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July 23, 2017- We are getting there….

Published July 24, 2017 by jillamatt

***Jill’s ‘letting go’ Diary***

This is part of a series of posts (ordered by Dated Titles) where I am recording my thoughts and emotions as we tackle getting rid of all of our possessions. From the day that I came up with this idea, to sell everything and travel the world, I have recorded my thoughts on certain days where I feel like writing. These are real time, and not edited (except for grammatical corrections.) 

Wow!  It’s been a while since I wrote last. I have had so much to say about this process, but never the time or energy to sit down and write it. I’ve also been having trouble with my laptop lately, so that has seemed like an easy excuse to not have to write. However, I remembered today that I wrote my whole Europe Blog in 2015/2016 on my iPhone. And so, here I sit, on my iPhone. But this time, instead of scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, I’m going to try and catch you all up on what has been going on.

On July ninth we had our third yard and plant sale. As we set up for it, we had a chuckle about how tired we had been after our first yard sale. It almost seemed cute.  Like really??  Did we really even know what tired was at that point??

The sale went fine, we made our ,what now seems to be, typical $1000 or so. But instead of putting everything away into the house again, we made a decision then and there that whatever had now been in three sales, was going to the thrift store. This also included our Christmas decorations, a massive bag of clothes, and a few other items that we didn’t feel like looking at anymore. So we packed up the van and took it in the next morning.

We felt massive relief right away, and high fived outside the thrift store doors to celebrate our jubilant mood, when we had finished dropping it all off.

Other than the sale, we have both been working full time, plus busting our butts around here to get our house ready to list on the market. I have learned so much about myself over these last few months. It’s almost impossible to wrap my head around it all. But over all, I have learned these three major things:

NUMBER ONE:  I will NEVER burden myself with so much stuff again, that climbing to get out of all of it, feels like scaling Mt. Everest.

I am sick to death of my things! Although, there are still l moments of feeling bad about getting rid of something, I know that I don’t need it where I’m going. All of this is in my way. It’s in my way to my dreams, it’s in my way to my sanity.

I feel like the moment that all of this stuff that is burdening me is lifted, I will FINALLY feel like I can think again.

I feel like I’m going to be popping my head out of a gopher hole to see what’s  been going on in the world lately.

I can’t wait for that moment!

NUMBER 2 : I will never ever, never ever ever, never never never ever start SO MANY PROJECTS without finishing them again!!

This house has been one massive unfinished project from almost the day I arrived. It’s not just the house itself, but it was filled with many, many, many started art and craft projects that were never finished. They all just sat around in various spaces whispering to me as I would go by. Some were hidden in boxes, but I knew they were there!  Calling my name, taunting me to come back……..”please finish me” they would call.

The house had walls half torn down, drywall up in some spots, not in others, trim that had been pulled off some windows, had crumbled the plaster walls away, leaving a gaping hole in the wall that would just sit there forever. Old construction meeting new construction, but not completed.

For some reason, I just couldn’t get to finishing things up. Was I mentally ill?  Am I mentally ill?  Was it my need to seek out new experiences that had me jumping from project to project, always finding a new way to express my creativity, or a new way to change my surroundings.

I really don’t know the answer to that. I just know that because of all of these unfinished projects lurking about, I constantly was able to guilt trip myself. Everything I looked at made me feel bad.

I lived in an environment, one that I had created, that literally just made me feel bad ALL OF THE TIME.

As we near the end of our renovations, and are finally just down to painting and small cosmetic things, I also am starting to feel a massive amount of relief. We have started the ball rolling with Realtors, but don’t want to list until we are finished. We are close!

NUMBER 3: If our relationship can make it through this, I feel quite confident that it will get through anything.

We are both so exhausted from working all day, then working on the house all night. We have barely taken a day or two off since we started putting this house back together.

We are short with each other, our patience is fried, we are exhausted. But we are both very aware that we are living in extremely stressful times, and if we can just get through this, we know there is a reward at the end.

At the end of the day, we share a common goal. We are both extremely hard working, and I know we will get there. But man oh man, I don’t think either of us anticipated how challenging this was all going to be!  All I can think is that there absolutely MUST be a payout in store for us after all this hard work. We have to believe this.

The minute my mind starts wandering and I think, “Why are we doing this to ourselves?”  I find myself returning full circle to the night that I made this decision, to sell everything and head out into the world.

I knew then what I know now.

That it’s the only way.

My heart knows. My gut knows.

My whole being knows that I must disengage with this life. I must cast off and seek out new experiences. It’s a deep yearning. A need. An itch that desperately needs scratching.

Only once I do it, will I know the reasons why.
** Thanks for reading! This is part of a larger group of blog posts about us letting go of all of our possessions to go traveling. If you would like to read from the beginning, click here.**

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

To see my blog post menu, click here.

May 27th, 2017-Uncertainties

Published May 28, 2017 by jillamatt

***Jill’s ‘letting go’ Diary***

This is part of a series of posts (ordered by Dated Titles) where I am recording my thoughts and emotions as we tackle getting rid of all of our possessions.  From the day that I came up with this idea, to sell everything and travel the world, I have recorded my thoughts on certain days where I feel like writing.  These are real time, and not edited (except for grammatical corrections.) 

It’s hard to believe that it has almost been a month since my last post. Time has been slipping by like a river, flowing all around us, but simultaneously, sweeping us downstream with it.

We are being carried along by the river.  Like we are just robots in motion, with something else guiding us and pushing us along.

My mind is on auto pilot. Constant lists run through my head:

  • Things we need to finish on the house before we list it for sale. (I’m currently drywalling my kitchen, that we are still obviously using. FUN TIMES!)
  • Things we need to get rid of. (Another yard sale is coming up on June 3rd.)
  • Things we want to do before we leave.
  • Places we want to visit, friends we want to see and connect with, one last time before we go.
  • Things we want to give to specific people before we go.

These thoughts, and many more like them, race through my head all day, even as I continue to run my own business, which is just starting it’s very busy season.

_______

Just recently I have started to find myself fielding some pretty intense and interesting questions from people about what we are planning.  It’s almost like it is somehow starting to be real to people.  Like maybe, just maybe, they thought we were bluffing, but now it is actually happening.

