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The House that Amanda Built – Earth Bag Building in Nicaragua

Published May 4, 2018 by jillamatt

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Our modest Camp Kitchen! 

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

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

Earth Bag Construction

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

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

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You can see that the initial layer of exterior plaster is just starting to be applied on this section. After this layer there is a sturdier layer which includes lime which will be applied, this helps to seal out the weather.

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The roof trusses are just starting to be worked on.  You can see the stark difference in the landscape from where we were in Costa Rica.

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

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

Some of “the boys” working on the project. 

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

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All of those cracks have to be stuffed!  And this is just the first inside room! 

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The start of my 3 weeks of work! 

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

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Poo galore!

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Sifting small particles out of the clay and sand was a necessary step in order to get a very fine smooth plaster. 

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And the ultimate step and the easiest way to mix the mixtures is to stomp them with your bare feet!  Needless to say our feet had many layers of ground in dirt on them……ALL THE TIME! 

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

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

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

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

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

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We were in 7th Heaven while cruising the nurseries for plants for Amanda’s property. 

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The view heading down the road into Laguna Apollo.  An extinct volcano crater that now is full of beautiful fresh water! 

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A locals only swim hole located well away from the beaten track.  Truly a little paradise. 

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The spectacular buildings of Colonial Granada. 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Glimpse of the Costa Rican Highlands

Published April 15, 2018 by jillamatt

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


Just a warning, this post is a long one!!!  Read on…….

As we bumped along the dusty road to El Silencio, my heart leapt with excitement at a new adventure, a new place to explore.

We had been house, dog(s) (4 in total) and cabina sitting right smack on the beach in Matapalo, Costa Rica, for the past 4.5 months.

We had met Joseph, in Matapalo.  He is a mutual friend of other friends back in Canada that we connected with, and made fast friends.  He would come down to visit us once in a while, getting out of the mountains for beach days and a swim.  Over the course of our knowing him, we had discussed many times that we would love to come and help him out with his property as he transforms it into a retreat of sorts.  After having been lazy blobs on the beach for so long, we were ready for some hard work and exercise.

Having now finished our time in Matapalo, Joseph’s was our next planned stop, and we were now traveling with him, back into the mountains, back into the jungle.   The road we were travelling on connects El Silencio and the main highway, and is unpaved and very bumpy.  This is a normal road in Costa Rica once you leave the tourist tracks.  We wove back through thousands of acres of Palm Tica palm trees that line the valley of the Savegre River and beyond.  Palma Tica is a monopoly palm oil producer in Costa Rica, and possibly throughout Central America.  I was told by a local that the oil plant had been in the area for possibly 50 years or more, but he couldn’t remember how long, because it as been more than his whole life.

As we arrive in Silencio, the road turns to pavement to give some relief to vehicles, at least for the length of it’s downtown core, which is less than a kilometre I’m sure. We were told that originally there was only 21 houses that lined this road, 21 original houses that made up the whole town.  I squealed inside with delight at how cute that was.  And here I thought I grew up in a small town!

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Just as the pavement starts though, Joseph takes a hard right down another gravel road. At this juncture it is becoming obvious that we really ARE heading into the mountains.  Immediately the foliage increases, the road narrows and starts to degrade, more and more as we drive down it.  Joseph puts his truck into 4×4 on these roads, although there are also locals who drive it in their Sedans on a regular basis, I have to say that my vote is to have a vehicle capable of 4×4.  These roads are no joke on vehicles!

As we wind down into the river basin, Joseph prepares to drive across the river bed, a regular crossing along his route home.  There are no car bridges in this area, just a man bridge that will take motorbikes, and people walking.  At this time of year, the peak of the dry season, this river bed is down to a trickle, barely reaching the hubcap.  But in the rainy season, this river can become a raging torrent with little notice, which makes it impossible to drive across at least a couple times per year.

Tiny little Costa Rican homes pop up along our route.  Simple homes, not much more than walls and a roof on some of them.  Friendly faces wave and locals walk back and forth along the road announcing “Buenas” or “Ola”, sometimes “Puravida” as we drive by.

We are to rent a house from Josephs closest neighbour, a Tico family that lives a bit less than a km from him.  Their matriarch of the family had been living in a house high on the top of a hill, overlooking the road down below.  In her 70th year, she decided that she didn’t want to climb up and down the hill to get to her home anymore. So she moved down to road level, and the house has been vacant for the couple years ever since.

In January, Joseph had friends from Canada rent it and try it out.  We had spoken to them about it, and they had enjoyed their stay there, so we decided to give it a whirl.  At a price of $60/week, it’s hard to turn down such an opportunity to try out living in a truly traditional Tico house, back in the jungle none-the-less.

The plan was to come and hang out with Joseph for a few weeks and do some work on his property, plus experience life in the mountains for a bit.  He has 32 acres of some of the most pristine jungle you have ever seen, and is currently cultivating it to become a retreat of sorts in the future.  Originally from Canada, Joseph has lived down here for over 2.5 years now.  We had visited his property a couple of other times since we arrived down here, and fell in love with the possibilities and potential that his land offered.

Our house was perfect!  We giggled with joy as we scoured every corner and checked it all out.  It was almost as simple as they come, tile floors, wooden walls, and definitely NOT bug proof.  No screens on the windows and huge gaps at the top of the walls to outside, made that pretty obvious.  Not to mention that the upstairs balcony was wide open, as was the entire top floor, at least the top 1/3 of the walls anyways.

