals, to see how others are living, to learn their way of life, and to share it with others. This sounded like a perfect fit! I booked 3 nights, knowing that would give us 2 full days to enjoy ourselves in a lovely, peaceful location.

3 nights = $68 CAD

With the help of our host in Alajuela, we booked a bus trip up into the mountains. Costing just $15 US (including a $5 booking fee for booking online), the bus would leave Alajuela at 3:00 and arrive at 7:00pm. In the tropics, every day of the year, it is dark by 6:00, so I knew that it would be dark when we arrived at our location. I messaged this to Orlando, our farm host, and he assured me that since they were located well out of Monteverde proper, he would arrange a transport to pick us up at the Bus stop.

The bus ride was a typical one, driving quickly down paved highways, weaving along the coastline of the Gulf of Nicoya, until all of a sudden we took a sharp, right hairpin turn onto a gravel road. After 2 hours on the road, we were finally headed into the mountains. Immediately there was a sign that said Monteverde 35km. I commented to Chris that surely it can’t take 2 more hours to go 35 kilometres. However, I was sorely wrong!

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Note:  It took us almost 4 hours to reach Monteverde.  Mind you, we were on a large bus, a private vehicle is likely quicker.

Within minutes, make that seconds, I could see that YES, this definitely could take 2 hours! The road was windy, narrow, steep and seeming impossibly small to accommodate the bus that we were riding on. As we were seated in the front two seats to the right of the driver, my favourite spot to “see it all” we got a full spectacle of what was to transpire. Corner after corner, sharp curve after sharp curve, we wound our way up the tight mountain road. With the recent rains of Hurricane Nate , having wreaked havoc with many mountain roads, we witnessed a few places where part of the road was washed away down the mountain. In these instances, the bus would slowly but surely, squeeze itself down the inside lane, hugging as close as it would dare to the inside ditch, without falling into it. We also watched the Humidity indicator that was located at the front of the bus go from 50% to 90% as we approached the clouds and entered an area aptly known as the Cloud Forest. We watched numerous small frogs leap across the road, scurrying out of the way of the large bus wheels, some we knew made it, others we weren’t so sure. Never the less, we cheered them on as we saw them.

Many times we would come across another vehicle going down the road, each time both of us would squeeze as tight as we could to the opposite shoulders of the road, literally inching past each other. However, in one instance, we came head to head with a driver of a commercial utility truck. It was now dark and drizzling rain and there was clearly no way for both vehicles to pass each other on the current stretch of road.

After both vehicles flashed their lights at each other a couple times, the driver of the truck finally realized that if anyone was to back up, it was him. He jumped out of his truck to survey the situation around him, and to come up with a solution, a way to pull over so that we could pass each other. After realizing that the other driver needed assistance in backing up (so that he didn’t drive off the road and over the cliff side) our driver jumped out to direct him. The amusement in the bus was hilarious as the locals chitter chatted back and forth laughing and carrying on about the situation. I couldn’t help but think about if the same situation would have happened in Canada; Number one, there would not be a public bus driving on a road such as this in Canada (unless of course it was guaranteed to be the only vehicle driving back and forth), and Number 2, if a bus load of people were held up in this way, there would be more than one very unhappy person. However, the mood was jovial, and everyone was just happy to have the entertainment.

Finally, as our driver helped the other driver back up down the windy road, and into a slightly wider section, another man, that we had picked up at a rest stop, and who had been chatting with the driver at the front of the bus ever since, jumped into the drivers seat and started driving the bus down to meet him. Chris and I burst out laughing, as we had no idea who this guy was, but trusted that he knew what he was doing either way. What little choice did we have after all? Thankfully, he safely drove us the couple hundred meters forward to pick up our other driver, but not before passing the transfer truck and another vehicle behind it on the cliff side of the road, with mere inches to spare between us (and I’m sure mere inches to spare with the side of the road, and in turn, the cliff as well.)

