A Glimpse of the Costa Rican Highlands

Our house was perfect! We giggled with joy as we scoured every corner and checked it all out.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Beautiful sunsets from the restaurant!

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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EW!

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

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

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

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After I fell on my butt, this is the sight that beheld me as I looked up.
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Easily 150 feet high, this waterfall seemed as though it was falling directly from the heavens, making us all wonder where exactly the water was actually coming from.
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Perfect heated rocks lay below allowing us to bask in the warm sun while enjoying the coolness of the water spray below.
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The canyon walls were absolutely rife with life!  It was a sight to behold!
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Crystal clear clean water was awaiting us!

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


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

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

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

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You Can Envision It! Envision Festival 2018

Us and many others, I’m sure, came away inspired by what we heard, empowered to try and make a difference. And of course, the main message always was that if you can ENVISION it, then you can CREATE 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…….


As I sat down to write this post, I thought about ways that I could bring some humour into the familiar festival ways. You know the ones; the stinky and almost full porta-potties, the ridiculously long line-ups to get anything, the throngs of people pushing and bumping on the dance floor, the Squish of 1000’s of tents squeezed in together, leaving only small pathways between them, creating a blinding maze of zigging and zagging, every time you are to return to yours. But I have to say, in the aftermath of what was a spectacularly run festival, I find not much humour in it at all.

Sure, there were some toilets that left little to be desired, but really, they were cleaned frequently, and if you were smart about the ones you chose (Hint: don’t go in the first 4!), they weren’t bad at all. The line ups really weren’t all that long, and I have to say, that with roughly 5000 over the top friendly people attending the festival, the chit chats that took place in those line-ups made them flash by. Similarly, the dance floors were a happy bumping vibe, not too many people, plenty of room for everyone. And the tents, well, they were certainly squished in but coming and going was manageable for sure, and I must say, I enjoyed the challenge of finding ours each and every time.

One of my biggest take-aways from the 4 day festival was that I literally did not witness one bad exchange between any two people. I saw nobody who was drunk and unruly, yelling at their friends, nobody angry or upset. All that we saw, day in and day out, was happy people! Gloriously happy people!

Volunteering

My partner and I volunteered for Envision Festival this year. It was our first time volunteering for such an event and it was our first time attending Envision. It just happens that it’s held about 40 minutes south of where we have been living for the past 4 months in Costa Rica, so it seemed silly to not partake in some way or another. Volunteering seemed like a great option, it would save money, and it would give us an insiders look into the goings on of events of this nature. And like all good experiences, we have no regrets and are exceedingly happy that we took part in the way that we did. We each worked 3-6 hour shifts in our respective departments, and were able to enjoy the festival around those times as we wanted. With each shift came a meal voucher, so we would hit up the Cantina where the kitchen crew was constantly cooking up delicious food for the masses, and we would sit and mingle with other volunteers and staff alike, chatting about the world, where we come from, where we are going next.

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This is where I volunteered. We answered questions for many volunteers and checked them in and out of their shifts.
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The inside looking out and a couple of my co-working buddies.

There were people attending from all over the world, but I have to say that out of all the people that we met, I’m pretty sure the scales were tipped in Canada’s favour. I was astounded at the number of Canadians that were there! Like my good friend Joseph said “Canadians are always well represented at cool events!”

But many other places were well represented as well, including a large contingent from Costa Rica itself. The Ticos were many and could be seen not only just taking the festival in, but also volunteering and working the festival grounds.  We met people from many places in Europe, South and Central America, North America and many other places in between.  It was truly diverse.

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Volunteer/Staff Meal time!

Why do you want to go?

I was asked this question a few times before heading to the festival.  Of course, the main focus of most festivals is around the music, but this wasn’t my interest.  There was an astounding yoga component to this festival, and I’m pretty sure there was a different yoga class happening at least every 2 hours through the day, if not more, but we weren’t going for yoga (but we probably should have been).  There were plenty of lectures planned and lots of opportunity to learn about all manner of things to do with different thoughts on Society, the Environment,  living in alternative communities and the like, and I knew that I would partake in some of these along the way.

But, as an artist and creator, my answer always somehow revolved around wanting to witness the artwork, of which I had heard great things.  I knew there would be a ton of art and I couldn’t wait to feast my eyes on it, but I also had another reason to want to go.  I wanted to meet more people of a similar mindset to me.  I wanted to find more people that I could slot into my growing global community of friends.  I knew that these sorts of festivals draw a different crowd.  These festivals draw people who want to see the world in a different way.  They draw people who want to step away from the 9-5 corporate life, those who wish to seek out a life of purpose, one of passion, one of building community and one of making the world a better place.

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I was not disappointed!

