21 Months Later and Still Letting Go

I do think our pasts are important in shaping who we become, but we must sever the ties that do not serve us anymore.  We must cut the chords of our former selves, to allow ourselves to grow and move forward in this life.  


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!


It’s been almost 21 months since we flew away from Canada, bound on a one way journey to Costa Rica. We spent 9 months before that ridding ourselves of all of our possessions, pairing down our lives, shedding years of collecting things, letting go of our pets, our beloved garden and the house that we called home.

In that time, I wrote in what I called “Jill’s Letting Go Diary”, which documented the process, physically and emotionally, of literally letting go of everything.  I last wrote under this heading in November 2017 , but since then we have definitely continued to let go of many aspects of our former selves.  It’s impossible to dive down and list all the things, as we have now been given so much time in this life to do some deep soul searching, contemplating and realizing of things that just don’t serve us anymore.  I’m talking about ways of feeling, old habits that needed to be broken, lies we told ourselves, stories that we made up in our heads.  The list literally could go on and on!

But today, I realized that there is still one major thing that I STILL haven’t let go of, and that is the last town that we were living in in Canada.  I lived in Powell River for 12 years, Chris for 4, and I had decided while there that it was the ultimate paradise.  By then, of course, I had travelled to many places around the world, 46 countries in total.  I felt that because I had seen so much, I knew how special Powell River was.  And, I digress, I still do think it is a pretty special place.  But I have to say, it is a small place, but a dot on the world map.  Although it is spectacular, and many of its residents truly do value what it is to be part of a community, it is not the be all, end all that I had decided it was.

Powell River has many different issues that are tackled by the residents on a daily basis, their lives are entwined with what is right in front of their faces.  Of course, this is the way it is with most people that live in their communities.  We all react to those things that are right in front of us.  We choose to be in those places, and to deal with those issues.  There are always bigger problems in the world, but it is that which is right in front of us, that always gets the most attention.

Today, as I was mind numbingly scrolling facebook, I noticed just how much of my news feed still has posts about Powell River on it.  Now, for a while I have been saying that I need to stop getting so wound up and involved in the politics of a place that I have no intention of returning to.  But, you know,  I didn’t really put two and two together that by actually seeing all the things on a day to day basis, that I WAS involved.  It’s like a soap opera on TV that I can’t seem to switch off.  It’s that addiction to drama, the need to keep tabs on others’ lives, the want to just see what happens with some particular project or another,  that has kept me stuck.  These issues literally have NO bearing on my life anymore, yet I am drawn to their outcomes, keen to find out every little detail.

OF COURSE, there are those people with whom I made special connections while living there.  Connections that go farther than just the place that we both lived.  These people are on the same page as me, and I feel like we are kindred spirits that will likely see each other down the road somewhere.  I will keep in touch with these people always, and will always want to stay up to date with who they are and what they are up to.

OF COURSE, I do love it when people update me about the plants that we sold or gave them.  They send pictures of their gardens, or mention us in comments about these sorts of things.  I know that the people who bought our house are taking care of our beautiful garden well, and that makes me feel good.

OF COURSE, I will always have fond memories of Powell River and the people that helped me to grow as an individual.  I grew immensely while living there, and I left a much different person than I was before I moved there.  But the time has come to cut the ties.  I will no longer follow business pages, the local news paper, the blueberry picking farm (oooohhh I miss those blueberries!!), or any other group that I was a part of in Powell River.  My ties to these things are holding me back from moving forward.  It’s like some long tether that keeps me looking back, always interested, always wondering.

It’s time to re-prioritize my time, to allow more space to focus on the issues that affect me in my current space and time.  It is time to get involved in the places where I am living, and figuring out what I can do on the ground HERE, not somewhere else where I have no input anymore.  We all only have so much space and time to put towards certain issues in this life, and it is up to us to decide what is important, what is not, and where we should be directing our energies.

I do think our pasts are important in shaping who we become, but we must sever the ties that do not serve us anymore.  We must cut the chords of our former selves, to allow ourselves to grow and move forward in this life.

You will always hold a special place in my heart Powell River, but it is now time to say goodbye.


An update on our current travels…….

For those that are following along, and are interested in what we are up to and where we are, here is a bit of a synopsis.

We have been working at the Botanical Garden on the island of Nevis since mid February.  We have gone full circle from leaving our 9-5 jobs in Canada, to seek out more freedom, to arriving right back to a 9-5 job (well 8-4 actually) here in paradise.  We absolutely love the garden, and have taken great pleasure in getting back to working with plants, as it is definitely something that we have missed since leaving our home and garden, but I won’t lie, the schedule has been HARD.  The time that we would spend on our art and our online shops before this ‘job’ almost vanished and we found ourselves scrambling morning and night to fit time in in order to keep some progress happening.

One day, after some sort of emotional breakdown from both of us, we suddenly realized that we were both overworked and extremely exhausted with trying to do too much.  We also had been raising 3 kittens and taking care of 2 dogs that kept escaping the yard to run around the neighbourhood to kill goats (plus they killed one of the kittens!), so our emotions were frazzled to say the least.

It has been a strange and interesting few months, and I won’t get into details, but many times we have felt like running as far away from this island as we possibly could.  However, we had committed to helping out the owner here until August, and that is just what we are going to do.

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The beautiful Oasis Restaurant at the Botanical Gardens of Nevis.

Call us crazy, many who have been here before us, probably would, but we have also had a huge realization that with this nomadic lifestyle comes the ultimate freedom of when you don’t like something, you just move on.  However, the always running away from things, also doesn’t help us to grow.  It is in the tackling of these issues and annoyances in life, when we can dig deep and learn the most about ourselves.  This stop on our journey has tried us beyond belief, and it’s impossible for me to explain the details, but through it all, we have both come out feeling wiser and stronger than we did when we arrived.  The serendipitous way that this place came onto our radar, meant that we had important things to learn here, and we have tried our hardest to open ourselves up to the learning, and to not be drug down emotionally by things that we have no control over.

Thankfully in June, the owner of the garden sent us off for a bit of a break to another property that she owns on another Caribbean Island called Anguilla.  I have to say that it was JUST what the doctor ordered.  White sand beaches and spectacular turquoise waters surround the island, and with it being the low season, we had most places almost all to ourselves.  The house where we were staying was located a stones throw from the beach, so after our allotted 4 hours of work (yes we still worked a bit!), we were free to do whatever we pleased.

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We were so happy to have made friends with BJ while in Anguilla.  He is the caretaker of the house that we stayed at, and he took the time to show us around a little bit.  This is the lookout down to Sandy Ground. 
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The fact that turquoise is my favourite colour, and lime green a close second, I couldn’t help but snap this beautiful quintessential Caribbean pic. 
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This is the beach that is close to our house where we were staying.  It’s called Shoal Bay, and you can see just how close the corals come to the shore, making it an awesome snorkeling spot for all levels!  

The beach we were on had some spectacular snorkelling right along the shore, and most afternoons we would don our bathing suits and snorkel gear, walk to the furthest point away, then drift on the natural current that ran along the shoreline, back to the house.  This was the highlight of our day, and it seemed like each day we saw more and more incredible sea life than the one before it.  On the last day we saw 3 Barracudas, 5 rays, 1 spotted eagle ray, a few puffer fish, some sort of spotted eel or sea snake, and numerous, NUMEROUS large schools of fish, and other sea life.  The coral is not in the best shape unfortunately, likely trashed by years of people anchoring their boats on it, plus getting thrashed by hurricanes can’t help, but we did see much of it growing back, which gives me great hope that the reefs are mending.

We spent 2 weeks there healing from our kind of over-worked and hectic lives here on Nevis, but returned here on July 3rd to finish off our stint for one more month.  We have arrived back with a refreshed view, and know that in a very short time, we will be off on a whole new adventure.