I mentioned to Chris more than once that I was thankful that it was dark because although we knew that we were driving up the side of the mountain, we were unable to see just how perilous and treacherous that it was if we were to simply slide down into the abyss below.

As we started to approach a more populated area, made obvious by the lights that now lit the road ahead of us, many locals would signal to the driver to be let off in various areas. Again, NOT something you would necessarily see in Canada.

Despite all of this, we arrived in Monteverde at about 6:50pm. We departed the bus and stacked our luggage against the wall. Other travellers scampered around grabbing taxis or staring into their iPhones to figure out their next move. Nobody approached us about a ride, so I poked my head around the corner and locked eyes with a man standing next to a van. He gave me a look of approval so I walked over to him to show him the address of where we were going. Before I had a chance to do that, and much to my surprise, he showed me a picture on his phone of Chris and I! I realized that it was our Air BnB profile photo, and that our host must have sent it to him so that he knew who to pick up. “Perfecto!” I announced and patted him on the shoulder. I ran off to grab Chris and our luggage, and we were whisked away into the darkness, along another bumpy and washed out gravel road.

Unfortunately, I never did get our drivers name, but he quickly realized that I spoke a bit of Spanish, and we were able to carry out a simple conversation. He explained to me that the reason the roads were so bad was because of the extensive rains that the hurricane had deposited on the area. There were many more washed out areas along the next section of road that we travelled, and even a couple of crews working late into the night to repair them.

After about 15 minutes, we pulled into a tiny gap in a fence, and his headlights illuminated our home for the next few days. It was absolutely pitch black, but we could tell by the lights in the distance and below us, that we were perched on a hillside of sorts. He helped us with our luggage, found the key and opened the door, and then wished us well. I asked about when we would meet our host, Orlando, and he said something about “Manana”. Good enough, we would see him tomorrow.

We quickly unpacked our food and got busy with making some dinner. The house was simple, with 2 bedrooms, a bathroom and a small kitchen where we could make our meals over the course of our stay. We took turns running in and out of the front doors, both ecstatic with our location, and wanting desperately for it to be the next day, so that we could see the fantastic view that we knew was spread out before us.

But alas, we knew that we would have to wait. In the meantime, we ate our dinner, sat on our front porch, and stared off into the vast unknown. Tomorrow would bring the light and a whole new adventure!

** 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 see more photos, and to follow our progress on Facebook, please follow our page.

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

To see my blog post menu, click here.

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

 

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September 22, 2017- We Are Unplugged!!!

Published September 22, 2017 by jillamatt

Well, we did it!  I feel like we have carried out a seemingly impossible, monumental task!  

In the last nine months, we have sold all of our possessions, wrapped up 4 years of started renovation projects, sold our house, sold our cars, closed two businesses and refocused our lives into a new direction. 

It has been one hell of a lot of work, but I can tell already that it was worth it!

In fact, I said to Chris yesterday that “even if our plans to go travelling didn’t work out, and we had to come back and start over, it would be worth it.”

I feel like I have cleansed my soul. Like all the burdens that I had been carrying around with me, have flaked off. 

This includes mental burdens, emotions that hadn’t been dealt with properly.  Memories that I was holding onto, that didn’t serve me anymore. Things that we both kept, triggering memories from past lives, that were keeping us both from growing and expanding. 

This includes physical responsibilities that were sometimes crippling.  I would have stints where I felt so overwhelmed with life, that I would have to just lay on the couch for an entire day. Staring off into space or numbing my mind with scrolling through Facebook all day. If I had the energy, we would try and go outside for a hike or other recreational activity, trying to escape the insanity. 

Having been self employed for most of my adult life, including opening and closing multiple home based business’, my life revolved around paper work. Deadlines to file and pay things like goods and services taxes, workers compensation reports and bills (oh the relentless pile of bills!) Business licences and insurance policies (we had 5 on the go) needed to filed and renewed …. the list literally goes on and on. Not too mention that I did all of my own bookeeping. Add this to working full time, volunteering for various community organizations, and attempting to nurture and develop my creative side by constantly having numerous creations on the go at once. 

