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

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

Advertisements

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


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

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

Most of all, we wanted freedom. 

img_7006
When we left our town in Canada, we had to take a ferry.  This is our getaway vehicle waiting in the line up on a typical stellar west coast evening.  September 20, 2017.  To read that story click here.  From this post I mostly enjoy the following section:”This is it!  I have once again found joy!  THIS is what I have been searching for!  I vow to myself to never let it go again.”

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

Let’s talk about the weather.   

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

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

Creating community and calling a place home.

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

IMG_0781
Our rented house in San Miguel, Guatemala.  San Miguel is accessed by a 3 minute boat ride from Flores.  
IMG_0786
Very nice and modern.  We have loved living in this house.  2 bedrooms and 2 baths for approx $220/month.  

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

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

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

Missing places yet always feeling the need to move on.

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

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

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

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

“Fair enough” he said. 

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

IMG_1357
Spectacular sunset over Lake Peten Itza.  This is our highway home at the end of the day.  

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

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

Soaring confidence and creativity.

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

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

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

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

IMG_1381
A portion of the mural that I am working on at San Telmo.  Chris has his own section, which means a lot less arguing between us than there was on the last collaborative effort!  🙂 . By the way, this is the first set of eyes that I have painted EVER!  I’m pretty happy with how they turned out:)
San Telmo Art Show October 13
This is our art show poster.  When trying to come up with a name for the show, we realized that the show is an extension of the life that we have chosen, so decided to name it the same as our blog and travelling brand.  In the future we hope to have a scheduled night in a hostel or other tourist gathering place where we sell our art, plus have a bit of a presentation about what it is that we are doing in an effort to inspire others to live the life they only dream of as well . The hummingbird in this poster is part of Chris’ mural that he is working on.  

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

IMG_1114
My Mom and Dad made the trip down to Guatemala to visit us for one week at the end of August.  We had a really great visit, but unfortunately when this photo was taken, at the top of the largest temple in Tikal, Dad was sick with food poisoning in bed!  I am so grateful for their love and support of this life that we have chosen to live!  

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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: We are currently in Palenque, Mexico on a quick one week trip to renew our 90 day visa for Guatemala.

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

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

To see many travelling photos and to learn about where we are travelling, please follow our Facebook and Instagram accounts by clicking on the appropriate icon in the right hand column.

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

To see all of my blog post headings on one page, (including all of the ones about letting our stuff go) head over to my Blog Post Menu.

To receive added travel content by contributing a minimum of $2/month to our Patreon account, please click here.

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

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

50 Experiences in 300 Days

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    IMG_0463
    The ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal.
  15. Had huge toads come into our rented house every night for 3 weeks straight.
  16. Painted a mural.
  17. Witnessed political unrest and war break out in Nicaragua.
  18. Crossed the Panama/Costa Rica border once.
  19. Crossed the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border twice.
  20. Been on 5 airplanes.

    IMG_0261
    Painted over the course of a month while staying in Samara, Costa Rica.
  21. Rented 2 houses in local villages with Spanish speaking neighbours.
  22. Bought handmade tortillas, made that morning, from our neighbours that made them, in two different places.
  23. Housesat 3 houses.
  24. Took care of 4 dogs.
  25. Swam under the full moon, in the ocean, at midnight on New Years Eve.
  26. Went 24 hours with no water in our house.
  27. Experienced multiple power outages.
  28. Walked down the street with a propane tank in a wheel barrow to refill it for our stove.
  29. Ate tons of street food that was to die for.
  30. Made a bazillion new friends.
  31. Saw numerous Toucans, Parrots and Scarlett Macaws.
  32. Visited an epic waterfall.8BBB5219-322F-4492-91CC-AC41735D4BAC
  33. Saw numerous monkeys.
  34. Helped build an earth bag home.
  35. Got stung by a sting ray.
  36. Zip Lined.
  37. Volunteered at a Music Festival.
  38. Had a visit from a tree frog inside our house.IMG_0795
  39. Witnessed several incredible sunsets.
  40. Slept in our tent on top of our bed to keep the bugs and snakes away from us at night.
  41. Saw 2 tarantulas in the wild.
  42. Saw various scorpions.
  43. Rode in the back of numerous pick up trucks.
  44. Ate traditional Mayan food at a neighbourhood barbecue.
  45. Witnessed incredible handicrafts in Panajachel, Guatemala.  Literally mountains of woven textiles, carvings, beadwork and much much more!IMG_0870
  46. Attended a one week Digital Nomad retreat.
  47. Shopped at numerous local markets, buying our produce direct from farmers and other food producers.
  48. Opened numerous fresh coconuts to drink the water and eat the meat!
  49. Learned to make local dishes wherever we go.
  50. Ridden in numerous tuk tuks, buses and collectivos to get from points A to B.

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

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

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

So true, so very very true.

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


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: We are currently in Flores, Guatemala.  We have rented a house and expect to stay here until mid September at least.

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

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

To see many more travelling photos and videos,  and to learn about where we are travelling, please follow our Facebook and Instagram accounts by clicking on the appropriate icon in the right hand column.

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

To see all of my blog post headings on one page, (including all of the ones about letting our stuff go) head over to my Blog Post Menu.

To contribute to our Patreon account, please click here.

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

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

 

 

 

 

Majesty, Mystery and Magic at Tikal

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


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


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

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

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

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

IMG_0640

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_0463
The Central Plaza is flanked by 2 temples of this side at either end.  I am standing atop one of them to take this picture.
IMG_0465
Many of the carvings that graced these temples have been worn away with time.  This one is the most in tact that we saw on top of the temples.

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

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

IMG_0477
The spectacular view from the top featuring temples we had already walked by popping up out of the misty morning canopy.

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

 

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

IMG_0495
It looks like a sheer drop off from where we sat but in fact it was a bunch of stairs that led to the ground.  Unfortunately people aren’t able to climb them anymore as they have eroded beyond repair, but a wooden set of stairs has been erected on the side of temple.

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

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

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

IMG_0518
From the top of the next temple that we climbed, looking back at Temple IV.  We had been sitting just at the tree top level.

IMG_0512

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

IMG_0552
I see a snake head on the top right.  Do you?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


Do you want to visit Flores and Tikal?

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

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

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

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


In other news…..

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

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

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

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

IMG_0261
This is on a 4×8 piece of plywood.  The whole project took us roughly 3 weeks, with both of us working on it at least 1-2 hours per day.
IMG_0275
These are the owners, an Italian couple that has lived in Samara for the last few years.

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

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


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


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

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

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

To see many travelling photos and to learn about where we are travelling, please follow our Facebook and Instagram accounts by clicking on the appropriate icon in the right hand column.

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

To see all of my blog post headings on one page, (including all of the ones about letting our stuff go) head over to my Blog Post Menu.

To contribute to our Patreon account, please click here.

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

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

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!

Screenshot 2018-06-29 14.58.40
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. 

Screenshot 2018-06-29 15.07.14
Image courtesy of googlemaps.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When nothing is sure, everything is possible


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


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

Travelling Plans: Heading to Guatemala on July 5th!

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

To see many travelling photos and to learn about where we are travelling, please follow our Facebook and Instagram accounts by clicking on the appropriate icon in the right hand column.

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

To see all of my blog post headings on one page, (including all of the ones about letting our stuff go) head over to my Blog Post Menu.

To contribute to our Patreon account, please click here.

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

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

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.

20180518_140628

20180518_140856

20180518_150353

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.  


To start at the beginning of this story, click here.

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.

To go to part 3 of this story, click here.


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I mean really.  How bad could it get?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To continue to part 2 of this story, click here.


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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