 

We didn’t think much of it honestly, and after deciding that it would be best to protect ourselves from bugs, rodents and snakes at night by just setting up our tent on the bed and sleeping in it instead of a mosquito net, we felt comfortable staying there.  I can’t tell you how nice it was to crawl in there at night and be 100% sure that nothing was going to get us.  We both decided that we aren’t cut out for full time life in the Jungle, just a glimpse was enough for us sissies!

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The first few days were spent getting to know the area.  It was a 2km or so walk into the main part of town where there was one store and one hotel and restaurant.  Our house had what we needed to cook food, so we mostly just shopped in the small store for the duration and cooked for ourselves.  We did however have a couple meals at the restaurant, and even stayed in the hotel one night on our 5 year anniversary!  The restaurant was also our number one go to place for wifi, so we would slink into town every couple days to check for emails or Etsy orders and use that as an excuse to have a couple beers each time.  Hehe.

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Beautiful sunsets from the restaurant!

During our first few days that we spent time up at Josephs, we went to his swimming holes, and explored the area.  In no time at all we were feeling very at home and really enjoying our new location.  At night, the hills literally sung with many indescribable sounds, birds, bugs and who knows what else, would sing their hearts out all night long.  Safe in the comfort of our tent , we would listen to the scufflings of many creatures as they likely scoured our house for our left over goodies from the day.

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This is on Joseph’s property. His house on the right and workshop on the left. A true Jungle paradise!

 

In the morning we would have coffee on our porch that overlooked the valley below.  We were at treetop level with some of our trees, and had our eyes peeled for the Woodpecker family that lived in a close one, and we would watch them come and go all day.  We also spotted numerous other birds from our perch including many types of Parrots, Scarlet Macaws, Toucans and the Toucans close cousin the Fiery Billed Aracari.  In fact their were two of those guys, and they were actually trying to get into our woodpecker families nest! (We don’t think they succeeded thankfully!)

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The view of the valley below our house.  If only all neighbourhoods could exist like this below the jungle canopy!

With constant life surrounding us, and billions of creatures coming and going on a constant basis, we couldn’t help but feel more alive during our jungle stint.  Everywhere you look there are bugs crawling, birds doing something, butterflies flitting about, cows mooing, roosters crowing, ……..it just literally never stops around there.

We got to meet a couple of the local characters that work for Joseph.  One is Guadelupe, a 72 year old Costa Rican man that may just have the strongest handshake I have ever felt. In fact, his hands have worked so hard in his life, that they are permanently hooked.  They have become tools.  Tools for what he needs them for, survival on a day to day basis.

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Guadalupe, a 72 year old Tico man born and raised in the mountains of Costa Rica. He arrived on his horse to bring us fresh beans from his property and pants for Chris!

His slight body is probably 110 lbs and I’m sure he is no taller than 5’4″.  We chatted with him a few times one day and I couldn’t help but fall in love with his gentle attitude and friendly vibe.  One day he showed up at our house, after riding his horse right to our front door, to deliver a pair of pants that he was giving to Chris.  When we worked with him our first day, Chris had mentioned that he didn’t have a pair of pants to work in.  His last pants already bit it, and we haven’t had the chance to get him a new pair.  With pants and rubber boots being the outfit of choice while working in the jungle (think bugs, snake bites and any other manner things that will get our white raw flesh), Guadelupe had decided that Chris certainly at least needed some pants.

Well, the fact that Chris is 6’3″ and slightly more than 110 lbs, (like closer to double that) meant that those tiny little pants barely fit on one leg!  But the gesture almost brought a tear to my eye.  The people that live in these parts really do live hand to mouth, but if a neighbour or friends needs something, they will always have something to give.

We had some interesting experiences with bugs, but the worst ones being during the last 3 days thankfully.  One night while we were working on our artwork with the bright lights on, tons of beetles started flying in, circling around the light a few times,  and then dying on our floor.  They were absolutely everywhere and on everything!  They fly completely erratically like moths do, so we were constantly swatting at them to get them from flying into us.  After about an hour of this, I sought refuge in the tent, while Chris sat out on the porch to battle it out.  After a few hours and with signs of them slowing down a bit, I got out of the tent to go downstairs to the bathroom.  Well, the house was a war zone!  There were beetles everywhere, dead, or still squiggling on the white tile floor.  With only one solution presenting itself, I started the process of sweeping them up, leaving a huge pile of bugs that seemed to be moving and pulsing with the few that were still left alive.  GROSS!

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EW!

This happened 2 nights in a row with the second night being worse.  The second night Chris joined me in the tent and we hid in it until they toned it down a bit.  The last night we were there, Joseph had us at his place for dinner, and although he had a few of them up at his place, we were quite pleased when we arrived home later that night to find very few of them.  We aren’t sure if it was just a huge flock of them moving through the area, or if it was a bloom of them that only lived for a day or so.  Either way, it was an interesting experience, but one that I would be happy to not repeat.