My life was a constant push and pull of things that “needed” to get done. 
I say was, because as of a day ago, all of that is gone now. 
We are on day two of leaving Powell River, my home of 11 years, and Chris’ for 4, and of course we still talk about “our house” in the present tense, as if we are only on a vacation visiting friends. 

This morning I took a few moments to remember my thoughts when we drove away from the house. I looked in every room before we left, we hugged the neighbours, and then we were gone. Poof!  Just like that!

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We had spent our last day running around town dropping final loads at the dump, the thrift store, and returning items we had borrowed from friends in our final days. We also spent the day in a bit of a limbo as our “get away” vehicle had been in the shop for two days, and for most of the day, we didn’t know if we were leaving that day or not. 

Loading up recycling and office supplies to donate to a local community run organization.

Final Dump Run.

Off went our bed! Guess we have no choice but to leave now!

My parents had kindly driven their camper van out to us from Alberta in August, then flew back home. The plan was that we would have a vehicle to leave Powell River with, allowing us to freely sell both of our vehicles, and still have a way to get our remaining belongings (only a couple boxes and an art piece or two) back to store at our parents before we flew off. 

Until the last week, the camper van just waited in our driveway. But as soon as the vehicles were starting to get sold, we used it to shuffle back and forth, moving them from here to there. (On a side note, our vehicles never did sell, at least not for what they should have, but that’s a story for another day.)

On Sept 18, the getaway van died. The fuel had run a bit lower than I would have liked, and it started chugging down the road. I thought it just needed more gas, so Chris bought a jerry can (we had owned about 10 of them!!) and went and got more gas to put in it. It didn’t help, and the van stayed parked on the side of the road that night. 

Our plan was to leave on the 20th. And although we had decided that there would be no stress, and that we could leave anytime, our families had different thoughts. They wanted to know when we were coming through to visit, so that they could prepare. Not too mention that once deciding on the 20th as our leaving date, we both REALLY wanted it to happen. 

At about 1:00 on the 19th, a tow truck driver picked up the van. Now, this is a story for small town living! We were out for lunch with friends when the tow truck driver finally called and said he was ready to meet us at the van. However we had just gotten our food, so Chris asked him if he could wait half an hour. Instead, he asked where we were eating, stopped by to get the keys, and went and dealt with it by himself, towing it to the shop!  In the meantime, we had one of our vehicles still with us, so we’re still able to get from A to B. 

Final delivery to the thrift store.

2 lonely folding chairs in the living room.

This is all that remains from a house full of stuff, and an utterly chaotic life. Add to this 2 duffels of clothes, and this is all we own!

Late that day, we stopped in at the shop to see if they had looked at it yet. They hadn’t, they were hoping to get to it in the morning. 

We had friends over that night, sitting on our patio furniture (that the new owners are buying,) in our living room. We both drank too much wine, which is probably a good thing as it allowed us to sleep that night. We were a buzz with anticipation. Most of what we felt was excitement, although some was surely anxiety about the state of the van. 

We woke up the morning of the 20th, waiting and waiting for a call. We immediately decided that the only thing to do, was to finish cleaning out the house, getting rid of the last of our items, and just acting like everything was going to be fine. And so we did. 

We live in a ferry dependant community, meaning that we can only leave at certain times of the day. Originally we had hoped to leave on the 5:15 ferry, getting us to our friends across the water at a reasonable time. The clock was ticking, we still had lots to do. 

Finally at 11 Chris called the shop to see what was up. They were just running diagnostics, and they had narrowed it down to a couple possibilities. 

We continued cleaning. Out went our recycling, our items for the thrift store, items that needed to be dropped off around town. We shuffled things back and forth, cleaning the house in stages between trips, until finally our last load had to go. Our mattress and two items of furniture that were junk, got loaded up, and we were off to the dump. 

Happy purgers running errands!

Slowly over the course of the week, my key ring also was purging itself. This is my last key, the key to my house. It was left as well, and now I own nothing that requires keys.