I was asked the other night, around a campfire, “So how do you feel about the uncertainties?”

After processing the question for a second, I croaked out a very caught-off-guard and shaky “ooookaaaayyyyy.”  (I couldn’t have sounded more insincere if I had tried.)

This, of course, was met with giggles and comments around the fire like “that’s not sounding very sure”, & “ya doesn’t sound like it.”

Without hesitation, although slightly embarrassed by my response (not my typical stoic self), I said “Well yeah, of course I’m scared shitless.  I’m definitely scared, but many great things have been accomplished by people who have faced their fears.”

And it’s true.

The hilarious thing about my response to the question, I now realize, is that my response ITSELF was uncertain.

I thought about this question for days afterwards.   Being the psycho analyzer that I am (mostly of myself), it bothered me that I had had a response like that, so seemingly unsure, and I needed to do some deep thinking to explore how I really did feel about the uncertainties.

“How do you feel about the uncertainties?”

It’s such an interesting question, for starters.

How do any of us feel about uncertainties?

My Dictionary app defines Uncertain in these ways:

  1. not able to be relied on; not known or definite. (an uncertain future)
  2. (of a person) not completely confident or sure of something.
    “I was uncertain how to proceed”

I bet there are VERY few people who do not experience some sort of uncertainty in their every day lives. We all carry around some kind of worries about things that MAY OR MAY NOT play out in our futures. We all second guess our decisions, uncertain if we have made the right ones.

Nothing is guaranteed. 

Most of us move through life with some general idea of what may come in the future. Whether it be goals that we have, or dreams that we want to fulfill. As most people busily plan out the details of their future, they are unconsciously aware that our “plans” may or may not happen.

Nothing is CERTAIN.  

Uncertainty pertains to those people who live in places for many years and are comfortable with their surroundings, AND it pertains to those who choose to go traveling, and can find comfort in their surroundings in far off lands.   It really is not picky with whose mind it occupies.

When I was asked the question, in that moment, I think I took it as a question where you either answered A) I’m okay with the uncertainties, or B) I don’t like the uncertainties.  And without trying to sound like I am defending my shaky response, I did my deep thinking, and decided this;

Not liking uncertainty really has nothing to do with a decision such as this. A decision like the one we have made, to sell everything to go traveling, is EMBRACING uncertainty.   I’m not exactly saying that I ‘like’ uncertainty, but I’m willing to open my life up to it.

The uncertainty of this plan, is what makes it exciting. It’s what causes my heart to flutter in my chest when I picture myself in this new reality that we are creating for ourselves.

Living with uncertainties, can for some, be debilitating. But I believe that it’s what lies out there, AMONGST the uncertainties, that shapes us as people. It’s what keeps us on our toes. It’s what creates our character.

How we react to the uncertainties that hit us on a constant basis, is what makes us the people we are.

The more we can drag ourselves away from the certainties, the more we grow.  Period.

And so, I am now ready to answer the question properly.

How do I feel about the uncertainties?

I say “BRING ‘EM ON!”

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

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

To see my blog post menu, click here.

It's how we embrace the uncertainty - Quote

When nothing is sure, everything is possible

All things four twenty…

Published April 22, 2017 by jillamatt

We sat on the beach, and enjoyed the bright, hot sun on our skins. It was a welcome dose of vitamin D after the brutally wet and soggy spring that we have been enduring.

The sparkling ocean danced before our eyes and the murmur of voices coming from the stage, wafted over our heads.

As I scanned the crowd of people around me, 10’s of 1000’s at least, it struck me at how peaceful this scene was at Sunset Beach.

——-

Pure fate had brought us to Vancouver on the auspicious day of April 20th.  (For those who don’t know what April 20th represents, or about 4/20, please click here.)

My partner, Chris, had to go there to get his Yellow Fever vaccine for our upcoming journey. Apparently there is a worldwide shortage of the vaccine, and it was proving difficult to get a full dose close to where we live.

When he called the Vancouver clinic on Tuesday, the Nurse told him that he better get there ASAP to be guaranteed a full dose, which will last a lifetime. Nearer where we live, but still a ferry ride away, he could only get a 1/4 dose, which they state only lasts a year.

And so, that was it!  Chris made the appointment for Thursday, as we could both leave work that day, and we decided to make the trip.  We realized immediately that it was 4/20.

I have lived on the West Coast of Canada for 15 years, and have watched the Vancouver 420 festival grow by seeing it on the news, and reading articles about it, but had never gotten down there to check it out first hand. Seeing that we are leaving here this fall for a big adventure into the world, I was excited at the opportunity to finally go and check it out.

TO HAVE A NEW EXPERIENCE.

I really had no idea of what I was in for.

———-

Our day started at 6:20 in the morning, when we started driving from our home of Powell River, tucked along the mainland of the West Coast of Canada.

A series of roads and ferries takes us across 2 major fjords to get us to Vancouver. All told, it’s a 4-5 hour journey, one way, on a good day. We decided that we would go back and forth in one day, it would just be a long day. Our plan was simple, we needed to go to the Clinic for 2:00 and then get down to Sunset Beach, the site of the 420 event, by 4:00 or so.  This would give us an hour or so there, before we had to head back to the ferry terminal for our 7:20 ferry back home.

Figuring that it would be busy in the city because of the event, we decided to leave our car in Langdale, at the start of the second, and last, ferry leg of the trip, and just walk on the boat and ride public transit for the day. We planned out our bus route, and the app said that it would take 50 minutes from where the ferry arrived in Horseshoe Bay, to the clinic.

Great!  We would have lots of time to get there……or so we thought. The ferry arrived at about 11:40 (of course, half an hour late) but we still had tons of time to get over to the clinic. However, as we emerged out of the ferry terminal, it was instantly obvious just how busy things were going to be that day. There stood a HUGE line up of people waiting at the bus stop.

We had no choice but to get in line with the rest, and wait with earnest until the next bus came. Of course, because the ferry was late arriving, the bus schedule didn’t quite sync up, so we had to wait about 20 minutes for the next one.

The worrisome clock in my brain is now ticking.

Tick. Tock.

I start checking the time on my phone repeatedly.