Well, I can assure you that I was not disappointed!  To begin with, the artwork…….well the artwork was simply breathtaking!  Over the course of the weekend, we witnessed several paintings evolve that were being live painted throughout the day and night.  This included large scale pieces by famous South and Central American artists, and also smaller canvasses by many up and coming and renowned artists from the United States and beyond.  The art gallery was literally dripping in talents from all sorts of different people, from all stages of life.  I would lazily stroll through, numerous times in a night, always finding something that I hadn’t noticed before, always coming out more amazed then when I went in.

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The Luna Stage was incredibly oranate and this photo really doesn’t do it justice.  At night the various sections were lit up each with their own visual displays.  It was absolutely incredible!
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Similarly the Audio Visual booth to this stage was breathtakingly beautiful!
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Just a sample of the show at night!

After dark was when colours, sounds and lights would come to life!  The stages were lit up with the most incredible audiovisual displays that I have ever seen, and we would spend most of our time at night wandering from art piece to art piece, watching each canvas evolve and transform over time.  And although we didn’t take many pictures of some of our favourites, their memories are etched into our brains, in a certain section that is reserved for the magical things we see in life.  We listened to some music (it was impossible not to), danced a little here and there, but we were mostly focused on seeing the art.  We loved the art, and we came away incredibly inspired.

We also were not disappointed with the people that we met!  We met some great new friends that we have appropriately slotted into our growing global community.  And of course, Facebook is such a great way to continue to keep in touch with our new friends, many of which are full time travellers themselves, and others that are now being  convinced to become them.

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This incredible piece was over 20ft tall!

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We c ircled back to this quite often and many times missed seeing the person painting it, yet there would be huge new sections finished.  The final piece is simply amazing!

We had many invigorating and interesting conversations with people that we met while we waited in lines, or while we sat in the village during lazy afternoons.  Conversations revolved around ways that people were passionate to see a change in the world, how they felt that they could make a difference.  It was inspiring to have deep conversations with complete strangers, about things that normally are reserved for close friends, or people that we know are on the same page as us.  It seemed though, that most people at Envision were on the same page as us.

The Village

The village was the central hub of the festival, and where much of the daytime activity happened.  Around one side of the village was the food vendors where one could find many different options of good wholesome quality food being served.  This was not a place with deep fried doughnuts, mars bars or chicken nuggets!  These vendors prepared fresh, wholesome food, many times vegan or vegetarian, and always healthy.  There was a local craft beer booth, Envision Festival coffee, roasted specifically for this years festival, vegan hamburgers, smoothies, Thai Wraps, wood fired pizza and so much more!  Everyday we found ourselves wandering up and down from booth to booth trying to decide what delectable thing we would try next.

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Chill time in the Village!  The heart of the festival grounds.
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Lots of relaxing, hanging out and meeting new friends!

Envision is officially a Zero Waste festival meaning that at the end of it all, there would be as little garbage as possible to deal with.  This meant that they had a plate and cup exchange program.  If you didn’t have your own, you could rent one for $3 from the first vendor that you visited.  When you were finished with your plate, there was a dish pit where you could drop your plate off to get a voucher for a new plate, that you would give to the next vendor and so on and so on.  There were also numerous bins set up for compost, recyclables, Etc.  All of this went to a massive central hub that sorted and recycled anything that could be, and then composted the rest.  Of course, there were always pieces of non-recyclable plastic in the actual “garbage” bin, but it was definitely not the fullest bin of them all, which was nice to see.

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How food is meant to be served! On a Banana Leaf!  The lettuce is my Gluten Free bun to an incredible veggie burger!
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There was always a bit of a line up at the Coffee Booth!

The other side of the village was lined with various artisans booths filled with all manner of exquisite creations.  From delectable dehydrated goodies (we tried dehydrated watermelon!), to the most impossibly intricate Guatemalan beaded necklaces, to funky festival clothing, jewellery, face paints and stunning tapestries, all manner of creations were very well represented.  We spent as little time as possible strolling through this zone as it was nothing but a HUGE temptation to spend money on more THINGS!  However, we did both come away with a couple items to remember the festival by.

During the days, if we weren’t working, we would lay our ground sheet down in the center of the village and sit and draw, trying endlessly to get out the inspiration that we had taken in, and would chat with many other’s that were relaxing in the shade and just taking it all in.  Above us stood massive palms and other trees, providing a welcome umbrella from the unrelentingly hot Costa Rican sun that was blazing above.  Once in a while I would see a lone Howler monkey crawling around, hanging out on the branches and looking down at us and I’m sure, wondering what the heck we were all doing there. And one morning I heard the familiar call of a Toucan high up in the trees, and was able to spot it and show it to someone else before it hastily flew away.  Drums were being played, songs were being sung, it was peaceful, it was serene, but best of all it was a community.  A community of people that seemed intent, at least in those moments, of working together to find ways to make the world a better place to live, of helping each other out, and of caring for each other.