THIS WAS IT!  Our mattress was going!  There was no turning back!  If we had to stay another night, it would be at a friends house. We just kept moving forward, one step in front of the other. I never faltered in my faith that everything would be okay. That we had a plan, and it just had to work out. 

At 3:45 we got the call from the shop. The van was running fine. Apparently it had been running crappy in the morning when they moved it into the bay, but after running a ridiculous amount of diagnostics on it, they couldn’t find anything wrong with it, so they just started it up again. They drove it around, and it ran like a dream. 

No questions asked!  

We bolted down to the shop to pick it up. The towing of the vehicle was covered by my Dad’s extended auto plan insurance, but when we asked the mechanic what we owed for repairs, he said nothing. He told us that he didn’t fix anything, so he didn’t see any point in charging us anything. Most of a day of running diagnostics, and he didn’t see the need to charge us. We were ecstatic!  What a town we lived in!  What a wonderful send off gift!  

At this point we realized that our hopes of getting the 5:15 ferry were dashed, but we still could get the 8:45 boat, our last chance to leave that day. 
We picked the van up, drove straight to the car dealership that was going to sell my vehicle, dropped it off and went home to pack up our remaining stuff and finish cleaning the house.

At about 6:30, we headed down to the ferry terminal, got in line, went for dinner, and that was it!  We were gone!

The white van is our getaway vehicle. Everything we own, fits in there, with room to spare. Check out our going away sunset!!

Last meal in Powell River at the Thaidal Zone!


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It’s surreal to me that we have made this crazy transition, that there is no going back, that we have nothing to return to. That life is still going on, everybody is going about their daily business, but we aren’t.  

We have all of a sudden jumped into a life of meaning and decisions about what we WANT to do. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are details to solidify, and at some point, money will have to be made again, but for now, RIGHT NOW, we will enjoy this blissful existence. For we have literally spent the last 9 months giving our absolute all, just to get to this point. 

YAHOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!


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I wrote the above segment to this post, this morning when I woke up. Shortly after, we went for a walk to a nearby coffee shop to grab a bite to eat and a coffee. Not long after sitting down to enjoy our goodies, some inexplicable tears started rolling down my face. Chris was looking at me inquisitively and I kept apologizing, not really knowing why it was happening. Always the analyzer, I immediately jumped into my head to try and figure out what was happening. The conversation in my head went something like this:

“Why am I crying?”

“Well you have sort of been through a lot, it’s okay to cry.”

“I’m not sad though, I don’t understand?!”

“It’s okay, you have been through a lot. It’s okay to cry.  This is all part of the process, just let it out.” 

I wasn’t a sobbing mess, they were just streams of water leaking out on their own accord.  Crying is one of those things that is most commonly associated with sadness, but after a few moments, I realized that it was joy. It was nothing more than utter relief and joy. 

So I sat with it.  Tears of happiness and the realization of what we have accomplished, and what we have to look forward to, just poured from my eyes. 

It reminded me of a time in Amsterdam, where we had a 23 hour layover on our way to our 6 week trip through Greece, Italy and Bulgaria, almost 2 years ago. I hadn’t travelled internationally in 8 years, and I had the exact same feeling of happiness and relief in a little Vietnamese restaurant as I watched the throngs of people walk by the windows. There too, tears of joy leapt from my eyes. 

This is it!  I have once again found joy!  THIS is what I have been searching for!  

I vow to myself to never let it go again. Sure, there will still be hard times, but my life will be lived with passion and determination. No more strings pulling me in a thousand directions. No more wrestling in my mind about what it is I SHOULD do.

From now on, we are making the rules for our life. 

From now on, we will NOT simply exist. 

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Thanks for reading!  Please subscribe on the right hand column if you would like my blog posts to go directly to your email inbox.

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Current Location: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. 
Current travel plans: The next couple  weeks will see us driving  through BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan to visit friends and family before flying to Costa Rica mid October. 

