Happy New Year – 2018 Review

Within each of these simplified paragraphs, lies a wealth of other stories.  Stories of different experiences, friends we have made, people we have seen, and places we have witnessed. 


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


HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Well, we have all collectively made it into another year, and the last year of the 2010’s.  This last year has been a hell of a ride for us as we have lived in 3 different countries!  When I sat down to do some writing today, I realized that it had been almost a month since my last blog post, and that I kind of left everyone hanging.  I still haven’t written my “San Cristobal Part 2” yet, and I kind of had plans to do that today.  But then I realized that with the New Year, comes a good time to reflect on all that we did in 2018.  And so, my San Cristobal Part 2 post will have to wait, as I decided that instead, I wanted to do a recap of what this last year has been like for us.  I must say, after writing it all out, it’s amazing to see all the things that we have done and the places we have been.  Within each of these simplified paragraphs, lies a wealth of other stories.  Stories of different experiences, friends we have made, people we have seen, and places we have witnessed.  Along with each of these paragraphs, we lived a wild and exciting life, and we are both incredibly grateful for all that we have seen and done in the last year.  As you read, you will notice highlighted words.  These are links to relevant blog posts that will catch you up on that particular area if you are interested.  Unfortunately, I lost my mojo to write around October, so the last bit is missing some posts, but I hope to get caught up on those in the next couple weeks, though I’m also not going to put too much pressure on myself to complete them, as we have some big experiences coming up right around the corner.  We will see.  Anyways, for now, enjoy the recap!

January started us off managing a cabina rental in Matapalo, Costa Rica.  Matapalo is located right on the beach in the southwest corner of the country.  It is smack between popular tourist spots of Dominical and Manuel Antonio National Park, and it is often overlooked as people pass right by from point A to point B, not realizing that there is a 12 km stretch of beach adjacent to the highway, that barely has any people on it at all.  We didn’t complain about that though, as we enjoyed the first 2.5 months of 2018 (following 2 months at the end of 2017) hanging out on this perfect, quiet, and picturesque beach.

In February we volunteered at a huge music festival called Envision.  It is held annually in February near Uvita, which was only a short drive south of us.  We spent 6 days frolicking about, dancing and partying and really had a great time.

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The middle of March saw us moving up to El Silencio, a remote mountain village set just at the base of the mountains.  We rented a house there for 3 weeks, and enjoyed watching the toucans, scarlett macaws and many other types of wildlife pass by our place.  We visited an incredible waterfall, swam in the river and hung out with our Canadian friend who owned property adjacent to where we were renting.  It was a lovely break from the more hectic life at Matapalo where we were managing the cabinas and taking care of 3 dogs.

By the beginning of April we were eager to move on, and because we had a housesitting gig set up in Nicaragua at the beginning of May, we decided that we were finished with Costa Rica, and we longed to see something new.  So we packed up and headed north to volunteer at an earth bag construction project with a girl that I had gotten contact for when we were volunteering at Envision Festival.

We were located in a very rural part of Nicaragua, well off the beaten track.  We volunteered and lived in our tent for 3 weeks in very dusty conditions, and literally had to pull at least one tick, if not 4, off of our bodies every night before bed time.  It was an interesting experience and we really enjoyed it, but I’m not sure if it is one that I would want to repeat.  April 18th, a civil war broke out in Nicaragua, and as we were supposed to start housesitting in May, it made for an interesting couple of weeks, trying to decide if we actually wanted to stay in the country or not.

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San Jorge Beach looking out over Lake Nicaragua and the to volcanoes that make up the island in the middle. 

We did decide to stick it out, and met the homeowners at the beginning of May.  We were supposed to housesit until the beginning of September but we only lasted about 4 weeks.  We hated to leave Nicaragua, but the political scene was volatile, many people were getting shot in the streets, and all but a handful of tourists had fled the country.  It wasn’t a very nice scene, but again we hated to leave.  As most of the violence was in the north of the country, we had no choice but to retreat back to Costa Rica, to try and figure out our next moves.  At that time, the only other concrete plan we had, was to housesit in Guatemala at the end of November.  So we had a few months to fill in and try to figure out what we wanted to do.

Not realizing how shell shocked we actually were from the experience in Nicaragua, we arrived to a hostel in Samara, a place we had stayed almost immediately after arriving in Costa Rica at the beginning of this trip in October 2017.  It felt good to get back to some familiarity and the warm, welcoming and safe arms of Costa Rica.  We were surprised when we arrived at the hostel to find a small group of us that had fled Nicaragua.  We called ourselves the Nicaraguan Refugees, and we made fast friends and shared many stories.  The owner of the hostel ended up asking us to paint a mural for him in exchange for our accommodation, and we happily obliged.  We really didn’t know where we wanted to go anyways, and we took the time we needed to fully recover and feel like we were ready to move on in our journey and figure out a plan.

We spent about a month in Samara, and left the hostel bound for San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica, on July 4th.  We decided that it made the most sense to fly north, as we needed to get to Guatemala to housesit anyways, and had discovered the city of Flores in the northern department (like provinces and states).  It is an island city, located on Lake Peten Itza, and upon arrival we immediately fell in love with the area, and started searching for a house to rent for a couple months.  The universe provided for us and we lucked into a perfect rental house for about $220/month.  While in the area, we of course visited the famous Mayan city of Tikal, once the center of the Mayan culture.  We fell in love with the jungle, the people and the area, and we extended our initial 2 month rental period to 3.

