Off to Guatemala!


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


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

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

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

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

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Image courtesy of Googlemaps.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Image courtesy of googlemaps.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When nothing is sure, everything is possible


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: We are currently in Samara, Costa Rica.  After having to leave Nicaragua unexpectedly due to civil unrest.  We have been in the El Dorado Hostel (highly recommended!) for 3 weeks.

Travelling Plans: Heading to Guatemala on July 5th!

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ortega wasn’t going anywhere.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is what I wrote on May 23rd:

Today we hear this news:

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

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

The truth is, we aren’t sure either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued………


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

It seemed simple enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Woudn’t it?

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I mean really.  How bad could it get?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The House that Amanda Built – Earth Bag Building in Nicaragua

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


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


As promised, Amanda picked us up from the bus drop off location upon our arrival.  We were riding on the Tica Bus, a bus line just as fancy as Greyhound Bus, from San Jose, Costa Rica.  After 7 hours, which included an hour or so stop at the Nicaragua border to obtain our entrance visas, we had arrived in Nandaime, a small town south of the more popular tourist stop of Granada.

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Volcano Power vs. Wind Power!  This was viewed out of our Bus window shortly after we crossed the border.  This volcano is one of 2 that make up the Island of Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America.  

Amanda told us to look for the grubby girl in a dirty red truck, and sure enough we spotted her as she drove up the road to grab us.  We were greeted with enthusiastic hugs, and we were immediately enamoured with her positive and energetic personality.  ‘Yup, we are going to get along just fine,’ I thought to myself as we drove off to her farm.


We had heard about Amanda and her Earth Bag house project from a girl that I volunteered with at Envision Festival in Costa Rica, back in February.  Magda told us that Amanda is always taking volunteers to help her to bring her project to fruition.  At the time, and knowing that we were headed up to Nicaragua at some point, I stashed the thought in the back of my mind, knowing that at the VERY least, we would want to check the project out.  We have both been involved in numerous workshops and very small building projects to do with Cob building etc. on the West Coast of Canada, but had never seen a Earth Bag house.  Our curiosity was piqued.

When our time in Silencio (read my last blog post here) was coming to a close, and we were trying to figure out what we wanted to do next, we remembered Amanda’s project, and I immediately messaged her to see if it was possible to come and stay there and help out.  Of course, she wrote back right away, and the plan was set.  We were headed to Nicaragua!

After spending a few days in San Jose to purchase a laptop and some other art supply essentials, we were on our way!


Amanda is Nicaraguan-American and her house is being built on 12 acres of her Grandfathers land.  Having ditched the North American 9-5 Rat Race (or in her case 80 hours per week working) at the age of 24, she decided that it was time for a simpler life.  One where she can experience life, not just let it flash by.  She began her new journey by travelling around the world and volunteering on a couple earth build projects herself.  After doing all of that, she decided it was time to start her own project.  She had been to Nicaragua to visit her Grandparents numerous times, and was familiar with the land and it’s people.  With building costs exponentially cheaper down here, she felt like it would be a great place to construct her home base, while she continued to travel and work remotely.

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This is where we worked for Amanda.  Just outside Nandaime between the highway and the lake. 

Her Grandpa still lives in the country, but resides up in the Northern part near his coffee plantation.  The property that Amanda is building on has been a cashew plantation for numerous years.  You can imagine our delight when we realized that we could gorge out on tons of cashew fruit while we stayed there.

Immediately we were amazed with the difference in the Flora and Fauna than that of what we had left in Costa Rica.  Rich, diverse and alive hillsides, had been replaced with flat land, scrub brush and desert like conditions.  Of course, it was the dry season, so the layer of dust on the surface of the ground, that was constantly blowing around all over everything, is only around for a few months of the year.  But the climate was astonishingly dryer and much much different than what we had left only a few days before.

We were happy to still see numerous birds flitting about though.  The National Bird of Nicaragua, locally known as the Guarda Barranca (check it out here, it’s stunning!), but commonly referred to as the Mot Mot (my personal favourite name), was a frequent guest near our camp kitchen.  Their stunning colours captured our attention as they flitted about through the trees.  Butterflies were also numerous, as were the ever so persistent ants!  Chris and I had an absolute highway of ants about 2 feet wide that cut through our campsite every night.  Thousands of them marching back and forth, only once daylight had subsided.

Our modest Camp Kitchen! 

There was also another pest that resided on her farm that we had never even considered to be a possibility down here……TICKS!  They are smaller and more of a reddy-brown (they look exactly like freckles and moles!) than the ones that I know from the mountains in Canada, but they certainly behave the same.  Thankfully, we were told right away that there is no Lime Disease in Nicaragua, so at least that wasn’t a worry, but we were constantly brushing them off of us, and pulling the odd one out of our skin if they managed to evade our constant swipes, and had embedded themselves into our flesh.  They were so small that you could barely grab onto them, and quite often I would need to use tweezers to pull on them.  They were nasty little critters, and I have to say, not my favourite thing to have to deal with while staying there!