If you are a traveller, and you would like to connect and talk travel, or if you just want to chat with us about our experiences, leave a comment below and we can connect!

September 7, 2017 – Freedom…..40???

Published September 8, 2017 by jillamatt

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***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, today is the day that I have jumped off of the hamster wheel.

I have been a self-employed house painter (that’s HOUSE painter, not ARTIST painter) for the last 9-10 (11…..12????) years.
I’m one of those weirdos that seriously loves painting.
Now, before you ask yourself these questions (because MANY people do), here are the answers:
YES! I enjoy the monotony!

NO! I don’t mind heights!

NO! I don’t get bored!

YES! I enjoy the repetition! (Is that the same as monotony??) 🙂

YES! It IS hard work!

But, what I enjoy the most with painting, is the transformation of whatever space it is that I am working in.

I enjoy watching my clients witness the change in perspective of how their space has changed.

I enjoy the creative process.

Because of my love of creativity, in the middle of this 10-ish year stint, I mixed in owning a local art gallery for 4 of those years. Meaning I painted very infrequently, but still kept my skills up.

But in 2015 we closed the gallery, and I was back at it painting full time.

It has been good. Through past painting clients, and word of mouth from gallery customers, I have established a good reputation in my town. In all honesty, things were just starting to get comfortable.

However, today I walked away from all of that.

I walked away in order to continue to grow.

I walked away because it was all too much. Too much paperwork, too many insurance policies, too many bills. Just too much “red tape.”

I walked away because I am tired of living a life where I can’t travel.

I walked away because deep, deep, DEEP down, I wasn’t happy.

I have FINALLY realized, at the age of 40, that life is too short to be unhappy, and that what makes me the most happy, is traveling.

Now, I don’t propose that I’m going to retire. I AM NOT the sort of person that just sits on the sidelines and watches the world go by. There will be more work in my future, I have absolutely no doubt. But the work in my future will have meaning. It will have purpose. I will no longer just be a cog in the wheel.

My schedule will be more free, and not one that is stuck in the ways of societal norms.


EVEN THOUGH I have been self employed for all of those years, I have maintained a pretty strict Mon-Fri 9-5 routine. If I took a Monday off, I usually would work a Saturday to balance this out.

My decision to follow this schedule is partly due to societal structures. Clients usually expected this sort of a schedule from me, and I just complied. But another part of  my decision was definitely due to trying to make as much money as I could, so that I could pay my bills. (I’m loving that this is in the past tense right now!!!)

However, it seemed that no matter how hard I tried, even though I was actually enjoying what I was doing, I was not going to get ahead. Which inevitably meant that there would be no traveling.

BUT today I left that all behind! Today I feel like I have FINALLY taken control of my life.

I will no longer be restricted to what society has decided that I “should” do. From now on I will make solid and sound decisions that are guided by my heart, and my instinct.

This feeling is unbelievable!

And I am ecstatic!


All of a sudden I feel like every corner I turn, is the right corner. Every move I am making is sound. The universe seems to be guiding us along, and the more that I just let go and trust what’s going on, the more the miracles fall into place.

One of my latest posts on here was about listing our house for sale. Well…….the house is now sold! It was a magically synchronistic event, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

But, in the meantime, ask yourself; Are you happy? Is what you are doing really full filling you?

It is TIME to be asking these questions. It is TIME to make a change if you need to!

We MUST remember that we are NEVER too old to start living the life we WANT to live.

Life is short!

Let’s get busy!!!

 

** 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.


July 23, 2017- We are getting there….

Published July 24, 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.) 

Wow!  It’s been a while since I wrote last. I have had so much to say about this process, but never the time or energy to sit down and write it. I’ve also been having trouble with my laptop lately, so that has seemed like an easy excuse to not have to write. However, I remembered today that I wrote my whole Europe Blog in 2015/2016 on my iPhone. And so, here I sit, on my iPhone. But this time, instead of scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, I’m going to try and catch you all up on what has been going on.