It doesn’t help, either, that a guy walks by announcing “Geez!  I hope they are sending a barge for you all.”  Meaning that there were a lot of us, and one bus wasn’t going to cut it!

Thanks pal.

The bus pulls up at noon and we clamber on like a herd of sheep. The bus driver all the while yelling “Move further back!”  Only 6-8 people got on behind Chris and I so we considered ourselves lucky as we stood in the aisle holding on to the swinging handholds above, while many unfortunate patrons waited on the sidewalk for the next bus.

The bus pulls out and my eavesdropping ear kicks in immediately. As I start to overhear various conversations, I realize that many of the people on the bus, are headed down to Sunset Beach as well.

One young lady in particular asked a few people in general, how long of a walk it was from the bus drop off to the 420 party. She was sitting right below where I stood so I was within ear shot of her conversations that she was having with complete strangers.

She was maybe 18 or 19 with a soft, unimposing demeanor. Her innocent look and braided pigtails would probably profile her as a straight arrow, that wouldn’t have anything to do with an event like this. However, when she learned that others were going to the same event, she stood up from her seat, and loudly yelled to her partner, who was now sandwiched at the back of the bus, “Hey there are more 420 people up here, we can go with them!”  Then she looked up at me with a gaping mouth. A huge smile came over her face and she said, “This is my first time to the 420 event.”  As if to gently let me know that we all should be excusing her behaviour.  A silent way of declaring that she is excited.  I gave her a kind smile and thought to myself (now wishing I had have said it out loud) ‘me too’.

After that moment, it was as if most people in there realized that we were all heading to the same place. The mood instantly turned from the typical icy city demeanor that you normally find on the bus, to that of a more relaxed and chill vibe. The bus seemed to erupt in conversation as happy revelers exchanged words.

All was good until we hit the other side of Stanley Park. On a good day, the bus would take about 5-10 minutes to get down to Burrard street from where we were, to where the party goers needed to get off. But we immediately hit a wall of standstill traffic, and started inching along at a snails pace.

It didn’t take long for the mood to shift from light and jovial, to easing towards annoyed and hostile. By the time somebody announced that maybe walking would be better, we had entered into a HUGE gap between stops, as many had signs on the bus stop saying “Buses re-routed due to 420 Protest.” Which meant that they weren’t stopping in those spots.

Apparently we weren’t getting off until we reached Burrard, and that was that.

Tick. Tock.

—–

Protest?  It seemed a strange word. I never felt like this was a protest.  I always just thought of it as a celebration.  Where people could, for just one day, happily enjoy a joint in public, without fear of being arrested. I saw it as more of a feeling of being alive and having freedom, without the reign of authority breathing down our necks. A rare moment these days.

FINALLY, the bus arrived at Burrard St. And everybody piled off the with glee, scattering themselves down the sidewalk, all heading in the same direction.

Chris and I were actually meant to get off a couple blocks later, on Granville, as we were taking the Skytrain over to Broadway for his appointment. However, we got off and walked, saving ourselves from more inching torture on the bus.

Things went well from here on in, and we arrived to Broadway with enough time to grab a quick snack at the taco stand, as we hadn’t eaten since 6:00am. (We were both pissed off that the ferry wasn’t serving poutine, only breakfast items.  As we both had our hearts set on Poutine,  we silently protested by not ordering anything, and then both found ourselves very hungry!  We sure showed them………?)

—–

After the appointment, we headed back towards downtown by bus, being dropped off just on the other side of Granville St bridge around 3:30.

We started to walk towards the park, and quickly realized that we were part of a massive group, all descending down to the beach to be in place for the magic 420 hour. I would love to have seen the above image of people coming from all angles of the city.  We were like a swarm of mosquitoes, all buzzing in on their pray at once. However, we were happy mosquitoes, all walking quite quickly and with much anticipation.

The smell of marijuana started to fill the air from blocks away. I’m pretty sure upon smelling this, I giggled and jumped a little in my step. I just had a massive overwhelming feeling of how big this was going to be. As I said earlier, I really didn’t know what I was in for.

As we got closer to the beach we started to see a lot of Ambulance presence, but surprisingly not much Police presence. We saw more police directing traffic in the busy streets above the event, than we certainly did AT the event.  Even still, I had my hawk eyes out trying to spot them in the crowds.

I’ve always been one of those people that are scared of the Police. A rule follower, a normal citizen, a “don’t ruffle any feathers” kind of gal. My passport is my most valued possession, and I’m not likely to get in a situation where I might lose it over some silly injustice. So when I’m approaching a place where everyone is doing something “technically” illegal, my senses can’t help but jump into overdrive. (Not too mention I feel very brave in posting this blog post…..even just admitting my participation in the event.)

The closer we got the more rigid I became. It’s like I needed to see it for myself before I could decide if it was okay or not. I needed to formulate my own opinions based on my feelings when I got there. Even though I knew it was all ALLOWED, and all OKAY, my rule following anxiety was on high alert.

It wasn’t long before we were part of the mob, disappearing into a gently smoke filled cloud that hung invisibly in the air, and obviously realizing that everything is just A-okay……man.

Vendors were selling all manner of Marijuana infused edibles, skin creams, bath bombs, you name it!  There were marijuana infused rice crispy squares, popsicles, cookies, lollipops……like I said, you name it, it was there!! Not too mention there were people smoking weed everywhere you looked.

‘Okay’, I thought, ‘it’s okay.’

Deep Breathe.

‘You aren’t doing anything wrong.’

I took a moment to re-collect myself and take a breathe, and then forced myself to relax, and just take it all in.

We wandered amongst the booths and pushed our way through the crowds. It was amazing!  There were what felt like AT LEAST 100 booths lining the walkways, selling all manner of the aforementioned. Crowds amongst the boothspeople everywhere

People, young and old, took it all in, wandering to and fro and inspecting what was on offer in each booth.

We wandered and wandered along aisles of goodies, all the while subconsciously following the sound of a distant loud speaker, which somehow seemed to be beckoning us.

We arrived at the stage only to realize that there were limited spaces to sit on the grassy slope near the stage, and way to many people.

