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.  

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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:)

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.

 

 

 

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

To those of you who weren’t planning to go to Bali, I must say, NOW IS THE TIME!!


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Observations of Costa Ricans…..

It also got me thinking that we have literally not seen one bad exchange between people here.


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…….


There is this guy and his little puppy that are often sitting on the same log on the beach when we walk by with Omber in the morning, or afternoon. The puppy is the cutest little thing, but we can’t get near to it as it barks it’s head off and seemingly wants to tear us limb from limb. Usually we are walking down at the bottom of the beach, while they are sitting at the top of the beach. The man looks to be about the friendliest person you could ever lay eyes on, he has a huge Afro and a great smile. We always collectively laugh at the state of the puppy going crazy, and even from 50 yards away, you can see this mans massive smile light up, and he sends a friendly wave our way.

Today, I was at the top of the beach walking, and I could see from down the beach a ways that he and a friend were sitting in the usual spot. This time I decided to try and get closer to say hello. The sun is shining today, and it’s been a bit of a dismal week around here with cloudy and rainy days seeming to never end. We exchanged a few words about how nice it is to see the sun, we asked each other how we were doing, the puppy barked it’s little head off, and then I decided that I better get going.

I had a task to do, you see, I was walking the dog.

After we walked to our usual spot, and returned down the beach, we were further down by the surf, but he and his friend were up at the top still, just chilling. I kept walking and started to think about the fact that we had been passing this guy and his puppy for a month, and still didn’t know his name. I immediately started to feel bad for not asking his name, and finally getting to know him a bit. I realized that I too could have just sat on that log and chatted for a while. ‘Why didn’t I do that?’ I asked myself.

Oh right! I remembered.

I was on a mission, you see, I was walking the dog!

And in that moment, I caught myself, I suddenly, miraculously, realized that I too have all day to chat if I so desire. I too could just sit on a log and hang out for hours, if I really felt like it. Omber would be happy to just chill in one spot. There really was no rush. Besides, what could be better then practicing some Spanish and making new friends?

Hmmmmmmmmm…..

A few hundred yards further down the beach, Omber decided to run to the top of the beach to chase through the palm trees where I couldn’t see him. Of course, I walked up there to find him, and a man was doing some raking amongst the palms. As soon as he saw me, he immediately waved a friendly hello. “Hola”, I yelled.

This got me realizing how pleasant our exchanges are with the locals. Rarely do we walk by someone, whether on the beach, or on the road, where they don’t take the time to say “Buenas Dias, Hola, Pura Vida, (Good Day, Hello, Pure Life) or some combination of all three.” In fact, as we walked the road the other day to the bus stop, a man crossed the street and shook Chris’ hand, wanting to know who we were and whether or not we owned some piece of property in town. We chatted with him for a bit, then were on our way.

It also got me thinking that we have literally not seen one bad exchange between people here. There have been no children throwing tantrums, no people yelling at each other in hatred or malice, no aggression of any kind has been displayed, in fact.

Hmmmmmmmmmmm…….

Chris had a tattoo job the other night just down the street from us. I popped over after a bit to see how it was going. It was the father that was getting tattooed, and his wife, 9 months pregnant with a second child, was busy in the kitchen. Their little girl was playing in the corner as quiet as could be, with her dolls and a handful of toys. They were not spread all over the room, they were in one spot, and she happily toodled away talking to them and playing by herself, with hardly a peep to anyone.

I asked her mom how old she is, and they told me ‘5 years old today’! You can imagine my immediate surprise as this certainly didn’t seem like your average 5 year old on their birthday, at least where I come from. There were no streamers and balloons hanging up, no huge party with a thousand other kids running amuck, no big deal was being made…….at all! I told her “Feliz Cumpleanos!” (Happy Birthday), and she turned and gave me a shy “Gracias”, then busily got back to playing. In the two hours we were there, she never once bothered her mother or father for anything, just happily, and QUIETLY played in the corner with her dolls.

When I had initially arrived to the house, I immediately walked over to see how the tattoo was going. The father said hello and asked me how my day was going, in English. Without really realizing what was going on, I just told him “Oh it was okay, I was lazy today.” Later I realized that I never even asked him how his day was………did he notice, did he think badly of me. What was my problem?

