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The House that Amanda Built – Earth Bag Building in Nicaragua

Published May 4, 2018 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…….


As promised, Amanda picked us up from the bus drop off location upon our arrival.  We were riding on the Tica Bus, a bus line just as fancy as Greyhound Bus, from San Jose, Costa Rica.  After 7 hours, which included an hour or so stop at the Nicaragua border to obtain our entrance visas, we had arrived in Nandaime, a small town south of the more popular tourist stop of Granada.

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Volcano Power vs. Wind Power!  This was viewed out of our Bus window shortly after we crossed the border.  This volcano is one of 2 that make up the Island of Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America.  

Amanda told us to look for the grubby girl in a dirty red truck, and sure enough we spotted her as she drove up the road to grab us.  We were greeted with enthusiastic hugs, and we were immediately enamoured with her positive and energetic personality.  ‘Yup, we are going to get along just fine,’ I thought to myself as we drove off to her farm.


We had heard about Amanda and her Earth Bag house project from a girl that I volunteered with at Envision Festival in Costa Rica, back in February.  Magda told us that Amanda is always taking volunteers to help her to bring her project to fruition.  At the time, and knowing that we were headed up to Nicaragua at some point, I stashed the thought in the back of my mind, knowing that at the VERY least, we would want to check the project out.  We have both been involved in numerous workshops and very small building projects to do with Cob building etc. on the West Coast of Canada, but had never seen a Earth Bag house.  Our curiosity was piqued.

When our time in Silencio (read my last blog post here) was coming to a close, and we were trying to figure out what we wanted to do next, we remembered Amanda’s project, and I immediately messaged her to see if it was possible to come and stay there and help out.  Of course, she wrote back right away, and the plan was set.  We were headed to Nicaragua!

After spending a few days in San Jose to purchase a laptop and some other art supply essentials, we were on our way!


Amanda is Nicaraguan-American and her house is being built on 12 acres of her Grandfathers land.  Having ditched the North American 9-5 Rat Race (or in her case 80 hours per week working) at the age of 24, she decided that it was time for a simpler life.  One where she can experience life, not just let it flash by.  She began her new journey by travelling around the world and volunteering on a couple earth build projects herself.  After doing all of that, she decided it was time to start her own project.  She had been to Nicaragua to visit her Grandparents numerous times, and was familiar with the land and it’s people.  With building costs exponentially cheaper down here, she felt like it would be a great place to construct her home base, while she continued to travel and work remotely.

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This is where we worked for Amanda.  Just outside Nandaime between the highway and the lake. 

Her Grandpa still lives in the country, but resides up in the Northern part near his coffee plantation.  The property that Amanda is building on has been a cashew plantation for numerous years.  You can imagine our delight when we realized that we could gorge out on tons of cashew fruit while we stayed there.

Immediately we were amazed with the difference in the Flora and Fauna than that of what we had left in Costa Rica.  Rich, diverse and alive hillsides, had been replaced with flat land, scrub brush and desert like conditions.  Of course, it was the dry season, so the layer of dust on the surface of the ground, that was constantly blowing around all over everything, is only around for a few months of the year.  But the climate was astonishingly dryer and much much different than what we had left only a few days before.

We were happy to still see numerous birds flitting about though.  The National Bird of Nicaragua, locally known as the Guarda Barranca (check it out here, it’s stunning!), but commonly referred to as the Mot Mot (my personal favourite name), was a frequent guest near our camp kitchen.  Their stunning colours captured our attention as they flitted about through the trees.  Butterflies were also numerous, as were the ever so persistent ants!  Chris and I had an absolute highway of ants about 2 feet wide that cut through our campsite every night.  Thousands of them marching back and forth, only once daylight had subsided.

Our modest Camp Kitchen! 

There was also another pest that resided on her farm that we had never even considered to be a possibility down here……TICKS!  They are smaller and more of a reddy-brown (they look exactly like freckles and moles!) than the ones that I know from the mountains in Canada, but they certainly behave the same.  Thankfully, we were told right away that there is no Lime Disease in Nicaragua, so at least that wasn’t a worry, but we were constantly brushing them off of us, and pulling the odd one out of our skin if they managed to evade our constant swipes, and had embedded themselves into our flesh.  They were so small that you could barely grab onto them, and quite often I would need to use tweezers to pull on them.  They were nasty little critters, and I have to say, not my favourite thing to have to deal with while staying there!

We ended up staying with Amanda for 3 weeks in total, and I have to say that we are pretty proud of ourselves for toughing it out so long.  The conditions were challenging, we were dirty all the time, it was sweltering hot with no relief until night fall, dust blew on everything in sight including our food, plates clothes etc., and the ticks…..well you can just imagine I’m sure.  However, the experience of it all far outweighed the trials and tribulations that we put up with, and we both came away learning a lot, and feeling like we had both contributed in meaningful ways.

Earth Bag Construction

First of all, I am certainly no expert on this, so please, click here to learn more about it.

We arrived after the walls had been erected, and the roof was just starting to be constructed.  When Amanda picked us up, she said that it had rained the night before, which was in her words, “terrifying.”

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You can see that the initial layer of exterior plaster is just starting to be applied on this section. After this layer there is a sturdier layer which includes lime which will be applied, this helps to seal out the weather.

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The roof trusses are just starting to be worked on.  You can see the stark difference in the landscape from where we were in Costa Rica.

This type of construction is done completely using earthen materials, clay, sand, straw, horse manure, and other natural ingredients, and it’s integrity depends wholly on being built in dry climates where you can depend on little to no rain during construction.  You can imagine what would happen if rain suddenly unleashed on the earthen plaster that covers the walls……it would all literally melt off.  Until you get the final Lime Plaster coat on the outside, that will repel water at best, and a sturdy roof with generous overhangs erected, the whole project is at the mercy of the weather.  With the rainy season scheduled to start any day, time was of the essence.