We ended up staying with Amanda for 3 weeks in total, and I have to say that we are pretty proud of ourselves for toughing it out so long.  The conditions were challenging, we were dirty all the time, it was sweltering hot with no relief until night fall, dust blew on everything in sight including our food, plates clothes etc., and the ticks…..well you can just imagine I’m sure.  However, the experience of it all far outweighed the trials and tribulations that we put up with, and we both came away learning a lot, and feeling like we had both contributed in meaningful ways.

Earth Bag Construction

First of all, I am certainly no expert on this, so please, click here to learn more about it.

We arrived after the walls had been erected, and the roof was just starting to be constructed.  When Amanda picked us up, she said that it had rained the night before, which was in her words, “terrifying.”

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You can see that the initial layer of exterior plaster is just starting to be applied on this section. After this layer there is a sturdier layer which includes lime which will be applied, this helps to seal out the weather.
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The roof trusses are just starting to be worked on.  You can see the stark difference in the landscape from where we were in Costa Rica.

This type of construction is done completely using earthen materials, clay, sand, straw, horse manure, and other natural ingredients, and it’s integrity depends wholly on being built in dry climates where you can depend on little to no rain during construction.  You can imagine what would happen if rain suddenly unleashed on the earthen plaster that covers the walls……it would all literally melt off.  Until you get the final Lime Plaster coat on the outside, that will repel water at best, and a sturdy roof with generous overhangs erected, the whole project is at the mercy of the weather.  With the rainy season scheduled to start any day, time was of the essence.

We arrived to the camp to find 2 girls from Austria and another guy from New Zealand, already volunteering.  Over the course of the project Amanda has had roughly 20 volunteers from all corners of the earth, help her on her land.  She advertises for volunteers through different online platforms, and also has physically hung posters around Granada and other local tourist spots, in order to entice volunteers to come and help her and learn about this type of construction.

Some of “the boys” working on the project. 

All natural building techniques lean very heavily on labour.  The materials are generally cheap, labour is not.  Amanda had a crew of about 10 Nica men ranging in age from 15-50 working on her house from the beginning.  Thankfully in Nicaragua, the labour is pretty cheap, but even with that, budgets run out eventually and it is therefore necessary to get volunteers in to do some of the less skilled, time consuming jobs that need to be done.  Mostly I worked on what I lovingly called “Stuffing Cracks”, but is actually referred to as plastering.  It involved creating a measured mix of Horse Manure, Clay and Sand, getting it to the right moisture consistency, and then physically pushing it into the spaces between the bags.  This provides a tight seal to reduce insects getting in, it smoothes the wall out so that putting the final plaster layer on is easier, and it helps to further stabilize the walls from expansion and contraction while moving from the wet to dry season.

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All of those cracks have to be stuffed!  And this is just the first inside room! 
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The start of my 3 weeks of work! 

In order to make the mix that I needed to do this, I literally walked around the farm and picked up dried horse poo from the ground.  Amanda referred to it as something similar to an easter egg hunt, and I will attest that this is true.  However, after a few days of hunting for sporadic piles here and there, I did finally find the hot spot where the horses get tied up every night……there was literally poo for days!  Throughout the process, I couldn’t help but thinking what my 19 year old self would think of my 41 year old self picking up horse poo.  I NEVER would have imagined that this would be my life some 20 years later……that’s for sure!

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Poo galore!
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Sifting small particles out of the clay and sand was a necessary step in order to get a very fine smooth plaster. 
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And the ultimate step and the easiest way to mix the mixtures is to stomp them with your bare feet!  Needless to say our feet had many layers of ground in dirt on them……ALL THE TIME! 

Having come from a hyper-organized corporate job, Amanda was all about using the white boards to create schedules and task lists each day.  Every morning as we ate our oatmeal breakfast, we would go over what needed to be done for the day, and she would assign tasks to people, depending on what they felt like doing.  Various projects came up including building a screen door for the shower, building bat boxes, putting a proper roof on the outhouse, shaping and tamping the pond (Chris’ job for the most part), planting trees and of course finishing the “stuffing.”  However, I did get a really cool job towards the end of our stint there.

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Chris working on the pond.  No, he didn’t dig it all by hand, but he shaped and tamped all the hard chinks down so a watertight seal can be put in the bottom at some point.  