After a couple of months of being there, my parent’s came down to visit us for a week.  We had some nice days with them, and headed back to Tikal.  Unfortunately Dad got food poisoning the day we arrived, so he spent a couple days in bed.  Shortly after they left, we started painting a mural for a coffee shop/restaurant/bar owner that we had come to know as it was our favourite place to hang out and use the internet.  However, after 90 days of being in the country, we needed to leave Guatemala to renew our visitor visa, but we still weren’t finished the mural.  So we headed up to Mexico for a week with the plan to renew our visa, then return to Flores to finish it.

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On the steps of Temple IV at Tikal with my Mom. 

We headed across the nearest border crossing, finding ourselves in Palenque in the Southern State of Chiapas.  We were anxious to see how the internet speed was in Mexico, as we had struggled with it immensely in Flores for the time that we had spent there.  As we were both still in the progress of really getting our online shops going, we found the internet issue really challenging especially when we needed to upload high resolution images to our online shops.  So we thought of Mexico as a place where we could get caught up on some projects as well.  Unfortunately, the internet in Palenque wasn’t too much better than in Flores, but we did take a few days to get some work done, but we also frolicked in some amazing waterfalls, relaxed in the park, and headed to the equally famous to Tikal,  Palenque Mayan Ruins.  After the week was up, we returned to Flores to finish our mural(s) (there was actually 3 different walls that we painted on, so I guess it was more ‘murals’ instead of just a ‘mural’.)

By October 19th, we had finally completed the murals and headed back to Mexico as we had plans to go to Oaxaca City to be a part of the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival, one of Mexico’s premier celebrations, at the beginning of November. We first headed back to Palenque, then we were off to San Cristobal, high up in the mountains.  We spent about 5 nights in the busy city, then continued on an 11 hour bus ride north east to Oaxaca.

The city of Oaxaca and the festivities of Dia de los Muertos did not disappoint!  We took part in multiple days of festivities, hung out with friends that we had initially met in Costa Rica, visited a Mezcalaria, visited some artists workshops, went to the botanical gardens and visited the cemeteries to see the fiestas that were happening amongst the families.  It was an incredible cultural experience, and I PROMISE that I will try and get a blog post written about out time spent there.  It was a wonderful 2 weeks, and we FINALLY had found some fast internet.  So we wasted no time in updating our shops, and really getting the balls rolling with them again before the busy Christmas season descended on us.   After 2.5 weeks there, it was time to return back to Guatemala to start preparing ourselves for our upcoming housesitting job.

We returned through San Cristobal once again to REALLY cold temperatures.  We had found it cool on our initial visit, but this time it was down right COLD!  The nights went down to about 9 degrees, and a couple of days it was only about 12 in the day time.  Not too mention that the city is at 7000 feet, so we were pretty much in the clouds which made everything damp and bone chilling.  This normally is not too big of a concern in the north where you have a nice warm house to go into at night, but bear in mind that there is no central heating in these places, and because it was only just a cold snap, nobody had fires burning in their hotels either.  We wore our long johns and toques and pretty much ever other layer that we had, day and night.  We had returned because Chris wanted a tattoo from our new friend that we had met there, so once that was finished, we were happy to be moving on.

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We were REALLY cold! 

Getting back to Palenque (after a bit of a hellish 11 hour bus ride on an alternate route because the normal route was closed by a teacher strike road block) we were so happy to see the jungle again and sit in the warm tropical air.  We decided that 3 days in San Cristobal in those conditions was winter enough for our fragile, and obviously spoiled, bodies.  Living in the tropics for a year has clearly made us soft.  We spent a couple nights back in Palenque, staying in a completely different part of town, which was pretty neat as we hadn’t even realized that that part had existed on our previous 2 visits.  The last day we left San Cristobal, I received news that a childhood friend of mine had succumbed to his short battle with cancer at the age of just 40, back in Canada.  So the time in Palenque served as a mourning stage as I wrestled with the first feelings of homesickness that I think I have ever felt.  With all of my friends from my small home town gathered together to mourn and celebrate his life, I felt very distant and alone, and it took a few days to get back to my normally cheerful self.

We left Palenque and headed back to Flores where Chris had some unfinished tattoo work that he had to complete.  We fell back in with our Flores family like we had never left, and spent another week there visiting and hanging out with the gang.

On November 25th we descended down the Rio Dulce by boat to our next housesitting post in Livingston, Guatemala, which is where we sit now.  Livingston is located on the Caribbean Coast of Guatemala, on a tiny bit of land between Honduras and Belize.  It has a very funky and lively Garifuna (they came from the Island of Trinidad) culture which is mixed with the latino Guatemalans (think reggae culture but speaking spanish).  The community is water access only, no roads reach here, but there is a decent population base, which makes it feel like it isn’t too remote.  We are staying in a fantastic wooden house that was built by the owner.  He grew up here, but his wife is from Holland, which is where they went for Christmas because she likes the Christmas celebration better in Europe (it really doesn’t even exist here), and he doesn’t like the heat (go figure) and loves going to the European winter for a break.