We also had a few resident King Toads that would frequent the place.  Many times in our first few days, we would arrive back at the house in the evening to find 2 or 3 of them hanging out in our living room.  At first we decided that we didn’t want them in there and would throw them out the door, but after a while we realized that we couldn’t stop them and they were just eating bugs after all, so they became a constant part of our evening landscape and we would great them as we would any other pet, as they hopped inside for the evening.  However, as luck would have it, they were nowhere to be seen when we had the beetle invasions!  Wow did they ever miss out on a feast!

On our last day, our dinner capped off a magnificent day that was spent with Joseph as he showed us a waterfall that was up the bumpy, rocky road, a few km’s past his house.  The hike was definitely challenging and on the final decent down to the base of the falls, I slid slightly on the trail and was thrown back on my butt.  As I had been looking down at my feet the whole time, I hadn’t noticed that the waterfall was already in view.  As I was thrown back on my butt, I was gobsmacked by this perfect green wall in front of me with an absolutely spectacular wall of water falling down it.  In fact I was so gob smacked that I tried to stand upright, and I immediately fell back again.  I really do think that I was dazed by the beauty of it all.  As we descended down to the base of it, we stopped many times to stare in utter amazement of it all.  What a spectacular sight!

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After I fell on my butt, this is the sight that beheld me as I looked up.

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Easily 150 feet high, this waterfall seemed as though it was falling directly from the heavens, making us all wonder where exactly the water was actually coming from.

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Perfect heated rocks lay below allowing us to bask in the warm sun while enjoying the coolness of the water spray below.

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The canyon walls were absolutely rife with life!  It was a sight to behold!

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Crystal clear clean water was awaiting us!

I told Joseph that it was my quintessential Costa Rican waterfall, and possibly, Costa Rican moment, itself.  I had dreamt of waterfalls that beautiful, but had never seen one quite so spectacular.  There was the main wall of water, but other parts of the canyon walls were just dripping with little trails of water and the lushest, greenest, most perfect growing plants that you can ever imagine.  As we arrived, a bright blue morpho butterfly flitted about the green walls, giving me one of those “Pinch me, is this real?” moments, as I just stood and gazed in absolute amazement of the incredible scene that was laid out before me.

We basked in the glory of it all for a few hours, swimming a bit, but mostly just staring at the many different layers of beauty that was presented to us.  With clouds building, and the threat of rain imminent, we finally decided that it was time to pull ourselves away from this spectacle, and head back along the 40-ish minute trail, back to the truck.

Along the way, Joseph’s Dog Ronnie did a strange jump on the trail which alerted Joseph to the fact that something was definitely up.  At closer inspection, he realized that there was in fact a very large snake (roughly 6-7feet long) on the side of the trail.  Of course, we got Ronnie to come back to us, but not knowing if it was venomous, or not, was quite alarming to all of us.  After Joseph threw a stick at it and approached it a couple times, and after it definitely showed him that it wasn’t happy with our presence by rearing it’s head up in a threatening manner, we backed well off and let it move on.  Unfortunately for us, it decided to climb up a tree and onto a branch that was literally right over our heads as we passed under the trail.  Although at that point it didn’t seem as concerned about us, it was definitely still on high alert, and we all moved through that area by crouching down, and obviously, as fast as possible.  Our only regret was that we didn’t get a photo of it, but I can assure you, no one was in the mood for photography at that point.  It was more about getting the hell out of there!

It was my first encounter with a snake of that size, and although I have to say that it’s blue colouring made it very beautiful, I would be totally fine with not having an encounter such as that again!  We made our way back to the house as the rains unleashed, and had a lovely dinner to celebrate our last night in El Silencio.

Returning to our house that night, we were thankful to find a relatively beetle free environment, and we slept well knowing that the next day we were moving on to a new adventure in Nicaragua!

Overall, we loved our 3 week stay in El Silencio!  We were very productive with our artwork, we made a couple new friends, we experienced the jungle (all be it in the dry and mostly bug free season!), and we thoroughly enjoyed our traditional Tico (Costa Rican) house.  We definitely hope to return when we make our way south again from Nicaragua to South America at the end of the year.


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: We are currently volunteering on a farm in Nicaragua.  Building an Earth Bag home and landscaping the land of an American/Nicaraguan lady from New York State.

Travelling Plans: We will be here until the end of April, then will be heading to Rivas Nicaragua where we will be housesitting for 4.5 months.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Life as a Digital Nomad – April 2018

Published April 8, 2018 by jillamatt

In 2017 my partner and I sold all of our posessions to hit the road and seek out a life of travel. “Life as a Digital Nomad” is a semi-regular series of posts that keep people updated on how we are now carving out a life and making a living while being on the road full time.


It seems as though time is slipping by, like water slips through our fingers.  I had meant to make my digital nomad posts a monthly update, but since my last one was in January, it’s obvious that monthly isn’t happening right now!  However, read on to see how we are managing as digital nomads now!

Chris and I finished up our Cabina managing job in Matapalo, Costa Rica on March 15th, leaving a steady income and a beautiful spot right on the beach.  We could have stayed for longer as the owner still hasn’t returned, but we had been staying on the same remote beach, with limited transit options for 4.5 months already, and although we were very thankful for the opportunity to not only live in paradise, but make money while doing it, we were both ready to do something different.

Chris had many inquiries for tattoos come up before we left, but unfortunately, as is the Tico way sometimes, nothing came of them.  It seems that his boom in November/December was enough for Matapalo, I think he did 12 in total.  We had a friend come down to visit us in January from Canada, and he brought some tattoo supplies with him, so Chris is all stocked up and ready to do more when the opportunity arises!