These small townies needed some elbow room!
We snaked our way back through the booths, down towards the beach, and found ourselves a patch of sand to call our own. We sat down in the warm sun and reveled in the occasion. Beach 4Beach 3Beach 2Beach 1

At about 4:18 they started to get the crowd excited and the anticipation grew of the magic time coming nearer. Much like we countdown for New Years, this had its own kind of excitement building with it.

Free joints were being handed out to those on the grassy slope because, in the words of the announcer “I want us all to light up at once so that we can be happy at once, and to send a cloud of smoke as a message to our government.”

For me, it wasn’t the excitement that we would all be “lighting up” at 420, it was more the excitement of thousands of people, collected together in a peaceful celebration. As the clock got closer, they started a 20 second countdown. It started at the stage, then moved to the crowd, and reached us and those beyond us. It was an invisible sound wave that pulsed out like a pebble being dropped in a pond, creates ripples. In no time flat approximately 35 000 people were counting down in unison.

The moment came and we all shouted and cheered!  Smoke filled the air above us, people hugged and celebrated.

421

Whoops!  Missed it by seconds!

It WAS a celebration after all!

It was a celebration of a plant, of a coming together of people, of a peaceful unity.

We sat quietly for many minutes, just taking it all in.  I looked around and realized that there was no arguing going on, there were no drunk people running around making asses of themselves.  It was a simple, peaceful gathering, in celebration of a plant!

Really!  Can you believe how powerful this plant is?  It kind of reminds me of a certain book that was written so many years ago.  A certain book that changed the world as we know it.

I wonder if this plant has the same power to change the world?  To help people to understand that life is wonderful and that we get too wrapped up in nonsense and the “First World” problems that we have.

___

News story about the 420 event.

___

We headed out around 5:00, thinking that it would be good to get some more food before we started our journey back to the ferry.  We figured that if the buses were that full coming in, then they would likely be just as bad heading out.

We made our way up towards West Georgia St by foot and happened to  stumble upon a “La Belle Patate” poutine shop!  Finally, we were going to get our Poutine after all!  We got in just before massive crowds starting making their way up the sidewalks.  Just as we all descended on the park, there was a massive exodus, and those walking by, with no knowledge of what was going on, clearly looked bewildered by the crowds (but surely they could smell it in the air and figure it out?)Labelle Patate

We decided to take our poutine to go, and would just get on a bus and eat at the ferry terminal while we waited.  After all, there were lots of people walking by, and we were quite concerned about getting a bus out of there.  As we approached the bus stop, our bus number drove by with a “Sorry bus is full” sign shining down on us.  I let out an exasperated sigh as we approached the waiting zone, thinking there was no way that we were going to get out of there and to the ferry on time.

City from the Lionsgate Bridge

View out the bus window from the Lions Gate Bridge.

Chris with Poutine

Chris walked our precious Poutine cargo like this all the way from downtown and on to the ferry!

Just as we reached the back of the lineup that had assembled, another bus pulled up with room for all of us.  We all squeezed on, again moving all the way to the back.  The driver stopped at a couple other stops to let the odd person off, and a couple more on until finally we  were full as well.  As buses were now also behind schedule, and this bus was supposed to keep time to the ferries, the driver stood up at some point and asked if “Anybody needed to get off before Horseshoe Bay (the ferry terminal)?”  He asked three times, making sure that  there was nobody that didn’t.  He said “Okay, I am going to make up time by going straight to the Ferry Terminal, this bus will not stop again until we get there.”

As nobody protested, he sat back down, flashed his “bus is full” sign, and whisked us off to the ferry terminal.  I couldn’t help myself but think of how kind and considerate that driver was.  He went outside of his call of duty, to make sure that we got to where we needed to go, as close to on time as he could get us.

As we jumped off the bus, I thanked him for his dedication to our needs and our precious timetables.  And I couldn’t help but wonder; is this a Canadian thing, or a Vancouver thing?  How many bus drivers in the world would care that much about the customers on the bus?  Are they all like that?  I guess I have never been in that situation before, so it’s hard to say.

I do know one thing for sure though, on a day that would normally be stressful, annoying and aggravating for us small town people to make our way into the city, my faith in humanity was once again renewed, and I marveled at the wonderful day that we had had.

Arriving to the ferry terminal at about 6:10, we were told that the last ferry was meant to have left at 5:50 and it was just arriving.  Hallelujah!  For likely the first time EVER, our ferry was going to leave early!  This meant that we would have time to visit friends on the next coast up, that we didn’t think we would have time to visit.

Our delicious Poutine!

Looks like heaven?  I got the Donair Poutine…..I know!  Seriously, so good!!

We had a quick visit with them and made our way up to the next ferry which was set to depart at 10:30.  Unfortunately, after boarding, an announcement told us that we had to wait for the last ferry out of Horseshoe Bay (as it was obviously late.  Those people needed to get this last ferry to get them home that night.)  And so, in  state of complete exhaustion, but happy that BC Ferries was actually doing the right thing by waiting for people, we both drifted off to sleep before an announcement woke us from our slumber that we were nearing our destination.

All told, our one day trip to the city was 18 hours from door to door.  Under normal conditions, a day like this to the city would leave us both tired and drained.  But this time we saw only the best of humanity, and we both felt enlightened and happy that we had had such an interesting day, with tons of new and exciting EXPERIENCES.

**Thanks for reading!  For those new to my blog, my partner and I are in the process of selling everything to head out into the world to make traveling a priority in our lives .  If you would like to read about our letting go process, please start here.  If you would like to follow us along on our journey, please enter your e-mail address on the right hand side of this page to subscribe.** 

 

 

Kayaking the Florida Everglades and The Bahamas – Part 2

Published March 29, 2017 by jillamatt

**This is a multi-part series about a trip that I did with my ex-husband in 2001-2002.  Unfortunately, I do not have access to my journals that I kept during this trip, so this is all from memory.  Some dates, places and timelines may be slightly skewed. **  If you would like to start from the beginning, click here.

 

The night before we left to kayak to, and through, the Everglades, we had taken out our marine chart book out to determine what our route would be, and to try and figure out how long it was going to take us to get across the Florida Bay to Flamingo.