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First day on ‘our’ beach and feeling pretty good about ourselves! 
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High above the natural arch!  Photo courtesy of BJ Kirong

On August 5th we fly to the island of St. Martin, also in the Caribbean.  There we will spend 2 nights before we make our way back to Guatemala for a short visit.  In Guatemala, we will not only be checking in with the friends we have made in the last year, but will also be collecting our art supplies and Chris’ tattoo gear (plus some clothing), then we will start our journey back up to Canada to visit family and friends for a couple months.  It’s a loose plan, other than our flights, there aren’t any set dates and times, but we like it what way of course!  We expect to be back in Canada mid-August.

Thanks to everyone who follows us along on our journey.  I know I haven’t done the best job of keeping you up to date, but I try to allow the writing to come when it is meant to, and not force myself to write just for the sake of it.  It is in these moments that I feel like I actually have substance and thoughts that are worth sharing, and hopefully it comes through that way to my readers.

xoxoxo Jill


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: Nevis Island, St. Kitts & Nevis

Travelling Plans: On August 5th we will start our long journey back to Canada to visit family and friends for a couple months.

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.

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One Year of Location Independence (aka Being a Digital Nomad)

“Yeah, but if we had never left there, then we wouldn’t know what else is out there to miss.” 


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…….


On September 20th, 2018, we celebrated our one year anniversary of being Location Independent.  It’s hard to describe in words what that means to us, or how it makes us feel.  It is definitely hard to believe that it’s been a year already, but at the same time, we have experienced and done so much that it could easily fit into some peoples lifetime of experiences. 

On that day in 2017, we left a town that we both loved.  We weren’t leaving it because we were tired of it, or sick of it per se.  No, instead we were leaving it because we wanted to take a chance at living an exciting and exhilarating life.  We wanted to see what the heck was out there.  We wanted to see life from a different perspective and learn how others live around the world.

Most of all, we wanted freedom. 

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When we left our town in Canada, we had to take a ferry.  This is our getaway vehicle waiting in the line up on a typical stellar west coast evening.  September 20, 2017.  To read that story click here.  From this post I mostly enjoy the following section:”This is it!  I have once again found joy!  THIS is what I have been searching for!  I vow to myself to never let it go again.”

We wanted to be the ones dictating our time.  We wanted to be the ones in the drivers seat.  We were tired of living life while conforming to some sort of unwritten standards that society had presented us with.  We were tired of seemingly working so hard, but never getting anywhere.  While there is so much more that I can say on this topic, I will leave it for now, as this isn’t a post about ditching the conventional life…….well I guess it is, all of my posts are, really.  But no, I want to dive into what we have learned in a year, a couple key takeaways from living life in the tropics, and how we have shifted and grown during this year.   

Let’s talk about the weather.   

Experiencing perpetual summer for a whole year has been interesting.  Watching friends and family chat about the weather and the changing seasons on Facebook has been entertaining.  I’ve really noticed how much energy is put into either loving the weather or hating it.  How people post about the snow and the rain, reporting on what mother nature is dishing out in their neighbourhood.  Now don’t get me wrong, I have certainly posted things about the weather from down here, but I have to say, it certainly doesn’t occupy my brain or my time like it did while living in the North.  I can see how seasons dictate our lives up there.  We are either planning for winter, or planning for summer.  Getting out the summer gear, or putting it away for the winter.  We garden in the summer, hibernate in the winter.  We go camping and enjoy the outdoors in the summer, stay warm and indoors in the winter.  For good reason obviously, the temperature dictates our lives in the northern climes. 

Down here, everyday is the same.  Most days we get a bit of rain (and let me tell you it does rain HARD when it does), but it never lasts long.  Usually no more than an hour or 2 at the most, then it clears off again and it’s business as usual.  Nobody frets about it, nobody looks at weather forecasts, nobody seems to care one way or the other what happens, they just take it as it comes.  If it’s raining, they may take an umbrella, but they certainly don’t let rain get in the way of them accomplishing their tasks for the day.  It’s literally a non issue.  Unless of course a hurricane is coming, but if that is the case, everybody knows that there is nothing that they can do about it.  If it happens, it happens and they just need to hunker down and ride it out.  There is no worrying about it, or preparing for it, it just is.  They do not give it ONE OUNCE of energy. 

Creating community and calling a place home.

After now living in our 3rd place for over 3 months at a time, we have begun to notice some trends in our ability to create community.  It seems that it takes a little while to really start to feel like we belong in a place, like we have friends and a bit of a network around us.  However, it has happened, each and every time. 

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Our rented house in San Miguel, Guatemala.  San Miguel is accessed by a 3 minute boat ride from Flores.  
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Very nice and modern.  We have loved living in this house.  2 bedrooms and 2 baths for approx $220/month.  

Eventually people start to recognize us in the neighbourhood, and notice that they have now seen us for longer than they would see other travellers for.  They start to ask us our names and shake our hands, and say hello as we pass.  Chris’ large stature is a hit with the local men, and they all want to high five and fist bump him whenever they get the chance.  I think secretly they all want to look like him as well:). After a time, we start to feel like we have a support network, and that if we need anything, any of our community members will happily help us out.

After a couple months in one place, we start to notice that some things also start to annoy us.  Like the drunken man next door that tries to speak slurring-ly over the fence at us in some sort of broken drunken spanglish.  Or the lancha (boat) driver that still tries to charge us the tourist rate, when we have told him numerous times that we are living here and we are supposed to get the locals rate (because that’s what every other driver charges us). 

Something else we have noticed, is that no matter how hard we try, it seems, our lives seem to get surrounded in some sort of crazy drama.  It’s never our drama, it’s always that of others, and of course, we try to keep an arms length away from it all, but somehow we simultaneously  get in knee deep before we realize it has happened.  The drama never has anything to do with us, but we somehow become emotionally involved in other peoples lives.  It’s an interesting thing to notice, but I’m not sure there is much we can do about it.  We are both compassionate and caring people and, well, I think it’s just part of our make up.  Surmise it to say that we never get involved enough that our personal freedoms are threatened, that’s for sure.  But it’s interesting to note that it exists every where we go.  I guess it’s just human nature after all. 

Missing places yet always feeling the need to move on.

The other night, as we cruised back across the lake from Flores, to our Home in San Miguel, I took a moment to take in the sights around us.  It was a perfectly still night, the lights were reflecting off the water in the stunning manner that they do.  Our shuttle across the lake was filled with locals and their motorbikes, coming home from their busy days. 

I turned to Chris and said “We are going to miss this.”  We love riding the boat back and forth to town, and at the end of a busy day, it’s the tranquility and peacefulness of it all that sheds the stresses and busyness of being in the city and amongst the traffic and noise.  Once out on the water it feels like it all falls away. 

Chris agreed, yup, we are going to miss this.  But in the split second it took him to say yes, I also realized that we had said this before.  We said it when we left Matapalo, and our 4 months of living on a spectacular Costa Rican beach.  I stated “Ya, but we said that when we left Matapalo as well.”  He replied “Ya and I still miss that beach.”

Yeah, I do too, there is no doubt about that!  But instead of voicing this, I said “Yeah, but if we had never left there, then we wouldn’t know what else is out there to miss.” 

“Fair enough” he said. 

We wouldn’t have had our experience in Guatemala, floating in a boat across this perfectly still lake.  We wouldn’t have had our exciting, yet sometimes crazy, experience in Nicaragua.  We wouldn’t have experienced living in the base of the Costa Rican mountains, in a traditional Costa Rican house, the jungle around us rife with parrots and Scarlett macaws, Toucans and Butterflies.  We quite simply would not have a lifetime of stories to tell in one year, if we hadn’t have left that beach. 

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Spectacular sunset over Lake Peten Itza.  This is our highway home at the end of the day.  

This is the life that we have chosen.  This is the life that we want to live.  We love the feeling of community, we love getting to know a place, and to make it home for the time being, but we also like to leave, to set out into a new frontier, to find a new and interesting place.  We don’t know if it will be better, we don’t know if it will be worse, but it will be different, and that is all that matters. 