He also opened up a Society 6 store with some of his artwork posted.  He as a long way to go posting more items, but he will get there eventually.  Check out some of his items available below!

 

I have been steadily building my Etsy and Society 6 shops.  I finally got my domain name sorted out (www.jillianamatt.com) after having it not work since last August.  It takes you directly to my Etsy shop until I get my new website up and running.  I’ve had this domain for years now, and used to have a big fancy website for my fractal things.  However, it was to complex and I really wasn’t ready for it at the time.  I shut it down before heading out on this journey, as it was overwhelming to me and wasn’t what I wanted.  Moving forward, when I do get my website going again, it will simply connect to my Etsy Shop where all of my items can be purchased much easier there, than on my own site.

Check out some of my new fractal designs below:

Yes, that is right!  You can now get my fractals on bathing suits and bikinis!  I look forward to seeing these arrive at their new homes this summer season!

Sales have been steadily increasing in my Etsy shop in particular.  I have put a ton of work into my listings, learning about SEO, making sure my tags are correct, and pushing my items to social media whenever possible.  I have to say that I am quite impressed with how well it is doing, considering that many people start Etsy shops and don’t see a dollar for months and sometimes years.  So far in 2018, my Etsy shop has brought in $1520!  Of course, I don’t get all of that, usually about 30%, but it is sales none-the-less, and I am definitely seeing steady growth in traffic.  It is definitely a commitment of time to make sure that it is all done correctly and marketed properly.  Currently I’m considering making an e-book about how to set up an Etsy page.  Could be another income stream moving forward.

I have also been into creating Mandalas lately.  These are all done digitally using mandala programs on my iPad, but I really love how they turn out, and love that I don’t have to get all freaked out about each segment being perfect…….the iPad takes care of that as I only have to draw in one segment and it is repeated throughout.  Cheating?  Sure!  Do I care?  NO!  I’m just having fun creating the images and using patterns and colours.  It’s a great time waster when we are being idle!

I have also been busy with real Pen/Pencil/Ink on paper drawings lately.  I have uploaded a couple of these to my online stores, but have much more to do after spending 3 weeks in a very quiet mountain town with little internet access.  We both found great inspiration there, and spent many days and hours simply doing art.  Here are some of the results of that stay below:

We also built our hosts a dining room table!  They didn’t have one in the house we were renting, so we made one out of cinderblocks and plywood, and then painted the plywood top with some pretty crappy acrylics that we had with us.  Unfortunately we didn’t have time to find varnish or clear coat of some sort for it, but we did mention that it needed it, so hopefully somebody will do that for us.  It was a fun project and you can really see the difference in our art styles, but I think we blended them together well in the end.

We look forward to leaving a trail of art projects behind us as we move around the world!

Chris and I are currently in San Jose, and yesterday we bit the bullet and bought a new MacBook Air laptop.  We were finding it difficult to manage what we needed to with having only our iPad.  Quite often we both wanted to use it at once to do artwork or internet things, and it was becoming difficult to balance it all.  Plus, there are a couple other Print On Demand sites that I want to get my stuff set up on, and their websites don’t cooperate with iPad’s, only laptops or computers.

Another possible income stream that I can do with a laptop is teaching English online.  I received my TEFL certification about 5 years ago through an online course, but have yet to use it to make money.  My preferred method of teaching is one on one, and I was happy to learn about a website called Cambly, where I can do just that.   I looked into signing up for Cambly a few months back,  but unfortunately their website doesn’t cooperate with tablets either.  So hopefully, this purchase will pay itself back with future opportunities for potential income streams.

Well, I think that’s about it for now!  We are both thoroughly enjoying life on the road, and look forward to where our adventure will take us next!

Thanks for following along on our journey!

xo Jill


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 in San Jose, Costa Rica, but will be catching a bus to Nicaragua tomorrow morning.

To follow my art page on Facebook, please head to Jillian Amatt Designs

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 see more items that are available in my online stores, visit my Shops  Page.

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

 

What’s Next?

Published March 8, 2018 by jillamatt

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Off to El Silencio!

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

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

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

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

We are off to El Silencio on March 15th!

Next to Nicaragua!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pura Vida from Costa Rica!


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Can Envision It! Envision Festival 2018

Published March 6, 2018 by jillamatt

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


As I sat down to write this post, I thought about ways that I could bring some humour into the familiar festival ways. You know the ones; the stinky and almost full porta-potties, the ridiculously long line-ups to get anything, the throngs of people pushing and bumping on the dance floor, the Squish of 1000’s of tents squeezed in together, leaving only small pathways between them, creating a blinding maze of zigging and zagging, every time you are to return to yours. But I have to say, in the aftermath of what was a spectacularly run festival, I find not much humour in it at all.

Sure, there were some toilets that left little to be desired, but really, they were cleaned frequently, and if you were smart about the ones you chose (Hint: don’t go in the first 4!), they weren’t bad at all. The line ups really weren’t all that long, and I have to say, that with roughly 5000 over the top friendly people attending the festival, the chit chats that took place in those line-ups made them flash by. Similarly, the dance floors were a happy bumping vibe, not too many people, plenty of room for everyone. And the tents, well, they were certainly squished in but coming and going was manageable for sure, and I must say, I enjoyed the challenge of finding ours each and every time.