Over the course of our time here, we have had 3 sets of visitors.  Alejandro visited us from Guatemala City.  He was one of our fellow Nicaraguan refugees that were staying in the hostel in Samara while we were there.  He is Guatemalan and has returned home to make some money and save up to go travelling again.  Tom is from England and we met him on our last return from Palenque to Flores.  He spent a few days in Flores, and we got to know him quite well.  After travelling around Guatemala a bit, heading down to Honduras and El Salvador, he decided that he wanted to come and spend Christmas with us instead of in a hostel with nobody that he knew.  And finally Sandra and Ed are friends from the town we last lived in in Canada who are currently travelling around Belize by camper van.  They popped down here for a couple nights over New Years.  So, our time here has been eventful and busy, but we have enjoyed it immensely.

As I type this, we have 2 days left before the owners arrive back, and we will be continuing on our journey.  We have a very exciting month ahead of us as Chris’ Mom and Step Dad are arriving to Flores to see us on January 10th and we will be travelling around Guatemala with them for almost 2 weeks.  Then at the end of January, we fly off to the US and British Virgin Islands where we will be spending 2 weeks with my parents for my moms 70th Birthday celebration.

Beyond that, the only plan is that we have no plan.  Our hope is to find some work there on boats, and somehow make our way back to Guatemala, before we head north to Canada next summer.  Between now and then we have about 6 months to fill in, and I am realizing by now, that 6 months can contain a wealth of experience and excitement like nothing I could ever plan or expect.

If you have read this far, I thank you.  It was an event filled year, and it’s so hard to pack so much stuff into a few words, but I hope it gave you a good over view of how our life has looked for the last 12 months.

We both wish you all a wonderful 2019, and hope that you too can find some time to get out of your comfort zone and find a little adventure!


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: Livingston, Guatemala

Travelling Plans: We are housesitting here until January 5th.  After that we are headed up Rio Dulce for 2 nights to stay on the river.  Then we are off to Flores to meet Chris’ Mom and Step Dad for 2 weeks of travelling around Guatemala.

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

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

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

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

To contribute to our Patreon account, please click here.

To learn about housesitting, please click here.

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

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

Venga Vale Vamos Guest Interview

I am honoured to join the ranks of many before me, and have been featured in this section with regards to our recent experience of travelling and living in Costa Rica.

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Kristie Jeffries is a traveller, blogger and digital marketer.  She has been on the road for a few years now, and has travelled to 72 countries…….and is still going!  Her website offers a wealth of information about travel around the world, expat life, budget backpacking, working as a digital nomad, Australian working holidays/work visas, the Spanish auxiliares de conversación program, and so much more.

She has a section of her website where she features interviews from fellow travellers, called the Travel Talk Interviews.  These interviews run the gamut from learning about being a Digital Nomad, to becoming a Spanish Teacher’s assistant in Spain, from travelling on a budget to seeing the world in style.

I am honoured to join the ranks of many before me, and have been featured in this section with regards to our recent experience of travelling and living in Costa Rica.

You can read that interview here.

Thanks so much Kristie for the opportunity to share my travel story and my tips to travelling in 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 currently in Flores, Guatemala.  We have rented a house and expect to stay here for a minimum of 2 months.

Travelling Plans: Our next plan is to head to Livingston on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala, where we will be housesitting for roughly 6 weeks at the end of November.

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

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

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

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

To contribute to our Patreon account, please click here.

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

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

Nicaragua – Should We Stay or Should We Go Now? Part 3

We had heard reports that a roadblock was set to begin in Rivas around that time.  We were concerned about what this would mean to our tranquil little corner of the country, but until we felt like we were in danger, we obviously weren’t going anywhere.

We arrived in Nicaragua on April 9th, 2018.  On April 18th, we got news that President Ortega had put into law a new social security reform which would negatively affect the entire population. The students took to the streets to protest, and in what would become the historical beginning to this crazy civil war that they have now entered, over 70 people were killed, mostly students, and many more hundreds were injured, around the country.  On May 10th, we began a housesitting job in Rivas.  Things had calmed down a bit, and we felt right in our decision to stay in the country.  The violence had’t reached where we were, we really felt like it would stay calm.  Day by day we watched as things escalated around us.  We started to feel trapped.  Roadblocks made travelling impossible and we weren’t sure if it was even safe to go anywhere.  Maybe it is best where we are, we thought.  On May 30th, a peaceful Mother’s Day March took place in Managua, the capital of the country.  Estimates of 200 000 people took to the street to show solidarity and a will to make a point, to tell Ortega they wanted him out.  They marched to remember their children that had already been lost in this bloody war.  They were thousands upon thousands strong, mostly waving the Blue and White striped flag of Nicaragua.  It was a sight to behold and I felt a surge of pride for the country and what it was representing.  We read the following morning that late in the day, Snipers located high off the ground, started shooting into the crowd.  That day they killed upwards of 15 people and injured hundreds more.  One boy was shot right from his mother’s arms.  On Mother’s Day.  This was the turning point for us. This unspeakable and despicable act is what forced us from the country.  Because you realize that if a person is capable of that, he is capable of anything.  This is our story of 8 weeks in Nicaragua, when a civil war broke out.  


To start with part one of this story, please click here.