We arrived to the camp to find 2 girls from Austria and another guy from New Zealand, already volunteering.  Over the course of the project Amanda has had roughly 20 volunteers from all corners of the earth, help her on her land.  She advertises for volunteers through different online platforms, and also has physically hung posters around Granada and other local tourist spots, in order to entice volunteers to come and help her and learn about this type of construction.

Some of “the boys” working on the project. 

All natural building techniques lean very heavily on labour.  The materials are generally cheap, labour is not.  Amanda had a crew of about 10 Nica men ranging in age from 15-50 working on her house from the beginning.  Thankfully in Nicaragua, the labour is pretty cheap, but even with that, budgets run out eventually and it is therefore necessary to get volunteers in to do some of the less skilled, time consuming jobs that need to be done.  Mostly I worked on what I lovingly called “Stuffing Cracks”, but is actually referred to as plastering.  It involved creating a measured mix of Horse Manure, Clay and Sand, getting it to the right moisture consistency, and then physically pushing it into the spaces between the bags.  This provides a tight seal to reduce insects getting in, it smoothes the wall out so that putting the final plaster layer on is easier, and it helps to further stabilize the walls from expansion and contraction while moving from the wet to dry season.

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All of those cracks have to be stuffed!  And this is just the first inside room! 

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The start of my 3 weeks of work! 

In order to make the mix that I needed to do this, I literally walked around the farm and picked up dried horse poo from the ground.  Amanda referred to it as something similar to an easter egg hunt, and I will attest that this is true.  However, after a few days of hunting for sporadic piles here and there, I did finally find the hot spot where the horses get tied up every night……there was literally poo for days!  Throughout the process, I couldn’t help but thinking what my 19 year old self would think of my 41 year old self picking up horse poo.  I NEVER would have imagined that this would be my life some 20 years later……that’s for sure!

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Poo galore!

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Sifting small particles out of the clay and sand was a necessary step in order to get a very fine smooth plaster. 

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And the ultimate step and the easiest way to mix the mixtures is to stomp them with your bare feet!  Needless to say our feet had many layers of ground in dirt on them……ALL THE TIME! 

Having come from a hyper-organized corporate job, Amanda was all about using the white boards to create schedules and task lists each day.  Every morning as we ate our oatmeal breakfast, we would go over what needed to be done for the day, and she would assign tasks to people, depending on what they felt like doing.  Various projects came up including building a screen door for the shower, building bat boxes, putting a proper roof on the outhouse, shaping and tamping the pond (Chris’ job for the most part), planting trees and of course finishing the “stuffing.”  However, I did get a really cool job towards the end of our stint there.

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Chris working on the pond.  No, he didn’t dig it all by hand, but he shaped and tamped all the hard chinks down so a watertight seal can be put in the bottom at some point.  

After seeing some of my artwork, Amanda asked me to give a try at designing metal security windows for her house.  There were 10 windows in all, and 2 doors.  She had presented various ideas to professional welders, but they all said that her ideas weren’t practical, and they wanted to just do the typical metal work that everybody else had.  Obviously they didn’t have a creative bone in their bodies, so she leaned on those who did.  Within her Nicaraguan construction crew, she found 2 men that had welding experience and were willing to take on the project.  The first window took a bit of time, but after they got that going, they were rocking it!  It was an amazing experience to see my own concepts drawn up, and then to witness them get created and installed as a finished pieces.  So very rewarding, and one of my proudest moments as an artist thus far!

There were many more windows designed but sadly we left before they were installed.  We will return to take more photos for sure! 

We mostly worked about 4 hours each day, from 7:30 or 8:00 until about 12:00.  The afternoons were optional, and although it was sweltering hot most of the time, Chris and I did manage to swing a few afternoon shifts, just to help her keep moving ahead.  It’s a monumental task to build a house, one that I have experience in (coincidentally at the same age as she is), and we know the importance of keeping the momentum going.  2 days a week would be free, and because Amanda is also a traveller, and understands the importance of seeing and experiencing places, we generally would go on some sort of adventure on those days.  We visited an incredible local swimming spot, tucked way back in the woods and off the beaten track, and also hit up the popular colonial tourist city of Granada a few times, Laguna Apollo, a lake inside an extinct volcano crater, and some spectacular nurseries where we scouted for plants for the property.

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We were in 7th Heaven while cruising the nurseries for plants for Amanda’s property. 

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The view heading down the road into Laguna Apollo.  An extinct volcano crater that now is full of beautiful fresh water! 

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A locals only swim hole located well away from the beaten track.  Truly a little paradise. 

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The spectacular buildings of Colonial Granada. 

Our experience with Amanda was everything that we had hoped for.  We were both itching to do some heavy physical labour, we have been wanting to contribute to a project in a meaningful way, and of course, we always want to be able to hang out with locals and be part of the fabric of each community we visit.  Being located in a very rural part of Nicaragua meant that we were probably some of the first foreigners that many people in the community had seen.  We were able to practice Spanish and learn about their culture in a meaningful and educational way, we went to the church on Saturday nights to eat local Nicaraguan food, which helped them fundraise for the community,  plus we had a couple interesting nights at the local bar, where we were definitely the center of attention, and something new that the locals could gawk at.

Dinner at the church!  Cooked outside on an open fire! 

All in all, we are so thankful to have been able to take part in the project.  And the bonus is that we are now located only about an hour away from her for the next 4-5 months as we start our next housesitting gig.  So I am sure we will make our way out there again to visit her and check out her progress!