Blackwater Sound has an almost impenetrable circle of mangroves around it. In looking at the charts, we realized that there is only one area where narrow channels would bring us out to Florida Bay, and the many islands that lead across to Flamingo, the entrance to the Everglades National Park.  Using my charting skills that I had learned on my previous sailing voyages, we did a rough estimation of the compass heading that we would need to follow, in order to access “The Boggies”, the name of the main channel.  It seemed easy enough, how hard could it be to find this passage?

Blackwater sound

The Boggies

The Boggies and the only access to Florida Bay.

However, I quickly realized that any thoughts I had about it being easy, were VERY wrong!

We had literally NO experience with Mangroves before, and had no idea that a small channel, like the one we were seeking, is easily disguised by the thick foliage.  Unless you are literally RIGHT AT IT, you cannot see these channels from any angle as the shoreline just blends into a tangled mess of brown and green.  Less than an hour of paddling our tandem kayak out to who knows where, we were already fighting and arguing because we couldn’t find this channel.  Seriously!

Looking back, this set the tone for the entire trip.  We argued more and yelled at each other more while we paddled that bloody kayak, it was a miracle that we managed to keep our relationship going.

Obviously, in the end, we finally managed to find it, but it took a really long time, and some slow meandering along the shoreline before we happened upon it.  This may have been our first lesson that this wasn’t going to be such a piece of cake as we thought.  Not to mention that my lower back and shoulder started to hurt almost immediately, and it took a few weeks for my body to sort out this new way of moving.

Blackwater Sound to North Nest Key

The top island on the left is North Nest Key

After popping out of Blackwater sound, and feeling much freer, we set our sights on North Nest Key where we were to camp for the first night.  North Nest key has an actual campground set up already, complete with a couple outhouses mounted on a dock.  This was our first experience with something like this, but soon realized that because they were emptied by boats, it made sense to have them out hanging over the water.  We had a fairly uneventful paddle there, after our ridiculous start that morning, and an uneventful first night as well.

first camsite

Our first campsite on North Nest Key.


dock at first campsite

Out houses on a dock. Complete with a birds nest on top! A small indication of the bird life that was to come!


first dinner

Spaghetti Dinner, first night.


Heading out

Getting ready to head out.  Note the shallow waters as far as the eye can see!

The next day we had our sights set on Flamingo.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure on the distance we had to cover that day, but things didn’t exactly go as planned anyways.

Because we were in a kayak, we felt that we could just paddle wherever we wanted to, as long as the water was a foot deep or so.  And so, instead of paddling in a somewhat straight line to Flamingo, which would have taken is into deeper water, we headed north/northwest, to get ourselves closer to the shoreline so that we could see some scenery on shore.

This turned out to be a bad idea.

As previously stated (and likely will be stated repeatedly throughout the course of this story), we had no idea what we were doing, so we paddled for a while in shallow seas that were likely about 2 feet deep.  However, they quickly turned to about 1 foot deep, which makes it incredibly difficult to get a full paddle in the water.  This forced us to do shallow paddles, which puts unneeded stress on the upper body, as you aren’t able to fully use your torso and leg muscles, to get those good, solid, deep paddles.

fishing

Our only prospect of a meal got thrown back!

We started to realize that at the rate we were going, Flamingo was a long way off. We’d been paddling for 6 hours or so at that point, and I was in full time complain mode as my lower back and shoulder were killing me, and the shallow paddling was making us both crazy, as each time you dipped your paddle in the water, even with shallow paddling, you would connect with the muddy bottom not too far below.

Norrth Nest Key to Shark Point

We paddled from North Nest Key on the far right, to Shark Point, the left hand finger on the left hand side of the photo.

So, after consulting our charts, and realizing that we were  both exhausted, we decided to hug the shoreline, and kept our eye out for a good place to pull in for the night.

On one long finger that stuck out into the bay, called Shark Point, we managed to spot a flat area, not much bigger than our tent,  that looked to be somewhat free of mangroves, and we figured that it was as good a place as any to pull up for the night.  We were just desperate to rest our weary bones, and we would complete our mission to get to Flamingo in the morning.

Shark Point

Shark Point on the left.  Since looking at the maps to write this, I see that there are roads to the ends of both of these points, and that Shark Point, now has a dedicated camping “Chickee”. Chickees are man made camping platforms that will be introduced in the next chapter. 

As we pulled into shore, the water was incredibly murky, and we knew that we were going to have to step out of the kayak, into the muck below, in order to get our boat to the shoreline.  It was daunting to say the least.  We knew there were saltwater crocodiles in these parts, but had no idea where, and the thick foliage and other icky things, was all mixed into the muddy soup that we were about to dip our delicious looking white calves into.  Are there Piranhas in Florida? I think we both did a sharp inhale and braced ourselves emotionally before we took that step.

There was a stiff breeze blowing as we pulled our boat up out of the water, and set up our tent.  We made a quick meal and then hung out in the tent for the night.  After all, we were surrounded in thick mangrove foliage all around, and there was really no place to explore.  Not to mention I think we were both very uncomfortable with where we were camping, and felt safer in the tent, like it acted as some sort of invisible barrier to whatever lurked outside.  Little did we know how important our barrier would be!

At some point, after dark, the wind died down and we started to hear a soft humming sound.  It seemed to amplify and get louder, and we couldn’t, for the life of us figure out what it could be.  Were there power lines in the area??  That was the only logical conclusion to the constant humming that we heard.  We really had NO IDEA what it could be and we both slept fitfully that night, with many uncertainties about this strange land and it’s strange creatures surrounding us, running through our minds.

When we awoke the next morning, we were instantly aware of what the humming sound had been.  MOSQUITOES!

Because the wind had been blowing when we pulled in, the mosquitoes had been kept at bay.  However, as soon as the wind died down, they smelled fresh blood, and had been buzzing our tent all night long, likely desperate to get at us.

The only thing that separated us from the 30 or so mosquitoes on our tent, was a very thin mesh.  We hadn’t put our water proof fly sheet on the night before, as there was no forecast of rain, and no need for privacy.  So we laid there face to face with these beasts as they patiently waited for us to come out of our barrier.  We thought that maybe if it got too hot, they would eventually go away.  Or maybe the wind would start up again and blow them all to their hiding places amongst the mangroves.  We waited and waited for what seemed like eternity, until Jamie finally decided that he was going to make a break to the kayak to grab some food.  How bad could it really be??  There were about 30 mosquitoes attached to our tent screen at any given time, surely he could withstand a few stings in the minute or so it would take to grab a couple things to eat.