Our first few days on our own, in the house we were housesitting at, were spent hanging out in our Nicaragua neighbourhood.  It was fun to meet the neighbours and explore the streets around our house.  Having already lived in the city for a couple weeks, we had our favourite spots to visit at the market, we shopped from vendors in the park and pretty much had our lay of the land figured out.

The National Dialogue, or commonly known as ‘the talks’, was ordered by the priests and was set to begin on May 16th.  The residents of the country, and the visitors alike, seemed to be waiting with baited breath for this to begin.

Surely something would be sorted out, and all of this bloodshed and violence could be put behind us.  Couldn’t it?

On May 16th, the students, the church and the government met to begin a dialogue to move forward.  The message from the students was clear, Ortega was to step down immediately.  A young Lesther Alleman, a University student, took the charge and declared directly to Ortega that the country, the people, wanted him to step down.  He insisted that there was no other way to move forward.  (Please see articles here and here.)

Ortega had likely never been spoken to like that, and certainly not from a young person like Lesther Alleman.  He immediately became a national hero, the voice of the people.  Watching the videos brought goosebumps to my skin and I felt like in some way, despite it only coming from one young man, the people had spoken.  Indeed at this time, I had read that upward of 70% of the country was not happy with Ortega’s direction and where he was leading the country.  Surely Ortega would listen, surely he would understand that he is not liked, not wanted, not appreciated.

Nothing was solved at ‘the talks’ that day, Ortega insisted that he didn’t know who was killing people, he said that he had ordered the Police to break up protests with non-violent tactics.  He also insisted that the only thing wrecking the country at that time was the road blocks and that they should be lifted immediately to try and recoup the lost economy that had happened since their beginnings.

He didn’t apologize for anything.  He didn’t accept responsibility for anything.

The talks were finished that day and it was declared that further talks would begin in two days.

That night, the following occurred according to the Havana Times:

Proof of Ortega’s intransigent stance is the fact that on the same day of the installation of the dialogue, on Wednesday, his paramilitaries attacked the Cathedral of Jinotega in the night, where students protesting against the regime were given refuge. And on Thursday the attacks continued at the Polytechnic University of Nicaragua (Upoli), where a 16-year-old boy died; and in Masaya, the siege and looting of shops continued on the part of the mobs launched by the Ortega regime.

It’s impossible to report on all of these sorts of activities as this was the normal run of events.  We heard of students living in the Universities, using them as some sort of bunker.  We heard of them being poisoned by rations that they had coming in.  We heard of all sorts of atrocities that were being committed, all the while Ortega declaring that he was not directing it and that he had nothing to do with it. In fact his wife (also Vice President) declared that those protesting were the vermin of society, further enraging the students .

On day 2 of ‘the talks’, they began with Ortega’s representatives showing up in his place.  Word travelled fast that he hadn’t even shown up.  Apparently he didn’t want to be talked to like that again.  Memes flooded the internet about him being a chicken, and not manning up to his position.  However, it turns out, that him and his sidekick did attend, but much later then they were supposed to.  By then, most of ‘the talks’ had been completed by his cohorts. But, yet again, it seemed, nothing was solved and nothing decided on.

Ortega wasn’t going anywhere.

Violence continued in the streets, Tranques (road blocks) were erected, the students were mobilizing, and they were becoming more organized and more determined by the minute.

However, all was still tranquillo in Rivas.  We had seen no road blocks in our area, supplies were getting in, there was no violence, no bloodshed.  We felt like we were living in an alternative reality.  It was hard to comprehend that so much craziness was going on in the rest of the country, when we felt completely safe and normal where we were.

However, we were also keenly aware that things weren’t normal, and that we, ourselves,  were also becoming a rare thing in Nicaragua.  At that point, the travellers had mostly ceased to exist and this became very apparent to us when we took a walk to San Jorge one day.

San Jorge is located 5 km from where we were living.  It is the gateway to Ometepe Island, one of the main tourist attractions in the country.  Ometepe is an island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America.  It is composed of 2 volcanoes which are popular for tourists to hike and climb on.  It is a beautiful island, but it too had been blocked by roadblocks over the last couple weeks.  We heard that these road blocks were actually in retaliation to gas prices that had gone up.  But I’m sure it’s all related, and the bottom line is that nobody was travelling to Ometepe anymore, let alone the rest of the country. Screenshot 2018-06-23 12.09.06

As we arrived to the beach where the ferry dock was, and where restaurants, normally hustling and bustling with travellers, lined the ocean front, there was nobody.  Not one tourist was in sight, let alone barely any Nicaraguans.  We walked along the beach and finally got waved into one of the restaurants where we were the only people in the place.  We sat in disbelief as we drank our Tona’s (local beer) and stared out at the spectacular view in front of us.  I think this is when it really started to hit home.  This is when we realized how few of us were still in the country.

Maybe this is when we started to get a little more worried then we had been before.

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On May 23rd, I started to write some thoughts down about how I was feeling about the situation.  Day by day we heard horrific reports of terrible human rights violations.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) had visited the country and had declared that awful human rights violations were occurring.  (This article came out June 1st, but it states many of the same things that the IACHR had declared when they initiated their investigation.) Things were not getting better, but we still had not seen any violence or felt unsafe at all.  In fact, the more we left our house, and walked the streets, the more we were reassured that all was just fine.  Why would we leave this place when we were still having such a positive experience.