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The always bumping and hopping beach stage!
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Intricately built using bamboo!

Presentations/Workshops/Inspirations

On the edges of the village, and throughout the grounds, there were different stages that had constant presentations going on.  As we sat in the shade and relaxed, we were able to listen to one or the other and tune in to what we wanted to hear.  Topics of these presentations were diverse, but many could be heard about how we can instill change in the planet, about what we can do to make a difference.  It was at times impossible to walk from one place to the next without hearing some sort of important message being told on a nearby stage.  Us and many others, I’m sure,  came away inspired by what we heard, empowered to try and make a difference.  And of course, the main message always was that if you can ENVISION it, then you can CREATE it!

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So much art!
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There were light hearted, yet serious signs like this scattered all over the grounds!  A potent reminder to stay hydrated and healthy in the extreme climate. One of my favourites was “Friends don’t let friends get dehydrated!”  This one reminded me to grab my water bottle at one point!

Drugs, Alcohol and Shenanigans

Of course, like all festivals of this type, there was a very obvious drug component to the festival, and I would be dishonest in my post if I didn’t report on this aspect as well.  However, as with any of these events, you can partake in any way that you see fit.  Sure drugs were being sold, and the craft beer booth was always busy, but there were also families there with young children.  Parents who maybe wanted to introduce their kids to a different type of community than the one they live in back home.  Possibly there were parents who wanted to expose their kids to more artwork and creativity.

There are so many different reasons for people to want to attend this festival, from yogis to artists, musicians to climate change specialists, people from all walks of life were very well represented.  It’s unfortunate that in some peoples eyes, Envision is just another “rave” or party where people are getting wired on all sorts of things.  Of course that is going on as well, as it does everywhere in the world, but I would say that the majority are there for so many other reasons, and really “Drugs” is definitely not the most important one.

You Should GO!

If you are planning a trip to Costa Rica next year, I highly recommend this experience!  Because that is what it is……..an EXPERIENCE!  It is an experience like no other and if you open yourself up to that, and just take in the parts of the festival that you are interested in, I can assure you that you will not be disappointed!  As for us…….we will be back for sure!  In what capacity, I can’t say for certain, but we were both very inspired by it and I can imagine will continue to be involved in one way or the other in the coming years.

To check out the Envision Festival website head to: www.envisionfestival.com.  Here you will find all the information you need to learn about the festival, volunteer, be a guest artist, performer and more!  Check it out and get involved!


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Kayaking on the Savegre with Rafiki Safari – Activity Guide

As we paddled along the channel that we were one, it got smaller and smaller, and as I was starting to feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland at this point, it got curiouser and curiouser.


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


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

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

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

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

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Sights such as this were common as we drifted by.  This is a Cormorant.
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This is the beginning part, just after putting in.  It was the fastest moving section of water we were on, and really wasn’t too fast at all.

 

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

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

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A look at the waves hitting the protective sand bar.
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The little shelter that has been erected for campers and kayakers to take a break.
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If you look closely, you can see the waves breaking in the distance, but not coming into where we were drifting, plus the little shelter that we were heading to is on the left.

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

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

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Still in a fairly wide section.
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Starting to wonder where we were going.
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Ended up in this tiny mangrove channel for about an hour!

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

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

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

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Emerging on the Portalon River
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This is a different type of Mangrove Tree, there were a few different types that we saw.
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Our guide up ahead.
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We had to navigate under a few trees, this one was a breeze but others were more of a limbo.
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Like this one!  This photo was taken by another guest on the tour, Viola Kerner.

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

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Monkeys on one side of our pull out
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Monkeys on the other side. You can see how close the one was to our kayak! They actually were running and jumping across it.
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This is another image by Viola Kerner.  As you can see, the normally playful and curious monkeys were NOT happy!

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

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

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

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The bumpy road back to Matapalo.

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

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

Thank you Rafiki for such a great time!


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

Website: www.rafikisafari.com

Email: rafikisafari@gmail.com

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

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


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 11th, 2018 – One Year Later


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


Today marks one year since we made this crazy decision to sell all of our things, to not only seek out a life of travel, but to free ourselves of the burdens that society had placed on us.  (To read my post that day, click here.)

We had found ourselves suddenly drowning in debt with no clear picture of how we were going to get out of it.  We were living a life that seemed normal to others, but was terribly uninteresting and uninspiring to us.  We both made and created art, but because of our need to make money doing our “REAL” jobs, we didn’t have the time to properly sell it or promote it, something we really wanted to do.

We lived a life that was the epitome of being on the hamster wheel.  Running, running, running, working ourselves to utter exhaustion, but never getting ahead.

I asked myself all the time:  “Is there more to life than this?”