So we hatched a plan, he would open the zipper and run out quick, as I zipped it closed behind him.

Okay, no problem, this was going to be a piece of cake.

So, in one foul swoop, Jamie unzipped the door and jumped out. The buzzing instantly amplified, and  within a split second, there were AT LEAST 40 mosquitoes now zipped up INSIDE the tent, and Jamie was already screaming “Let me in! Let me in!”

He figured he had been stung about 30 times in that second, and I had my fair share too!  He came barging back in, bringing with him a new wave of mosquitoes, while we both screamed bloody murder.  I’m sure if ANYONE had been within even 100 km of us, they would have thought somebody was indeed getting murdered.  It may very well have been the most frantic second of my entire life thus far.

We spent the next few minutes squishing mosquitoes and smearing them along the inside of the tent walls, all of them filled with fresh blood!

We sat in our tent breathless, and took some time to get ourselves back together physically and emotionally, so we could figure out how the hell we were going to get out of here.

But first, we were still hungry and really needed something to eat.  We were determined to get some food back to the tent so that we could hang out and figure out, with rational minds and full bellies, our escape plan.

We finally decided that if Jamie covered himself with sleeping bags, blankets, towels, sarongs and whatever else we had in the tent, he could shuffle to the kayak and just grab anything that was on top, and then run back as quick as possible.  The kayak was only about 10 feet away, so it was definitely doable.

And so, amidst another wave of mosquitoes flocking INTO the tent, more ridiculous screaming at the top of my lungs, and more sustained mosquito stings for both of us, he managed to bring back some small staples that fed us substantially for the moment.  I seem to remember crackers, or something like that.

As we sat there helpless, watching them flitter back and forth, bouncing around on the mesh of the tent, and smearing their sisters and their (our) blood across the inner tent walls, we finally satisfied our hunger, and came up with another plan.

It was now about noon, and we didn’t see an end to these things.  I’m sure you are wondering how we went to the bathroom amongst all of this.  And I can honestly say that I don’t remember, and can only assume that we peed into a water bottle or something, as there was NO WAY that we would have been able to leave the tent to do so.  We realized at this point, that the 30 mosquitoes that were dancing around on our tent, obviously had MANY other sisters lurking in the grasses, just waiting patiently to feast on the fresh meat they could sense was nearby.

We also knew, from growing up camping around lakes etc. back in Canada, that bugs usually stick to the shoreline, and don’t venture out into the water very far.  So we knew that if we could just get our stuff on the boat, and push off, even 30 feet from shore, we would be free of these things, and then could sort our gear out once we got out there.

So, we came up with a detailed game plan, complete with tasks for each one of us, that would allow us to literally just jump out the door, collapse the poles of the tent, bundle it up as much as possible with everything in it, throw it onto the kayak, and then just push off.

This is what we did.

After about a minute of franticness, with both of us fiercely determined to get out of there alive, we managed to complete our plan with not a word to each other.  We were like robots, in total survival mode, and adrenaline coursing through our veins.  Mosquitoes stung us in every orifice, through whatever clothing we had on, and over every inch of our exposed skin.  I will never forget the feeling of small darts poking me in my butt cheek, right through my bathing suit and thin shorts that I was wearing.  Never in my life had I been stung by a mosquito on my tender white butt skin!

We heaved the kayak into the water and pushed off as hard as possible.  Within 30 seconds, we were blissfully floating out on the water, with nary a mosquito to be seen.  Although the top of our kayak was piled high with our belongings, the peace that washed over us was wonderful, and we took a minute to soak it in before we both erupted in uncontrollable laughter.

We looked at each other with wide open eyes and a look that can only be described as; Holy Shit!  We had heard that the bugs could be bad in the Everglades, but never in our wildest dreams, or nightmares, could we have imagined that.

We were in awe, we were in disbelief, we were amazed and we were humbled.  We had nothing but utter respect for the power of the bugs in this strange land where we found ourselves.  And finally, us 2 naive Canadian kids, now knew the answer to the question of how bad the bugs could be.

THEY WERE BAD!  Bad, in the biggest, baddest sense of the word!

It was a valuable lesson learned, early in the trip, and one that would stick with us for the next three weeks as we navigated the waters of the Everglades.

*Thanks for reading!  Stay tuned for Part Three of our adventure, coming soon!*

*My boyfriend and I are currently transitioning from a “normal” life to that of an adventurous one!  We are selling everything to head out into the world to make traveling a priority in our lives.  If you are interested in reading about our letting go process, please read my first post here.*

March 23, 2017 – Regret

Published March 23, 2017 by jillamatt

***Jill’s ‘letting go’ Diary***

This is part of a series of posts (ordered by Dated Titles) where I am recording my thoughts and emotions as we tackle getting rid of all of our possessions.  From the day that I came up with this idea, to sell everything and travel the world, I have recorded my thoughts on certain days where I feel like writing.  These are real time, and not edited (except for grammatical corrections.) 

As I pondered a topic for this blog post this morning, I thought about the number one word that has stuck out to me over the last couple weeks.  That word has been REGRET.

Most importantly this word is included in sentences about selling our house.  “I hope you don’t regret selling your house.”  I have heard it time and time again, and my response has started to be “I don’t really live with regret, so I’m not really worried that I will regret this.”

I suppose I am fortunate in that I haven’t lived a life full of regret.  I am keenly aware that every moment of our lives, has transpired into where we are today.  And I suppose, that if I was in a place where I was utterly unhappy, then I guess regret may play a more prominent role.  But, even through the trials and tribulations that I have had in my life,  I have mostly chosen a happy path.  Whenever I start to find myself in an unhappy situation, I know that it is time to change things up, and I realize that it is time to go out and find what it is that makes me happy.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always roses.  I’ve had many things that have happened in my life that I consider to be failures.  Failed businesses, a failed marriage, failed friendships.  Sometimes I just FEEL like an utter failure, and sometimes the unhappiness creeps in when I’m not looking, and I find myself in a bit of a rut before I have some major breaking point that snaps me out of it.

