Majesty, Mystery and Magic at Tikal

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

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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.

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

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

To contribute to our Patreon account, please click here.

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

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

A New Look and a New Time

I am more interested in inspiring people to get out into the world and to live the life that they can only dream of. 


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 we sit in Costa Rica, after 8 months of arriving here, I can’t help but feel like pieces are finally falling into place.  It’s not like all of a sudden everything has become easy, and that we have it all figured out.  No, it’s more of a feeling.  A feeling that big things are starting to happen.  A feeling that we are both stepping into our shoes.

This past 8 months has allowed us the freedom to explore our deepest desires.  It has allowed us the time to really consider what it is we want to do, and where it is we are headed.  Day by day, bit by bit, the petals unfurl to our souls, moment by moment we are finding out who we really are.  Who we are without the crush of society telling us who we should be.

Since leaving Nicaragua, 21 days ago, we have rested, we have recuperated, and we have done a lot of thinking about where we are going and what is next. And the only thing that has been really clear, is that we really don’t know.  We have discussions about going to Mexico, or maybe Columbia.  But when that will happen, is something that has not yet presented itself to us.  For some strange reason, we are content here in Samara.  We are back in the safe arms of Costa Rica, and we are happy with our place in this life right now.

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An eerie rainy day in Samara.  

Living in a hostel is not something that I ever would have considered in this life.  But I have to say, I am really enjoying it.  We have our own room, our own bathroom, a kitchen to cook in, and a social scene that is just perfect.  The average age of people that stay at our hostel is about 35 years old.  This isn’t your typical party hostel scene, and I’m realizing that at the ripe ol’ age of 41, most hostels aren’t really like that anymore.  I mean sure, if you go to well known party places like Whistler, Thailand, or Australia, and I’m sure even in parts of Costa Rica, sure there are party hostels.  But here, it’s different.  It’s nice.  We have a constantly changing rotation of roomates, and we like it that way.  We are meeting other travellers and are learning about where they come from, and what their cultures and traditions are like.

We have made lasting friendships with some of them, with promises to visit their countries one day.  We have exchanged travelling stories, and we have become immensely inspired.  Having this time to really dictate what we do with our days, has been refreshing and rewarding.  We both feel like our minds are clearer and our goals are manifesting.

My online stores have finally grown their own legs.  I mean, obviously it all takes work, and I will be putting effort into those things until the day that they cease to exist, but the hard work of getting them off the ground is finished for now.  I feel like now I have time to focus on my writing, and to really set out to start making a difference in the world.

You will notice that the visual format of this blog has changed to reflect something a little more professional.  It no longer serves as a fun Travel-y blog type thing, now it is a platform for me to share my experiences, I call it a Travel Lifestyle Blog.  I’m not interested necessarily in trying to promote travel destinations.  I’m not into doing those blogs that do “Top 10 budget destinations” type writing.

I urge you to travel

No, I am more interested in inspiring people to get out into the world and to live the life that they can only dream of.  And when I say “get out into the world”, I don’t necessarily mean to go travelling.  I guess more of what I mean is to get out of YOUR world.  To leave the feelings, the places, the normal-ness of your life to explore something different.  Try those things that you have always wanted to try.  Take that salsa class, do a pottery class, go to a paint and wine night.  Write that blog, go to that restaurant, call that person.

Just switch things up a bit.  Don’t become stagnant, don’t become normal.


Throughout this journey, and from day one of making this decision to sell all of our possessions and travel the world, I have been keeping a log of what we were going through at each stage of the game.  Some of this is reflected in this blog, but much of it is also kept in journals, by voice recording and memos to myself.  It all has to do with living a life that we create, stepping away from the normal day to day routines that have been set out for us by society.

I will be writing a book that will bring this message together.  My hope is that it inspires others to build a life that they love.  To get away from the everyday grind and to seek out a life that you love, one that inspires you, one that excites you.