Here is what I wrote on May 23rd:

Today we hear this news:

Starting today at 6:00 am, it has been declared by the Campesino Leader, Francisca Ramirez, That road blocks along the Pacific Coast will become permanent.

What does this mean to us?  What does all of this craziness mean? 

The truth is, we aren’t sure either.

It has been a day to day following of events around here for the last month, tying to decipher what really is going on, vs what we are reading online. 

My emotions run the gamut from completely freaked out and thinking that we are over the top CRAZY for still being here, but I also have days where we walk into town, the people are friendly, life is normal and business is as usual. 

Our own Canadian government website has stated that we should avoid unessential travel to Nicaragua.  But somehow that seems unjustified.  I can’t explain the feelings that we are going through, at times it doesn’t even make sense to us, but we feel like we need to be here right now.  We feel comfortable, and settled, and mostly at peace with what is going on around us. 

Are we burying our heads in the ground?  Are we purposefully rationalizing what is going on around us, so that we feel justified in staying?  I really don’t know.  But I do know this.  Until we personally feel like we are in an unsafe situation, we aren’t leaving this place. 

I’m sure there are thousands of people out there that think we are fools for staying.  And believe me, I have been there.  THIS is not a place I would choose to visit.  I would never purposefully travel to a country with any sort of drama or unrest happening. 

But yet here we are.  Here we sit.  Waiting and watching to see what unfolds.  Trying to focus on the day to day and not some point in the future.  We are dealing with this as we have dealt with every other challenge that we have had in regard to plans or planning of any kind, each day we make a decision of what we are going to do that day, and that is all. 

We have focused really hard on this trip to not contrive our future too much.  I mean, it’s one thing to book a housesitting gig at a far off point, just to secure accommodation of some sort moving forward.  But mostly we are living in the moment.  We are taking the time we need to focus on what is important to us.  To work on our online businesses and to carve out our niche in this world of Digital Nomadism.

So far we have kept a low profile in Nicaragua.  So far we haven’t felt threatened in any way.  So far the people are amazing.  So far we love our neighbourhood.  So far we really have no complaints. 

So why fix what’s not broken?  When we move into a different phase of emotions, we will act on that.  That is it, that is all. 

We had heard reports that a roadblock was set to begin in Rivas around that time.  We were concerned about what this would mean to our tranquil little corner of the country, but until we felt like we were in danger, we obviously weren’t going anywhere.

To be continued………


Disclaimer:  The information provided in my writing is based on articles that I have read from many publications, information gathered from Nicaraguan Expats and Locals, and from videos that I have seen posted online.  I don’t pretend to be an expert on Nicaraguan politics, and if you feel like I have misrepresented information in anyway, please email me at jillamatt@me.com. 

For news on what is happening in Nicaragua and to learn all about this crisis, please visit the La Prensa or 100% Noticias websites.  Their online newspapers have covered this from the beginning and continue to do so. 


After selling all of our possessions in Canada in 2017, we flew to Costa Rica to do an initial housesit for 2 months.  Our journey has continued and we have now been ‘on the road’ for just over 8 months.

Current Location: We are currently in Samara, Costa Rica where we are staying in a familiar hostel with others that left Nicaragua around the same time that we did.   

Travelling Plans: Depending on whether or not we get some work here painting another mural, we will be headed up to Mexico at some point.  But nothing is set in stone yet. 

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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Nicaragua – Should We Stay or Should We Go Now? Part 2

Of course, we were all horrified by the lives that were being lost by the hands of the government, but the ‘talks’ were coming, surely something would be sorted out then. Wouldn’t it?

We arrived in Nicaragua on April 9th, 2018.  On April 18th, we got news that President Ortega had put into law a new social security reform which would negatively affect the entire population. The students took to the streets to protest, and in what would become the historical beginning to this crazy civil war that they have now entered, over 70 people were killed, mostly students, and many more hundreds were injured, around the country.  On May 10th, we began a housesitting job in Rivas.  Things had calmed down a bit, and we felt right in our decision to stay in the country.  The violence had’t reached where we were, we really felt like it would stay calm.  Day by day we watched as things escalated around us.  We started to feel trapped.  Roadblocks made travelling impossible and we weren’t sure if it was even safe to go anywhere.  Maybe it is best where we are, we thought.  On May 30th, a peaceful Mother’s Day March took place in Managua, the capital of the country.  Estimates of 200 000 people took to the street to show solidarity and a will to make a point, to tell Ortega they wanted him out.  They marched to remember their children that had already been lost in this bloody war.  They were thousands upon thousands strong, mostly waving the Blue and White striped flag of Nicaragua.  It was a sight to behold and I felt a surge of pride for the country and what it was representing.  We read the following morning that late in the day, Snipers located high off the ground, started shooting into the crowd.  That day they killed upwards of 15 people and injured hundreds more.  One boy was shot right from his mother’s arms.  On Mother’s Day.  This was the turning point for us. This unspeakable and despicable act is what forced us from the country.  Because you realize that if a person is capable of that, he is capable of anything.  This is our story of 8 weeks in Nicaragua, when a civil war broke out.  


To start at the beginning of this story, click here.