We now know with 100% certainty, that if we can create community in three places so far, we can create community wherever we go.  It is out there, it is all around us, we just need to reach out for it. 

Soaring confidence and creativity.

This year, after pulling ourselves away from so many distractions that we both faced up North, we have found that our creativity has soared.  We literally can not get our ideas for art out of our head, and onto paper, canvas or walls quick enough.  Through this, we have begun to find an inner confidence in ourselves that I know both of us were lacking while living in the north, and among so many other talented artists in our community. 

This confidence has spread out into the rest of our lives.  We are realizing that if we can paint a mural, something both of us would NEVER have attempted while in Canada, then we can do anything.  In fact, I have had a book idea about creativity that has been brewing for some years now, and I am finally getting down to writing it.  It is coming out of me bit by bit, but it is coming none the less.  So stay tuned for that on the horizon!

Because of this new found confidence, on October 13th, we are hosting our very first art show!  While in Flores, our rented house has had no wifi (which is also my excuse for not keeping up with the blog), so our nights have mostly been spent deep in creativity.  Whether it is drawing or painting or working on the iPad, we have both created an pretty astounding body of work while here. 

So, because we are Nomads, and we can’t possibly drag around every piece of art that we create, we have decided that it’s best to sell our originals as we go.  The show will be hosted at San Telmo, a funky bohemian bar that has an incredible Terrace upstairs that looks out over the lake.  In this spot, we have also been painting a couple murals for the last 3 weeks, so it will double as an unveiling of those.  We are approaching this with nervousness and apprehension as it is the first official art show that either of us has ever had.  But we know that it is just like everything else that we have accomplished on this trip so far, we just have to summon up the courage and go for it!  Hopefully we sell a bunch as they will certainly be priced to sell, but don’t worry!  We have found a place in Flores that will scan them for us and we will be able to upload them to our online platforms and share them with you on Facebook and beyond!

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A portion of the mural that I am working on at San Telmo.  Chris has his own section, which means a lot less arguing between us than there was on the last collaborative effort!  🙂 . By the way, this is the first set of eyes that I have painted EVER!  I’m pretty happy with how they turned out:)
San Telmo Art Show October 13
This is our art show poster.  When trying to come up with a name for the show, we realized that the show is an extension of the life that we have chosen, so decided to name it the same as our blog and travelling brand.  In the future we hope to have a scheduled night in a hostel or other tourist gathering place where we sell our art, plus have a bit of a presentation about what it is that we are doing in an effort to inspire others to live the life they only dream of as well . The hummingbird in this poster is part of Chris’ mural that he is working on.  

As per usual, we are so grateful for this life we have chosen and for the people that have supported us along the way.  Thank you for reading and we look forward to sharing more news about our next adventure very soon! 

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My Mom and Dad made the trip down to Guatemala to visit us for one week at the end of August.  We had a really great visit, but unfortunately when this photo was taken, at the top of the largest temple in Tikal, Dad was sick with food poisoning in bed!  I am so grateful for their love and support of this life that we have chosen to live!  

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 Palenque, Mexico on a quick one week trip to renew our 90 day visa for Guatemala.

Travelling Plans: On September 30th, we will return to Flores until Approximately October 15th.  Then we will start heading west again and up to Oaxaca, Mexico for about one month.  On November 26th, we will be housesitting on the Caribbean Coast of Guatemala for 6 weeks.

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 receive added travel content by contributing a minimum of $2/month 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 to your email inbox.  🙂

50 Experiences in 300 Days

Although there are some items on this list that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, at the same time, I wouldn’t take any of them back.


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…….


In less than a week, we will have been on the road, and away from Canada, for 10 months.  While everyday is definitely not perfect, there have been many more seemingly perfect days while we have been abroad, then we would have experienced back home. 

Letting go of all of our possessions has allowed us the freedom to live life on our terms.  To experience the world without a schedule, without anyone dictating our time or how we spend our days.  It has been an ebb and flow of trying to figure out what works for us.  What works in some places, definitely doesn’t necessarily work in others, but we adjust as we go.  We figure it out each and every time. 

It occurred to me the other day that we have had some pretty wild experiences in the short 10 months since we have been gone.  And it excites me to no end to know that we certainly wouldn’t have had half of these experiences had we have stayed in Canada. 

To me, this is what life is all about.  Life is a culmination of our experiences.  They are what shape us, they are what make us who we are.  Without our experiences to broaden our perspectives, we would be empty shells, robots in a sense.  I believe that having new experiences is what life is all about.  Only then do we grow and change as humans.  Only then do we become new people everyday. 

Traveling, to me, is the ultimate experience.  It creates a platform for new and different things to happen each and every day.  Around every corner, in fact, is a new experience that is waiting to happen.  Around every corner is an adventure waiting to unfold.  THIS is what travelling is all about!  This is what makes it exciting, challenging, and soul enhancing.  I crave these new experiences, and I will never stop seeking them out and searching for those ones, that I know, are just sitting and waiting, lurking in the corner, seemingly begging for me to find them. 

And so, in no particular order, here is a list of 50 experiences that we can think of that have happened in the last ten months to either one of us, or both of us, and I am sure we are missing many…..

  1. Had 2 hammocks break while we were sitting in them.
  2. Encountered 2 wild snakes, both more than 6 feet long.
  3. Saw 2 wild crocodiles in 2 different rivers.
  4. Ridden in boats across 2 different lakes, one of which we cross everyday from our rented house near Flores.
  5. Experienced 2 earthquakes.
  6. Had our house struck by lightening.
  7. Had food poisoning once.
  8. Been sick with parasites twice.
  9. Had an infection on my foot so bad that I had to seek out antibiotics.
  10. Watched a sea turtle dig it’s nest and lay eggs.
  11. Sat face to face with a sloth as it hung from a low branch.Hanging Sloth
  12. Walked with a sloth as it crawled along the ground after falling out of a tree.
  13. Seen numerous volcanoes, one that was actually smoking.
  14. Visited ancient temples and ruins.

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    The ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal.
  15. Had huge toads come into our rented house every night for 3 weeks straight.
  16. Painted a mural.
  17. Witnessed political unrest and war break out in Nicaragua.
  18. Crossed the Panama/Costa Rica border once.
  19. Crossed the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border twice.
  20. Been on 5 airplanes.

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    Painted over the course of a month while staying in Samara, Costa Rica.
  21. Rented 2 houses in local villages with Spanish speaking neighbours.
  22. Bought handmade tortillas, made that morning, from our neighbours that made them, in two different places.
  23. Housesat 3 houses.
  24. Took care of 4 dogs.
  25. Swam under the full moon, in the ocean, at midnight on New Years Eve.
  26. Went 24 hours with no water in our house.
  27. Experienced multiple power outages.
  28. Walked down the street with a propane tank in a wheel barrow to refill it for our stove.
  29. Ate tons of street food that was to die for.
  30. Made a bazillion new friends.
  31. Saw numerous Toucans, Parrots and Scarlett Macaws.
  32. Visited an epic waterfall.8BBB5219-322F-4492-91CC-AC41735D4BAC
  33. Saw numerous monkeys.
  34. Helped build an earth bag home.
  35. Got stung by a sting ray.
  36. Zip Lined.
  37. Volunteered at a Music Festival.
  38. Had a visit from a tree frog inside our house.IMG_0795
  39. Witnessed several incredible sunsets.
  40. Slept in our tent on top of our bed to keep the bugs and snakes away from us at night.
  41. Saw 2 tarantulas in the wild.
  42. Saw various scorpions.
  43. Rode in the back of numerous pick up trucks.
  44. Ate traditional Mayan food at a neighbourhood barbecue.
  45. Witnessed incredible handicrafts in Panajachel, Guatemala.  Literally mountains of woven textiles, carvings, beadwork and much much more!IMG_0870
  46. Attended a one week Digital Nomad retreat.
  47. Shopped at numerous local markets, buying our produce direct from farmers and other food producers.
  48. Opened numerous fresh coconuts to drink the water and eat the meat!
  49. Learned to make local dishes wherever we go.
  50. Ridden in numerous tuk tuks, buses and collectivos to get from points A to B.

