A New Look and a New Time

I am more interested in inspiring people to get out into the world and to live the life that they can only dream of. 

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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 we sit in Costa Rica, after 8 months of arriving here, I can’t help but feel like pieces are finally falling into place.  It’s not like all of a sudden everything has become easy, and that we have it all figured out.  No, it’s more of a feeling.  A feeling that big things are starting to happen.  A feeling that we are both stepping into our shoes.

This past 8 months has allowed us the freedom to explore our deepest desires.  It has allowed us the time to really consider what it is we want to do, and where it is we are headed.  Day by day, bit by bit, the petals unfurl to our souls, moment by moment we are finding out who we really are.  Who we are without the crush of society telling us who we should be.

Since leaving Nicaragua, 21 days ago, we have rested, we have recuperated, and we have done a lot of thinking about where we are going and what is next. And the only thing that has been really clear, is that we really don’t know.  We have discussions about going to Mexico, or maybe Columbia.  But when that will happen, is something that has not yet presented itself to us.  For some strange reason, we are content here in Samara.  We are back in the safe arms of Costa Rica, and we are happy with our place in this life right now.

Horses in Samara
An eerie rainy day in Samara.  

Living in a hostel is not something that I ever would have considered in this life.  But I have to say, I am really enjoying it.  We have our own room, our own bathroom, a kitchen to cook in, and a social scene that is just perfect.  The average age of people that stay at our hostel is about 35 years old.  This isn’t your typical party hostel scene, and I’m realizing that at the ripe ol’ age of 41, most hostels aren’t really like that anymore.  I mean sure, if you go to well known party places like Whistler, Thailand, or Australia, and I’m sure even in parts of Costa Rica, sure there are party hostels.  But here, it’s different.  It’s nice.  We have a constantly changing rotation of roomates, and we like it that way.  We are meeting other travellers and are learning about where they come from, and what their cultures and traditions are like.

We have made lasting friendships with some of them, with promises to visit their countries one day.  We have exchanged travelling stories, and we have become immensely inspired.  Having this time to really dictate what we do with our days, has been refreshing and rewarding.  We both feel like our minds are clearer and our goals are manifesting.

My online stores have finally grown their own legs.  I mean, obviously it all takes work, and I will be putting effort into those things until the day that they cease to exist, but the hard work of getting them off the ground is finished for now.  I feel like now I have time to focus on my writing, and to really set out to start making a difference in the world.

You will notice that the visual format of this blog has changed to reflect something a little more professional.  It no longer serves as a fun Travel-y blog type thing, now it is a platform for me to share my experiences, I call it a Travel Lifestyle Blog.  I’m not interested necessarily in trying to promote travel destinations.  I’m not into doing those blogs that do “Top 10 budget destinations” type writing.

I urge you to travel

No, I am more interested in inspiring people to get out into the world and to live the life that they can only dream of.  And when I say “get out into the world”, I don’t necessarily mean to go travelling.  I guess more of what I mean is to get out of YOUR world.  To leave the feelings, the places, the normal-ness of your life to explore something different.  Try those things that you have always wanted to try.  Take that salsa class, do a pottery class, go to a paint and wine night.  Write that blog, go to that restaurant, call that person.

Just switch things up a bit.  Don’t become stagnant, don’t become normal.


Throughout this journey, and from day one of making this decision to sell all of our possessions and travel the world, I have been keeping a log of what we were going through at each stage of the game.  Some of this is reflected in this blog, but much of it is also kept in journals, by voice recording and memos to myself.  It all has to do with living a life that we create, stepping away from the normal day to day routines that have been set out for us by society.

I will be writing a book that will bring this message together.  My hope is that it inspires others to build a life that they love.  To get away from the everyday grind and to seek out a life that you love, one that inspires you, one that excites you.


Something else that is new is that I have set up a Patreon account.  (Click here to see that.) Patreon is a platform that allows individuals to fundraise money for certain causes, to create a product, to launch a book, to create a constant income stream to allow them the time to be creative.  I feel like we fall into all of those categories.  We are constantly creating, and putting our best work out into the world, but it takes time to build.  It takes time to build our own brands and to reinvent ourselves.

Patreon is a way for our fans to contribute to our journey in some small way.  You can donate as little as $1 per month to help us to keep moving forward and to bring our projects to fruition.

As always, we are so grateful to our friends and family that have supported us in our journey so far.  Without the community and family support that we have received, this journey and decision to live this life would have been much more difficult.