On July ninth we had our third yard and plant sale. As we set up for it, we had a chuckle about how tired we had been after our first yard sale. It almost seemed cute.  Like really??  Did we really even know what tired was at that point??

The sale went fine, we made our ,what now seems to be, typical $1000 or so. But instead of putting everything away into the house again, we made a decision then and there that whatever had now been in three sales, was going to the thrift store. This also included our Christmas decorations, a massive bag of clothes, and a few other items that we didn’t feel like looking at anymore. So we packed up the van and took it in the next morning.

We felt massive relief right away, and high fived outside the thrift store doors to celebrate our jubilant mood, when we had finished dropping it all off.

Other than the sale, we have both been working full time, plus busting our butts around here to get our house ready to list on the market. I have learned so much about myself over these last few months. It’s almost impossible to wrap my head around it all. But over all, I have learned these three major things:

NUMBER ONE:  I will NEVER burden myself with so much stuff again, that climbing to get out of all of it, feels like scaling Mt. Everest.

I am sick to death of my things! Although, there are still l moments of feeling bad about getting rid of something, I know that I don’t need it where I’m going. All of this is in my way. It’s in my way to my dreams, it’s in my way to my sanity.

I feel like the moment that all of this stuff that is burdening me is lifted, I will FINALLY feel like I can think again.

I feel like I’m going to be popping my head out of a gopher hole to see what’s  been going on in the world lately.

I can’t wait for that moment!

NUMBER 2 : I will never ever, never ever ever, never never never ever start SO MANY PROJECTS without finishing them again!!

This house has been one massive unfinished project from almost the day I arrived. It’s not just the house itself, but it was filled with many, many, many started art and craft projects that were never finished. They all just sat around in various spaces whispering to me as I would go by. Some were hidden in boxes, but I knew they were there!  Calling my name, taunting me to come back……..”please finish me” they would call.

The house had walls half torn down, drywall up in some spots, not in others, trim that had been pulled off some windows, had crumbled the plaster walls away, leaving a gaping hole in the wall that would just sit there forever. Old construction meeting new construction, but not completed.

For some reason, I just couldn’t get to finishing things up. Was I mentally ill?  Am I mentally ill?  Was it my need to seek out new experiences that had me jumping from project to project, always finding a new way to express my creativity, or a new way to change my surroundings.

I really don’t know the answer to that. I just know that because of all of these unfinished projects lurking about, I constantly was able to guilt trip myself. Everything I looked at made me feel bad.

I lived in an environment, one that I had created, that literally just made me feel bad ALL OF THE TIME.

As we near the end of our renovations, and are finally just down to painting and small cosmetic things, I also am starting to feel a massive amount of relief. We have started the ball rolling with Realtors, but don’t want to list until we are finished. We are close!

NUMBER 3: If our relationship can make it through this, I feel quite confident that it will get through anything.

We are both so exhausted from working all day, then working on the house all night. We have barely taken a day or two off since we started putting this house back together.

We are short with each other, our patience is fried, we are exhausted. But we are both very aware that we are living in extremely stressful times, and if we can just get through this, we know there is a reward at the end.

At the end of the day, we share a common goal. We are both extremely hard working, and I know we will get there. But man oh man, I don’t think either of us anticipated how challenging this was all going to be!  All I can think is that there absolutely MUST be a payout in store for us after all this hard work. We have to believe this.

The minute my mind starts wandering and I think, “Why are we doing this to ourselves?”  I find myself returning full circle to the night that I made this decision, to sell everything and head out into the world.

I knew then what I know now.

That it’s the only way.

My heart knows. My gut knows.

My whole being knows that I must disengage with this life. I must cast off and seek out new experiences. It’s a deep yearning. A need. An itch that desperately needs scratching.

Only once I do it, will I know the reasons why.
** 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.

May 27th, 2017-Uncertainties

Published May 28, 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.) 

It’s hard to believe that it has almost been a month since my last post. Time has been slipping by like a river, flowing all around us, but simultaneously, sweeping us downstream with it.