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Amanda’s house with the roof on it!  This is how we left it.  Can’t wait to go back and check it out in a month or so to see the progress, plus those windows! 

*Note to reader: I have so many more photos of our time spent in Nandaime.  Please head to our Facebook Page to see them all!

** If you or someone you know would like to volunteer for Amanda in Nicaragua, or if you have any questions about Earth Bag building, please email me at the address below and I will connect you.


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 Rivas, Nicaragua, waiting to start our 4.5 month housesitting job on May 10th.

Travelling Plans: We will be here until mid-late September while we full fill our housesitting job.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Glimpse of the Costa Rican Highlands

Published April 15, 2018 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…….


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Beautiful sunsets from the restaurant!

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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EW!

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

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

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

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After I fell on my butt, this is the sight that beheld me as I looked up.

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Easily 150 feet high, this waterfall seemed as though it was falling directly from the heavens, making us all wonder where exactly the water was actually coming from.

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Perfect heated rocks lay below allowing us to bask in the warm sun while enjoying the coolness of the water spray below.

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The canyon walls were absolutely rife with life!  It was a sight to behold!

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Crystal clear clean water was awaiting us!

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you like my writing, and want to follow along on our journey, please put your email address in the right hand column to subscribe. That way all of my posts will go straight to your email inbox:)

 

What’s Next?

Published March 8, 2018 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…….


Well, after spending 4.5 months here on the same remote-ish beach in Costa Rica, we have found that it is definitely time to move on.

When we look back at the state we were in when we arrived here, we were nothing short of shell shocked.  We had just come from 9 months of selling all of our stuff in multiple garage sales, renovating our house to get it ready for sale, finishing up our work contracts and moving as fast as possible through life, so that we could get here and just breathe.  Well, we did that!  We collapsed on this beach and literally hibernated for at least 2 months while we fulfilled our first housesitting gig here on Playa Matapalo in Costa Rica.

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We never get tired of the perfect sunsets and warm water literally right at our doorstep! We will miss this there is no doubt! 

Just as that gig was finishing, we were asked by a neighbour if we could manage his Cabina Rental property.  This meant moving 2 doors down, temporarily adopting his three awesome dogs, and managing the day to day goings on of his 2 Cabinas.  Not a huge chore in return for a couple more months of accommodation, not too mention the chance to make a bit of money on the side!  Hell yeah!

We jumped into our roles here with both feet, right at the busy Christmas and New Year season.  Did we know what we were doing? NO!  Were we nervous, frightened or afraid? NO!  We were just gung ho to try something new, and get a chance to extend our stay on a beach that we really didn’t want to leave after all.

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The view from our front porch for the last 2.5 months! Sigh………..

Well, fast forward 2.5 months, and we are now ready to move on.  Although this place is spectacular, and well, perfect really, we are yearning for new and exciting experiences.  It is a pretty remote place and coming and going is a challenge with bus schedules and walking 2 km back and forth to catch it.  There is only so far that we can go on the bus, as it only goes in a couple different directions, and of course, we need to return to the house each night to take care of dogs and guests etc.  So we have explored as far as we can around us with those limitations, and really feel like there isn’t much else to see.  Our beach is spectacular, and we make a special concerted effort to not take it for granted, but it really is the same every day, and we yearn for some action.  Something new and different.  Something that only travelling can bring!

Besides, the other day we were accused of spreading some vicious rumours about one of our neighbours.  While what we were accused of is definitely NOT true,  it was in that moment that we both decided that YUP, it’s time to move on.  We clearly have been here too long if we are starting to get woven into the Payton Place dramas that are going on around us.

Off to El Silencio!

We have been promising our Canadian friend that lives really close to here, but up in the mountains, that we would come and help him with some projects on his property this spring.  We didn’t know how long we were going to have to stay in our current spot, but we figured we would have plenty of time to help him out after we were done here.

(Our friends property complete with his own perfect clean stream running through it!)

He has a bunch of acres of property up a river and deep in the jungle.  Every day he bears witness to Toucans, Scarlet Macaws, Morpho Butterflies and numerous other animals flitting to and fro.  We have visited his property a couple times, and have similarly fallen in love with it.  It really is a perfect little jungle paradise, and we look forward to staying there for a few weeks and experiencing Costa Rica from a different perspective.  Not too mention that we have formed an incredibly tight bond with him in the last few months that we have know him, and we feel like he is family to us more than just friends.  We really look forward to hanging out with him more, and on his terms as  most of our friendship has taken place down here at the beach when he comes to visit.  So that will be a nice and new experience.

His neighbours that live less than a km away have a house that sits high up on the hill, that is currently unoccupied.  The matriarch of the family had lived in it for many years, but recently decided that she is unable to climb the hill to get to it numerous times per day.  So it sits vacant, just waiting for someone to stay in it.  At a price of $60/week, we are excited to know that we will have our own space complete with Electricity, a Fridge AND a flushing toilet!  All of these things are a bit of a luxury in the parts where we are headed!

We are off to El Silencio on March 15th!

Next to Nicaragua!

While at Envision Festival a couple weeks ago, we received a happy text message telling us that we had been selected to housesit at an apartment in Rivas, Nicaragua starting in May.  We had applied sometime at the beginning of February and had gone back and forth with them numerous times, each time getting shortlisted a little more.  Well, thankfully we got chosen and we are really looking forward to that as well.

We will be there for 4.5 months, but unlike this place where we currently are, we won’t have pets to take care of, and surely no Cabinas! In fact, the owners have insisted that they don’t expect us to be there full time, just to make sure that we are checking in on the place once in a while.  As we don’t plan to travel a ton while there, it is surely nice to know that we can come and go as we please, and it will be so nice to have a place to leave the majority of our stuff, so that we can travel light throughout the country!  Not too mention that we will be close to buses that can take us in any manner of directions, and Lake Nicaragua is nearby where we can ride the ferries and do some exploring around there.  We are very excited about this opportunity!