Like I said……I KNOW there are many more, but you get the idea.  Life is an adventure, and each day brings new and exciting experiences.

Although there are some items on this list that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, at the same time, I wouldn’t take any of them back.  ALL of these experiences are shaping us to be the people that we are now, and they are making us who we will be in the future.

As the old saying goes “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” 

So true, so very very true.

What new and exciting experiences have you had in the last nine months?  I would love to hear all about them in the comments below.


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 until mid September at least.

Travelling Plans: We are considering the possibility of heading up to Mexico for a couple months after we are finished with our house here.  Then we will be returning to Guatemala to housesit for 6 weeks starting November 26th.

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 more travelling photos and videos,  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:)

 

 

 

 

Majesty, Mystery and Magic at Tikal

Pictures will never do justice to a place like Tikal. You simply have to experience it.


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…….


How does one put into words the sense of being in a place as truly astounding as Tikal? 

I have seen many photos through the years of Tikal, and the photos have been truly incredible.  Incredible enough that for as long as I can remember, I have wanted to go there.  But it’s always been some thought that was deep back in my subconscious, lingering and waiting for the right opportunity to present itself.  I don’t necessarily have  a ‘bucket list’ per se, but I know that many other places exist in there as well, and their time will come to fruition also, when they are meant to. But, I have to say, many other places that I wish to visit, probably won’t pull me into their depths like Tikal has. 

When I set foot on this ancient land, I suddenly felt like I had come home.  Like somehow, someway, I had lived there before.  I walked the trails with a calm sense of knowing where I was being led, feeling an invisible pull from location to location, temple to temple. 

Pictures will never do justice to a place like Tikal.  You simply have to experience it.  It is profound, it is absolutely mind blowing, and it is transformational. 

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Our day began early, we caught a 5:30am shuttle bus in front of a nearby hotel that is located in El Remate, the closest town to Tikal National Park.  There was 4 of us waiting for it, the other 2 were well into their late 50’s or early 60’s.  As the medium sized bus pulled up, it looked like it was some sort of travelling slumber party.  The average age on the bus was about 19, and maybe one or 2 of them were wide eyed and bushy tailed to start their day, but the rest were sawing logs.  Realizing that they had come from a hostel in Flores, another hour away, I can imagine that their morning started much earlier, and knowing the backpackers general routine of partying every night, I’m sure many of them barely had had any sleep. 

The 4 of us filled the only remaining 4 seats, which were those fold down deals that fill the aisle way all the way to the back.  This bus was full!  But we were whisked off to Tikal none-the-less, giggling inside at the sights of heads bobbing, and one poor guy trying to hold onto the seat in front of him to rest his head on his arm, only to have his fingers slip off as soon as he fell asleep.  Once his hand slipped, he would snap awake, make a grab for it again, and then repeat the sequence all over again.  I couldn’t help feeling terribly sorry for him, but I also couldn’t stop watching as the suspense of watching his hand slip off, each time was as enjoyable and as hilarious as the last.    

We paid our Q150 (roughly $20) entry fee, and got back on the bus for another 5-7 kilometre drive.  I was actually surprised at how long it took us to get there.  I expected only a 30 minute drive, and thought we would be in the park by 6:00 or so.  However, it took us until closer to 7:00 to finally start our day.

I bought a map outside the gates when we were paying for our ticket for roughly $3.  I could tell right away that it wasn’t a great one, but I felt that it would be worth having something, as I had no idea what to expect once in there.  I took a look at it right away, and noticed the farthest point out from the gate.  It’s called Temple IV, and I had a quiet knowing that we immediately had to go to that temple to start our day.  My rational thinking was that as it was farthest from the gates, it would be the quietest place for the longest, but I had no idea what sort of temple it was, and certainly didn’t know that it would be the absolute most spectacular temple of them all, and a perfect place to begin our day from. 

After walking through some other temples to get to the big one, we referenced the map a couple times, to make sure we were still heading to the farthest one.  While doing this, we got a bit of a lay of the land so we had some idea where we were at all times.  When we got to Temple IV, and climbed the stairs all the way to the top (it’s mostly man made stairs now unfortunately), we were astounded by the view of the lush green canopy that was presented before us, and could see a few temples poking out of the foggy and mystical tops of the trees, in the distance.  We soon figured out which one was which, and from this perch, 212 feet above the jungle floor, we are able to decide our route for the rest of the day. 

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The Central Plaza is flanked by 2 temples of this side at either end.  I am standing atop one of them to take this picture.
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Many of the carvings that graced these temples have been worn away with time.  This one is the most in tact that we saw on top of the temples.

When we arrived at the top, we chuckled at the sight of the other 2 older people that we had waited for the bus with that morning, having already arrived.  We had a quick laugh about all of us wanting to beat the kids to this spot, to enjoy some quiet morning time from up there.  Again, we didn’t have a clue what this temple had in store for us, and were gobsmacked by the majesty of it for sure.   

After one very loud group of Europeans finally left, we enjoyed almost an hour of peace and reflection on top of this incredible structure with the other 2.  Interestingly enough, they are British, but had been living in Leon, Nicaragua, and are currently political refugees, taking a one month break in Guatemala.  We had an interesting conversation with them about their experience, and their stories were horrific.  Mortar and gunfire had been going off outside there house for multiple nights before they decided that their nerves were frazzled, and they needed a break.  They aren’t sure what they are doing, or where they are going.  The husband had work there, she took a three year sabbatical from teaching in England, and he had another year in his contract.  But at that moment the NGO he had been working for had no plans to return to Nicaragua, and they are left feeling lost and floating around in the world. Yet more people displaced by the chaos in Nicaragua.

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The spectacular view from the top featuring temples we had already walked by popping up out of the misty morning canopy.

We sat atop this incredible structure and watched Toucans zip from tree to tree throughout the Canopy.  I saw a big howler monkey in the tree branches of one tree, and we had a visit by a Pozote (coatimundi) that had obviously climbed all the way up there from the ground.  By then, a group of the students had arrived to the top of the temple, and when one guy approached the edge to look down, he turned to the rest of us wide eyed and said “There is a crazy animal down here!”  One girl asked what it was from her seat on the stairs, and he announced “I really don’t know, it’s like a Dog Monkey.”  Haha!  Well that was it! Many people jumped up from their seats to go and check out what a “Dog Monkey” looked like, including Chris.  Thankfully, having seen these guys already in Costa Rica, he knew what it was, and was able to tell people it’s correct name. 

 

The Pozote had come up sniffing around for food that our new friends had dropped.  Their cake, that they bought for lunch was incredibly crumbly, and she had thrown a bunch of the crumbs that were falling on the ground, down the side of the temple.  This super cute guy came up from exactly where she had thrown it, and was sniffing for more.  As they also had a huge pile of crumbs near where we were sitting, he made motions to come closer to get them, but thought more wisely about it and stayed his distance.  I’m sure once all the people are gone at the end of the day, these guys climb up and recover the goodies that have been left by the tourists. 

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It looks like a sheer drop off from where we sat but in fact it was a bunch of stairs that led to the ground.  Unfortunately people aren’t able to climb them anymore as they have eroded beyond repair, but a wooden set of stairs has been erected on the side of temple.

In witnessing him, and the rest of the jungle animals, we realized that they are the lucky ones.  The animals of Tikal get to live in this magical play land.  This place where time seems to stand still, where your worries about the rest of the world just melt away.  Where mother nature dictates what is happening, and where the powerful energy of the place just breathes life into every corner of it.  I can’t tell you how many times through the day, I wished that I could make this place my home.  A little roof here, and an extra wall there, we could easily make this place inhabitable again.  I couldn’t help but think that this place had housed thousands of people throughout it’s history, yet none were here now.  Of course, our society keeps these places sacred, and of course, people aren’t able to live there now, but I almost had a strong vision that this place would be inhabited again.  Like somehow, the world will fall into such a state of disrepair, that I think people who survive, will come back to these places.  Will seek solace in the sprits that reside on these magical lands.  I do believe that somewhere, somehow, these places will rise again.  I don’t know how I have this feeling, call me crazy if you want, but the power I felt from that land was great, and I can’t explain it either. 