After seeing some of my artwork, Amanda asked me to give a try at designing metal security windows for her house.  There were 10 windows in all, and 2 doors.  She had presented various ideas to professional welders, but they all said that her ideas weren’t practical, and they wanted to just do the typical metal work that everybody else had.  Obviously they didn’t have a creative bone in their bodies, so she leaned on those who did.  Within her Nicaraguan construction crew, she found 2 men that had welding experience and were willing to take on the project.  The first window took a bit of time, but after they got that going, they were rocking it!  It was an amazing experience to see my own concepts drawn up, and then to witness them get created and installed as a finished pieces.  So very rewarding, and one of my proudest moments as an artist thus far!

There were many more windows designed but sadly we left before they were installed.  We will return to take more photos for sure! 

We mostly worked about 4 hours each day, from 7:30 or 8:00 until about 12:00.  The afternoons were optional, and although it was sweltering hot most of the time, Chris and I did manage to swing a few afternoon shifts, just to help her keep moving ahead.  It’s a monumental task to build a house, one that I have experience in (coincidentally at the same age as she is), and we know the importance of keeping the momentum going.  2 days a week would be free, and because Amanda is also a traveller, and understands the importance of seeing and experiencing places, we generally would go on some sort of adventure on those days.  We visited an incredible local swimming spot, tucked way back in the woods and off the beaten track, and also hit up the popular colonial tourist city of Granada a few times, Laguna Apollo, a lake inside an extinct volcano crater, and some spectacular nurseries where we scouted for plants for the property.

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We were in 7th Heaven while cruising the nurseries for plants for Amanda’s property. 
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The view heading down the road into Laguna Apollo.  An extinct volcano crater that now is full of beautiful fresh water! 
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A locals only swim hole located well away from the beaten track.  Truly a little paradise. 
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The spectacular buildings of Colonial Granada. 

Our experience with Amanda was everything that we had hoped for.  We were both itching to do some heavy physical labour, we have been wanting to contribute to a project in a meaningful way, and of course, we always want to be able to hang out with locals and be part of the fabric of each community we visit.  Being located in a very rural part of Nicaragua meant that we were probably some of the first foreigners that many people in the community had seen.  We were able to practice Spanish and learn about their culture in a meaningful and educational way, we went to the church on Saturday nights to eat local Nicaraguan food, which helped them fundraise for the community,  plus we had a couple interesting nights at the local bar, where we were definitely the center of attention, and something new that the locals could gawk at.

Dinner at the church!  Cooked outside on an open fire! 

All in all, we are so thankful to have been able to take part in the project.  And the bonus is that we are now located only about an hour away from her for the next 4-5 months as we start our next housesitting gig.  So I am sure we will make our way out there again to visit her and check out her progress!

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Amanda’s house with the roof on it!  This is how we left it.  Can’t wait to go back and check it out in a month or so to see the progress, plus those windows! 

*Note to reader: I have so many more photos of our time spent in Nandaime.  Please head to our Facebook Page to see them all!

** If you or someone you know would like to volunteer for Amanda in Nicaragua, or if you have any questions about Earth Bag building, please email me at the address below and I will connect you.


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: We are currently in Rivas, Nicaragua, waiting to start our 4.5 month housesitting job on May 10th.

Travelling Plans: We will be here until mid-late September while we full fill our housesitting job.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What’s Next?

We clearly have been here too long if we are starting to get woven into the Payton Place dramas that are going on around us.


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


Well, after spending 4.5 months here on the same remote-ish beach in Costa Rica, we have found that it is definitely time to move on.

When we look back at the state we were in when we arrived here, we were nothing short of shell shocked.  We had just come from 9 months of selling all of our stuff in multiple garage sales, renovating our house to get it ready for sale, finishing up our work contracts and moving as fast as possible through life, so that we could get here and just breathe.  Well, we did that!  We collapsed on this beach and literally hibernated for at least 2 months while we fulfilled our first housesitting gig here on Playa Matapalo in Costa Rica.

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We never get tired of the perfect sunsets and warm water literally right at our doorstep! We will miss this there is no doubt! 

Just as that gig was finishing, we were asked by a neighbour if we could manage his Cabina Rental property.  This meant moving 2 doors down, temporarily adopting his three awesome dogs, and managing the day to day goings on of his 2 Cabinas.  Not a huge chore in return for a couple more months of accommodation, not too mention the chance to make a bit of money on the side!  Hell yeah!

We jumped into our roles here with both feet, right at the busy Christmas and New Year season.  Did we know what we were doing? NO!  Were we nervous, frightened or afraid? NO!  We were just gung ho to try something new, and get a chance to extend our stay on a beach that we really didn’t want to leave after all.

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The view from our front porch for the last 2.5 months! Sigh………..