(Some pics of time spent in Nicaragua back in 2004.  I’m looking forward to seeing San Juan del Sur again!)

On a side note, in 2004 my ex-husband and I spent 4 months living in Nicaragua in the then quiet and quaint San Juan del Sur, which is only 40 minutes from our housesit.  I made many friends there that I still keep in touch with today, and I look forward to re-connecting with them some 14 years later!

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This is Yajira.  She was my first spanish teacher and now owns her own school!  We intend on attending her school while in Nicaragua!  

We were on the Radio! (And other news……)

I keep meaning to mention that before we left Canada, we were interviewed by our community “Let’s Talk Trash” group about our minimalist journey.  They aired the interview on their radio show at the end of January.  Here is the interview if you would like to give it a listen: http://cjmponline.ca/podcasting/index.php?id=2526 

It is such a trip for us to listen to this now that we have been away for a few months.  Our perspective on life has definitely shifted, and we are constantly aware of what it is that we are buying as we now have to carry it all around with us!

I was also recently featured on a blog that features Etsy shops specifically.  She wrote a thoughtful article on my Etsy shop and my journey as a Digital Nomad.  You can check that out here:  http://thewomenteam.com/psychedelic-fun-design-by-a-woman-of-travels/  If you enjoy the article, I would be super grateful if you could share it on your social media pages!  It certainly will give my Etsy shop a boost.

As usual, thanks for reading and following along on our journey!  We are still constantly in awe of this life that we have created for ourselves, and look forward to so much more fun and excitement to come!

Pura Vida from Costa Rica!


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 managing a Cabina on the beach at Playa Matapalo, between Quepos and Dominical, in Costa Rica.

Travelling Plans: On March 15th we are headed up into the Costa Rica mountains to stay at our friends farm in the jungle. There we will be helping him with some large landscaping projects for 5-6 weeks. After that we have been accepted to housesit at a house in Rivas, Nicaragua beginning May 4th. We will be there for 4.5 months. To learn how you can housesit, click here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you like my writing, and want to follow along on our journey, please put your email address in the right hand column to subscribe. That way all of my posts will go straight to your email inbox:)

Kayaking on the Savegre with Rafiki Safari – Activity Guide

Published February 15, 2018 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…….


Last week we had the good fortune to go kayaking with one of the local tour operators here in Matapalo, Rafiki Adventure Tours.

We started out early, leaving the beach in Matapalo at 7:30am by vehicle and arriving on the lower section of the Savegre River around 8:00.  We were told by our guides that the Savegre is one of the cleanest rivers in Costa Rica, and possibly all of Central America.  Apparently there is very little in the way of settlements along its banks, which gives it this distinction.

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We got all loaded up and then pushed off into the river.  The river is very slow moving in this section, and it’s a great spot to just drift downstream while taking in all of the early morning bird life along the banks.

We saw many types of birds including the Great Blue Heron, Tiger Heron, Green Backed Heron, Black Necked Stilt, Cormorant plus the usual suspects, Vultures and Pelicans.  There were many other small ones tucked into the grasses along the shore lines, and quite often the guide would be telling us there was something there, but I coulnd’t see what it was no matter how hard I tried.

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Sights such as this were common as we drifted by.  This is a Cormorant.

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This is the beginning part, just after putting in.  It was the fastest moving section of water we were on, and really wasn’t too fast at all.

 

We eventually drifted down to the mouth of the river, but because of the way it turned before hitting the beach, we weren’t caught up in a rush of water that was pouring out into the ocean, like one would expect.  Instead, we lazily drifted over to a beach section that had a small shelter erected on it.  Apparenlty this is a good spot for a snack, and also, we were told, camping.  Many families come and camp in this spot, enjoying the river and the ocean, in close proximity.

As we came to this spot, we could see the waves breaking in the ocean, just over the crest of a sand bank that was blocking the water from coming into where we were.

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A look at the waves hitting the protective sand bar.

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The little shelter that has been erected for campers and kayakers to take a break.

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If you look closely, you can see the waves breaking in the distance, but not coming into where we were drifting, plus the little shelter that we were heading to is on the left.

After asking the guide if there was a worry about Crocodiles in the area, I went for a quick swim in the fresh water.  It was much cooler than the ocean, and was very refreshing as it was already brutally hot out.  It wasn’t until after I got out that he told us that in the winter, the crocodiles are a common sighting on the surface, however, with it now being summer, and the river is busier with traffic, they usually hide down below the surface and aren’t seen as much.  So I guess I didn’t really hear his response when I went for the swim!  However, crocodiles aren’t usually interested in eating people, but I wouldn’t want to push my luck with that!  It was a quick swim either way!

After having a few snacks, we set out on a side tributary of the river that wound it’s way along the shoreline, but was encased in thick mangroves.  As we paddled along, the channel that we were on, got smaller and smaller, and as I was starting to feel like a bit like Alice in Wonderland at this point, it got curiouser and curiouser.

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Still in a fairly wide section.

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Starting to wonder where we were going.

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Ended up in this tiny mangrove channel for about an hour!

As you can imagine, trying to paddle in the tight mangrove channel was quite interesting.  More than once I got my paddle caught on a root on one side, and then caught on the other at the same time, and my progress would come to a screeching halt as my chest hit my paddle and stopped me dead.  There was a lot of splashing and paddles clanking tree roots from the whole crew as we slowly snaked our way through this section.  At one point I decided that I was going to separate my paddle and only use one side, but trying to maneuver a kayak like that , with one paddle, turned out to be more difficult than getting my paddle caught on the roots.  I admitted defeat pretty quickly, and went back to clanking mangrove roots with my paddle instead.  The whole process was a bit of a test of patience, but at the same time, a really cool experience.