I knew there was, I knew there had to be, but I didn’t know how to get there.  I didn’t know how to pay all the bills at home, keep my house, keep my car, keep my things, keep my small business, and still do the thing that I really wanted to do…….travelling.

As I sat in my art studio one year ago, I was watching ‘Minimalism’ a new documentary that had just come out on Netflix, while working on my creations.  As I watched this enlightening documentary, in the most quintessential way possible, I had an epiphany.  It was as though a lightening bolt blasted down from the heavens and jolted me in the back of the head.  From that film, I suddenly realized that my house, my car, all of my stuff, was actually what was keeping me from travelling.  All of the stuff, was literally drowning us.  All of the stuff was what was making us feel like we were treading water.  All of the stuff was what was keeping me from doing what I wanted to do the most.

I say this in a first person narrative because Chris, at that point, hadn’t travelled a ton.  We had done a 6 week trip to Europe in 2015, and had done a 2 week trip to Mexico, but that was it.  He understood that he liked travelling, but he didn’t really know what it was like to LIVE in a different country, to really spend time learning different cultures, customs and traditions, and to learn about what makes different places tick.  He had had a taste, that was all.  But thankfully, he too decided that he wanted more.

On that fateful evening, we decided that enough was enough!  All of our stuff didn’t matter anymore!  The only thing that mattered was making our life count!  We knew in that moment, that we had some HUGE changes ahead of us, and we knew it would be a ton of work, but we were committed.  We had a plan, it was set, and we immediately got started on undoing the life we had built, to seek out a vastly different one.  One that was fulfilling, one that was inspiring, one that was EXCITING!

Fast forward one year later, and it all seems like a distant dream.  In nine months we held multiple garage sales, we sold items on Facebook, to friends, to neighbours.  We took mountains of things to the thrift store and inevitably, the dump.  We finished renovations on our house that had been half done for over 3 years.  We sold our vehicles and our house.  We closed down our business’ and we worked our butts off to pay off as much debt as possible.  We stopped drinking, eating out and buying things.  We completely flipped our life upside down, in order to make this happen, in order to unburden ourselves, in order to seek out a life of freedom.

It was not an easy ride!  We were utterly exhausted most of the time.  We put in as much effort as we physically could, and worked harder than either of us ever had before.  But guess what?  It worked!  We did it!

Our life has gone from “normal” to extraordinary, and it happened all in 9 months!


Today I sit in Costa Rica, staring out to the waves breaking, to the pelicans soaring by, and sometimes, to a sloth climbing the tree in our front yard.  Today I feel FREE!  Today the worries about money, how I’m going to pay the next bill, how I’m going to find the next client, and how I’m going to be able to travel again, are gone.  Literally gone!

Don’t get me wrong, life is not a perfect, easy, breezy time, all of the time.  Of course, we are both working on ways to secure a financial future, as the money we now have will run out eventually.  But we are doing it with clear intentions.  We are focussing on what is important to us.  We are seeking out those things that inspire us, that motivate us, that move us.  We are going where the wind blows us.  When we see a good opportunity, we take it.  If we don’t like the situation we are in, we change it.  We don’t owe anyone our time.  We certainly don’t owe anyone our souls.  We are in charge of what we do, that is it, that is all.

Many people we meet ask the same question over and over again.  They hear about what we are doing now, but then they can’t help but ask “But what about your future?  What is your plan for the future?”

Well, the answer if simple.  We have no real plan for our future.  We are simply just being.  Being in the moment, taking life one day at a time, enjoying ourselves and really getting to know ourselves.  We have given ourselves the gift of presence.  We have given ourselves the gift of living each day as it comes.  We don’t know what is around the corner, and quite frankly we like it that way.  Our future is not some construct that we have laid out, hoping that all of the pieces fall into place the way that we have planned.  Our future is determined one day at a time.  Each day determines tomorrow’s path.  Each day brings new directions, new thoughts, and new opportunities.

And so, I ask you this.  Are you living a life that is inspiring and exciting?  Is there something that you would like to do, but just can’t quite figure out how to do it?

My advice is simple, take a hard look around you and find ways to let go of what is burdening you.  Maybe you are like me and you realize that it is your stuff that is weighing you down.  But maybe it is your job, your relationship, the place you live, the people you surround yourself with?  There can be any number of things that we carry around with us that are holding us back from doing what it is that we really want to do in life.  But it is up to us, and ONLY us, to figure those things out, to let go of those things, and to build a life that we truly love.

Pura Vida from Costa Rica!

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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

From Housesitters to Cabina Managers…..

And so here we are! Entering 2018 in a way that we never anticipated or imagined!