I think back to the days when we were at Amanda’s farm and wonder what our decision would have been had we not have been housesitting.  Would we have stayed in Nicaragua anyways?

We stayed on the farm for a week more, just to see what would happen.  We were safe there, it is a remote area well off the main roads, and her small community has a road that links directly to the local center, where we would go to the market and do our shopping.  As it was, we knew that we didn’t want to go to Granada, but where else would we have gone?  The north end of the country would have been hard to get around, as Leon, Masaya and Matagalpa were hot spots right off the bat.  Perhaps we would have chosen to go see the Corn Islands off the East Coast of the country?  As it turned out, one of the guys staying at Amanda’s farm ended up doing just that on May 4th, and wasn’t able to return to Managua by road, he had to fly as the roads were all blockaded and no buses were running.

However, as it was, we were supposed to be housesitting starting somewhere near the beginning of May, so we decided to stay.  The town where we were going, Rivas, is in the south of the country, there had been no violent conflicts there so we felt that it was safe to stay there, and we would just take it day by day and see how things went.  We rationalized that if we didn’t find ourselves in any danger, then what was the problem?

It seemed simple enough.

As stated in the previous post  we had had it with the conditions on the farm, and we really just wanted a bed to sleep in and a dry place to hang out as the rainy season was just beginning, and having a sopping wet tent day in and day out didn’t seem like much fun.  Plus there was the fact that my business is based online, and with having no wifi access for 3 weeks, it was time to get somewhere that I could get all caught up.

We weighed our options and knowing that the North of the country was already unstable, we opted to just head straight to Rivas and hang out there until our housesit started.

We arrived in Rivas on April 29th, 11 days after the chaos had begun.  Rivas was business as usual.  Tourism had dropped a little bit, but we stayed in one of the more popular hostel type hotels in the area , Hostel Julieta. When we arrived, we were the only ones there, but over the course of the next few days, a few more travellers arrived here and there and it seemed to be business as usual. Some of them had retreated south from some of the Northern Cities and were leaving Nicaragua.  Some were staying, but were headed to quiet and quaint San Juan del Sur which is just down the road.

During this time things had calmed down a little bit.  However, we did hear reports of attacks on the Universities, and even reports of some of the students being poisoned by the rations and water that were being brought in for the ones that had holed up in there. So I guess in saying that it “calmed down”, was relative to where you were in the country.  The Universities had become battlegrounds, and the buildings served as make shift fortress’.  There were still demonstrations and small road blocks up north, but Ortega had agreed to talks with the church at this time, so it seemed to be like everyone was just holding their breath to see what would happen next, after the “talks.”

To us, it was business as usual.  I think we both still felt like things would just blow over.  At some point this craziness will all end.  Won’t it?

We walked the streets at night, we hung out in the central park and watched the kids play and the world go by.  Nothing, I mean nothing, seemed out of sorts at that point.  It really felt safe, and we maintained that until we felt unsafe, we weren’t going anywhere.  We didn’t want to jump the gun and deny ourselves of a great opportunity to see and experience Nicaragua by letting fear get the best of us.

But on the other hand, we also didn’t want to act like we had our heads in the sand.  It was important to stay on top of the news and to pay attention to what was going on.  I joined a couple facebook pages for Expats in Nicaragua, and followed along on the progression as good as I could.  And of course there were still horrors happening, but our immediate experience was just so safe and non threatening, I think we brushed it off a little bit and just thought of it as a problem in the North, not where we were.

On May 3rd we met the home owners that we were supposed housesit for.  Our housesit was to start on May 10th, and while we were now all in the same city together, it just made sense to get together with them and get to know them a little bit.  We had a hilarious first 5 minutes of conversation as we found out that they are from British Columbia, Canada, the same province we had been living in before leaving on our travels.  We thought they were Americans for some reason, and unbeknownst to us they thought we were Americans.  Nobody knows where either of us got that info from, but here we were…….practically neighbours after all.

As we hit it off so well with them over Pizza at a local restaurant, we decided that it be best if we just went and stayed with them for a few days before we started the housesit, so that they could introduce us to their friends, and show us the good spots to go around in the neighbourhood.

We headed to their place on May 7th, giving us a full two days to do some touring around, meeting people and learning the ropes of Rivas, before they left on the 10th.  Things really seemed to have stabilized at that point.  We went down to Cardenas, along the south shore of Lake Nicaragua, and a stones throw from the Costa Rica border.  As the entrance off the highway to Cardenas was pretty much right at the border crossing to Costa Rica, we saw miles and miles of trucks lined up along the road, waiting to cross the border.  I was told that this was the normal scene down here, always tons of trucks.

We visited their friend Kelly in Cardenas and spent the night in an idyllic setting.  We chatted about what was going on, but really at that point it wasn’t affecting peoples lives the way that it would in the weeks to come.  Kelly has lived in Nicaragua for 15 years, and even has a resident status.  So clearly, she had a much bigger concern on her hands then we did.  Of course, we were all horrified by the lives that were being lost by the hands of the government, but the ‘talks’ were coming, surely something would be sorted out then.

Woudn’t it?

The owners of the house where we were to housesit left on May 10th to fly out of Managua.  It was clear sailing all the way to the airport, no blockades, no hassles.  Good news, things MUST be getting back to normal up there!