We saw monkeys jumping through the mangroves and once in a while one would come to the edge and poke it’s head out to see what we were up to.  I kept a careful look out for crocodiles, feeling like if I was a crocodile, I would definitely want to hang out there.  But thank fully we didn’t see any as it would have been quite close quarters!  We didn’t really see any other wildlife in this section, as the massive tangle of mangrove roots would make it quite hard for most animals to navigate I would think.

Eventually after much paddle clanking, we emerged from our tiny Chanel and found ourselves on a different river, the Portalon River.

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Emerging on the Portalon River

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This is a different type of Mangrove Tree, there were a few different types that we saw.

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Our guide up ahead.

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We had to navigate under a few trees, this one was a breeze but others were more of a limbo.

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Like this one!  This photo was taken by another guest on the tour, Viola Kerner.

The end of our journey turned out to be the most entertaining part of all!  As we approached the pull out, there were two troops of monkeys that started having a bit of a yelling match at each other.  It turned out that we were right in the middle of them all, and as we stood there, the jungle erupted in screeches and yells, and monkeys baring their teeth at each other.  When it first began, I thought they were mad at us for being there!  Seeing the monkeys bare their teeth like that, suddenly felt very scary, and my immediate thought was that they were going to attack us!  But the guide said that they were fighting with each other, and as we stood there, it became apparent that they weren’t really paying attention to us at all, but were in fact screeching at each other.

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Monkeys on one side of our pull out

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Monkeys on the other side. You can see how close the one was to our kayak! They actually were running and jumping across it.

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This is another image by Viola Kerner.  As you can see, the normally playful and curious monkeys were NOT happy!

After watching the monkeys for about 5 minutes, and finally hearing their screeches and yelling fade off into the jungle, we all laughed in disbelief.  Our guide told us that that was certainly NOT a normal occurrence, and even he was shaking his head with the hilariousness of it all.

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There couldn’t be a more perfect vehicle to finish the day off with!

We loaded up the old rusty Rafiki Safari jungle mobile, and after jokes from our guide about possibly needing to push it to get started, it fired up without hesitation.  We headed off back to Matapalo bouncing along a tiny dirt road that indeed felt like it was straight out of an African safari, matching the feeling of the vehicle that we were riding in.  One almost expected to see giraffe heads poking up above the foliage, but the only animal we did see on the way back, was a tiny baby sloth, curled up in a ball high up in a tree.  With the amount of close encounters with sloths that we have had already this year, this was certainly not our highlight of the trip!

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The bumpy road back to Matapalo.

All in all, it was a great day.  We arrived back to Matapalo by lunch time, and were able to enjoy the rest of the day.

I would highly recommend this trip to anyone who is visiting this part of Costa Rica.  Our guide was knowledgeable and friendly, and the trip was certainly a great experience!

Thank you Rafiki for such a great time!


To book this trip you can contact Rafiki in the following ways:

Website: www.rafikisafari.com

Email: rafikisafari@gmail.com

Phone: 506-2777-2250 or 506-8470-1642

PLEASE NOTE:  There is no kayaking experience needed for this trip!  However, it is a little bit of a workout towards the end as we paddled upstream in the slow moving Portalon River for about 10 minutes, so being in reasonable shape is a bonus!


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 managing a Cabina on the beach at Playa Matapalo, between Quepos and Dominical, in Costa Rica. If you are travelling in the area, please get in touch! We would love to connect with fellow travellers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you like my writing, and want to follow along on our journey, please put your email address in the right hand column to subscribe.  That way all of my posts will go straight to your email inbox:)

The Threat of Stagnancy

Published February 3, 2018 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…….


My partner and I have officially been living on the same beach in Costa Rica for 3 months now.  While that may not seem like a long time to most people, it is a bit of a bench mark number for me.  In the past, when my ex husband and I would travel for long lengths of time (back in our 20’s before “real life” kicked into gear), we would always start to get itchy to go home around the 3 month mark.  Granted, that usually meant that it would take us another month or so to get back home, but the intention was usually laid around the 3 month mark, and the plan would be set.

This time is different though, this time we aren’t going home.  This time there is no home to go back to!

In the last couple of weeks I have started to feel the pang of boredom, that feeling of “spinning my wheels”, a feeling of not really getting anywhere.  That yearning to see and do more has crept in, and I go through feelings of a bit of anxiousness as I wrestle with it all. After all, we are supposed to be travelling right?  (Accent on the “ing” part!)

However, and this is a HUGE HOWEVER, we are sitting in the absolute most perfect spot right now.  We are making a little bit of money, our accomodation is paid for, and we are parked on one of the most undiscovered, and picturesque beaches in all of Costa Rica.

So what really IS the problem??

I have been contemplating this for about a week now, and I think the answer is that stagnancy has crept in, and with that a certain laziness.  Suddenly we have a routine, suddenly we are comfortable, suddenly we have a community, suddenly nothing is new anymore, things aren’t as exciting as they were when we arrived, and we have started to become complacent.

My Dad, John Amatt, has a quote that he uses in his motivational presentations:

You either change, or you stagnate. You either leap forward, or you fall backward. You cannot stay where you are today.”

When I look at this quote, and I think about my reasons for wanting to go on this traveling journey, I realize that it is the need and the want to see and experience different things, that really gets me excited.  That is what travelling is all about after all, seeing new things, experiencing new experiences, trying different food, finding out about what is around every corner. As we have new experiences in life, we grow, we change, and we become better people all round.