But, the point IS, is that I do eventually snap out of it!

__

I’ll never forget an experience that I had when I was kayaking in the Bahamas at the age of 24.  (Some of you will have already read part one of this adventure!  If not, read here.)  My ex husband and I were paddling a chain of islands called the Exumas.  There were a few fresh water cisterns that dotted the islands, and were indicated on our marine charts, but they were usually quite brackish and didn’t look very appetizing.

We had with us 2 collapsible 5 gallon water jugs.  When we ran out of one of them, we usually got antsy about getting more water.  So we would look at our Marine Charts, and would figure out where the closest popular boat anchorage was located.  Most boats had mechanisms to desalinate (ie. remove salt) from their water, so they could use ocean water for drinking, which vastly reduces the need to fill up cargo space with water.

We would simply paddle up to boats and start chatting with sailors, and as soon as they heard what we were up to, they would generally not only offer to fill our water up, they would also offer to give us food.  Now, this was never our plan, to get more food, but if someone offered, we sure weren’t going to say no.

On a side note here: Sailors, and the sailing community in general, have got to be the most community minded and helpful group of people there is on the planet.  Never have I experienced a large group of people who are so eager to help out one another, that they literally clamber at the opportunity. 

One boat in particular had an older gentleman that was so intrigued by us.  In the course of us staying in one spot for about 5 days, he would repeatedly come and find us on the beach where we were camping, just to chat and ask us questions.  The last day we saw him, we had paddled over to his boat, as he had told us that he had some food and stuff that he wanted to give us before we continued on our journey.  We paddled up to his beautiful trawler and he stood above us with his hands on the railing.

He was a man that appeared to have everything.  A beautiful boat, nice things, an easy life.  But when we pulled up to his boat, he looked down at us with the most sorrowful eyes I think I have ever seen, and said, “Boy, did I ever live my life backwards.  I worked my butt off my whole life so that I could retire and do what you are doing now.  But never once did I consider that by the time I retired, I would be too old to do the things I wanted to do in my twenties.  You guys are really doing it right.”

I get chills even now when I think of this experience in my past.  The regret in his eyes in that moment, pierced my soul.  It subconsciously became a marker of how I have lived my life, and I believe was instrumental in helping to shape the person that I am today.  It has made me fearless in trying new things, with re-inventing myself when I feel like it is time, with always moving forward, and never regretting my decisions in the past.

And so, as we move through this phase of our lives, we will not look back.  We will not regret.  We will launch out into the world completely open and vulnerable, BUT safe in the knowing that whatever is out ahead, is far more exciting than what we have left behind, and NO MATTER WHAT, our lives will be better for it.

And let’s not forget the most important thing of all:

A house, is simply, just a house.

Our lives, and what we put into them, is everything!

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

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

To see my blog post menu, click here.

 

February 12, 2017

Published February 13, 2017 by jillamatt

***Jill’s ‘letting go’ Diary***

This is part of a series of posts (ordered by Dated Titles) where I am recording my thoughts and emotions as we tackle getting rid of all of our possessions.  From the day that I came up with this idea, to sell everything and travel the world, I have recorded my thoughts on certain days where I felt like writing.  These are real time, and not edited (except for grammatical corrections.) 

Well, the full scale purge has officially begun.  Unfortunately our big group garage sale was cancelled as we got a ridiculous amount of snow here, and many people couldn’t get out of their driveways.

Our living room was packed and ready to go with boxes holding many goodies that we hoped to sell at the sale.  However, instead of feigning defeat, I decided to go ahead with an idea that I had read about on the Thrifty Nomads website.  To sell all of their stuff to go traveling, she made use of various online avenues, but said that most of what they sold was through Facebook.  She suggested starting a “for sale” photo album, that way family and friends could see what goodies are available, right from the comfort of their homes.

This has been a very successful selling avenue already.  I just started about 3 days ago, and already we have sold more than $400 worth of things.  I am also pumping stuff on our local Facebook selling pages, but I’m keeping the higher valued stuff for these pages, as these items reach a much larger audience then just my friends.

Another thing that was suggested on the Thrifty Nomads’ page, was to have everything out and ready to go with prices on them.  That way if somebody comes to pick up their purchase, you can easily show them what else is available to see if they want anything else.

And so, our living room, which is just inside the front door, has now become a small shop.

I will be adding stuff to this as we go, and continuously selling items on Facebook for the duration.  This has turned into somewhat of a sideline for me.  Most of my days are spent working, listing items to sell, researching prices and then coordinating pick ups and drop offs.  There is not much time in there for any type of fun, which is fine with me.  We are on a one way ticket to our freedom, there will be TONS of time for fun when we get to where we are going!

Lately I have also been feeling the wrath of the doubters.  While the majority of people are super excited for us, there are inevitably those who want to give advice, or need to project their own fears onto us.  The whole house selling thing is a biggy.  “What will you have to come back to if you sell it.?”  Yup, I have discussed this before and my answer is still the same.  We don’t know if we are coming back!

There are also questions and concerns about Health Care.  I have to say, this is the least of my concerns, and for this reason; Health Care is super cheap if not FREE, most places in the world!  As Canadians, and North Americans, we have a very warped view of health care being this big expensive thing that will sink our ship if anything goes wrong.  And yes, that IS the case in North America, specifically more so in the US.  Canadians barely dream of crossing the border without some sort of “out of country” top up on our already existing health care plan.  The prices and fees for anything medical related are absolutely out-of-this-world, mind-blowingly expensive!

However, with each naysayer, I am motivated.  It is pushing me along and making me want to prove to everyone that I CAN DO THIS!  I am going to live my dream and nobodies attitudes or opinions is going to get in my way!

We have sold over $1000 worth of stuff now, and we still haven’t scratched the surface.  Nothing has been a hard decision, and I still can’t remember exactly what it is that we have sold.  Just bits and pieces, here and there.  Things, things, things!!

I have completely separated myself from the need to keep anything.  It’s like a switch just clicked and all of a sudden it all didn’t matter anymore.  Every piece of junk that I own, is in my way to living the life I’ve always dreamed of.  It is time to shed some layers!  It is time to peel it all back, be open and vulnerable, and to just SEE what happens next.