Hmmmmmmmmmmm……….

The other day, Chris and I caught the bus to Uvita. We hadn’t been there before, and needed some groceries, so we thought we would just go there and hopefully get some supplies after doing some exploring. While waiting for the bus, we sat on a bench in front of the Pulperia (Convenience Store), and had many exchanges with locals coming and going. Old or young, they all had time to say hello and ask us how we were doing.

As we rode the bus to Uvita, we sat in the front 2 seats to the right of the driver. As I watched people get off the bus, most people thanked the driver, one guy shook the drivers hand and exchanged a few words with him. The driver wasn’t in a rush to get going again, it was more important to talk to this man for a minute, then to worry about his schedule.

I watched as the driver eased his big bus through tiny communities, and yelled and waved out the window at familiar faces. Were these people he knew, or just people he saw on his route everyday? “Pura Vida!”  was yelled more than once, and the people on their porches or in their yards returned the exchange with huge smiles on their faces.

In one instance a man was standing on the side of the highway and waved the bus to stop. The driver pulled over and the man simply stood on the ground at the door and spent about 5 minutes asking the driver a bunch of questions about the schedule and where he went. Obviously gathering information for a future trip.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm………..

Our friends that moved here from Canada two years ago, told us of a time when they had first bought their property up in the mountains. For the first while, they obviously couldn’t speak much Spanish, but their neighbours would come over anyways, and just sit with them on their porch, sometime for two hours, with barely a word spoken. They just wanted to interact, to share the human experience. Words weren’t needed to be decent human beings, to show their new neighbours appreciation of their arrival onto their lands.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm……….

All of this has me realizing that these are the sorts of things that you may not notice if you are travelling to a place for a week or two. It’s only after being in a spot for a length of time, when how a society works, is repeated enough for you to you start to notice it, and you begin to realize what really makes it tick.  We have been here now for over 6 weeks, and although it didn’t take us this long to see that people are friendly, it has taken this long to really notice that it definitely is a way of life.

In Costa Rica, it truly is the land of Pura Vida. People have TIME for each other. It isn’t normal to just say hi quickly, and then be on your way. What’s normal is stopping, and actually talking. Looking people in the eye, and asking them how they are doing, asking them how their day was or is. Taking the time to connect with each other and respect and appreciate each other.

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As of today, I am making a commitment to myself to really start to notice when I rush myself, when I push myself to “get going” because I think I have something important to do. When I start to think that ‘getting the dog walked’ is more important than stopping to meet somebody and learn about them, I will stop myself. I will stop this habit of being on a mission, of being in a hurry. As of today, I will stop to connect with people better. I will take the time to learn their names, I will spend the time learning about them, and finding out who they are and what they do. I will make TIME for them, because, this is truly the way it is here. This is what people do here. This is literally how their society functions, and I really can’t think of anything more beautiful than that!

Pura Vida to you all! I hope this inspires you to take a moment to reflect on what you spend your time doing.  And is it meaningful, after all?

NOTE:  Of course, this is our experience of Costa Ricans outside of heavily trafficked tourist zones.  In places where we have noticed that many tourists go, the Pura Vida mentality certainly does not extend as far as it does in these smaller more remote areas.  But it is in these places, where you truly get a sense for how people actually live.  

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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!

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

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.

Wandering in Varna, Bulgaria – Guest Post

A few days ago I found a request from a fellow blogger on one of the traveller Facebook pages that I follow. She was looking for people to contribute to her blog and write guest posts on one of their favourite travelling spots.

In 2015, my partner and I did a six week trip to Bulgaria, Greece and Italy. Although, we didn’t spend nearly long enough in Bulgaria, it was actually our favourite country to visit out of the three. I’m not sure if it was the laid back pace, the beauty of it, the friendly people, or the fact that it wasn’t on the Euro yet (which made it much more affordable against our Canadian dollar), but we absolutely fell in love with it, and long to go back someday.  Next time it will be in the summer months!

When I saw Emily’s request for posts on a favourite travelling spot, I couldn’t help but recall our experience in Varna.

Feel free to check out my guest post on her blog here.  Thanks for this opportunity Emily!

Also, if you would like to read more about our trip to Bulgaria, the first post is here.