This past few weeks I haven’t posted many new photos on my social media pages, I have been finding it hard to write blog posts (therefore already dashing my goal of one per week in 2018!), and I haven’t really felt like doing much at all in general.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been doing lots of artwork, and continue to upload images to my various online pages (clickShops here to see more of this), which is always a lot of work, but that’s all I have really felt motivated to do.  And I do realize that this all sounds like a very “Poor Me” post, but it’s not.  It’s simply just real.  It’s simply my human experience, and that is all.


We just had a friend visiting us for about 12 days from Canada, which really felt nice, having our routine broken up for a bit.  He fell in love with this place, and proclaimed that he could stay here for a really long time.  When I told him that I am starting to get itchy to go somewhere else, he stated that I was crazy.  Why would I want to leave such a perfect spot?  We have friends here, we have community here, we have a routine, we have created a new life.

It might seem bizarre to people that these are the exact reasons that I want to start a new, go somewhere else, experience something else, but I guess that is just how I am built.  I feel like when I do the same thing for too long, have the same scenery over and over for too long, I become bored, I become disinterested in doing much, I become lazy, and worst of all I become stagnant.

When we lived in Canada, it was an easy fix.  We would just jump in the car and go exploring, go for a hike, go on a road trip, go see something new.  And looking back, I think that is pretty much what we did every so often.  But here, we have no car and we have 3 dogs to take care of, which makes it difficult to even leave at all.

But, as I said before, it really is the perfect scenario, so I will just sit with it, I will continue to appreciate my surroundings, and I will continue to be thankful that we are so fortunate to be here.  After all, we worked very hard to get ourselves here, it would be a shame to not enjoy it!

Not too mention, no matter what I am thinking, and no matter how anxious I get, we are here for as long as we need to be.  The owner of the place we are managing is not sure when he is coming back, so it’s necessary to stay and take care of his dogs and manage his business until he returns.  But it doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be thinking about our next moves!  I have a growing list of places we want to visit after we leave here!

Maybe this is the lesson I need, to be able to learn to be patient.  Maybe I just need to breathe in one spot for a while.  Maybe THIS is the universe trying to tell ME something!


I have to say though, it hasn’t been all being lazy on the beach this past month, and while our friend was here, we did have a couple of adventures, and had some exciting experiences!

#1, We went Ziplining!

I really can’t even remember the last time that I went ziplining, it has to be at least 20 years I think!  We went to  Hacienda Baru, a 330 Hectare Wildlife Reserve that is located just down the road from here.  We flew through the canopy with reckless abandon on 8 different zip lines! It was exhilarating!

#2, We went camping!

We spent one night up at our friends farm in El Silencio, located 30 minutes away, in the mountains behind us. It was his 60th Birthday celebration, and we arranged for the dogs to be cared for while we enjoyed a night with friends around the fire.  He also took us on a pretty awesome tour of his property and a few of us marched through the dense jungle to reach a lookout high above his house, that looked out all the way to the ocean!

#3, We got Accepted to Volunteer!

We learned that we have been accepted to Volunteer at Envision Fesitval about 3 weeks from now.  Click here to find out about more from this amazing festival.  We can’t wait to be involved in the creativity and meet incredible artists from around the world!

#4, We saw Whales!

Yes, we had a pod of about 5 humpback whales swim past our beach, very close to shore. We saw them spouting and breaching and could really see just how big they actually are!  Quite a spectacle!  Unfortunately I started videoing JUST as they finished breaching right in front of us, so I have nothing to share in that regard.


Another thing that I have worked on recently is a small crowd funding campaign that I have launched.  Chris and I have made a friend here in Costa Rica, and she is going through a rough time right now.  She is only 21 years old, has a 4 year old daughter and is going through a divorce.  I can’t imagine having to take all of that on at such a young age!

She works as hard as she can, and as much as she can, to try and make ends meet.  While I know that money doesn’t solve the worlds problems, I feel that a small boost for her in the short term, would get her through her current rough patch, and would maybe take away a feeling of hoplessness, and a scary outlook as she navigates parenthood alone.  She is so young, and just starting out, and life can be a long and difficult road.

One of my goals when we set out on our journey, was to try and make a difference in the world.  This is one way that I feel like I can maybe give back a little bit.  We are so fortunate to have the lives that we do in North America.  The fact that we can afford to do most things that we want to, even those of us that are seemingly scraping by, means that we are already in the top percentages of the wealthy people in the world.

In Costa Rica the wages are incredibly low in comparison to the cost of living.  We have noticed that much of the food, gasoline, electricity and other common bills, are comparible prices to those found in Canada.  At a standard rate of roughly $3 per hour, I can’t even imagine how hard it must be for some people to get by.

If you have even $5 to spare, it would mean a lot to me if you were able to contribute to the Go Fund Me Campaign that I have set up.  Help me to help others, but making a small difference in one persons life.

Thanks for reading!  Pura Vida to all!

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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 managing a Cabina on the beach at Playa Matapalo, between Quepos and Dominical, in Costa Rica. If you are travelling in the area, please get in touch! We would love to connect with fellow travellers!

To head back to the beginning of our journey, and the moment we decided to do this, click here.

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

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

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

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

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

From Housesitters to Cabina Managers…..

Published January 2, 2018 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…….


Wow!  This last couple of weeks has been a bit of a whirlwind!

Two weeks ago our plan was to finish our housesitting gig here in Matapalo, Costa Rica on December 30th.  We had booked ourselves into Spanish School up in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua from January 7th-13th.  But that was it, that was our plan, at least in the immediate future.  Beyond that we had a rough idea to head up into the mountains here in Costa Rica, to work on our friends farm, and help him to get some projects finished that he has been needing to do.  But that was a loose plan, nothing was set in stone, and we pretty much could have just showed up anytime that we wanted to.