And so, here we stand.  We stand in immense gratitude for this life that we have created.  And we look forward to continuing to share that with the world. IMG_0113


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 Samara, Costa Rica.  After having to leave Nicaragua unexpectedly due to civil unrest, we are here still figuring out where we want to go next.

Travelling Plans: We have nothing scheduled at this point other than a housesitting job in Livingston, Guatemala in late November.

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 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.

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:)

How to sell all of your things to travel full time.

Is all of this stuff what is standing in the way of my travelling? The answer turned out to be yes.


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…….


Today marks 8 months since we left Canada.  On October 15th, we flew to Costa Rica, on a journey that had barely any structure.  We were to housesit for 2 months on the beach in the South West corner of the country, but really, that is all we knew.

Chris was bringing his tattoo gear, I wanted to write, but really, other than that, we didn’t know how we were going to make money, we just knew that we needed to go.  We were tired of the life we were living in Canada.  The constant crush to make money, the massive overhead that we carried around, house mortgage, vehicle payments, gas costs, utilities, credit card payments, insurance payments…….the list literally went on and on.

So we did it.  We made a decision and made it happen.

It really is as simple as that.

Some will ask where our inspiration to do this came from.  For me, it was a bit of a build up over time.  I had been complaining about having too much stuff for months.  Finding a tool in our house was like searching for buried treasure, as our workbench was a heaping mass of different projects, bags of screws, and any manner of ‘you name it’.

Our basement was…….well let’s just put it this way.  We actually BUILT a shed in the back yard, a REALLY nice and EXPENSIVE shed, so that we could move STUFF from our basement, out to the shed.  It was ridiculous!  I look back at it all and all I can do is laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.

We had grand plans for that basement, we were going to create the ultimate artist space in our basement so that we could finally one day focus on our art to make a living.  But we worked our asses off at our real jobs, hoping one day that we would get to that magical place.  That place somewhere off in the distance.

But you know what?  It was a fictional place, and we kept running on the hamster wheel, barely making a dent in our debt, barely eeking out an existence at all.

Then there is the travel part.  I grew up travelling and continued to do so all the way into my late 20’s.  But then the magical number of 30 arrived and I told myself that it was time to grow up.  It was time to start a family, it was time to build a life.  Pretty much all of these decisions led to a life of no travel.

8 years flashed by, struggle……. struggle……. struggle, a divorce happened, career changes happened, houses were sold and bought, a new relationship was born, but the outcome was always the same.  I ended up running, running, running and never getting anywhere.  PLUS, I realized that I hadn’t travelled anywhere significant in all of that time.  This coming from a girl that used to travel at LEAST once per year for 2 months or more.

What had happened to me?  Where had I gone?  All of my priorities had flown out the window and I was left feeling like I was constantly scrambling to pick up the pieces of my life.

When was life going to get easy?

I was tired, worn out and frustrated.  SOMETHING had to give!

And so, at the age of 40, I finally felt like I had a plan.  I was watching the Minimalism documentary when I had a lightening bolt moment.  It was like someone just smacked me in the back of the head.

“Is it really this easy?”  I asked myself.

“Is all of this stuff what is standing in my way of my travelling?”

 

The answer turned out to be, yes!  All of the things that I had carefully crafted my life around, having a house, building a career, gathering a bunch of stuff, is what was actually holding me back.  In that instant, none of it mattered anymore.  All of the stuff I had worked so hard to get, suddenly meant nothing to me.  I realized in that split moment, that I needed to let it all go if I ever wanted to live the life that I only dreamt about.  

I was going to do what was important to me after all, because I realized that if I didn’t do it then, when the hell was I going to do it?  

Thankfully my partner was on board right away, despite not travelling very much at all, and we got started getting rid of things right away and working towards our goal. 

In the beginning, we thought it would take us 1.5-2 years to downsize everything, finish renovating our house, and to close down our businesses.  But as we started to get rid of things, it all kept snowballing, opportunities came up and we managed to do it all in 9 short months.  

You might ask,

But how did you get rid of all of your possessions? 

Here is a short guide to how we did it, and how you can too! 

  1. Facebook

I immediately started a “Things for Sale” album on my facebook page. This album quickly turned into a “Clothing For Sale”, “Books For Sale”, “Plants for Sale”, and “Our Art for Sale” albums.  Almost everyday I was photographing items and posting them in these albums.  We had great success with doing this, but I attribute most of that to living in a small community where the community definitely does support each other.  Plus I knew many, many people through my involvement in community organizations and having owned a shop in town for 4 years.  