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


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

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

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

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We had a visit from a herd of cows that walked by the other day! I’ve never seen cows on the beach before!
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This guy was hanging from a tree just in front of our house the other day. The sloths are quite prevelant in this area, but they usually sleep much higher up. This guy was only about 8 feet off the ground, allowing a great opportunity for photos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The answer is simple: Literally Nothing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

LIVE YOUR DREAMS IN 2018!

FOLLOW YOUR PASSIONS IN 2018!

LIVE THE BEST LIFE POSSIBLE IN 2018!

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

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

I can assure you that you WILL NOT regret it!

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

Make this your best year yet!!

With gratitude and love,

xo Jill

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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Sweetie, There is a Sloth in our Tree!


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…….


The monkeys were running around on the roof of the house and jumping from palm frond to palm frond as they made their way through our yard, just as they do everyday.  Sometimes there are only a handful of them coming and going, and other times there are a dozen or more jumping around in the trees, knocking coconuts onto our roof, and just causing a general ruckus.  As usual, I generally can’t help but to step out from our covered porch area, and look up to the trees to watch them move around.  They are so curious about us, and really make honest to goodness eye contact, and I generally can’t help but to say “hi!” to each and every one of them.  Although, I have recently learned that making eye contact is a practice that is not generally recommended when interacting with monkeys.  Apparently doing so can make them aggressive and angry.  However,  I have so far found these to be peaceful exchanges, and have had nothing flung at me like coconuts or worse (!) monkey shit!

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The White Faced or Capuchin Monkeys come through our yard pretty much every day just before sunset.

On this particular day, as I was watching them jump around in the branches, I noticed something else crawling around.  At first I thought it was a possum, because it had such a long nose, and was crawling horizontally across the branch. I yelled to Chris that there was a possum in the tree, but as quickly as I got that out, I realized that, no, it was only an iguana.  A really big iguana mind you, but an iguana none-the-less.  We have tons of them around the house, so those too have become common place for us.

But all of a sudden, however, I noticed that the iguana was in an almond tree.  We have been actively learning about the different trees in this area, there are almonds and teak, different kinds of palms and many types of bushes and shrubs and everything in between.  But the unique thing about the almond trees, is that the Sloths like to sleep in them.  I’m not sure if it is the tight knit branches, giving them lots of places to ball up and create a sleeping pad for themselves, or maybe it’s because they are so high up, and away from predators.  Either way, I all of a sudden noticed that we had 5 different almond trees growing around the house.

As I backed away from the house, and looked way, way up there, I spotted one.  Sure enough!  A Big gray ball of fur was peacefully sleeping up in our branches.  WOW!  I ran and got Chris and we watched it for a few minutes.  Of course, Sloths sleep all day, so we weren’t going to be seeing much action at that point anyways.  In fact, we learned on our night walk in Monteverde that sloths are nocturnal, meaning that they are only active in the night, and they usually don’t come down from trees unless they need to poo, or migrate across an open area with no trees.  And so, we decided that maybe later on we would be lucky enough to catch it pooing in our yard!

I did head out later on with the flashlight, and I was pretty sure it wasn’t in it’s perch anymore, and after shining my light across the sand floor outside our door, decided that it was definitely gone.  Since then, I have looked up once or twice to try and spot another one, but haven’t had that particular privilege again.

________

A couple weeks ago we expressed some interest to one of our expat neighbours that we would like to see the turtles nesting, or hatching, on the beach if it was possible.  There is a small turtle hatchery just down the beach from us, and each time we walk by, we get more and more curious about what is going on.  The hatchery consists of a bamboo shack on the beach, and a levelled area with plastic netting surrounding it. Inside the net fence, are grids that are laid out, each with a number or a date, or some kind of indication of when the eggs were put there. We had asked a few people in the area about the cycles of the turtles, but nobody seemed to know the answers for sure.  We are both curious about the goings on of nature, and would be honoured to see a turtle laying her eggs, or some small little babies hatching out of the sand.  Of course, turtles only lay eggs at night, so to see that part, we had to go in the dark.

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This shack is maned day and night with volunteers that make sure no turtles hatch without them knowing.  And also partly, I’m sure to protect them.
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These cone fences are placed over the holes where the eggs are put so that if any babies do hatch, they will be contained in the cage.

Because, there are literally no people at our beach, and it isn’t very discovered yet, there is no tourism program to go see turtles,  so there are never throngs of people milling around with lights and shining them in the turtles eyes, like the time I experienced in 2004 at another Costa Rica location.  We felt that a nice quiet walk with a local, would be a much better experience.

Our neighbour hooked us up with Andres, whom we had already met, and who told us that for $15, he would take us for a walk down the beach, to hopefully catch a mom in the act of laying her eggs.  Andres is around 20 years old, and works for the local turtle hatchery where he is partially tasked with walking the beaches in the early a.m. and digging up the turtle nests before a local comes and takes the eggs home to eat.  As we were nearing the end of nesting season, we knew that a sighting was not guaranteed on our outing, however we had seen the holes that were dug up in the early morning when we walk Omber, so we were still hopeful.