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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!

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.

 

 

A Visit to Samara, Costa Rica – Destination Guide

We spent 6 days in Samara, located half way down the Nicoya Peninsula. It had a great chill vibe, and a funky beach town atmosphere!

I have noticed that the title “Travel Blogger” can have many different connotations.  Some travel blogs simply tell of the travellers experiences.  Some travel blogs tell people how to travel; ie. what to pack, how to secure medical insurance, what kind of currency to bring etc.  Some travel blogs tell people about locations and destinations, specifically how to get there, what to do, where to stay, and all the ins and outs of each spot.

As I do with how I live my life, I like to think that I don’t necessarily fall into any specific category.  My ultimate joy is to share my experiences, those that I feel are WORTH writing about.  They might be inspiring, they might make people laugh, they might bring insight into the places that I am visiting.  But above all, they are what make me WANT to write.  They give me great joy in sharing them with the world, which in turn inspires me to “put pen to paper” (I do try to still do that once in a while!), and to just get them down and out of my head.

However, I too realize that there is also great value in me sharing the things that I learn along the way. By sharing a few local statistics, information about where we stayed, what we did, and where we went, I may be helping those out there that are just getting started traveling, and who may need a nudge in the right direction.  Or I may be helping those that feel like my information helps to give them a little insight into a place, which will make them more comfortable with going there.  After all, there IS a reason that the website Tripadvisor is so popular.  It’s because people can either recommend places, or not.  In the grand scheme of things, all information that a person can gather before heading out, helps them to have the best trip possible.

But don’t forget one important thing!  Some of the best experiences do not come about from sitting in front of a computer, doing hours of research about a place.  They come from just TRYING it, from just DOING it, from just LEAVING your house, and heading out into the world!  The beautiful thing about travelling, is that it is absolutely impossible to plan for every eventuality that you may encounter.  That is the exciting part!  That is what makes it so much fun!  That is why we keep doing it over and over and over again.  We get away from our day to day, predictable lives, to places where anything can happen, at any time.  It sends our endorphins into overdrive, alerts our senses, and makes life adventurous.  Humans are adventurous by nature!  It is in our genetic make up that we want to see new places, explore different horizons, try new experiences.  We wouldn’t have spread ourselves all over this planet, in every nook and cranny, if we didn’t.

So, what are you waiting for?

Get out there, have fun and explore!

Samara

Samara is a very cute little Costa Rican town, located about half way down the Nicoya Peninsula (see map below.)  It’s home to about 1500 full time residents, but services about 4100 people that live in outlying areas.  After travelling around in Costa Rica for about a week.  We choose to make a visit to Samara, as I had heard some really good things about it, and because friends of mine from Canada, had just moved there last spring, after purchasing shares in an established bar.

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If you would like to read about our bus adventure getting there, click here.

When we first arrived, we weren’t sure how long we were going to stay.  We promised the man at our hostel we would be there for 2 nights, and just left it at that.  However, he offered us such a great low season rate, and the town turned out to be just the chill vibe that we were looking for, that we decided to stay for the 6 nights we had left before we had to go down to Manuel Antonio to get ready for our house sitting gig.

Because we had friends there that are from Canada, as mentioned before, they were able to take us out of Samara for a day, to have a bit of an adventure at what Nicki said was a ‘secret beach’ nearby.  It was past Playa Carrillo, a vast beautiful white sand beach itself, south of town.  We brought their two new dogs, and they promised a Tico (Costa Rican) style bar-b-que on the beach.  The beach was spectacular as was the bar-b-que.  Eron brought an actual BBQ grill to place over the briquettes, but the Tico style is to weave barbed wire back and forth until you create a grill like surface for cooking on.  Although the cove was a bit rocky for swimming, it had a fabulous waterfall spilling onto the beach at one end.  A perfect place to rinse off after our sandy, beach day.

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Notice the waterfall spilling down at the far end.
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A standard Tico BBQ built with beach rocks, and briquettes to build a fire. Most Ticos use barbed wire woven in and out until they create a grill out of it.

 

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Walter, one of Nikki and Eron’s Dogs wanted a rinse off as well!