We had also been applying to some more housesitting jobs, but nothing was confirmed, and we had been researching WWOOFING opportunities here, but again, nothing was really decided.

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We had a visit from a herd of cows that walked by the other day! I’ve never seen cows on the beach before!

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This guy was hanging from a tree just in front of our house the other day. The sloths are quite prevelant in this area, but they usually sleep much higher up. This guy was only about 8 feet off the ground, allowing a great opportunity for photos.

We weren’t really worried about our futures.  We had a short term plan, and knew that we would just figure the rest out as it came along.  As stated before, we want to be open to new experiences, and allow things to flow our way, without constructing our future too much, and over committing ourselves.

We want to be able to say YES, when an awesome opportunity comes our way!

Well, I can tell you that that is exactly what happened!

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While walking the dogs on the beach one evening, we discussed the fact that we only had a few days left here.  We both felt sad that our stint at Playa Matapalo was coming to an end.  We had grown to love this place, we had made friends, we had built community.  We didn’t feel like we were ready to go, and we both verbalized this.  We finished our walk, and didn’t think much else of it.

Around this time we had also learned that a German man that we had made friends with, suddenly had to leave the area, and it wasn’t clear when he was coming back.  He has three dogs, of which had become quite fond of us, and a small Cabina Rental with only 2 units.  Immediately we offered to step in to feed the dogs and take them for walks, plus put them in their house at night.  But over the course of the next few days, we started a conversation with him about possibly taking over managing the cabina rentals as well.  Christmas was coming and his bookings were full, cancelling them would mean a huge loss to him.

Of course, this meant that we would get to stay here longer, and our wishes would be fulfilled.  But it also meant that we had the chance to make some really good money, which is never a bad thing!  However, it also meant that we had to cancel our Nicaragua trip, but really, that isn’t a big deal.  We will go to Nicaragua another time, when we are meant to.

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This is our new view from our Cabina job.  All day long the Pelicans fly by, we see fish and mantarays jumping, and we listen to the rhythmic rumble of the waves crashing to shore.  

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The irony was not lost on us that this was another instance of verbalizing our wishes, and having them come true.  This has happened to us over the course of this entire year. We manifested the buyers of our house, we manifested our housesitting job here in Costa Rica, and now we have manifested a longer stay here in Matapalo.

We are also fully aware that the reason this opportunity came our way, is because we were open to it.  It’s because we have freed our life up in a way that we CAN say yes to any and every good opportunity that presents itself.  It’s the reason that we are trying to not over plan, and over commit to our futures.  We are very much living in the moment, and it is paying off in a big way!

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One question you may ask is “What do you know about managing Cabinas?”

The answer is simple: Literally Nothing!

But you know what?  We are willing to try.  We are willing to give it a go, to learn how to do it along the way.  We are willing to make mistakes and learn from them, but most importantly we are willing to take risks, and have new experiences.

This job comes with a lovely Tica (Costa Rican) lady that knows most of the ropes.  She has been able to guide us and show us the way.  Communication has been interesting, but thankfully I know enough Spanish to get us by, and she has been very patient with us.  If it’s clear that I don’t understand what she is saying, she will show us in a different way.  Together we are making this work, together we are learning as we go.  Not too mention, of course, our owner is only a message away if there is anything that we really need to know.

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Our Tica helper showed us how she makes the beds and cleans the rooms so that we could be prepared for when she had days off.  This is the result of our first try!  

And the best part of this job is that we get to meet other travellers!  Connecting with people from around the world, makes me incredibly happy!  This is exactly what I wanted to do while travelling, not only meet the locals of where we visit, but connect with other travellers from around the world, creating a network of like-minded individuals who love to travel.

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And so, here we are!  Entering 2018 in a way that we never anticipated or imagined!  We don’t know exactly how long we will be here, but we are definitely loving each and every day as it comes!

I will leave this message with these wishes to all of you:

LIVE YOUR DREAMS IN 2018!

FOLLOW YOUR PASSIONS IN 2018!

LIVE THE BEST LIFE POSSIBLE IN 2018!

Because I can assure you, that you, and only you, are responsible for your choices and doing what makes you happy!

Life is short, lets get busy!  Take the risks!  Go on the trip!  Do that thing that you have always wanted to!

I can assure you that you WILL NOT regret it!

I hope that life brings you peace, love and happiness in 2018.

Make this your best year yet!!

With gratitude and love,

xo Jill

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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 managing a Cabina on the beach at Playa Matapalo, between Quepos and Dominical, in Costa Rica. If you are travelling in the area, please get in touch!  We would love to connect with fellow travellers!

To head back to the beginning of our journey, and the moment we decided to do this, click here.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Yes, Bali has an erupting volcano! But so what??

Published December 19, 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…….


An article came to me today while doing work on my laptop, and it got me thinking about how little it takes to scare most people out of travelling.

The article was put out by the New York Times (click here to read the whole article) and is titled “Bali’s Rumbling Volcano Leaves Tourist Industry Gasping for Air.”

The article was written on December 7th, only 10 days after the rumblings of Mt Agung, caused the mandatory evacuation of 100 000 people who lived within close vicinity of it.  The ash spewing from the volcano, caused flight cancellations and delays, stranding thousands of passengers.

The article goes on to say that because of the uncertainty of this erupting beast, it’s said that it could erupt again soon, many future flights and travel plans have been cancelled, and tourism seemingly came to an abrupt halt.  One man is quoted as saying that occupancy was at 20%, instead of the 60% that was typical at that time of year.