In retrospect, though, Andres took us out on a night that was likely not the best.  The tide was really far out, and after we got about 2 kms down the beach, we started to discuss this issue.  At that point, with nary a turtle in sight,  we came up with the brilliant idea that it was probably better to do this at high tide.  At least, I thought,  if I was a turtle, I would appreciate a lift all the way to the beach, instead of having to walk half a mile through dragging wet sand, while ready to burst out all of my eggs!

We turned around to come back, only to find ourselves in an absolute torrential downpour of rain, for the entire 2 kms back to the house.  All I can say is thank god for waterproof cameras!

There were actually 5 of us getting soaked, that night on the beach, as Andres had brought one semi-English translator, and another buddy along for the show.  It didn’t take long for us to realize that the locals were absolutely HATING the walk, and were actually cold, while we were just on cloud nine with it all.  Wow!  That amount of rain, continually washing over you for an extended time, is nothing short of soul cleansing.  We were both completely drenched, and despite our assurances that we were both fine, the local boys continued to worry about us, offering us some small tokens of shelter from the rain, such as an already drenched rain poncho.  We laughed and told them that we were just fine.  I still chuckle about the fact that they were so worried about us, yet we both felt like we had never been better.

At the end of the walk, Andres offered to take us to the hatchery the next day to see if we could see any turtles hatching there.  Apparently they can hatch at any time, so he just had to let us know when it was happening.  We couldn’t afford to wait another 5 or 6 days for the high tide to again be at night, as nesting season was already nearing to a close as it was, so instead of seeing a mother laying her eggs, we decided that the next best thing would be to see the babies hatching.

The next day came and went, and the next day………. and the next day, and still never a word from Andres.  Mind you, he doesn’t speak a word of English, and our Spanish is still not anywhere near fluent, so these heavy discussions are difficult and do require some effort.  Each time we would see him down on the beach, we would exchange pleasantries, but never really talked about the Tortugas again.  In fact, after a few days I had just resigned myself to the fact that we many never see the turtles around here.

The signs in the hatchery were pretty cute!  I especially like the “Don’t Eat” one:)

However, yesterday, about two weeks since our wet walk, Chris came running into the room early in the morning, and said that “Andres is here and there are turtles hatching at the hatchery!  We have to go now!”

We quickly grabbed the camera and whatever we needed and took off down the beach with Andres.  We arrived at the hatchery not really sure what was going on, but there was a guy headed down to the beach with a cutdown bucket.  Andres yelled at him to stop and we ran and looked in it.  Of course, there were about 4 or 5 baby turtles, only about 3 inches long.  He was setting them free in the water.  Instead of going down with him (duh), I went back up the beach to the hatchery to see if any more were coming.

There were three staff members involved with digging up the spots where the eggs get buried.  One was digging the sand and siphoning through the egg shells for still full eggs, or hatched turtles.  The other was taking field notes on what was extracted, and Andres was throwing the discarded egg shells into a bucket. When we got there, I half expected to see a swarm of baby turtles exploding out of nests, but sadly this wasn’t the case.

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These are the tags that indicate the dates and # of eggs placed in the hole. This one has 59!
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These will be the final ones dug up for the season, or so I understood. Turtles stop laying in December.

They dug up nest after nest of empty eggshells, only finding one fully developed turtle amongs 5 nests, and dozens of eggs.  It was officially heartbreaking.

Unfortunately, we didn’t ask questions, and we weren’t told why the survival rate is so low.  They seemed happy that at least one survived.

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The lone survivor……..

Andres, Chris and I walked down to the water, and Andres passed me the yellow glove to wear, indicating that I should be the one to let our little survivor go.  When we got close to where the water was coming, I gently lifted him out of the bucket and set him down on the wet sand.  He instinctively started heading towards the water, pulling himself across the wet sand with his tiny little fins.  It seemed that the tide was receding, so I picked him up once more and ran with him another 8 feet or so, closer to the water.  Finally a shallow wave came into the flats, and he swam free.  We watched him get tossed around in the surge a little bit, but each time could spot his tiny little head, come back up to the surface for air.  After watching him swim his little body away from the beach for about 5 minutes, Andres yelled “adios!” And laughed.

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This is an Olive Ridley Turtle.

I waved at him/her and yelled “Buena suerte Totuga, Buen viaje.”  (Good luck turtle, good journey.)

I couldn’t help but to contemplate about what a big ocean that must seem like for such a little fella.  Heading out there, I’m sure his/her rate of survival at that size is still slim to none.  But we can only send him/her on their journey with the best intentions, and a hope that they will thrive and prosper.