We spent the next few days just bumming around Samara, not really doing that much.  We spent some time at the beach, but the weather actually got pretty nasty for our last couple days, and we spent much of our time there inside.  We were happy to just relax for a bit anyways.  The time before leaving Canada was hectic, to say the least, and we were still in recovery mode.

We did, however, take a walk out to the point at the far left hand side of the bay on one day.  It took 2-3 hours, round trip, but we didn’t hurry.  We dunked in some of the tidal pools, and found another cool spring dripping from the cliff walls.

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We walked out to the point behind me in the background.
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Tidal pool dunking!
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A freshwater spring falling from the cliff
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Looking to the island off the point. Apparently when the tide is right, it’s possible to swim there.

All in all, we were pretty happy that it was quite overcast, as it gave our pasty white Canadian skin time to acclimatize and not get completely fried on our first days.

We also spent some sunset evenings on the beach sipping tropical happy hour drinks.  And Chris got to tattoo one of the locals, which really helped him to streamline his portable process, and made him feel good about doing his first international tattoo!

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Sunset from Chicos at Happy Hour!

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the main drag of Samara, but it’s lined with many little shops and restaurants and leads all the way to the beach.  We enjoyed hassle free travelling here as there were no hawkers or anyone trying to sell us anything.  Not sure if that is a low season thing, or if it is the norm, but it was nice!  The beach stretches a really long way in both directions, and is wide and expansive.  The swimming is safe and there were no rip currents or undertows to note.

All in all, I highly recommend a visit to Samara if you are looking to experience a more laid back, funky little beach town.  There is good surfing in the bay, and you can ride horses and do tours from there as well.  It’s cheaper, overall, then places like Tamarindo and points south such as Santa Teresa and Mal Pais.

Accomodation – We stayed at El Dorado Hostel.  We really lucked out with this place as the only reason that we chose it was because it was the closest hostel to where our bus dropped us off.  It was located off the main drag, making it less noisy at night, and we had a quick and easy walk to the beach from here.  Larry, one of the locals, was living at the hostel when we were there, and he speaks good English, and gives surf lessons if you are interested in that.  We paid $20/night ($45 in high season) for our own private room with a little bar fridge, and a personal, locked bathroom just down the hall.  The kitchen is good, with more fridge space, and the common area is nice with a big table where you can meet new people and make new friends.  The owner is Italian (with a Tico wife), and they live right across the street and are easily accessible if there are any problems.  Highly recommended.

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The road from our Hostel to the beach.  A five minute walk at most.  

Restaurants

Bar Arriba – This is the bar that our friends have bought shares in.  It is located on the main strip, and is on the second story.  There is a great sitting area against the railings, and you can look down on the town, people watch, and witness the world go by all day if you want.  Tip:  The Mojitos are large and to die for!  We were told that this place is the top night club scene after 10:00 (much too late for us, and it sounds as though every patron at that time is half our age!). It also doubles as a sports bar and is THE place to be on game day!  Although we didn’t eat there, we were told that they also have an extensive pub type menu, and do specials for different occasions of the year.

Flying Taco – We went here one night for happy hour from 5-7 and enjoyed 2 for 1 drinks.  We also had some appy’s that were half price for happy hour.  Unfortunately, we were the only people in the place, but I think that was more of a low season thing, then a problem with the establishment.  The service was good and the food was good.  We also noticed that even outside of happy hour, the prices were very reasonable compared to other places in town.  There was a stage and a ping pong table, I’m sure both would be hopping in the high season.

Gusto Beach – This was a great spot to sit and relax at the end of the day.  We spent 3 evenings here for happy hour, enjoying an extensive menu of tropical favourites for only 1990 Colones.  It was great to just sit and watch the surfers in the bay as the sunset started to form behind them.  As it got darker, the fireflies would start to flit about, and the ambience became very romantic.  We didn’t eat there, or look at the menu, but I can imagine the food would be pretty good, as they have put a lot of time and attention into the ambience and decor of the place.

Coco’s Mexican Restaurant – We went to Coco’s on our first night, as we didn’t know where else to go, and it is located on the main drag.  It was my birthday so we splurged a bit, but even with a pitcher of Margaritas, the bill only came to about $55 USD.  The food was good, and they had an extensive menu.  There was a cat that seemed friendly at first and just wanted to be pet, but after we didn’t feed it, it bit me! (It didn’t break the skin, but it was a bite none-the-less.)  Be careful!