We are being carried along by the river.  Like we are just robots in motion, with something else guiding us and pushing us along.

My mind is on auto pilot. Constant lists run through my head:

  • Things we need to finish on the house before we list it for sale. (I’m currently drywalling my kitchen, that we are still obviously using. FUN TIMES!)
  • Things we need to get rid of. (Another yard sale is coming up on June 3rd.)
  • Things we want to do before we leave.
  • Places we want to visit, friends we want to see and connect with, one last time before we go.
  • Things we want to give to specific people before we go.

These thoughts, and many more like them, race through my head all day, even as I continue to run my own business, which is just starting it’s very busy season.

_______

Just recently I have started to find myself fielding some pretty intense and interesting questions from people about what we are planning.  It’s almost like it is somehow starting to be real to people.  Like maybe, just maybe, they thought we were bluffing, but now it is actually happening.

I was asked the other night, around a campfire, “So how do you feel about the uncertainties?”

After processing the question for a second, I croaked out a very caught-off-guard and shaky “ooookaaaayyyyy.”  (I couldn’t have sounded more insincere if I had tried.)

This, of course, was met with giggles and comments around the fire like “that’s not sounding very sure”, & “ya doesn’t sound like it.”

Without hesitation, although slightly embarrassed by my response (not my typical stoic self), I said “Well yeah, of course I’m scared shitless.  I’m definitely scared, but many great things have been accomplished by people who have faced their fears.”

And it’s true.

The hilarious thing about my response to the question, I now realize, is that my response ITSELF was uncertain.

I thought about this question for days afterwards.   Being the psycho analyzer that I am (mostly of myself), it bothered me that I had had a response like that, so seemingly unsure, and I needed to do some deep thinking to explore how I really did feel about the uncertainties.

“How do you feel about the uncertainties?”

It’s such an interesting question, for starters.

How do any of us feel about uncertainties?

My Dictionary app defines Uncertain in these ways:

  1. not able to be relied on; not known or definite. (an uncertain future)
  2. (of a person) not completely confident or sure of something.
    “I was uncertain how to proceed”

I bet there are VERY few people who do not experience some sort of uncertainty in their every day lives. We all carry around some kind of worries about things that MAY OR MAY NOT play out in our futures. We all second guess our decisions, uncertain if we have made the right ones.

Nothing is guaranteed. 

Most of us move through life with some general idea of what may come in the future. Whether it be goals that we have, or dreams that we want to fulfill. As most people busily plan out the details of their future, they are unconsciously aware that our “plans” may or may not happen.

Nothing is CERTAIN.  

Uncertainty pertains to those people who live in places for many years and are comfortable with their surroundings, AND it pertains to those who choose to go traveling, and can find comfort in their surroundings in far off lands.   It really is not picky with whose mind it occupies.

When I was asked the question, in that moment, I think I took it as a question where you either answered A) I’m okay with the uncertainties, or B) I don’t like the uncertainties.  And without trying to sound like I am defending my shaky response, I did my deep thinking, and decided this;

Not liking uncertainty really has nothing to do with a decision such as this. A decision like the one we have made, to sell everything to go traveling, is EMBRACING uncertainty.   I’m not exactly saying that I ‘like’ uncertainty, but I’m willing to open my life up to it.

The uncertainty of this plan, is what makes it exciting. It’s what causes my heart to flutter in my chest when I picture myself in this new reality that we are creating for ourselves.

Living with uncertainties, can for some, be debilitating. But I believe that it’s what lies out there, AMONGST the uncertainties, that shapes us as people. It’s what keeps us on our toes. It’s what creates our character.

How we react to the uncertainties that hit us on a constant basis, is what makes us the people we are.

The more we can drag ourselves away from the certainties, the more we grow.  Period.

And so, I am now ready to answer the question properly.

How do I feel about the uncertainties?

I say “BRING ‘EM ON!”

** 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.

It's how we embrace the uncertainty - Quote

When nothing is sure, everything is possible

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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