One of my biggest take-aways from the 4 day festival was that I literally did not witness one bad exchange between any two people. I saw nobody who was drunk and unruly, yelling at their friends, nobody angry or upset. All that we saw, day in and day out, was happy people! Gloriously happy people!

Volunteering

My partner and I volunteered for Envision Festival this year. It was our first time volunteering for such an event and it was our first time attending Envision. It just happens that it’s held about 40 minutes south of where we have been living for the past 4 months in Costa Rica, so it seemed silly to not partake in some way or another. Volunteering seemed like a great option, it would save money, and it would give us an insiders look into the goings on of events of this nature. And like all good experiences, we have no regrets and are exceedingly happy that we took part in the way that we did. We each worked 3-6 hour shifts in our respective departments, and were able to enjoy the festival around those times as we wanted. With each shift came a meal voucher, so we would hit up the Cantina where the kitchen crew was constantly cooking up delicious food for the masses, and we would sit and mingle with other volunteers and staff alike, chatting about the world, where we come from, where we are going next.

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This is where I volunteered. We answered questions for many volunteers and checked them in and out of their shifts.

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The inside looking out and a couple of my co-working buddies.

There were people attending from all over the world, but I have to say that out of all the people that we met, I’m pretty sure the scales were tipped in Canada’s favour. I was astounded at the number of Canadians that were there! Like my good friend Joseph said “Canadians are always well represented at cool events!”

But many other places were well represented as well, including a large contingent from Costa Rica itself. The Ticos were many and could be seen not only just taking the festival in, but also volunteering and working the festival grounds.  We met people from many places in Europe, South and Central America, North America and many other places in between.  It was truly diverse.

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Volunteer/Staff Meal time!

Why do you want to go?

I was asked this question a few times before heading to the festival.  Of course, the main focus of most festivals is around the music, but this wasn’t my interest.  There was an astounding yoga component to this festival, and I’m pretty sure there was a different yoga class happening at least every 2 hours through the day, if not more, but we weren’t going for yoga (but we probably should have been).  There were plenty of lectures planned and lots of opportunity to learn about all manner of things to do with different thoughts on Society, the Environment,  living in alternative communities and the like, and I knew that I would partake in some of these along the way.

But, as an artist and creator, my answer always somehow revolved around wanting to witness the artwork, of which I had heard great things.  I knew there would be a ton of art and I couldn’t wait to feast my eyes on it, but I also had another reason to want to go.  I wanted to meet more people of a similar mindset to me.  I wanted to find more people that I could slot into my growing global community of friends.  I knew that these sorts of festivals draw a different crowd.  These festivals draw people who want to see the world in a different way.  They draw people who want to step away from the 9-5 corporate life, those who wish to seek out a life of purpose, one of passion, one of building community and one of making the world a better place.

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I was not disappointed!

Well, I can assure you that I was not disappointed!  To begin with, the artwork…….well the artwork was simply breathtaking!  Over the course of the weekend, we witnessed several paintings evolve that were being live painted throughout the day and night.  This included large scale pieces by famous South and Central American artists, and also smaller canvasses by many up and coming and renowned artists from the United States and beyond.  The art gallery was literally dripping in talents from all sorts of different people, from all stages of life.  I would lazily stroll through, numerous times in a night, always finding something that I hadn’t noticed before, always coming out more amazed then when I went in.

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The Luna Stage was incredibly oranate and this photo really doesn’t do it justice.  At night the various sections were lit up each with their own visual displays.  It was absolutely incredible!

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Similarly the Audio Visual booth to this stage was breathtakingly beautiful!

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Just a sample of the show at night!

After dark was when colours, sounds and lights would come to life!  The stages were lit up with the most incredible audiovisual displays that I have ever seen, and we would spend most of our time at night wandering from art piece to art piece, watching each canvas evolve and transform over time.  And although we didn’t take many pictures of some of our favourites, their memories are etched into our brains, in a certain section that is reserved for the magical things we see in life.  We listened to some music (it was impossible not to), danced a little here and there, but we were mostly focused on seeing the art.  We loved the art, and we came away incredibly inspired.

We also were not disappointed with the people that we met!  We met some great new friends that we have appropriately slotted into our growing global community.  And of course, Facebook is such a great way to continue to keep in touch with our new friends, many of which are full time travellers themselves, and others that are now being  convinced to become them.

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This incredible piece was over 20ft tall!

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We c ircled back to this quite often and many times missed seeing the person painting it, yet there would be huge new sections finished.  The final piece is simply amazing!

We had many invigorating and interesting conversations with people that we met while we waited in lines, or while we sat in the village during lazy afternoons.  Conversations revolved around ways that people were passionate to see a change in the world, how they felt that they could make a difference.  It was inspiring to have deep conversations with complete strangers, about things that normally are reserved for close friends, or people that we know are on the same page as us.  It seemed though, that most people at Envision were on the same page as us.

The Village

The village was the central hub of the festival, and where much of the daytime activity happened.  Around one side of the village was the food vendors where one could find many different options of good wholesome quality food being served.  This was not a place with deep fried doughnuts, mars bars or chicken nuggets!  These vendors prepared fresh, wholesome food, many times vegan or vegetarian, and always healthy.  There was a local craft beer booth, Envision Festival coffee, roasted specifically for this years festival, vegan hamburgers, smoothies, Thai Wraps, wood fired pizza and so much more!  Everyday we found ourselves wandering up and down from booth to booth trying to decide what delectable thing we would try next.