Supplies & Shopping – Samara is well supplied with anything that you may need.  There is a large, well stocked PALI grocery store (which was almost right across the street from our hostel) and some pharmacies and hardware stores.  There are many little boutique shops and a strip by the beach where local artisans sell their goodies every day.

Getting There and Away – 

We arrived to Samara by bus coming from Liberia.  If you do this route, be forewarned that you will have to catch 2 buses, the first to Nicoya, and the second from Nicoya to Samara.  The first bus is more like a city bus, and left the Liberia station every hour or so.  There is no place to store luggage, so you must bring it inside, and it stops at what felt like, every km or so.  It is very busy but very cheap.  I think it was about 2000 colones for both of us.  To connect to Samara, you will need to walk about 5 blocks to another bus station.  This bus is less frequent, and you will just have to ask when the next one is.  It was a direct route with minimal stops, had storage under the bus for luggage and was air conditioned!  A much more comfortable ride than the previous bus.  This one also was about 2000 colones for both of us.  Alternatively, there are many taxi drivers at the Liberia station offering a direct ride for $80USD.

To leave, we had to prepay on a bus that goes directly to San Jose, a 7 hour ride, for about $9 USD each.  (Read about that post here if you like.). We were only taking it to Punteranas, but it cost the same regardless.  There is a ticket booth at the entrance of town, and we had to make sure that we bought our tickets in advance, on a specific bus.  Any hostel or hotel front desk will tell you how to do this.  Coming from San Jose, I can imagine that it is the same bus, but I have no idea where to get it from.

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.

 

Traditional Living in Costa Rica – Part 1

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 are on day 4 of our trip, and I can honestly say already that if we had to return home for some unknown reason, that I would be content with our experience. Today was everything that I had hoped to achieve on our travels, and more!

We are currently in Monteverde, a mountaintop community, located in Costa Rica’s northern highlands. “Green Mountain”, the translation of Monteverde, couldn’t be more accurate. Every direction you look, there are plants of seemingly endless descriptions and green mountains stretch as far as the eye can see. We know this for sure, as the Air BnB that we booked is perfectly perched on the side of one such mountain, and the vista below is absolutely breathtaking. We can see all the way west to the Nicoya Peninsula, and in the right light the “Golfo de Nicoya” (Gulf of Nicoya) in front of the peninsula, dances and sparkles in the sunlight.

Read on to hear about our experiences so far…….

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After spending 2 nights in Alajuela, the neighbouring city to Costa Rica’s capital city, San Jose, and feeling that we had recovered sufficiently from our dreaded red eye flight from Calgary, through Toronto, we decided to head into the interior of Costa Rica, instead of hitting the beach. We will be house sitting right on the beach for 2 months at the end of October, so we will have lots of beach time to come. The mountains were calling us.

In 2004, my last visit to Costa Rica, I had visited a small mountain town called Monteverde. I had very fond memories of this place, but such as it was back then, our main motivation was to get to the beach, so we only spent a night or two. I longed to come back to explore more of this area, and to try and get a better feel for life in the highlands.

I did a search for Monteverde on my Air BnB app, to see what would come up. There were many options in many price ranges, but as I scrolled the list, one caught my eye. “Paradise House Monteverde #2 – Farmstay”.  The description definitely called to my yearning to learn more about the Costa Rican life.  Check it out below:

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Turns out that as it is the low season, and the internet had been washed out with the latest Hurricane, we got a discount and only paid $68 for 3 nights!

I quickly read it out to Chris and he said “Yes! Book it!”

Our plan was set! Here was our chance to learn about a traditional Costa Rican way of life. My goal with travelling is always to connect with locals, to see how others are living, to learn their way of life, and to share it with others. This sounded like a perfect fit! I booked 3 nights, knowing that would give us 2 full days to enjoy ourselves in a lovely, peaceful location.