I have been following a bunch of different blogs from people who themselves have done something similar to this.  I am fascinated by every detail of how they came to this similar decision, what the straw was that broke the proverbial “camels back.”  I’m so intrigued by these stories and I find myself almost envious that they are doing it already, while I am still back in the grind of normal life, normal routines.

But I rest easy in the knowing that we are on our way!  We are committed, we are excited and we are damn determined!!

February 5, 2017

Published February 6, 2017 by jillamatt

***Jill’s ‘letting go’ Diary***

This is part of a series of posts (ordered by Dated Titles) where I am recording my thoughts and emotions as we tackle getting rid of all of our possessions. From the day that I came up with this idea, to sell everything and travel the world, I have recorded my thoughts on certain days where I felt like writing. These are real time, and not edited (except for grammatical corrections.) 
Well, as we start to prepare for our first major purging sale next weekend, we are coming face to face with the absolution of letting go of things that we have carried around for so many years.  Much of it has no physical value to us, but it is the emotional value that is difficult.

Like my set of “Boccalino” ceramic kirsch cups, given to me by my parents for my 18th birthday.  Or Chris’ Landscaping and Horticultural “Bible” as it was a gift from a friend who went to school for horticulture, and it was one of his textbooks.  It’s obvious that we aren’t bringing these items with us, but It is hard to let go of, all the same.

To date, I have sold roughly $500 worth of “things” mostly through Facebook.  As people ask me what I have sold so far, I find myself having a hard time of even recalling what it was.  I can pick out the odd thing, but certainly NOT $500 worth.  So strange.

I have also realized through this process so far, that I have done this before.

In my early 20’s, my then boyfriend and I would rent a small, affordable, place wherever we were living at the time, then would work our butts off for about 8 months of the year.  For a few years in a row we would take off each winter for 4 months.  We would pack up our stuff, put it into storage, pair down what we needed to, and let our apartment go, with the plan to return the next year and get set up again.

And you know what???  It was a WONDERFUL life!  Sure, we were young and crazy but we all know how the old saying goes, “may as well do it while you are young.”  And so we did!  We did it in a big way.

I’ve also recently been having people (in reaction to my announcement) that say “you may as well do it while your young.”  I then think to myself “Do they realize that I am 40?”  Not that I think 40 is old, but it is moving into a later phase of life where we are told that we should build a foundation, keep working hard, save for retirement.

I had a discussion with my Cousin the other night on this topic. He, and many others, feel that we should try and keep the house so that A) we have something to come back to and B) it’s a rising market here right now.  Which means a) You will never be able to afford to get back in and b) you are missing out on making a lot of money.

I have retorts to all of these sentiments and they are this:

A) We MAY NOT want to come back! Who knows where this will lead. Having a house to deal with, a Mortgage to Pay, Insurance to Pay, having to deal with tenants……..NO THANK YOU!!  As much as I love my house, it is our largest burden in our lives.  I intend to not be tied down by one for a while.  This is going to be a one way ticket to infinity……..we have NO PLANS which means we can end up anywhere,…….. and everywhere!!

B)a) See above

B)b) I intend to make  money living my dream.  We have plans, BIG plans.  IF we kept the house, our dreams would get warped and we would truly not be doing what we had originally intended to do.  Our hearts are truly leading us on this one, because the rational thinking definitely creeps in once in a while.

Anyways,  I actually sat down here today to start writing about a journey I went on back in those crazy early 20’s, but I think I will save that for another time.

Instead I’ll talk about the really cool website that we came across the other day.  Well, it was actually recommended by a friend.  It’s an online site where house owners post ads about needing house sitters, and house sitters post their profile for people to see.  House sitters can browse the current listings, and can also be requested by owners directly.

Anyways, we decided to take a look at what was listed before we signed up (it costs $50/year membership.)  We found many listings in Australia, the US, and England.  There were also a few here and there for Canada.  I scrolled and scrolled and then noticed one for Ecaudor.

Ecaudor!

We were enamored with this idea instantly. We had never considered Ecuador.  We were sort of set on heading to Southern Mexico, Guatemala, or somewhere in Central America.  But Ecaudor really had a nice ring to it.  The only catch, the owner needs us from the  8th of August to September 1st.

“Can we do this by August?”  We were asking ourselves.

In that moment it seemed that yes, sure we could if we put our minds to it.

Ummmmmmm ya sure,  lets just work our asses off like maniacs, pay off all of our debt, sell all of our stuff in a rush panic, just to make sure that we got to our commitment of August 8th.   

Not too mention that I have houses to paint this summer, OUTSIDE, so those would need to be finished before we went.  Is it possible to wrap up my summer work by then?  What if it rains most of the summer, what if I don’t finish, what if what if what if………..?

We even talked about how NICE it will be to just get there and then relax and sleep to recoup from the chaos.  Ya, wouldn’t that be awesome!  We have 3 weeks in Ecuador and we can’t wait to sleep?????  NO THANKS!!

Mind you, it took a couple days for me to come to the realization that I was all of a sudden stressed out about everything.  I was having panic attacks that we wouldn’t be able to sell anything.  I even paced around in the basement, looking for something to sell, and I couldn’t.  (Believe me there are about 4000 things in the basement to sell!)  I came upstairs and pouted to Chris that I couldn’t find anything else to sell………..boo hoo!   Poor me!!

What had happened??

One minute we are pumped about Ecaudor, and the next I’m panicking.  Chris felt it as well.  But when I FINALLY realized that all the heavy feeling anxiety we felt, had to do with this house sitting gig in Ecuador, and the fact that we had somehow put a deadline to all of this, we were able to let it go, and we felt immense relief.  (Never mind the fact that we hadn’t even applied OR been accepted yet. Which makes this all 10 times more ridiculous!)

Arghhhhhhhhhh!!  Why oh why do we do this??

Thankfully we realized it all quite quickly, and we have now made a pact that we will not place unexpected deadlines or anything heavy on ourselves from now on.

This is a process of letting go.

We are not actors in a play where we can just rip off one costume and jump into another one.

This will take time.

That is enough.

“Minimalism is the thing that gets us past the things, so we can make room for life’s important things, which really aren’t things at all.”  -The Minimalists

 

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