With more people starting to arrive at the top, and the sun starting to get warm, we decided that it was time to descend back into the canopy, to start our day of exploration.  We had plenty of time, our bus wasn’t leaving until 4:30, we had food and plenty of water.  We were absolutely in no rush at all. 

Having an overhead view of the park from Temple IV allowed us to also use our map to figure out where we wanted to go next and how we wanted to plan our route for the day.  So we set out immediately for the next structure that you could climb to the top of, and that was also poking above the canopy.  We wanted to look back at where we had been sitting atop Temple IV, to get a scale of what we had ascended. 

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From the top of the next temple that we climbed, looking back at Temple IV.  We had been sitting just at the tree top level.

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After we satisfied our curiosity, and finished checking out the next temple, the sun was starting to get hot, and it only made sense to stay below the canopy and stay mostly out of it’s deadly tropical rays.  We flitted along the paths from temple to temple, took tons of pictures, and even had an awe inspiring connection with a butterfly about the size of Chris’ hand that flew past us.  I didn’t notice, but Chris watched where it flew to, just down the trail.  It landed at the base of a tree trunk, and as we made our way down to it, it stayed in the same place, seemingly not caring about us at all.  As we realized that we could maybe get a picture of this fabulous creature, we slowed way down and crept up to it.  At first we zoomed our phone cameras in, but we soon realized that there was no need for a zoom, as this butterfly was really in the mood for a photo shoot.  We both got within one foot of it, and it didn’t even twitch.  After thanking it for it’s incredible-ness, taking a ton of phots of it, and walking away, I realized that the whole scene would be much more impactful had I videoed it. 

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I see a snake head on the top right.  Do you?

We were 50 feet away or more, and I decided to turn back. I mean really, how often does one get to witness such an incredible creature up close and personal like that.  It was still in it’s spot and I told it that it was going to be in a movie.  It was also in the mood for this I suppose, as we  videoed it, got super close, and talked to it the whole time. Again, without even a twitch.  Just incredible, and certainly a highlight of the day. (You can find the video on our Facebook Page.)

We also had run ins with many wonderful fuzzy caterpillars crawling on the ground, birds of many species, a giant grasshopper, more monkeys and of course Pizotes scattered here and there on the forest floor.  We walked amongst ancient trees and massive plants.  Of course, one can’t help but make comments about feeling like they are in Jurassic Park, when wandering through the incredible flora.  Familiar plants that we have in pots in our houses in Canada, towered high above our heads as we walked the trails of this dense tropical landscape. 

We finally stopped for lunch back in the Central Plaza around 11:00.  We were finding it hard to just stop ourselves for a bit as we were wide eyed with wonder as we went from temple to temple, realizing the massive scope of this city.  While eating, we couldn’t help but notice the tourists that were just arriving, at the hottest part of the day, and with all the other crowds.  This was our first look at just how many people visit this park, and here we were in the slow season.  I can’t imagine how busy it can get in the high season months.  We were thankful that we had planned our day the way that we did, as we had seen very few people in our first 4 hours of exploration, and we were thankful that that was the case.  I can imagine that with 40 or more people sitting on top of Temple IV, there would be no sign of the little Pizote that had visited our smaller gathering in the quiet of the morning.

With not a moment to spare, and knowing that we still had lots to see and explore, we ate quite quickly, refilled our water bottles, and set off.  (Something to note: there is NO Food available throughout the park, only a couple restaurants right at the beginning.  So pack a lunch, and plan to stay a while!)

The second part of our day was filled with explorations that mostly took us in and around the structures.  We climbed countless stairs, ascended and descended structure after structure, walked through tiny tunnels, and explored as many nooks and crannies that we were allowed to, and possibly one or two that were at the very least, a grey zone of whether we were allowed to or not.  We somehow found ways to avoid the crowds, and made sure that we stayed away from the main trails and guided routes.

 

It was in this alone, that we were thankful that we had not decided to hire a guide.  We came across many groups with guides, and it was clear that these groups were not moving at the pace that we were, and many weren’t able to cover the vast amount of area that we were.  And while there are a thousand unanswered questions about these temples, how they came to be, who lived in them, what the structures represented and countless more, what we really felt like we were there to do, was just experience the land.  To realize that countless thousands of people had lived here, and that while Tulum was but a tiny seaside village, this was a city.  It was an empire.  It was, and is, royal, majestic and incredibly humbling. 

When our buzz of excitement and our need to explore everything we possibly could wore off, we realized that we were exhausted.  Suddenly our knees and legs and every part of our bodies were tired, and we realized that it was time to go.  We had seen all that we could in one day, and we knew that we would be back.

Tikal is a place that I think a person could return to countless times, each time finding a new thing to explore, a new carving, a new structure.  We do plan to return, but next time it will be with a guide.  Next time we will get our burning questions answered.


Do you want to visit Flores and Tikal?

We have rented a house here in Flores for a couple months, but will possibly stay longer as we don’t have any other plans to go anywhere until we housesit in Livingston, also here in Guatemala, in late November.  So we have decided to share our experience with others who may want to come here to see Tikal, and what Guatemala has to offer.

We are offering a one week package for a very good price.  You will be staying with us in our house, and we will take care of your meals and all of the details to go to El Remate for two nights, and Tikal for a day visit.

Check out the information here, and let us know if this interests you at all.  We feel that it is a really good value, and are happy to share what we know, and help you to get to know the area and the people that inhabit this land.

Of course, we are open to altering the schedule to suit your needs, and we can add on extra excursions if it is wanted.


In other news…..

I have been forgetting to blog about a fun project that Chris and I did while we stayed in Samara, Costa Rica for a month.  We were able to put our artistic skills to good use and paint a mural for the owner of our hostel, in exchange for part of our accommodation.

While both of us are artists of various mediums, neither of us has had much experience with actual painting.  I myself have watched many artists paint, and I understand the basic gist of layering up your image starting from the background and moving forward, but have never really attempted anything on a large scale, and certainly not something detailed like what the owner wanted, as I normally work in an abstract fashion.

However, with Chris being the very skilled, artist that he is, and knowing that drawing animals is one of his strong suits, I knew we could accomplish this project.  So, despite a healthy amount of fear, we decided that we just needed to attempt it, and give it a try.

We made many mistakes through the process, and at times had a hard time trying to make things look the way we wanted, but through trial and error, and the beauty of just painting over our ‘mistakes’, we feel that we were able to come up with something pretty awesome.

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This is on a 4×8 piece of plywood.  The whole project took us roughly 3 weeks, with both of us working on it at least 1-2 hours per day.
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These are the owners, an Italian couple that has lived in Samara for the last few years.

We are very proud of ourselves, and mostly learned through this process that the most important thing we can say to these kinds of opportunities, is to Just Say Yes!  By saying yes we broke through our own barriers of fear and doubt, and we came out beaming on the other side.

We are pretty excited to know that this painting will be hanging in the hostel for many years to come.  It’s a great privilege to be able to leave bits and pieces of our creative selves wherever we go, and to know that we have brightened and livened up different spaces around the world.  We plan to continue to spread our creativity and artwork around in every place that we visit!


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: No plans to go anywhere at this point!

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:)

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:)

Reflections from Flores, Guatemala

Could this be the doors opening that we had been hoping for? Of course it was!


Over the course of 9 months in 2017, my partner and I sold all of our possessions, including 2 vehicles, and a house full of stuff. In order to sell the house for its maximum value, we also completed 3 months of renovations that had been lingering for over 3 years. We wrapped up 2 businesses and left a town and tight knit community that we both cherished. We did all of this in order to seek out a life of freedom, away from the hustle and bustle of the 9-5 life, but most importantly, we did it so that we could travel. This is our story…….