These albums, with the exception of our Artwork Album, would usually be items that were under $100.  Chris and I would walk around the house at night and just grab things that were the least important to us.  Normally this would include items that we had been carrying around just because…….you know the ones, gifts maybe, or something you had to remember a certain memory.  I think we all know what stuff this is.  It’s the easiest to let go of, and you just have to get started.  Once you get started, things start to snowball.  Suddenly you start to realize that these items that you have been holding onto so tightly, really are just things after all, and they are simply in the way of your goal and potential  freedom.

I also sold items on Facebook using local Buy, Sell, Swap pages.  Again, our small community is all about buying used stuff, and if they can get something used, they would much rather do that than grab it new.  On these pages we had great success selling tools, some appliances, our lawn mower, bikes and other larger ticket items.  I have heard that people in larger cities use Kijiji and Craigs List.  While there are certainly risks involved with using these platforms, they do present a good way to rid yourself of items.  My advice for selling things in large populations, is to meet people in public areas to do the exchanges.

2. Garage/Yard Sales

Over the course of the 5 months of nice weather that we had available, we held 6 yard sales.  Things that weren’t selling online, or that were too small to bother listing online, would go into boxes to go into the next garage sales.  We priced everything!  Normally we used masking tape and just wrote a price on with a sharpie, but it was essential to do this.  Of course, people would haggle (and we normally wholeheartedly accepted any offer,) but at least we wouldn’t have to decide prices on the fly.  Everything was laid out simply and easy to read.  Of course, we had a few boxes with things like books, DVD’s, Shoes etc. where we would just write $5 per item on the box, or make a small sign, but it was always clearly labelled.

Normally Chris would stand inside our yard, and I would be outside along the driveway.  We both had change and would negotiate our own deals with whomever approached us.  We never argued about what we should get for an item, it always came down to the fact that it needed to go. That was the end story.

When pricing items for sale, I would normally ask between 1/3 and 1/2 of the value that we would have paid.  Of course, some items are just easier to ask $1 or $2, and it really isn’t worth getting too bent out of shape about losing a couple dollars here or there.  Just remember the  end story……it all needs to go.  Getting $1 or $2 for something is still better then getting nothing by donating it to the thrift store.

We ALWAYS had a free pile at our garage sales.  Items in the pile included bits and pieces of lumber, coat hangers, plant pot and gardening trays……anything that really was a dime a dozen.  I mean, you can certainly bundle your coat hangers and ask $1 for them, but you have to pick and choose your battles.  Be honest with yourself.  If the items aren’t worth the effort put into selling them, just give them away.  It’s much easier that way.

3. Group Garage Sales

We had a group of friends that organized a group garage sale in a big hall while we were doing this.  Of course, we jumped at the chance to be a part of it.  Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out to be what we had hoped, and we didn’t move much stuff at this sale.  But it also gave us a chance to chat with our community members to let them know what we were up to.  The farther our story spread, the more people that would be interested in what we were up to. Consequently they would be keeping an eye out for our yard sale dates, or would be making sure to check into what we were selling on Facebook.

4. Thrift Stores

After items had been in 2 yard sales without selling, they were carted off to the thrift store.  Once an item went into the box, we weren’t allowed to look in the box or think about what was in it.  It just went.  After our second yard sale, and our first trip to the thrift store, we were ecstatic when they took everything except a pair of ski boots.  We left the place and high fived each other afterwards.  I can’t tell you how good it felt to do that initial drop off.  Our basement finally could breathe a sigh of relief as this really felt like we had cleared a lot and we could now use that area to start organizing the remaining items.

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Off to the Thrift Store!

5. Give things to friends and community members

There were many items that we had that we did cherish, of course.  The best option for these things, were to give them to some friends that we knew would appreciate them.  Over the course of the process, we would decide that certain items were meant for certain people, and we would set them aside to give to them at some point.  Both of us are artists, so this meant that many people got little pieces of our art here and there.  I can’t tell you how good it feels to know that little bits of our art, and our most valuable possessions ,are scattered across many peoples houses.

Another great idea is to find out if there are families or organizations that are in need of certain items.  Bedding, dishes, kitchen supplies and other basics are great to give directly to people who need it.  At the end of our process, we had a ton of pens, highlighters, paper clips, binder clips and all manner of office supplies.  I put a call out to my facebook community to suggest a local organization that could use these supplies.  Many answers came back and we were able to choose the one that we felt could use these supplies the most.  It was a great feeling to give this stuff directly to an organization that we knew provided so much to the community, and we could see how grateful they were to receive them.

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Office supplies and other goodies getting delivered during the last couple days.  