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Chill time in the Village!  The heart of the festival grounds.

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Lots of relaxing, hanging out and meeting new friends!

Envision is officially a Zero Waste festival meaning that at the end of it all, there would be as little garbage as possible to deal with.  This meant that they had a plate and cup exchange program.  If you didn’t have your own, you could rent one for $3 from the first vendor that you visited.  When you were finished with your plate, there was a dish pit where you could drop your plate off to get a voucher for a new plate, that you would give to the next vendor and so on and so on.  There were also numerous bins set up for compost, recyclables, Etc.  All of this went to a massive central hub that sorted and recycled anything that could be, and then composted the rest.  Of course, there were always pieces of non-recyclable plastic in the actual “garbage” bin, but it was definitely not the fullest bin of them all, which was nice to see.

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How food is meant to be served! On a Banana Leaf!  The lettuce is my Gluten Free bun to an incredible veggie burger!

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There was always a bit of a line up at the Coffee Booth!

The other side of the village was lined with various artisans booths filled with all manner of exquisite creations.  From delectable dehydrated goodies (we tried dehydrated watermelon!), to the most impossibly intricate Guatemalan beaded necklaces, to funky festival clothing, jewellery, face paints and stunning tapestries, all manner of creations were very well represented.  We spent as little time as possible strolling through this zone as it was nothing but a HUGE temptation to spend money on more THINGS!  However, we did both come away with a couple items to remember the festival by.

During the days, if we weren’t working, we would lay our ground sheet down in the center of the village and sit and draw, trying endlessly to get out the inspiration that we had taken in, and would chat with many other’s that were relaxing in the shade and just taking it all in.  Above us stood massive palms and other trees, providing a welcome umbrella from the unrelentingly hot Costa Rican sun that was blazing above.  Once in a while I would see a lone Howler monkey crawling around, hanging out on the branches and looking down at us and I’m sure, wondering what the heck we were all doing there. And one morning I heard the familiar call of a Toucan high up in the trees, and was able to spot it and show it to someone else before it hastily flew away.  Drums were being played, songs were being sung, it was peaceful, it was serene, but best of all it was a community.  A community of people that seemed intent, at least in those moments, of working together to find ways to make the world a better place to live, of helping each other out, and of caring for each other.

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The always bumping and hopping beach stage!

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Intricately built using bamboo!

Presentations/Workshops/Inspirations

On the edges of the village, and throughout the grounds, there were different stages that had constant presentations going on.  As we sat in the shade and relaxed, we were able to listen to one or the other and tune in to what we wanted to hear.  Topics of these presentations were diverse, but many could be heard about how we can instill change in the planet, about what we can do to make a difference.  It was at times impossible to walk from one place to the next without hearing some sort of important message being told on a nearby stage.  Us and many others, I’m sure,  came away inspired by what we heard, empowered to try and make a difference.  And of course, the main message always was that if you can ENVISION it, then you can CREATE it!

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So much art!

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There were light hearted, yet serious signs like this scattered all over the grounds!  A potent reminder to stay hydrated and healthy in the extreme climate. One of my favourites was “Friends don’t let friends get dehydrated!”  This one reminded me to grab my water bottle at one point!

Drugs, Alcohol and Shenanigans

Of course, like all festivals of this type, there was a very obvious drug component to the festival, and I would be dishonest in my post if I didn’t report on this aspect as well.  However, as with any of these events, you can partake in any way that you see fit.  Sure drugs were being sold, and the craft beer booth was always busy, but there were also families there with young children.  Parents who maybe wanted to introduce their kids to a different type of community than the one they live in back home.  Possibly there were parents who wanted to expose their kids to more artwork and creativity.

There are so many different reasons for people to want to attend this festival, from yogis to artists, musicians to climate change specialists, people from all walks of life were very well represented.  It’s unfortunate that in some peoples eyes, Envision is just another “rave” or party where people are getting wired on all sorts of things.  Of course that is going on as well, as it does everywhere in the world, but I would say that the majority are there for so many other reasons, and really “Drugs” is definitely not the most important one.

You Should GO!

If you are planning a trip to Costa Rica next year, I highly recommend this experience!  Because that is what it is……..an EXPERIENCE!  It is an experience like no other and if you open yourself up to that, and just take in the parts of the festival that you are interested in, I can assure you that you will not be disappointed!  As for us…….we will be back for sure!  In what capacity, I can’t say for certain, but we were both very inspired by it and I can imagine will continue to be involved in one way or the other in the coming years.

To check out the Envision Festival website head to: www.envisionfestival.com.  Here you will find all the information you need to learn about the festival, volunteer, be a guest artist, performer and more!  Check it out and get involved!


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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Threat of Stagnancy

Published February 3, 2018 by jillamatt

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…….


My partner and I have officially been living on the same beach in Costa Rica for 3 months now.  While that may not seem like a long time to most people, it is a bit of a bench mark number for me.  In the past, when my ex husband and I would travel for long lengths of time (back in our 20’s before “real life” kicked into gear), we would always start to get itchy to go home around the 3 month mark.  Granted, that usually meant that it would take us another month or so to get back home, but the intention was usually laid around the 3 month mark, and the plan would be set.

