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. 

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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. 

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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.
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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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:)

From Housesitters to Cabina Managers…..

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The answer is simple: Literally Nothing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

LIVE YOUR DREAMS IN 2018!

FOLLOW YOUR PASSIONS IN 2018!

LIVE THE BEST LIFE POSSIBLE IN 2018!

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

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

I can assure you that you WILL NOT regret it!

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

Make this your best year yet!!

With gratitude and love,

xo Jill

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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wandering in Varna, Bulgaria – Guest Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!

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

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

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

To see my blog post menu, click here.

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

 

 

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica – Destination Guide

As we were only staying for 2 nights, our main priority was to go to Manuel Antonio National Park. Chris had yet to see wild monkeys, and I knew that this was the place to be guaranteed a sighting.

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

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

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

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

So, what are you waiting for?

Get out there, have fun and explore!

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Manuel Antonio

To read about our interesting arrival to Manuel Antonio, please click here. 

Manuel Antonio, best known for it’s National Park, is located just south of the larger city of Quepos in the Province of Punteranas.  The town mostly services the National Park, and is heavily populated with hotels, restaurants, gift shops and other tourist amenities.

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The Air BnB we stayed at in Manuel Antonio was a great find, as it was located in a Tico neighbourhood, a little off the beaten tourist track, but accessible to all the amenities as well. (Email me at the address below if you would like the Air BnB link to this place, it cost us roughly $20/night, but prices may increase during high season.) Just a 5 minute walk from our place, got us to the main road leading down to the beach, and the National Park. For only roughly 350 colones (roughly 75 cents USD), we could ride the bus down the hill, and check out whatever was down there, then could catch the bus back up again. In fact, that bus came all the way from Quepos, and runs constantly throughout the day.  Even if you have your own vehicle, I would recommend this option of getting there as parking is limited.

As we were only staying there for 2 nights, our main priority was to go to Manuel Antonio National Park. Chris had yet to see wild monkeys, and I knew that this was the place to be guaranteed a sighting. However, much to our surprise, we did manage to see them swinging from the power lines, and climbing on our roof and trees, at our Air BnB early that morning as well!

Home to 109 different mammals, 184 different bird species and many different reptile types, Manuel Antonio National Park is a very diverse coastal jungle. It’s one of the number one visited parks in Costa Rica, attracting 150 000 visitors a year, and was listed in 2011 as one of Forbes 12 most beautiful parks in the world.

Obviously it was necessary to go there for more than just monkeys! The scenery, the beaches, and all the other wildlife, are truly spectacular as well.

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When I was last there in 2004, the entrance was along the beach, and I have to say, much more ‘entrancing’ (pun intended) than it is now. Almost immediately, when you would walk in, the monkeys would be hanging from the trees, and you could see the beautiful beach and ocean on your right hand side.

As the park is now under some pretty major renovations, while they install miles of gangways and walkways that loop themselves through the trees, they have moved the entrance onto a non-descript roadway, where you have to walk for some time before spotting any wildlife.

I can see that these renovations are important, and will cut down on damage to the jungle floor, but in the meantime, the entrance is not what one would expect from one the 12 most beautiful parks in the world! They are also constructing a massive Welcome/Interpretive Center, which will definitely add value when it’s completed, hopefully soon.

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As we were told that it’s an absolute zoo in the high season, we were happy to have been there during the slower months. Apparently if you don’t get to the beaches by 9:00 on some mornings, you will barely find a spot. Not my idea of a relaxing day out. However, on this particular day, there were minimal people, but it was still busy enough to see that the high season would be much more difficult to even move around on the trails.

NOTE: The park is CLOSED on Mondays!! Guess the monkeys need a day off as well:)

As predicted, we saw many, many monkeys. And despite signs every 100 feet or so to NOT feed them, we did see some silly tourist throwing them an apple core! Argh! I had flashbacks of a trip that I did about 8 years ago, back to the popular tourist destination of Lake Louise, in the Canadian Rockies. My middle name is derived from this place and I grew up just down the road in Canmore. I witnessed chipmunks being fed directly from peoples hands and was thoroughly horrified by their domestication.  They certainly had never done that when I was growing up in the area, and they have now become quite the pests!

PLEASE! If you visit the park, DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS!! The animals will become more and more dependant on these food sources, will lose the ability to forage for food themselves, and will eventually become aggressive and hostile if not fed. When this happens, as it always does, people will get hurt, and monkeys will be killed. It’s a cycle that, unfortunately, plays out everywhere around the world where there are close encounters with wildlife. In the end, the animals ALWAYS lose this battle!

Upon entry, we heard the distinct howl of the Howler Monkeys, and were able to spot one high up in the trees. Though we heard more howlers through the day, the White Faced, or Capuchin Monkeys were the ones we saw many of. We also saw a sloth moving slowly through a tree, a South American Coati and a cool Iguana was hanging out near us at the beach.  Of course many different birds, insects and butterflies were spotted as well.

We did a bit of hiking and hung out on one of the beaches for a bit. Our total visit was probably only about 2-3 hours long, but it was a nice day and we were lucky as it had been raining many days leading up to our arrival.  We actually had decided to cut our visit short, because we didn’t bring any food with us into the park, and we were getting hungry.  Needless to say, I think it’s proabably a good idea not to bring food into the park, as it inevitably leads to what I mentioned earlier.

After the park we gave into one of the many street vendors outside the gate that had earlier tried to sell us a fresh coconut, to drink the juice inside. However, this one came with a catch! He added a shot of Rum to it, and we happily drank our coconut juice with rum, and (sort of!) re-hydrated ourselves, after having felt dehydrated from the sweltering tropical sun.

After poking around a bit, and grabbing a quick bite to eat, we headed down to the public beach outside the park, beautiful in it’s own right, and relaxed until we were chased away by the rain. We were able to very quickly catch the bus heading back up the hill, and we retreated back to our Air BnB to cook some dinner and relax for the evening. Well, Chris didn’t exactly relax, as our roommate and new friend, “Aaron from Canada” (as our host had called him) at the BnB wanted a tattoo! Chris happily obliged, further solidifying his thoughts on making a living as a travelling tattoo artist.

We didn’t really experience much more in Manuel Antonio, and I have to say that as a lover of places that are quiet, and less touristy, I would probably not go back there.

Where we are now, is so much more up both of our alleys! For example, yesterday as we laid on the beach relaxing with a book, I looked in both directions and saw nothing but sand, sea, palm trees and sun for literally miles. Not another soul was in sight! Plus, we have monkeys in our trees almost every day, and Iguanas that actually LIVE on the property. We even saw a sloth today high up in a tree on the side of the road!
But, I won’t spoil it all for you, because this place surely deserves it’s own blog post……..or 6!  Stay tuned……..

Manuel Antonio National Park facts:

Park Entrance – $16USD – tickets must be purchased from a bank that is about 100 meters from the entrance to the park, on the left hand side of the road, one block back from the beach and bus drop off area.  There are guides that are available to hire, and I’m sure you will see much more wildlife than we did as they have long telescopes that they carry with them.  Only hire guides that are part of the park service! 

High Season approx. November 15 – February 28

Website: http://manuelantoniopark.com

Phone: 1-800-381 3770

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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!

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

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

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

To see my blog post menu, click here.

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

 

 

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