Something else that is new is that I have set up a Patreon account.  (Click here to see that.) Patreon is a platform that allows individuals to fundraise money for certain causes, to create a product, to launch a book, to create a constant income stream to allow them the time to be creative.  I feel like we fall into all of those categories.  We are constantly creating, and putting our best work out into the world, but it takes time to build.  It takes time to build our own brands and to reinvent ourselves.

Patreon is a way for our fans to contribute to our journey in some small way.  You can donate as little as $1 per month to help us to keep moving forward and to bring our projects to fruition.

As always, we are so grateful to our friends and family that have supported us in our journey so far.  Without the community and family support that we have received, this journey and decision to live this life would have been much more difficult.

And so, here we stand.  We stand in immense gratitude for this life that we have created.  And we look forward to continuing to share that with the world. IMG_0113


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: We are currently in Samara, Costa Rica.  After having to leave Nicaragua unexpectedly due to civil unrest, we are here still figuring out where we want to go next.

Travelling Plans: We have nothing scheduled at this point other than a housesitting job in Livingston, Guatemala in late November.

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

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

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

To contribute to our Patreon account, please click here.

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

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

The House that Amanda Built – Earth Bag Building in Nicaragua

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Our modest Camp Kitchen! 

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

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

Earth Bag Construction

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

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

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

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

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

Some of “the boys” working on the project. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 11th, 2018 – One Year Later


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…….


Today marks one year since we made this crazy decision to sell all of our things, to not only seek out a life of travel, but to free ourselves of the burdens that society had placed on us.  (To read my post that day, click here.)

We had found ourselves suddenly drowning in debt with no clear picture of how we were going to get out of it.  We were living a life that seemed normal to others, but was terribly uninteresting and uninspiring to us.  We both made and created art, but because of our need to make money doing our “REAL” jobs, we didn’t have the time to properly sell it or promote it, something we really wanted to do.

We lived a life that was the epitome of being on the hamster wheel.  Running, running, running, working ourselves to utter exhaustion, but never getting ahead.

I asked myself all the time:  “Is there more to life than this?”

I knew there was, I knew there had to be, but I didn’t know how to get there.  I didn’t know how to pay all the bills at home, keep my house, keep my car, keep my things, keep my small business, and still do the thing that I really wanted to do…….travelling.

As I sat in my art studio one year ago, I was watching ‘Minimalism’ a new documentary that had just come out on Netflix, while working on my creations.  As I watched this enlightening documentary, in the most quintessential way possible, I had an epiphany.  It was as though a lightening bolt blasted down from the heavens and jolted me in the back of the head.  From that film, I suddenly realized that my house, my car, all of my stuff, was actually what was keeping me from travelling.  All of the stuff, was literally drowning us.  All of the stuff was what was making us feel like we were treading water.  All of the stuff was what was keeping me from doing what I wanted to do the most.

I say this in a first person narrative because Chris, at that point, hadn’t travelled a ton.  We had done a 6 week trip to Europe in 2015, and had done a 2 week trip to Mexico, but that was it.  He understood that he liked travelling, but he didn’t really know what it was like to LIVE in a different country, to really spend time learning different cultures, customs and traditions, and to learn about what makes different places tick.  He had had a taste, that was all.  But thankfully, he too decided that he wanted more.

On that fateful evening, we decided that enough was enough!  All of our stuff didn’t matter anymore!  The only thing that mattered was making our life count!  We knew in that moment, that we had some HUGE changes ahead of us, and we knew it would be a ton of work, but we were committed.  We had a plan, it was set, and we immediately got started on undoing the life we had built, to seek out a vastly different one.  One that was fulfilling, one that was inspiring, one that was EXCITING!

Fast forward one year later, and it all seems like a distant dream.  In nine months we held multiple garage sales, we sold items on Facebook, to friends, to neighbours.  We took mountains of things to the thrift store and inevitably, the dump.  We finished renovations on our house that had been half done for over 3 years.  We sold our vehicles and our house.  We closed down our business’ and we worked our butts off to pay off as much debt as possible.  We stopped drinking, eating out and buying things.  We completely flipped our life upside down, in order to make this happen, in order to unburden ourselves, in order to seek out a life of freedom.