3 nights = $68 CAD

With the help of our host in Alajuela, we booked a bus trip up into the mountains. Costing just $15 US (including a $5 booking fee for booking online), the bus would leave Alajuela at 3:00 and arrive at 7:00pm. In the tropics, every day of the year, it is dark by 6:00, so I knew that it would be dark when we arrived at our location. I messaged this to Orlando, our farm host, and he assured me that since they were located well out of Monteverde proper, he would arrange a transport to pick us up at the Bus stop.

The bus ride was a typical one, driving quickly down paved highways, weaving along the coastline of the Gulf of Nicoya, until all of a sudden we took a sharp, right hairpin turn onto a gravel road. After 2 hours on the road, we were finally headed into the mountains. Immediately there was a sign that said Monteverde 35km. I commented to Chris that surely it can’t take 2 more hours to go 35 kilometres. However, I was sorely wrong!

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Note:  It took us almost 4 hours to reach Monteverde.  Mind you, we were on a large bus, a private vehicle is likely quicker.

Within minutes, make that seconds, I could see that YES, this definitely could take 2 hours! The road was windy, narrow, steep and seeming impossibly small to accommodate the bus that we were riding on. As we were seated in the front two seats to the right of the driver, my favourite spot to “see it all” we got a full spectacle of what was to transpire. Corner after corner, sharp curve after sharp curve, we wound our way up the tight mountain road. With the recent rains of Hurricane Nate , having wreaked havoc with many mountain roads, we witnessed a few places where part of the road was washed away down the mountain. In these instances, the bus would slowly but surely, squeeze itself down the inside lane, hugging as close as it would dare to the inside ditch, without falling into it. We also watched the Humidity indicator that was located at the front of the bus go from 50% to 90% as we approached the clouds and entered an area aptly known as the Cloud Forest. We watched numerous small frogs leap across the road, scurrying out of the way of the large bus wheels, some we knew made it, others we weren’t so sure. Never the less, we cheered them on as we saw them.

Many times we would come across another vehicle going down the road, each time both of us would squeeze as tight as we could to the opposite shoulders of the road, literally inching past each other. However, in one instance, we came head to head with a driver of a commercial utility truck. It was now dark and drizzling rain and there was clearly no way for both vehicles to pass each other on the current stretch of road.

After both vehicles flashed their lights at each other a couple times, the driver of the truck finally realized that if anyone was to back up, it was him. He jumped out of his truck to survey the situation around him, and to come up with a solution, a way to pull over so that we could pass each other. After realizing that the other driver needed assistance in backing up (so that he didn’t drive off the road and over the cliff side) our driver jumped out to direct him. The amusement in the bus was hilarious as the locals chitter chatted back and forth laughing and carrying on about the situation. I couldn’t help but think about if the same situation would have happened in Canada; Number one, there would not be a public bus driving on a road such as this in Canada (unless of course it was guaranteed to be the only vehicle driving back and forth), and Number 2, if a bus load of people were held up in this way, there would be more than one very unhappy person. However, the mood was jovial, and everyone was just happy to have the entertainment.

Finally, as our driver helped the other driver back up down the windy road, and into a slightly wider section, another man, that we had picked up at a rest stop, and who had been chatting with the driver at the front of the bus ever since, jumped into the drivers seat and started driving the bus down to meet him. Chris and I burst out laughing, as we had no idea who this guy was, but trusted that he knew what he was doing either way. What little choice did we have after all? Thankfully, he safely drove us the couple hundred meters forward to pick up our other driver, but not before passing the transfer truck and another vehicle behind it on the cliff side of the road, with mere inches to spare between us (and I’m sure mere inches to spare with the side of the road, and in turn, the cliff as well.)

I mentioned to Chris more than once that I was thankful that it was dark because although we knew that we were driving up the side of the mountain, we were unable to see just how perilous and treacherous that it was if we were to simply slide down into the abyss below.

As we started to approach a more populated area, made obvious by the lights that now lit the road ahead of us, many locals would signal to the driver to be let off in various areas. Again, NOT something you would necessarily see in Canada.