By the way, as this stuff is usually the most overwhelming stuff to deal with (ie. junk drawers etc.) I simply created a small tote for each item and left them out in the living room.  Anytime I came across a pen, a roll of tape, a paper clip, an elastic band etc., I would simply pop it into its appropriate container.  At the end of it all, this stuff was all organized and so easy to deal with when we donated it the the community organization that we choose.

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This bear became a symbol, or more appropriately, a mascot, of our letting go process.  I posted a facebook post about this bear, and my cousin just couldn’t bear the thought of it going to a thrift store so I sent it to her to keep.  (Check out my blog post titled The Bear to read about it.)

Also, if your community allows it, you can place FREE items on your curb in front of your house.  Quite often these items would go quickly…….we even got rid of a small bar fridge that didn’t work anymore.  Of course, we labelled it as so, but someone picked it up all the same.  The old saying “One mans junk is another’s treasure”, couldn’t be more true.  You just never know what people are going to want.

6. The Dump

One of the things we detested was having to take things to the dump. And in the end, we really didn’t have to take that much stuff there thankfully.  After giving away free items in garage sales, and to anyone that we could think of, our dump runs were few and far between, but they were still necessary.  It was heartbreaking taking items that we still knew had reasonable life spans, but we simply could not find ways to get rid of them any other way.  In our town the dump charged dumping fees, and I’m sure they do in most places now.  So the more we could get rid of another way, the better.

One idea that we had, and unfortunately our town didn’t have one, is a re-use facility.  These places take all manner of building supplies, sometimes old tarps, and other items that people simply don’t want to take from you.  Its best to research some of those places to see what they accept before carting stuff to the dump.

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We had a REALLY old and crappy mattress that just had to go to the dump.  This was the final day…….our bed was the last thing to go.  This was it!  We were definitely going that day! 

All in all, and at the end of it all, I felt like we had accomplished an impossible mission.  We started with an overwhelming amount of stuff, but by tackling it all in bite sized pieces, we were able to get rid of all of our stuff in a short period of time, and we still brought in roughly $13 000 by doing it.  This didn’t include our vehicles which netted us another $4500.  Unfortunately our vehicles were left until the last minute, as we both needed them for work, so we ended up taking them to a dealer to get rid of them on our second last day in our town.  So, we possibly could have gotten more for them if we had of had more time to try. But again it was all about moving the stuff, and they really were left to the last possible minute.

Through all of this, our end goal was to reduce our possessions to only those that we carry with us.  Of course, it’s really hard to let go of some precious items, and we both have one tote stored at our parents houses, and I never did have the time to scan all of my old photos, so my albums are at my parents house as well.  But the rest, it travels with us.

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What remained in our living room at the end of it all.  

Today, when we want to leave a place to go to the next place, we know that we can pack up in an hour and be off.  I can’t tell you how good that feels, and I can assure you that we DO NOT MISS OUR STUFF!  Plus, I can assure you that you won’t either!

So what are you waiting for?  Get the ball rolling by opening that drawer or cupboard that you haven’t looked in forever.  Take a good look at what is in there and just get started.  If it’s sellable, put it in a box to sell.  If it’s an item to donate, put it in a box to donate.  But the key is to get started!

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At the end of it all, these are the only keys we had left.  They both went to the realtor, and for the first time in our adult lives, we didn’t own anything that required a key!  A strange feeling indeed! 

I can assure you that once you do, the end will come quickly.  Soon enough you too will be off travelling into the wild blue yonder, and you will look back at it all like it was some big dream.  You will ask yourself, as we quite often do,

Did that really happen at all?

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Our last meal in our town as we waited to catch the ferry out that evening! 

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 Samara, Costa Rica.  After having to leave Nicaragua unexpectedly due to civil unrest, we are here still figuring out where we want to go next.

Travelling Plans: We have nothing scheduled at this point other than a housesitting job in Livingston, Guatemala in late November.

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, (including all of the ones about letting our stuff go) 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 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.  


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.


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.


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:)

Early Days in Nicaragua

My brain is a bit fried, I will admit.  I realize that I haven’t posted anything in a while, and I also realize that there are people out there that would like to hear from us, just even to know that we are doing alright.

So, here I am, sending out a blog post.

It’s not like I have nothing to write about, but what I do want to write about, I don’t feel comfortable writing about.

For those who don’t know, since April 18th, Nicaragua has had some political unrest happening.  If you want to know what that looks like, there is a very comprehensive article about it here.

As to how we are doing…….it is a day to day struggle trying to decide if we are going to stay, or if we are going to leave.

We will keep you posted.  But for now, please know that we are safe and have not witnessed any violence at all at this point.

Stay tuned, I am taking notes!

Cheers,

Jill

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.

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