This time is different though, this time we aren’t going home.  This time there is no home to go back to!

In the last couple of weeks I have started to feel the pang of boredom, that feeling of “spinning my wheels”, a feeling of not really getting anywhere.  That yearning to see and do more has crept in, and I go through feelings of a bit of anxiousness as I wrestle with it all. After all, we are supposed to be travelling right?  (Accent on the “ing” part!)

However, and this is a HUGE HOWEVER, we are sitting in the absolute most perfect spot right now.  We are making a little bit of money, our accomodation is paid for, and we are parked on one of the most undiscovered, and picturesque beaches in all of Costa Rica.

So what really IS the problem??

I have been contemplating this for about a week now, and I think the answer is that stagnancy has crept in, and with that a certain laziness.  Suddenly we have a routine, suddenly we are comfortable, suddenly we have a community, suddenly nothing is new anymore, things aren’t as exciting as they were when we arrived, and we have started to become complacent.

My Dad, John Amatt, has a quote that he uses in his motivational presentations:

You either change, or you stagnate. You either leap forward, or you fall backward. You cannot stay where you are today.”

When I look at this quote, and I think about my reasons for wanting to go on this traveling journey, I realize that it is the need and the want to see and experience different things, that really gets me excited.  That is what travelling is all about after all, seeing new things, experiencing new experiences, trying different food, finding out about what is around every corner. As we have new experiences in life, we grow, we change, and we become better people all round.

This past few weeks I haven’t posted many new photos on my social media pages, I have been finding it hard to write blog posts (therefore already dashing my goal of one per week in 2018!), and I haven’t really felt like doing much at all in general.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been doing lots of artwork, and continue to upload images to my various online pages (clickShops here to see more of this), which is always a lot of work, but that’s all I have really felt motivated to do.  And I do realize that this all sounds like a very “Poor Me” post, but it’s not.  It’s simply just real.  It’s simply my human experience, and that is all.


We just had a friend visiting us for about 12 days from Canada, which really felt nice, having our routine broken up for a bit.  He fell in love with this place, and proclaimed that he could stay here for a really long time.  When I told him that I am starting to get itchy to go somewhere else, he stated that I was crazy.  Why would I want to leave such a perfect spot?  We have friends here, we have community here, we have a routine, we have created a new life.

It might seem bizarre to people that these are the exact reasons that I want to start a new, go somewhere else, experience something else, but I guess that is just how I am built.  I feel like when I do the same thing for too long, have the same scenery over and over for too long, I become bored, I become disinterested in doing much, I become lazy, and worst of all I become stagnant.

When we lived in Canada, it was an easy fix.  We would just jump in the car and go exploring, go for a hike, go on a road trip, go see something new.  And looking back, I think that is pretty much what we did every so often.  But here, we have no car and we have 3 dogs to take care of, which makes it difficult to even leave at all.

But, as I said before, it really is the perfect scenario, so I will just sit with it, I will continue to appreciate my surroundings, and I will continue to be thankful that we are so fortunate to be here.  After all, we worked very hard to get ourselves here, it would be a shame to not enjoy it!

Not too mention, no matter what I am thinking, and no matter how anxious I get, we are here for as long as we need to be.  The owner of the place we are managing is not sure when he is coming back, so it’s necessary to stay and take care of his dogs and manage his business until he returns.  But it doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be thinking about our next moves!  I have a growing list of places we want to visit after we leave here!

Maybe this is the lesson I need, to be able to learn to be patient.  Maybe I just need to breathe in one spot for a while.  Maybe THIS is the universe trying to tell ME something!


I have to say though, it hasn’t been all being lazy on the beach this past month, and while our friend was here, we did have a couple of adventures, and had some exciting experiences!

#1, We went Ziplining!

I really can’t even remember the last time that I went ziplining, it has to be at least 20 years I think!  We went to  Hacienda Baru, a 330 Hectare Wildlife Reserve that is located just down the road from here.  We flew through the canopy with reckless abandon on 8 different zip lines! It was exhilarating!

#2, We went camping!

We spent one night up at our friends farm in El Silencio, located 30 minutes away, in the mountains behind us. It was his 60th Birthday celebration, and we arranged for the dogs to be cared for while we enjoyed a night with friends around the fire.  He also took us on a pretty awesome tour of his property and a few of us marched through the dense jungle to reach a lookout high above his house, that looked out all the way to the ocean!

#3, We got Accepted to Volunteer!

We learned that we have been accepted to Volunteer at Envision Fesitval about 3 weeks from now.  Click here to find out about more from this amazing festival.  We can’t wait to be involved in the creativity and meet incredible artists from around the world!

#4, We saw Whales!

Yes, we had a pod of about 5 humpback whales swim past our beach, very close to shore. We saw them spouting and breaching and could really see just how big they actually are!  Quite a spectacle!  Unfortunately I started videoing JUST as they finished breaching right in front of us, so I have nothing to share in that regard.


Another thing that I have worked on recently is a small crowd funding campaign that I have launched.  Chris and I have made a friend here in Costa Rica, and she is going through a rough time right now.  She is only 21 years old, has a 4 year old daughter and is going through a divorce.  I can’t imagine having to take all of that on at such a young age!