Despite all of this, we arrived in Monteverde at about 6:50pm. We departed the bus and stacked our luggage against the wall. Other travellers scampered around grabbing taxis or staring into their iPhones to figure out their next move. Nobody approached us about a ride, so I poked my head around the corner and locked eyes with a man standing next to a van. He gave me a look of approval so I walked over to him to show him the address of where we were going. Before I had a chance to do that, and much to my surprise, he showed me a picture on his phone of Chris and I! I realized that it was our Air BnB profile photo, and that our host must have sent it to him so that he knew who to pick up. “Perfecto!” I announced and patted him on the shoulder. I ran off to grab Chris and our luggage, and we were whisked away into the darkness, along another bumpy and washed out gravel road.

Unfortunately, I never did get our drivers name, but he quickly realized that I spoke a bit of Spanish, and we were able to carry out a simple conversation. He explained to me that the reason the roads were so bad was because of the extensive rains that the hurricane had deposited on the area. There were many more washed out areas along the next section of road that we travelled, and even a couple of crews working late into the night to repair them.

After about 15 minutes, we pulled into a tiny gap in a fence, and his headlights illuminated our home for the next few days. It was absolutely pitch black, but we could tell by the lights in the distance and below us, that we were perched on a hillside of sorts. He helped us with our luggage, found the key and opened the door, and then wished us well. I asked about when we would meet our host, Orlando, and he said something about “Manana”. Good enough, we would see him tomorrow.

We quickly unpacked our food and got busy with making some dinner. The house was simple, with 2 bedrooms, a bathroom and a small kitchen where we could make our meals over the course of our stay. We took turns running in and out of the front doors, both ecstatic with our location, and wanting desperately for it to be the next day, so that we could see the fantastic view that we knew was spread out before us.

But alas, we knew that we would have to wait. In the meantime, we ate our dinner, sat on our front porch, and stared off into the vast unknown. Tomorrow would bring the light and a whole new adventure!

** Thanks for reading! This is part of a larger group of blog posts about us letting go of all of our possessions to go traveling. If you would like to read from the beginning, click here.**

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To learn about where I have previously traveled, click here.

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

 

I dream a dream…..

I dream a dream where every day is new and exciting.  Where the ordinary things in life, cease to exist.  Where time stretches on into infinity.  Where the sun kisses my skin, and the warm wind blows through my hair.

I dream a dream of visiting far off destinations, of meeting new people, of discovering the world. I feel like I was born a traveler, and there is so much to see out there in the world.  It boggles my mind…….  I want to see it all……..  I want to do it all.

This is my dream…….

It all seems so far off, but this dreams’ realities CAN come true.

And I have figured out how!

For about 6 months to a year now, I have really started to ask myself “Is there more to life than this?”  I would even go so far as to ask my partner what his thoughts were on the matter.  After a long and exhausting day at work I would look him squarely in the eyes and say “Do you ever think that there is more out there in life than running on the hamster wheel, working 9-5 and feeling like we are never getting ahead?”  He would shrug his shoulders and say things like “Well that is what we are working towards aren’t we?”

Yes, we worked!  And worked, and worked and worked……and then worked some more! 

We still work and work and work.  We are both self employed.  He is a Landscaper and I am a House Painter.  Together we make a good team.  We both have experience doing each others’ jobs, so helping each other when needed works well for us, and we rarely need to hire subcontractors.  We are also both artists.  Chris is a tattoo artist, and I muck about with many different art forms (visit www.jillianamatt.com if you want to see a bit.) Neither of us have ever made a living at our art, but it has been something that we have both wanted to do at some point.

Sometime last fall I realized that despite the fact that we were working and working and working as hard as we could, we were falling behind financially.  We were eating out frequently because we were too tired to cook, we were going away on weekends because we just needed a change of scenery.  We were exhausted from a busy summer of gardening and transforming our yard from a rectangular patch of grass to a stunning park like setting.  We also grew food!  Lots of it!  We didn’t buy produce or fruit for months last year, but we were still sinking into a pile of debt.

I also started to get completely overwhelmed with our stuff!  In fact, we had a shed built (that we couldn’t afford) with the intention of moving “stuff” from the basement to the shed, so that we could gain some breathing room down there.  Our ultimate plan was to open the basement up so that we could create the perfect artist studio, so that we could finally start working seriously on our passions.  (My passion, in fact, is not art after all……but there will be lots more about that to come.)