Despite the fact that none of the tourist facilities are near the volcano, people have been frightened off, once again, from this absolutely incredible island nation.  Is it the possible inconvenience of flight disruptions?  Is it fear of being in direct line of a piece of lava spewing from the volcano?  Is complete and utter unabashed fear?  Fear of not even knowing what one is fearful of?  Or maybe it is a fear that is ignited by others’ fear?  Maybe people get scared because someone else gets scared, and then suddenly it’s all contagious!?

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I have to say that I certainly can not relate to this sort of fear.

Bali is a very large island, by island standards, and there are many places to see that will bring you nowhere near the erupting volcano.  The people are some of the most caring, thoughtful, friendly and wonderful people that you will ever meet.  Experiencing the Balinese culture is like nothing else.  Their Hindu values make them extremely warm and inviting, and you can’t help but feel completely at peace when among them.

I first travelled to Bali in 1995 when I was 18 years old.  I was a student with Class Afloat, a floating class room, if you will, that took place aboard a 188 foot tall ship, S/V Concordia.  There were 52 of us students on board, plus about 16 professional crew.  We spent about 10 days on the island of Bali, back in the days of less tourism and less commercialism.  We stayed in Ubud for a few nights, many of the streets weren’t paved, there weren’t many people around at all.  There were a few smatterings of craft stalls and art markets, but nothing like it was when I returned in 2008.  I was aghast at what had become of quaint little Ubud during the 13 years that I had been away.  It was in that moment, that I realized how seemingly quickly things can change.

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This is S/V Concordia. 188 feet long, and the main mast stood at 150 feet high.  Yes, that is me at the very top and center, perched on the royal yard, as we navigated into port in Boston, Massachusetts in 1995.  Sadly, this vessel sunk many miles off the coast of Brazil in 2010.  All students and crew survived.

Although Bali has always been a tourist destination, mostly servicing Australians back in the early days, its popularity now, has put it firmly on many peoples’ bucket lists.  And for good reason!  However, this has unfortunately created a false economy for this island nation, as the slightest little things that go wrong, send it reeling into the pits of despair as tourists decide to go elsewhere, somewhere safer.

Well, I can tell you right now, that there is nowhere ‘safer’.  The world is changing at an incredible rate.  There are rumblings going on all over the place.  As I type this, I am sitting in Costa Rica, and my partner and I experienced our first official 6.8 Earthquake about a month ago.  Of course, it didn’t stop flights from flying, and it didn’t cause massive devastation, but it could have.  If the epicentre was in San Jose, it very easily could have created a scenario that might have stranded passengers and caused many fatalities.  But it didn’t.

Around the world there are hurricanes and floods, mud slides and typhoons.  They happen ALL THE TIME.  In fact, there are also volcanoes erupting here in Costa Rica.  At any moment one of them could really start spewing, and then what?  Do we all flee out of here, afraid of the entire country being carried away in a stream of lava?  Of course not!

It is time that people started thinking clearly about these things.  By cancelling a trip of a life time, or maybe one that you do every year, because of the teeny tiny rumblings of a volcano, is utterly ridiculous.  You are in more danger of being hit by a car outside your house, then you are of being harmed by an erupting volcano.  Let’s not forget that people have lived amongst volcanos for centuries!  Besides, how cool would it be to actually see an erupting volcano!?

One of my all time favourite travel moments, actually was right here in Costa Rica back in 2004.  I was near the town of Fortuna, made famous for it’s proximity to Arenal Volcano.  The volcano was erupting at the time we were visiting, not a lot, just a bit of smoke through the day, but the real show was at night.  I will never forget the experience of sitting in a RIVER of hot water, coming straight from the innards of that very volcano, while watching red rocks rumble and tumble from the top of it, splitting into thousands of red embers as they crashed down the slopes.

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Photo Credit:  Aaron White.  This is a recent shot of Volcan Fuego, which is currently erupting in Antigua, Guatemala.

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Photo Credit: Aaron White. This is a recent shot of Volcan Fuego, which is currently erupting in Antigua, Guatemala.  You can imagine what a cool experience it was for them to witness this!

Of course, we were well enough away to not be in harms way, but seriously, can you imagine bearing witness to such a sight?  I really felt like I had to pinch myself.  I absolutely felt like I was in a dream world, like this only happened in books and in movies.  But no, here I was, ACTUALLY there, ACTUALLY experiencing this awesome sight!  Wouldn’t you like to experience that?  Are you willing to set aside your fears of the unknown to really get out there and see things that you only dreamed of? That you too only thought happened in movies.

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This is me looking up to the summit of Volcan Arenal in Costa Rica, 2004.

Please for the sake of all that is holy (I am not a religious person), re-consider your decisions when you make them based solely on ridiculous insights.  Think, for once, about the lives of the people that depend on you.  About those who survive solely because you have enough money to go wherever you want in the world.  Don’t punish those that rely on you, just because you have an inkling of a fear! And really, don’t punish YOURSELF by taking away what could be one of the most incredible experiences of your life!

To those of you who weren’t planning to go to Bali, I must say, NOW IS THE TIME!  Less tourists means a better experience after all!  Go check Bali out, check it off your bucket list, and do it as SOON AS POSSIBLE!!!

The Balinese people will be thankful for it, your soul will be thankful for it, and in turn, you will help to heal the world!

This will be a decision that you will NOT regret! And while I can’t promise you everything, I can certainly promise you that much!

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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 housesitting until December 30th at Playa Matapalo, between Quepos and Dominical, in Costa Rica. If you are travelling in the area, please get in touch! We would love to connect with you.

To learn about how YOU can be housesitting as well, click here.

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

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

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

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

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

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