We had almost 4 months in front of us in a great Nica house, in a tiny Nica neighbourhood, in a safe city, and we really felt hopeful that everything was going to be just fine.

To go to part 3 of this story, click here.


Disclaimer:  The information provided in my writing is based on articles that I have read from many publications, information gathered from Nicaraguan Expats and Locals, and from videos that I have seen posted online.  I don’t pretend to be an expert on Nicaraguan politics, and if you feel like I have misrepresented information in anyway, please email me at jillamatt@me.com. 

For news on what is happening in Nicaragua and to learn all about this crisis, please visit the La Prensa website.  Their online newspaper has covered this from the beginning. 


After selling all of our possessions in Canada in 2017, we flew to Costa Rica to do an initial housesit for 2 months.  Our journey has continued and we have now been ‘on the road’ for almost 8 months.

Current Location: We are currently in Samara, Costa Rica where we are staying in a familiar hostel with 2 others that left Nicaragua in the last few days.  We have also met 5 other people in town that just left.  We call ourselves the Nicaraguan Refugees. 

Travelling Plans: Our ‘plans’ have been flipped upside down and we are now trying to figure out a new one. 

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:)

Nicaragua – Should We Stay or Should We Go Now? Part One

This unspeakable and despicable act is what forced us from the country.  Because you realize that if a person is capable of that, he is capable of anything.  This is our story of 8 weeks in Nicaragua, when a civil war broke out.  

We arrived in Nicaragua on April 9th, 2018.  On April 18th, we got news that President Ortega had put into law a new social security reform which would negatively affect the entire population. The students took to the streets to protest, and in what would become the historical beginning to this crazy civil war that they have now entered, over 70 people were killed, mostly students, and many more hundreds were injured, around the country.  On May 10th, we began a housesitting job in Rivas.  Things had calmed down a bit, and we felt right in our decision to stay in the country.  The violence had’t reached where we were, we really felt like it would stay calm.  Day by day we watched as things escalated around us.  We started to feel trapped.  Roadblocks made travelling impossible and we weren’t sure if it was even safe to go anywhere.  Maybe it is best where we are, we thought.  On May 30th, a peaceful Mother’s Day March took place in Managua, the capital of the country.  Estimates of 200 000 people took to the street to show solidarity and a will to make a point, to tell Ortega they wanted him out.  They marched to remember their children that had already been lost in this bloody war.  They were thousands upon thousands strong, mostly waving the Blue and White striped flag of Nicaragua.  It was a sight to behold and I felt a surge of pride for the country and what it was representing.  We read the following morning that late in the day, Snipers located high off the ground, started shooting into the crowd.  That day they killed upwards of 15 people and injured hundreds more.  One boy was shot right from his mother’s arms.  On Mother’s Day.  This was the turning point for us. This unspeakable and despicable act is what forced us from the country.  Because you realize that if a person is capable of that, he is capable of anything.  This is our story of 8 weeks in Nicaragua, when a civil war broke out.  


We had been staying at Amanda’s farm for about 10 days when we started to feel like it was time to go somewhere new.  We had been living in our tent, it was dry and dusty, we were covered in ticks every day and we were dirty.  It was time to move on, we both felt it.

It was April 19th, and we were scheduled to start housesitting around the beginning of May.  So we had a few days to kill and we thought that spending them in Granada, would be a nice way to see another part of the country, before settling into our house in Rivas.  I instinctually looked on Booking.com and found a place.  I booked it and paid for it, but it didn’t go through for some reason.  After a while, I received a message from the owner saying that they are not taking bookings because Granada was under attack.  Under attack??  What do you mean under attack??  We had just been there the day before.  Amanda had commented on the amount of police vehicles around, but other than that we didn’t see anything else unusual.

The man said that there were blockades and fighting in the streets and that they were closed.  That was it.  He suggested that we leave the country as soon as possible.

I went to find Amanda to tell her what I had heard.  Mostly dumbfounded and really not sure what to think.  It was all beyond comprehension to me.  When I found her she said she knew.  I don’t know for how long she had known, but she was in close contact with her Aunt in Managua and things didn’t sound good.  But we were in Nandaime, nowhere near Managua, and everything seemed normal there.  The 4 of us decided to just see what was going to happen.  This could go many ways, and we wanted to make sure that what we were hearing was fact based, not just based on fear.  And none of us were going to make any rash decisions about leaving, until we heard the outcome of this.

Because at some point this “fight” will end.  Won’t it?

Obviously, we were as glued as we could be to the internet.  Looking on Instagram and Facebook for updates.  Many expats had started reporting about what was happening in their neighbourhoods.  It was frightening and terrifying and we really weren’t sure what to think.  But that was there, and we were not.  We felt safe where we were, on a small farm well away from main roads and big cities.

Amanda’s Quidador (property caretaker) who is roughly 70, would come around our camp a couple times per day reporting in on the numbers.  Letting us know how many had died that day.  Stating that the revolution had started.  Fearful for what he remembered from the last one.  Sickeningly, looking back, we joked about it.  “Viva la revolucion!” we yelled as we all laughed, his Nicaraguan nephew included.  I think about that scene now and it makes me angry at myself.  How insensitive were we?  To think about what that man had been through, and for him to know what’s coming, and we all just made light of it.  Maybe I only feel bad because I know now what I didn’t know then.