Now, I should also note here that with Chris being such a great tattoo artist, he decided to take over a tattoo shop in September that was about to close down.  He hadn’t worked in a shop in a while, and he felt it time to get back at it, and to build his portfolio once again.  (www.facebook.com/inkcaptattoos) While he was getting some business, it surely wasn’t paying for itself (we all know these things take time), so we were forced to try and pay for that, as well as all of our other bills that we already had.  We have payments on 2 vehicles, 2 car insurance policies, house insurance, mortgage, workers compensation, cell phones, utilities, business insurance, etc. etc. etc……. you name it, we have it.

But tattooing is Chris’ passion, so although we knew that it wasn’t currently sustaining itself, we held faith that the clients would come.  Unfortunately with the winter being a quiet season in the tattoo business (coupled with living in a smallish, and remote town), things were grim.  He was only in there 2 days of the week, while landscaping the rest, but being away from landscaping for those 2 days, while taking on more debt, was not a happy scenario.

At some point, I realized that I had been down this path before.  My now ended (for 5 years now) marriage was a string of bad financial choices and too much stuff.  We were also constantly drowning in stuff and to top it off,  we moved 5 times in 6 years!  Not a happy scenario!  (Oh did I say that already?!)  I knew that I was headed in the same direction (although this time I wasn’t moving anywhere), and I knew that things needed to change.

After Christmas, when I got back home, I decided for once and for all that it was time to seriously sit down and take a look at what bills were coming out of our account, and how much it all was.  I’ve never been a budget-er, but I have excellent credit.  I always find a way to make just minimum payments, but even that was starting to become really hard.  2 credit cards had approached their limits, and there was no sign that this was going to be corrected anytime soon.  After doing my calculations, I knew that something major had to change.  We were in way over our heads, and there was no end in sight.

Coincidentally (or more appropriately “synchronistic-ly”), an interesting documentary had just come out called Minimalism. I’m sure you have heard of it, it is getting rave reviews right now.  I watched Minimalism on January 11th.  That evening as I sat and watched it, while working on my artwork, it was like a lightening bolt erupted out of the sky and blasted me right in the back of the head.

I thought “This is it!  Can it really be this easy?”

I left my art bench and went into the living room to talk to Chris.  I said “Can I talk to you for a minute?”  He said “Sure.”  I could tell that he was nervous about this conversation.  After all, we have been dealing with a huge amount of stress around money, and conversations weren’t always the best as we really started to realize the situation we were in.

I said “How do you feel about selling everything and going traveling?”  He took a deep breath and said “Well, I wouldn’t mind, but what about my tattoo shop?”  And in one sentence I said “Sweetie, the whole world is your tattoo shop.”img_0637

Within 10 minutes, he was completely on board and even super excited!  On January 11th, our lives changed, our perspectives changed, our focus changed!  On January 11th, the world became our Oyster again!

Since the decision we have been excited to face each day.  We are driven and focused, and we know that there is finally an ultimate payoff for all the hard work we have been doing.  Everything we are now working for, is worth it and has meaning.  Clarity is falling down all around us like bright comets descending from the heavens, helping to guide our way.

We don’t know ALL the details yet, but we have a general idea of how this will play out.  First off, we are headed to Central America/Southern Mexico.  Chris really wants to learn Spanish, and I could certainly use more practice.  We don’t want to flit about from place to place, but would rather rent an apartment or small house ($275 a month furnished in some places!), for 3-6 months and REALLY experience a place.  Experience the people, the food, the culture.

Chris will bring his tattoo gear with us, and be a roaming tattoo artist, while I attempt to create a living at writing.  Which, by the way, I have wanted to do for quite some time, but never felt like I had the time (surprise, surprise!).

The plan is ambitious. We have A LOT of stuff!

It will take us a few months, maybe a year, to get everything sold, and get our ducks in a row.  But we are focused!  Focused on creating a life that we LOVE!  Focused on finding HAPPINESS and CONTENTMENT!  Focused on cultivating our passions (mine is traveling in case you didn’t figure that out yet). Focused on living a meaningful, exciting and, even, EXHILARATING life!

I knew when I turned 40 in October that life was “just beginning”, but I could never have predicted how true that was!  Look out world!  Here we come!

** Follow our letting go process (already there has been tears!) through this blog by signing up with your email address.  I will update frequently and let you all know how it is going!**

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