It was an amazing experience and I asked Andres if he still wanted some money, as we hadn’t settled the entire $15 payment yet, agreeing on a portion of it that night of the wet walk, and the rest when we saw them hatching.  He insisted that he didn’t but made some mention about the tattoo he is getting from Chris next week.  I didn’t understand the entire sentence but I understood enough.

‘Si, una descuento por el tatuaje.” (Yes, a discount for the tattoo.)

His eyes perked up at the mention of this, and I could see that he was very happy with this solution.

We thanked him for his kindness and for sharing the turtles with us, and made our way back to our house.  We walked in silence, as we both contemplated what a neat experience it was that we had just had, realizing again just how grateful we are for what is unfolding around us day in and day out.

_____________

Our adventures with animals lately, don’t stop here though.  In fact, it’s a day in and day out occasion around here!  The other night, somehow, someway, we had a bat fly into our house.  It took us about an hour of chasing it around, poking at it with the broom, trying to swing a sarong over it as it flew, and a lot of jumping around and screaming, but it finally flew out the door.  If it had of been filmed, it would have made a great comedy script!

Pura Vida!!



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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Experiencing a 6.8 Earthquake!

By then the gentle ocean bouncing, had turned into more of a feeling of walking in jello, or maybe that of being on a bouncy castle.


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


 

Well, after living on the West Coast of Canada for 15 years, and being told that “The Big One” is coming any day, and having only experienced one small, very small, earthquake (4 something, of which I only really felt dizzy for a second), I can now say that I have fully experienced a relatively large earthquake.

We had had a really full day yesterday. I was super tired.  We had been up since 5:00am.

We were picked up early in the morning by an acquaintance that we had met through facebook. He is a Canadian, and his partner is Bulgarian (seriously?! We loved Bulgaria!), and they moved down here 2 years ago. We have a bunch of mutual friends from Canada, so we were introduced via facebook, and told that we really should connect when we get down here.

Joseph is a also tattoo artist here in Costa Rica, so it seemed like a good connection to make, since Chris wanted to do some tattooing here as well. Needless to say, the fact that he only lives 30 minutes from where we are housesitting, made it all that much more serendipitous.

We had a spectacular day with them, first heading to a different, near by, beach. They then took us back up the mountain and into the jungle to see their property, and spend the day with them there. All I can say is WOW! What a place! What awesome people! We definitely connected with them on a deep level, and made instant, wonderful, new friends.

But I have to remiss, as this blog post is not about that, and we have made arrangements to go back there in the New Year, to stay on their property and help out with some projects that he has planned.  So, there will be plenty more to write about that later on.

THIS post is about an Earthquake!

Needless to say, after getting up at 5:00am, I was tired! It wasn’t even 8:30, but down here, it really is the normal time to go to bed. We have been struggling with this. Most people get up between 4:00 and 5:00 here. The house owners that we are house sitting for, have people that come by to do work on the property, and they start at 7:00. The dog that we are taking care of, Omber, usually starts walking around the house at about 6:00, if we haven’t gotten up before then to take him for his walk.

In Canada, being artists, and finding that the time that we were most creative was late at night (not too mention it was the only time we HAD to be creative), we would do our art at night, and usually wouldn’t go to bed until around midnight (or later), and would get up at 7:30 or 8:00, starting work at 9:00.

For the first couple weeks here, we tried this routine, but it didn’t work. The dog wanted to be walked, other neighbours were up chatting away super early outside, the monkeys would start banging on the roof at first light. No too mention that it get’s really hot on the beach by about 8:00, so if we would walk the dog around then, he would be miserable, and so were we.

Slowly, but surely, we are falling into a routine of early nights, usually no later then 10:00, and getting up at 6 or 6:30.

So! I went to bed at close to 8:30. I had my book with me, thinking that I’ll just read a chapter and then nod off. No sooner did I lay down when the craziest feeling overtook me. I felt like I was floating on the ocean, bobbing around like you would in a boat. I heard Chris in the kitchen go “What the F#c@?”

I got out of bed, book in hand, and made my way to the doorway. I’m pretty sure I was muttering something like “holy shit, holy shit, holy shit…….”. Chris was looking around equally as in awe as I was, and said “Holy shit, is this an earthquake?”

I stood wide eyed in the door frame, holding onto it like it was my life preserver or something……book still in the other hand. By then, the gentle ocean bouncing had turned into more of a feeling of walking in jello, or maybe like that of being on a bouncy castle. I just stood there absolutely incredulous, not knowing how long it would last, or how bad it was going to get.

I have to say it was other-worldly, like nothing you could ever prepare for, or understand what it would feel like, until you have been in it. I kept thinking that the walls were going to start cracking, or that the roof would flap or SOMETHING! In fact, this completely concrete house, just rolled along as we did, barely noticing that anything was happening under it. We had stacked dishes high in our dish drainer, dishes from supper, not one of them budged. The hanging light was swaying, but really, that was the only indication that anything was amiss, as far as the house was concerned.