I mean really.  How bad could it get?

There was a general feeling around us of “NAH, it can’t be that bad!”  We knew it was serious and that people had died, but we really just thought it would blow over.  Nobody really gave it too much credit.  Or maybe that was our brain’s defense system.  We went to town in numbers in the day, and we didn’t go anywhere at night.  We hung low.  We were cautious and we knew crazy things were going on around the country.

But they would sort themselves out.  Wouldn’t they?

We stuck it out through the weekend hearing reports of more and more dead.  By Monday upwards of 65 to 70 people, mostly students had been killed in various locations around the country.  Mostly they were marching peacefully.  They wanted Ortega out, and they were making a show of it.  Somehow people got killed.  Many say it was government trained snipers, other say it’s junior Sandanistas that have been groomed to kill.  Who ever it was brought violence to the equation, and with that brought a fight.

Somewhere amongst it all, the students and their supporters started building barricades in the streets.  They literally pulled the bricks up that were laid in the streets and built walls out of them.  They staggered them through towns and cities, intermittently, with not much organization.  Some road blocks turned into shields as the odd time guns were involved, and they would all crouch down behind them to dodge the bullets.  These road blocks are meant to put pressure on the government to halt deliveries of supplies, and cause general disfunction in the country.

And oh ya, by Monday morning the newspapers were ordered to stop reporting and a national radio station was closed down.  He was censoring the news.  Our hearts sank.

After the weekend ended, Ortega finally agreed with the church to have talks.  They were going to do some negotiating.  The priests were tired of blood shed.  Videos on Facebook and You Tube showed them walking into the conflicts, dressed in full regalia, to halt the fighting.  They were tired of the violence and they knew that it needed a solution.

Day one of the talks, a young Lesther Aleman, a University student, told Ortega point blank to his face that the Nicaraguan people want him to step down.  They are tired of his regime, and his presidency had gone on long enough. In fact, Ortega himself was the one to decide that he could be president for a third term, and in effect for life, by changing the laws that stated presidency was two terms, maximum.  He also somehow decided while entering into his third term that the rules should state that his wife be allowed to be Vice President.  You can imagine my shock when I read this in an article shortly after this all started.  I remember distinctively thinking “His WIFE is the Vice President??”  My heart sunk with this knowledge as right there laid out before me was the perfect dictatorship.  Complete power.

The thing is that the people knew it.  They knew that he was amassing an empire.  They knew it, but it didn’t matter as much because their lives were good.  Nicaraguas economy was booming, tourism had never been better.  Expats were buying up land in droves and new guest houses, cottages and hotels were popping up everywhere.  What’s to complain about?

But apparently however good Nicaragua seemed on the surface, things were not so good behind the scenes.  Bit by bit Ortega had been amassing unbelievable wealth, and power. He made himself the head honcho to every branch of government, took over the countries electrical company and bought many more businesses and things to create a very powerful and dominant structure.  Even if he did step down as President, he would still be controlling the structure of Nicaragua.  It’s very scary to think about how entangled he is in the country. Taking notes from Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and the Castro boys, he seemed to be following a game plan.  A long strung out government take over that would be done so slowly that nobody would notice.  However, his plan backfired, Venezuela stopped their supports for Nicaragua, and a desperate government,  one that knew that it was about to go broke, made a decision that stepped over lines and crossed boundaries.

I was told by a Nicaraguan friend that two years ago, Ortega was told that if he didn’t fix the Social Security program, it would be broke by June of 2018.

So it was in April, not even 2 months before that fateful month, that Ortega decided to finally do something about this.  I read that he did it without speaking with the business sector, and without asking for any input from any other branch of government.

He just decided that it was so, and so it was.

His new bill would instantly increase the Social Security rates that the current employees AND employers were paying, and simultaneously reduce the current amount that seniors were getting now, and in the future.  Thereby affecting the entire population of the country.

This is what started it all.  This was the tipping point.  The people had had enough of his power.  This time he had pushed too far. It was time to say no to the monster!  It was time to take their country back.  It was time to rise up.

To continue to part 2 of this story, click here.


Disclaimer:  The information provided in my writing is based on articles that I have read from many publications, information gathered from Nicaraguan Expats and Locals, and from videos that I have seen posted online.  I don’t pretend to be an expert on Nicaraguan politics, and if you feel like I have misrepresented information in anyway, please email me at jillamatt@me.com. 

For news on what is happening in Nicaragua and to learn all about this crisis, please visit the La Prensa website.  Their online newspaper has covered this from the beginning. 


After selling all of our possessions in Canada in 2017, we flew to Costa Rica to do an initial housesit for 2 months.  Our journey has continued and we have now been ‘on the road’ for almost 8 months.

Current Location: We are currently in Samara, Costa Rica where we are staying in a familiar hostel with 2 others that left Nicaragua in the last few days.  We have also met 5 other people in town that just left.  We call ourselves the Nicaraguan Refugees. 

Travelling Plans: Our ‘plans’ have been flipped upside down and we are now trying to figure out a new one. 

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:)

The House that Amanda Built – Earth Bag Building in Nicaragua

Having ditched the North American 9-5 rat race at the age of 24, she decided that it was time for a simpler life.


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.

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?

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.


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:)

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