We arrived in Flores after 3 different flights from Costa Rica, and an 8 hour day.  We hopped our way through Central America, stopping first in San Salvador, where we spent one hour in the airport, but managed to have a glass of beer at the airport microbrewery.  Seriously, not something we expected to find!  Next was a quick hop to Guatemala City where we had a 4 hour layover, allowing us plenty of time to grab our bags, clear customs and check back into our next flight to Flores. 

3 Plane Hop to Flores

Flores is a small island town that is perched on Lake Petén Itzá, in the most Northern Guatemala Department (similar to States or Provinces), also called Petén.  Since we were arriving at night, we were a little concerned with getting to our hotel, which was across the the lake from Flores, a 3 minute ride by boat.  However, our worries were typically needless.  Our very friendly shuttle driver, drove us straight to the boat launch, phoned our hotel to send a boat, and we arrived in fine fashion.  

Guatemala Screenshot

As we entered the Island of Flores, by one single road connecting it to the mainland, we were immediately enamoured with the quaint and idyllic little island.  We could see Bar-B-Que’s happening on the sides of the roads, and plenty of life happening in the streets.  The teeny tiny little streets are just about the cutest little streets we have ever seen (although I think I say that about all the little streets that we see), some of them only big enough for motos and tiny little gas driven tuk tuks.  Small little alleyways, many suitable for walking only wove themselves away from the main roads, and off into the matrix of houses that are intertwined in behind.  As we passed each alley way and road, each of us craned out necks to look down as far as we could.  We were both wide eyed and lost in wonderland and were immediately in love with this place!

Flores Screenshot

Initially our two planned nights in Flores (actually, we learned, the area across the water, where our hotel was, is called San Miguel), turned into 3, and as we met more and more people in and around Flores, we found it really hard to leave at all. 


THE PLAN

Our ‘plan’, when we booked the trip to Guatemala, was to visit Flores for a couple days, then head out to El Remate for a couple more days to see Tikal.  After that we would be off to Belize by bus, heading north to Mexico up the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula.  Our end goal was to get to Merida, the capital city of the Yucatan Peninsula, and where we visited for only 3 days in 2015, but fell in love with it.  Chris had spoken to a tattoo shop there that accepts guest artists, and we have some friends that are currently living there that are from Portland, who we keep telling that we are coming up there.  However, as it is with travelling, and this sort of life, things don’t always go as we plan. 


The morning after we arrived, we were ecstatic to look out of our hotel window to see an island across the way that was literally beaming with colour.  Even from our distance across the water, which is likely less than a kilometer, we could see that there were cute little buildings, seemingly stacked on top of each other.  The coloured roofs seemed to interconnect, making it seem like a giant patchwork quilt set out on the middle of the lake.  In the center of it all, and up on the hill in the middle of the island, stands a grande white church that looks down on the rest of the area.  Needless to say, we couldn’t wait to get our day started, so that we could get back over there to explore. 

A tiny little “lancha” took us across to the other side for just over a dollar for both of us, and we were dropped off in about 3 minutes. We immediately set out to explore what we could, weaving our way here and there up the tiny streets.  Many Guatemalans sat on their front stoops, and I’m sure ALL of them greeted us in some way as we passed.  Over the course of the day, we visited many little stores, coffee shops and bars and met some really interesting people.  We learned that there was in fact a tattoo shop in town, however we didn’t find it that day.  

By mid afternoon, we found ourselves back down by the water, and where we would be catching our boat back across to our hotel.  We had noticed a really neat looking coffee shop along that road that morning, it was covered in plants from top to bottom, and really caught our eye.  So, we decided to head in and have a beer before we headed back across the water.   It wasn’t just the plants, and the lure of feeling like we would be sitting amongst a jungle that brought us in here, though. It was the bright vibrant colours that everything was painted in, it was the funky bohemian decor, and it was just the good vibes and the feeling in general.  We felt very comfortable in that little place right away, and it felt like home to us. We took our boat back across the water after a fulfilling and great exploration day, and decided that maybe 2 nights wasn’t enough for this place.  

The next morning, we told the hotel that we wanted to stay another day, and we headed straight across the water for breakfast, back to San Telmo, the comfy little bohemian coffee shop/bar that we had fallen in love with.  Right away when we got there, we met William, or Docter Gato, as the locals know him as.  He started chatting with us immediately when we came in. Having grown up split between Canada and the US, he has now been in Guatemala for 25 years.  We don’t know how old he is, but I can imagine its between 60 and 70 somewhere.  Although, he is also one of those spirited, spry people, that could easily be 80 as well.  

He sat down to ask us what we do and all kinds of questions about our life.  In an instant I felt like I could tell this man anything, while simultaneously feeling like I couldn’t get enough of what HE had to say.  He immediately suggested that since we had no schedule, we should stay for longer in Flores since it is such a nice spot.  We agreed.   

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San Telmo Coffee Shop

Chris sourced out the tattoo guy through Facebook, and sent him a message asking if he was looking for any guest artists.  He replied right away that he was interested, and, of course, wanted to meet us.  We finished breakfast and then headed to his shop.  We found it with no problem and felt completely at ease and comfortable in his presence, right away.  He seemed excited at the prospect of having another artist in the shop, and we spoke with him a bit about needing a house to rent, if we were to stay longer . He immediately took us through the streets to look at a couple options.

We didn’t find anything that was suitable at that time, but later in the day after we had moved on to other things, Vladimir, the tattoo shop owner, messaged us that he knew of a place in San Miguel that was available and he wanted to show it to us at 9:00 the next morning. He would pick Chris up with his motorbike (actually he thought he was picking us both up at once, as they often do here, but I opted out of that one….) and take him to see the house.  If we didn’t like it, we decided that we would head back over the the Island of Flores, and would stay in a hotel there that was just as cheap, but a little more part of the action than across the water at San Miguel.  

Little did we know, Vladimir was hoping that we would stay in a room at his house!  Him and his girlfriend had completely cleaned out one of the bedrooms, but left the mattress on the floor (a King Size Mattress none-the-less), complete with clean sheets.  He stated that we could stay there for as long as we wanted, as long as Chris was working in his shop, and didn’t want any money or compensation for it at all.  We were astounded at his offer and decided to spend a night to see how it went.  Unfortunately, between many lights not working, a shower that never stopped running (at least while the water was actually working), water constantly on the bathroom floor, and a living area that had no furniture to sit in, we decided that this place wasn’t quite as comfortable as we wanted to be, and we set out the next morning to continue our search for accommodation.  I booked a couple nights at a hotel in Flores, then booked 3 nights in El Remate, where we would explore Tikal from and we resigned ourselves to the fact that maybe Flores wasn’t the place for us to be after all.  After talking to countless people and trying our hardest to find a place to live there over our first 3 days, we figured that no doors opening, meant that other doors would open somewhere else.  At that point, our plan was to see Tikal, and then continue on to Mexico like we had decided before heading up to Guatemala.  Maybe that really IS the best plan, we thought. 

After our first night staying in Flores proper, Chris had decided that he wanted to tattoo Vladimir.  Throughout our stay there, Vladimir had told him how excited he was to have another tattoo artist around, and there were some things that he really wanted to get finished on him.  It turned out that what Vladimir wanted, was something that Chris would design himself, and be something that represented his art style.  Knowing that he had very little money, but realizing that we were leaving, he still wanted to gift Vlad with his art, in exchange for how kind he had been to us, so he did it for free.  At that point, it was our last day in Flores, and it needed to be done then, so Chris headed up to his shop, while I went back to our favourite cafe to do some work on my computer, visit with our new friends, and have some coffee. 