I think this made it all the more incredulous. Like, how in the heck is a concrete house not doing SOMETHING, when we feel like we are bouncing around in a bouncy castle?? Like, somehow it tricked our minds into thinking that we were imagining it. The laws of physics were being played with…….concrete and brick doesn’t bend? What the heck was going on??

Still standing in the doorframe of the bedroom, still staring wide eyed, I started saying “What do we do? I don’t know what to do?” “Do we go outside?” “We should go outside.”

A thousand and one thoughts were flooding through my brain, it’s impossible at this point to even really remember what I was thinking. We were acting on total instinct.  This whole scene only lasted a minute to a minute and a half I would say.

By now Omber either was reacting to our apparent panic, or he felt it to and was wondering what the heck was going on, as he was now pacing around the room as we realized that we should really get outside.

Chris grabbed the house keys, set his electronics away from the window (we are always in anti-theft mode), and we all went outside. No sooner did we get outside, it had seemingly stopped. I was standing in the front yard (not the beach side), still with my book in my hand, open to the page I was reading, and in my t-shirt and underwear. I made some mention of needing to put my book back inside and complaining about being in my underwear. Chris assured me that being in my underwear was fine, as I spent most days out in my bathing suit anyways! As everything had calmed down by then, I did deem it necessary, for some god fore-saken reason, to go back in the house to put my book safely inside! Don’t even ask me how that makes sense!

Our hearts were beating a mile a minute and we just kept saying “Wow, that’s what an earthquake feels like.” “Wow!” “Wow, that was so crazy!” “Do you think there will be aftershocks?”

This went on for a couple minutes, while I think we just thought we would wait there until other neighbours came outside. None did. Apparently this is just business as usual to them? Or maybe they were all soundly sleeping by then? At some point, while outside, I thought I felt like the ground was swaying again, but at that point I couldn’t be sure. We had no reference of anything else moving, like the light swaying in the house, but I did read that there was an aftershock of 5.1 about 4 minutes after the initial shock, so maybe that was it, hard to say.

We started talking Tsunami, and decided that we should go and take a look at the Ocean to see if it was being pulled back, like you hear about. I literally have no idea what we would have done of it was……climb a palm tree perhaps?? I’m pretty sure if it had of been pulled back, we would still have had time to start running somewhere……..not even sure where we would run to as this whole area is very low for about 2 km inland. Maybe we could climb on the roof of the house?

It’s interesting because I have to say that when we arrived here, and knowing full well that Costa Rica is the land of Earthquakes and Volcanoes, and having been told by our friends in Samara that they had already experienced an earthquake, I did note the location of the house, about 30 meters from the beach, and the fact that if a Tsunami came, we wouldn’t stand much of a chance against it.   But along with most of those fear mongering thoughts that come into our brains, I dismissed it, knowing full well that the chances are slim, and not wanting ANYTHING to ruin paradise for me!

After standing on the beach, in the dark, with only Chris’ cell phone to illuminate anything, but still being able to see the waves, and that they were acting normal, we decided that we could go back to the house. Nobody else was outside, it was all very strange.

Immediately, I grabbed my phone and started googling Costa Rica Earthquake. Sure enough, it was a 6.8, and the epicentre was only about 100km away from us, or so. Of course, I also scoured the internet for Tsunami warnings, of which there were none. We were WIDE awake at this point! No sleep for us!

Chris went back to his drawing, I posted a bunch of stuff on Facebook and social media to let everyone know that we were fine, we both had a stiff drink, and after I had decided that it was safe to go back to bed, not too mention after my adrenals toned it down a bit, and my heart stopped pounding, I finally did so, and slept soundly until this morning.

And now, I can say with some authority, that I know what a 6.8 earthquake feels like! I have been reading articles this morning about this event, and it seems as though many people had many different experiences. No casualties were reported, save for 2 people that had a heart attack (??), at least that’s what one article says. If you would like to read more, I have links to an article here, and here.  Apparently some people, did have things fall off the walls, and dishes break.  A mall in San Jose has cracks in the walls and floor, 5 stories up.  Obviously being farther away from the epi-centre, makes it less intense.

In the end, and after all is said and done, and as a lover of experiences, I have to say that I am glad to have experienced this one! I have never been afraid of anything like this, I figure nature will do what nature will do, we really have no control anyways, but it’s nice to actually know what really goes on, and honestly, it wasn’t that bad.  I’m better off for having experienced it, because at least now we know what to expect.  Obviously, things can get a lot worse, but we will hope that we never have to endure an 8+. For now, a 6.8 is just fine in my books!

Pura Vida!

Xo


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!

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, click here.

To see my blog post menu, click here.

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