Well, fast forward 2.5 months, and we are now ready to move on.  Although this place is spectacular, and well, perfect really, we are yearning for new and exciting experiences.  It is a pretty remote place and coming and going is a challenge with bus schedules and walking 2 km back and forth to catch it.  There is only so far that we can go on the bus, as it only goes in a couple different directions, and of course, we need to return to the house each night to take care of dogs and guests etc.  So we have explored as far as we can around us with those limitations, and really feel like there isn’t much else to see.  Our beach is spectacular, and we make a special concerted effort to not take it for granted, but it really is the same every day, and we yearn for some action.  Something new and different.  Something that only travelling can bring!

Besides, the other day we were accused of spreading some vicious rumours about one of our neighbours.  While what we were accused of is definitely NOT true,  it was in that moment that we both decided that YUP, it’s time to move on.  We clearly have been here too long if we are starting to get woven into the Payton Place dramas that are going on around us.

Off to El Silencio!

We have been promising our Canadian friend that lives really close to here, but up in the mountains, that we would come and help him with some projects on his property this spring.  We didn’t know how long we were going to have to stay in our current spot, but we figured we would have plenty of time to help him out after we were done here.

(Our friends property complete with his own perfect clean stream running through it!)

He has a bunch of acres of property up a river and deep in the jungle.  Every day he bears witness to Toucans, Scarlet Macaws, Morpho Butterflies and numerous other animals flitting to and fro.  We have visited his property a couple times, and have similarly fallen in love with it.  It really is a perfect little jungle paradise, and we look forward to staying there for a few weeks and experiencing Costa Rica from a different perspective.  Not too mention that we have formed an incredibly tight bond with him in the last few months that we have know him, and we feel like he is family to us more than just friends.  We really look forward to hanging out with him more, and on his terms as  most of our friendship has taken place down here at the beach when he comes to visit.  So that will be a nice and new experience.

His neighbours that live less than a km away have a house that sits high up on the hill, that is currently unoccupied.  The matriarch of the family had lived in it for many years, but recently decided that she is unable to climb the hill to get to it numerous times per day.  So it sits vacant, just waiting for someone to stay in it.  At a price of $60/week, we are excited to know that we will have our own space complete with Electricity, a Fridge AND a flushing toilet!  All of these things are a bit of a luxury in the parts where we are headed!

We are off to El Silencio on March 15th!

Next to Nicaragua!

While at Envision Festival a couple weeks ago, we received a happy text message telling us that we had been selected to housesit at an apartment in Rivas, Nicaragua starting in May.  We had applied sometime at the beginning of February and had gone back and forth with them numerous times, each time getting shortlisted a little more.  Well, thankfully we got chosen and we are really looking forward to that as well.

We will be there for 4.5 months, but unlike this place where we currently are, we won’t have pets to take care of, and surely no Cabinas! In fact, the owners have insisted that they don’t expect us to be there full time, just to make sure that we are checking in on the place once in a while.  As we don’t plan to travel a ton while there, it is surely nice to know that we can come and go as we please, and it will be so nice to have a place to leave the majority of our stuff, so that we can travel light throughout the country!  Not too mention that we will be close to buses that can take us in any manner of directions, and Lake Nicaragua is nearby where we can ride the ferries and do some exploring around there.  We are very excited about this opportunity!

(Some pics of time spent in Nicaragua back in 2004.  I’m looking forward to seeing San Juan del Sur again!)

On a side note, in 2004 my ex-husband and I spent 4 months living in Nicaragua in the then quiet and quaint San Juan del Sur, which is only 40 minutes from our housesit.  I made many friends there that I still keep in touch with today, and I look forward to re-connecting with them some 14 years later!

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This is Yajira.  She was my first spanish teacher and now owns her own school!  We intend on attending her school while in Nicaragua!  

We were on the Radio! (And other news……)

I keep meaning to mention that before we left Canada, we were interviewed by our community “Let’s Talk Trash” group about our minimalist journey.  They aired the interview on their radio show at the end of January.  Here is the interview if you would like to give it a listen: http://cjmponline.ca/podcasting/index.php?id=2526 

It is such a trip for us to listen to this now that we have been away for a few months.  Our perspective on life has definitely shifted, and we are constantly aware of what it is that we are buying as we now have to carry it all around with us!

I was also recently featured on a blog that features Etsy shops specifically.  She wrote a thoughtful article on my Etsy shop and my journey as a Digital Nomad.  You can check that out here:  http://thewomenteam.com/psychedelic-fun-design-by-a-woman-of-travels/  If you enjoy the article, I would be super grateful if you could share it on your social media pages!  It certainly will give my Etsy shop a boost.

As usual, thanks for reading and following along on our journey!  We are still constantly in awe of this life that we have created for ourselves, and look forward to so much more fun and excitement to come!

Pura Vida from Costa Rica!


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: We are managing a Cabina on the beach at Playa Matapalo, between Quepos and Dominical, in Costa Rica.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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