At some point through the day, I left go to our hotel for something, and when I returned to the coffee shop, my initial seat had been taken, so I sat down to chat with a Guatemalan lady that was sitting on her own.  We immediately got to chatting like we were long lost friends, and she started telling me where she lived, back across the lake in San Miguel, where we had initially been staying.  The way she described her house somehow seemed so familiar to me, and I immediately asked her if she had and Air BnB there.  “Si!” She announced.  I really don’t know how I knew this, but the morning that we had woken up at Vlad’s, and after searching out some other options of accommodation possibilities, I had found her house on Air BnB and it was very reasonably priced at $15/night.  I almost messaged her to see what she would charge us for a month, but quickly also realized that it was her house, and that we would be living with her if we wanted to stay there.  This wasn’t ideal for us……we really needed our own space, so I didn’t. 

But all of a sudden, here I was, sitting across a table from the exact person that owned this house.  As we discussed her house a bit, Doctor Gato sat down and I told him the story.  Suddenly these impossible words began spilling from his mouth “she is planning to move out of her house, you should live there.” 

WHAT???!!!  I couldn’t believe it!  Here I had been already, researching this possible place to stay, feeling like it would have been the perfect house for us, but just not wanting a roommate.  However, with her planning to move out, things were coming together perfectly!  My mind buzzed with excitement!

I quickly asked her how much it would be to rent it, and she told me the magic number.  We had been looking for something close to US$200 per month, and she wanted the equivalent of $225.  Could this be it?  Could this be the doors opening that we had been hoping for?  Of course it was! 

After explaining our situation and insisting that we were VERY interested, I asked her if she could wait there while I ran up the street to ask Chris about it.  Of course, I was quite sure that he would be ecstatic about it as well and I arrived breathless and barely being able to get a word out, as I expressed how excited I was about this place.  We agreed that it needed to be looked at, and made a plan with Heidi the very next morning to see it. 

Of course, the house is perfect!  It has 2 bedrooms (one which we can Air BnB if we desire), a beautiful deck, perched high up on the hill with a view of Flores from San Miguel.  It is smack dab in the middle of a teeny neighbourhood of homes, and our closest neighbour makes fresh tortillas every day,  4 for 1Q (about 15cents!).  The house is very modern, and we immediately fell in love with Heidi, she has spunk and a zest for life, and she knows all about Europe and Canada and many other places in the world.

We are so excited that things have worked out for us here.  We really didn’t feel like leaving, we just hadn’t given it enough time for the Universe to lay out the possibilities.  We are looking forward to being able to use this place as a launchpad to explore this area.  Plus, with all the friends that we have made already, we really already feel like we are part of a community, and we look forward to sinking in even more and enjoying this place for a while. It is in the staying in one place where we feel the most productive.  Where we can really sink into our artwork. Where we can make friends, meet people, and really learn about the culture and the people of this land. 

Not to mention that being here on the lake brings with it a certain peace that is hard to quantify.  It feels tranquil, welcoming and refreshing.  After spending so many months on the Ocean, we are very happy to be near fresh water. 

This is the life that we have chosen!  Not a day goes by where we aren’t ecstatic about the opportunities that cross our paths.  Every day is an adventure.  Every day offers a chance to take a different path if we so choose.  However, when you get to those places that bring you so much happiness, sometimes it’s nice to stay a while. 

Next up, we are off to El Remate, as planned, to explore Tikal!  We are over the moon with excitement about this chance to visit these sacred lands.  Stay tuned for a full story on that adventure! 


In other news!

In January I joined a network called Location Indie.  It has about 350 members that are either already location independent, or are working their way to being so.  It offers mentoring and advice on how to achieve a location independent lifestyle.  There are many valuable free workshops, lectures and a great forum where you can post any sort of question, and you will get many answers from other members.

If you are interested in checking it out, and signing up for their newsletter, please click here!

In June, I was honoured to be featured as the monthly member spotlight, and got interviewed on the network for all members to watch live.  The interview was also turned into a podcast!  I am very happy to share that link here (find episode 113). It tells of our journey to location independence, and gives you an inside look at how we did it, and how we are making it work now.  Give it a listen if you like, and sign up for their podcast.  It is very inspirational!

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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: We are currently in Flores, Guatemala.  We have rented a house and expect to stay here for a minimum of 2 months.

Travelling Plans: No plans to go anywhere at this point!

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:)

Off to Guatemala!


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…….


Although we have been content here in our hostel in Samara for 3 weeks now, we also realize that we can’t stay here forever.  We exchanged part of our stay for painting a mural for the hostel owner, but we are now living on paid time, and while the price tag is only $25/night, we also realize that over the course of time, that adds up.

A couple weeks ago I went online to find cheap flights up to Cancun.  Obviously, flying is not our travel method of choice, but since the roads are blocked in Nicaragua, civil war has broken out, and the country is at a standstill, there really isn’t any other option.  If we want to go somewhere, it has to be by plane. 

As we are to be housesitting in November in Guatemala, it only made sense to head North, and not South, to cut down on future travel expense and time. 

A couple weeks ago I researched flights up to Cancun.  We have our sights set on Merida, a beautiful colonial city that we spent only 3 nights at back in 2015.  It sits about 4 hours by bus to the west of Cancun, and is close to the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula.  We fell in love with the city and vowed to return for longer some day.  Being close to Guatemala, makes it a good option for us to be close to our housesitting gig in November, and we can find apartment rentals for $150-$200 per month.  Good deal!

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Image courtesy of Googlemaps.com

When I did my my initial search, the flights were looking like they were about $200-$220 per person.  Not bad.  I researched many different days around the beginning of July, and found them all to be about the same price. So I figured that I would wait until we got closer, to see if any other opportunities came up for us around Samara, or in Costa Rica, before we committed to something solid. 

When living a nomadic life, booking a flight is a bit of a big deal.  When you are trying to live day to day, and take whatever opportunity comes your way, committing to some far off point can be stressful and a bit overwhelming.  But as everything in life, we have to make decisions, and once we do, new opportunities will arise that never existed before. 

Last night, feeling like our time is definitely up here in Samara, and in Costa Rica in general, I decided that I should sit down and find a flight and just book something.  We needed to make a move.  However, I was dismayed when I saw that all of the $200ish flights had now jumped to sometimes $350 or more!  If we wanted a $200 flight, it would mean staying in Costa Rica for another 2-3 weeks, which would negate the cost of the cheap flight anyways. 

Not to be deterred, I checked many websites and although I found the odd cheaper flight, most of them only allowed carry on bags and charged extra for checked bags.  Unfortunately, although we are nomadic, our bags do not match our nomadic lifestyle!  We have one complete duffel bag that is full of Chris’ tattoo gear, our tent, some thin sleeping bags, and (shudder) wool sweaters and cold weather gear!  We do plan to get to Ecuador eventually and these warm clothes WILL come in handy, but just thinking about them at this point makes me sweat!

PLUS we have an entire carry on suitcase that is dedicated to our art supplies.  This case in particular is a little worrisome as we have been adding heavy paper and other supplies to it making it quite heavy.  Even if it does fit in the overhead bins, there is a chance that they won’t allow it onboard the plane due to its weight. On top of all that we have 2 small back packs and another large backpack that contains both of our clothing. 

Like I said, one would NOT think we are nomadic with all of the stuff we are hauling around, that’s for sure!

However, this is a cross that we bear, and is why once we got down here we had resigned ourselves to bus travel only, at least in the near future.   But, with travel comes uncertainty, changed plans, and never really knowing what is around each corner.  So here we are, booking flights and stressing about our luggage!


I continued my searches through many websites and finally decided to switch things up a bit.  Previously, I had considered checking flights to Guatemala, and they had all been quite cheap as well, in fact cheaper than to Cancun.  I decided to throw that into the search engine to see what came back.  Right away it was obvious that flights were cheaper, but Guatemala City is so far away from Merida, it seemed silly to try to save the $100 when we would have to spend days travelling north from there.  Sure Lake Atitlan is nearby, a very popular destination and a “must see” Guatemala sight, but with the explosion of Volcan Fuego happening recently, maybe that wasn’t the best place to go.  I’m sure there is an economic spin off happening with that, tourism is likely down and possibly, there could be other problems.  No, we weren’t really interested in going there, at least for now, especially having just gotten over our shell shock from Nicaragua. 