She works as hard as she can, and as much as she can, to try and make ends meet.  While I know that money doesn’t solve the worlds problems, I feel that a small boost for her in the short term, would get her through her current rough patch, and would maybe take away a feeling of hoplessness, and a scary outlook as she navigates parenthood alone.  She is so young, and just starting out, and life can be a long and difficult road.

One of my goals when we set out on our journey, was to try and make a difference in the world.  This is one way that I feel like I can maybe give back a little bit.  We are so fortunate to have the lives that we do in North America.  The fact that we can afford to do most things that we want to, even those of us that are seemingly scraping by, means that we are already in the top percentages of the wealthy people in the world.

In Costa Rica the wages are incredibly low in comparison to the cost of living.  We have noticed that much of the food, gasoline, electricity and other common bills, are comparible prices to those found in Canada.  At a standard rate of roughly $3 per hour, I can’t even imagine how hard it must be for some people to get by.

If you have even $5 to spare, it would mean a lot to me if you were able to contribute to the Go Fund Me Campaign that I have set up.  Help me to help others, but making a small difference in one persons life.

Thanks for reading!  Pura Vida to all!

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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.

Life as a Digital Nomad – January 2018

Published January 16, 2018 by jillamatt

In 2017 my partner and I sold all of our posessions to hit the road and seek out a life of travel. “Life as a Digital Nomad” is a monthly series of posts that keep people updated on how we are now carving out a life and making a living while being on the road full time.


We have now been on the road for 3 months.  For the last 10 weeks, we have been living in a small town on the South West Coast of Costa Rica, called Matapalo.  While we didn’t expect to be here this long, we are feeling very blessed for the opportunities that have come our way.

After our housesitting job ended on December 30th, we transitioned nicely, 2 doors down into Managing a small 2 unit Cabina Rental (read that post here). The owner had to leave town suddenly, and needed someone to take care of his customers over the busy season.  This has brought us not only more free accomodation, but a little bit of income on top of it all.

Obviously this removes a fair amount of concern regarding our very survival, and how we are currently feeding ourselves.  But of course, we know that this won’t last forever.

Chris has taken a bit of a break from his tattooing.  After a booming business with the locals in early December, the holiday season didn’t bring many people wanting new ink, which is not surprising.  However, talk has started again about some of his past clients wanting more, and he is still handing out cards to tourists in the area.

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We created a double sided business card that we ordered from Vista Print.  We had them shipped to the lady that owns the house where we were housesitting as she lives in the States, and she brought them down for us.


I am continuously trying to build up my online shops that are selling my digital designs on any number of items; Duvet Covers, Shower Curtains, Cell Phone Cases, Throw Pillows and more!

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This is one of my newest designs and is already quite popular. It’s called “Copper Leaves” and you can find it on many home decor and accessory items in my Society 6 store and my Etsy shop. (Click highlighted text to go straight there!)

Valentines Day is around the corner and I have created some fun Valentines Day Fractals that will please that favourite valentine of yours!

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This image is called “Stacking Hearts” and is now available in my Society 6 shop.  Click here to shop this design.

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This image is called “Heart of the Mandelbrot” and is available on many different items in my Society 6 store. Click here to shop this design.

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This image is called “Strawberry Cream” and it’s available on these items and much more in my Society 6 shop, and on leggings and tank tops in my Etsy shop.

For those who aren’t into Fractals, I have many other designs as well!  These are all digitally created on my iPad, and are also available on many different items.  Check them all out here


I have been promoting these items and pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest with some success.  Although sales are not staggering, I’m certainly seeing growth and an increased sales since starting about 7 weeks ago.  I have read reports that people earn in excess of $5000/month in some of these types of shops, so I am dam well determined to keep at it!

I have also recently started a Fine Art America shop where I am posting my actual photography from our travels.  It is an online market place that caters to mostly photographers. Customers can buy high end prints, framed or unframed, plus Giclee printed canvasses and other items with the images on them such as mugs, cell phone cases, notebooks and more.

This is just a sampling of photos that I have uploaded.  To see more of my photography at Fine Art America, click here.  Eventually I will be adding pictures of our trip In 2015 to Greece, Bulgaria and Italy, plus much more as we move around in the future.  


Although all of this has been attempted by me in the past, I have to say that I never had the time required to really dedicate myself to getting these sites going the way they should be.  It is a FULL TIME JOB!  I spend anywhere from 4-7 hours per day working at this.  It takes time and dedication to upload images, create well thought out descriptions, do the appropriate tagging so that they can be found in searches, and on and on and on.

I have also been educating myself about target marketing, SEO searches, and numerous other things that go along with trying to make a living online.  It is a lot of work, but with dedication and perserverance, I can see it paying off in the long run!  Not too mention that I get to stare at art all day!  How much fun is that!!??


All in all, life is pretty darn dandy down in the tropics!  We have chosen this life, and we are making work.  One day at a time!

I hope this post inspires you to get out there and live your life with passion.  We didn’t know if this whole hairbrained idea was going to work, but we felt like life was too short to not at least give it a try!

All the best to you all from Costa Rica!

xo Jill


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 follow my art page on Facebook, please head to Jillian Amatt Designs

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 see more items that are available in my online stores, visit my ShopsAll in Page.

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

 

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