However, as I typed Guatemala into one search engine, just to see other options, in tiny writing and in an obscure corner of the page, was an option for other airports.  Other airports?  I had no idea that there were other international airports in Guatemala!  I assumed that all international flights flew into Guatemala City, then connected from there (never assume….I know, I know.)  I quickly chose another destination, Flores, yes, that looked like a nice name, meaning Flowers in English.  Lets look there, I thought. 

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Image courtesy of googlemaps.com

Our German friend Nico, one of the same hostel family members that had been with us since we arrived in Samara, and who also left Nicaragua, had been to Flores.  He quickly announced “Oh yes, Flores is lovely, then you can go to Tikal.” 

Tikal???  What??  I have dreamt about going to Tikal for so many years, but it’s never been a solid plan, just some sort of far off fantasy.  One that would manifest itself one day when I ever got to Guatemala.  Well, all of a sudden this far off plan was suddenly manifesting itself before my eyes.  Chris announced “Book it!”, and Nico was immediately on his feet with enthusiasm, whipping out his Lonely Planet guide, pulling up maps on his phone, and showing me all sorts of things to do and places to go in that area.  I had to get him to slow down for a few minutes while I booked the flight, but I was pumped for his excitement.  Clearly this was a great place to head to!  Plus, it’s located in the Northern part of the country, which means getting to Merida, may be a little bit easier than it would be from Guatemala City. 

The flight to Flores is $160 each, and includes one checked bag each (now we just have to make sure they are below 24kg!).  BINGO!  In an instant our flight was booked and just like that we are off to Guatemala.  The hilarious thing, also, is that our flight is on the same day (July 5th) that our friend Nico’s is to Mexico City, and within half an hour of his.  So we are all going to travel to San Jose together, stay in the same hostel, and see each other off at the airport. 

In the course of a couple hours, we went from not knowing what we were going to do, or where we were going to go, or if we were EVER going to get out of Costa Rica, to finding a cheap flight, booking it, and planning our trip to Guatemala!  For the first time since leaving Canada, I am finally going to a country I haven’t been to before, and I couldn’t be more excited! 

We have no idea how long we will spend in Guatemala, we don’t really know anything about what we will be doing when we get there (other then going to Tikal of course!) but we are going, that much is clear!  It feels incredibly good to have a bit of a plan, and to know that very soon we will be in a new county, experiencing a new culture and seeing new sights. 

This is the life of a Nomad, this is what is exciting!  One day at a time, step by step we choose our futures.  It’s an exhilarating feeling and we wouldn’t want it any other way. 

Pura Vida from Costa Rica (for only one more week!)

When nothing is sure, everything is possible


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 have been in the El Dorado Hostel (highly recommended!) for 3 weeks.

Travelling Plans: Heading to Guatemala on July 5th!

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:)

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. 


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 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:)

Life as a Digital Nomad – April 2018


In 2017 my partner and I sold all of our posessions to hit the road and seek out a life of travel. “Life as a Digital Nomad” is a semi-regular series of posts that keep people updated on how we are now carving out a life and making a living while being on the road full time.


It seems as though time is slipping by, like water slips through our fingers.  I had meant to make my digital nomad posts a monthly update, but since my last one was in January, it’s obvious that monthly isn’t happening right now!  However, read on to see how we are managing as digital nomads now!

Chris and I finished up our Cabina managing job in Matapalo, Costa Rica on March 15th, leaving a steady income and a beautiful spot right on the beach.  We could have stayed for longer as the owner still hasn’t returned, but we had been staying on the same remote beach, with limited transit options for 4.5 months already, and although we were very thankful for the opportunity to not only live in paradise, but make money while doing it, we were both ready to do something different.

Chris had many inquiries for tattoos come up before we left, but unfortunately, as is the Tico way sometimes, nothing came of them.  It seems that his boom in November/December was enough for Matapalo, I think he did 12 in total.  We had a friend come down to visit us in January from Canada, and he brought some tattoo supplies with him, so Chris is all stocked up and ready to do more when the opportunity arises!

He also opened up a Society 6 store with some of his artwork posted.  He as a long way to go posting more items, but he will get there eventually.  Check out some of his items available below!

 

I have been steadily building my Etsy and Society 6 shops.  I finally got my domain name sorted out (www.jillianamatt.com) after having it not work since last August.  It takes you directly to my Etsy shop until I get my new website up and running.  I’ve had this domain for years now, and used to have a big fancy website for my fractal things.  However, it was to complex and I really wasn’t ready for it at the time.  I shut it down before heading out on this journey, as it was overwhelming to me and wasn’t what I wanted.  Moving forward, when I do get my website going again, it will simply connect to my Etsy Shop where all of my items can be purchased much easier there, than on my own site.

Check out some of my new fractal designs below:

Yes, that is right!  You can now get my fractals on bathing suits and bikinis!  I look forward to seeing these arrive at their new homes this summer season!

Sales have been steadily increasing in my Etsy shop in particular.  I have put a ton of work into my listings, learning about SEO, making sure my tags are correct, and pushing my items to social media whenever possible.  I have to say that I am quite impressed with how well it is doing, considering that many people start Etsy shops and don’t see a dollar for months and sometimes years.  So far in 2018, my Etsy shop has brought in $1520!  Of course, I don’t get all of that, usually about 30%, but it is sales none-the-less, and I am definitely seeing steady growth in traffic.  It is definitely a commitment of time to make sure that it is all done correctly and marketed properly.  Currently I’m considering making an e-book about how to set up an Etsy page.  Could be another income stream moving forward.

I have also been into creating Mandalas lately.  These are all done digitally using mandala programs on my iPad, but I really love how they turn out, and love that I don’t have to get all freaked out about each segment being perfect…….the iPad takes care of that as I only have to draw in one segment and it is repeated throughout.  Cheating?  Sure!  Do I care?  NO!  I’m just having fun creating the images and using patterns and colours.  It’s a great time waster when we are being idle!

I have also been busy with real Pen/Pencil/Ink on paper drawings lately.  I have uploaded a couple of these to my online stores, but have much more to do after spending 3 weeks in a very quiet mountain town with little internet access.  We both found great inspiration there, and spent many days and hours simply doing art.  Here are some of the results of that stay below:

We also built our hosts a dining room table!  They didn’t have one in the house we were renting, so we made one out of cinderblocks and plywood, and then painted the plywood top with some pretty crappy acrylics that we had with us.  Unfortunately we didn’t have time to find varnish or clear coat of some sort for it, but we did mention that it needed it, so hopefully somebody will do that for us.  It was a fun project and you can really see the difference in our art styles, but I think we blended them together well in the end.

We look forward to leaving a trail of art projects behind us as we move around the world!

Chris and I are currently in San Jose, and yesterday we bit the bullet and bought a new MacBook Air laptop.  We were finding it difficult to manage what we needed to with having only our iPad.  Quite often we both wanted to use it at once to do artwork or internet things, and it was becoming difficult to balance it all.  Plus, there are a couple other Print On Demand sites that I want to get my stuff set up on, and their websites don’t cooperate with iPad’s, only laptops or computers.

Another possible income stream that I can do with a laptop is teaching English online.  I received my TEFL certification about 5 years ago through an online course, but have yet to use it to make money.  My preferred method of teaching is one on one, and I was happy to learn about a website called Cambly, where I can do just that.   I looked into signing up for Cambly a few months back,  but unfortunately their website doesn’t cooperate with tablets either.  So hopefully, this purchase will pay itself back with future opportunities for potential income streams.

Well, I think that’s about it for now!  We are both thoroughly enjoying life on the road, and look forward to where our adventure will take us next!

Thanks for following along on our journey!

xo Jill


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 in San Jose, Costa Rica, but will be catching a bus to Nicaragua tomorrow morning.

To follow my art page on Facebook, please head to Jillian Amatt Designs

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

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

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

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

To see more items that are available in my online stores, visit my Shops  Page.

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

 

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