It was not an easy ride!  We were utterly exhausted most of the time.  We put in as much effort as we physically could, and worked harder than either of us ever had before.  But guess what?  It worked!  We did it!

Our life has gone from “normal” to extraordinary, and it happened all in 9 months!


Today I sit in Costa Rica, staring out to the waves breaking, to the pelicans soaring by, and sometimes, to a sloth climbing the tree in our front yard.  Today I feel FREE!  Today the worries about money, how I’m going to pay the next bill, how I’m going to find the next client, and how I’m going to be able to travel again, are gone.  Literally gone!

Don’t get me wrong, life is not a perfect, easy, breezy time, all of the time.  Of course, we are both working on ways to secure a financial future, as the money we now have will run out eventually.  But we are doing it with clear intentions.  We are focussing on what is important to us.  We are seeking out those things that inspire us, that motivate us, that move us.  We are going where the wind blows us.  When we see a good opportunity, we take it.  If we don’t like the situation we are in, we change it.  We don’t owe anyone our time.  We certainly don’t owe anyone our souls.  We are in charge of what we do, that is it, that is all.

Many people we meet ask the same question over and over again.  They hear about what we are doing now, but then they can’t help but ask “But what about your future?  What is your plan for the future?”

Well, the answer if simple.  We have no real plan for our future.  We are simply just being.  Being in the moment, taking life one day at a time, enjoying ourselves and really getting to know ourselves.  We have given ourselves the gift of presence.  We have given ourselves the gift of living each day as it comes.  We don’t know what is around the corner, and quite frankly we like it that way.  Our future is not some construct that we have laid out, hoping that all of the pieces fall into place the way that we have planned.  Our future is determined one day at a time.  Each day determines tomorrow’s path.  Each day brings new directions, new thoughts, and new opportunities.

And so, I ask you this.  Are you living a life that is inspiring and exciting?  Is there something that you would like to do, but just can’t quite figure out how to do it?

My advice is simple, take a hard look around you and find ways to let go of what is burdening you.  Maybe you are like me and you realize that it is your stuff that is weighing you down.  But maybe it is your job, your relationship, the place you live, the people you surround yourself with?  There can be any number of things that we carry around with us that are holding us back from doing what it is that we really want to do in life.  But it is up to us, and ONLY us, to figure those things out, to let go of those things, and to build a life that we truly love.

Pura Vida from Costa Rica!

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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 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.

 

 

 

 

My 5 Most Read Posts of 2017!

So I leave this with you! What do you want to create for yourself in 2018? Because until you decide, and until you ask for it, it simply will not happen!


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…….


I’ve noticed that many bloggers are doing some sort of wrap up or feature about their 2017 blog posts.  Some people post their favourite posts, and some post their most read posts.  At first, I wasn’t going to do anything, but then I got curious.  I decided to take a look, just to see which ones actually were read the most.  It turns out that my 5 top read posts are definitely some of my favourites  as well.  So here goes!

In 2017 I wrote 47 blog posts all together.  It’s interesting because I just made a 2018 goal yesterday to do at least one blog post per week!  So it’s nice to see that I was already really close to accomplishing this last year!

If you haven’t read any of these, take a look, maybe they will resonate with you as well!  Just click on the post title to go straight to it!  Enjoy and Happy New Year to you all once again!


Notes on My Hometown – Canmore, Alberta, Canada

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By FAR this was my most read post at 420 views and 7 comments!  However, as I also list my email address at the end of each post, I got many emails from complete strangers who also grew up in Canmore, who resonated with my words.

In the post I outline how the town that I grew up in has changed so much, yet there is so much of it that is also still the same.  Over time I have become angry and jaded by the multitudes of changes, but recently I was able to make peace with it again.  I realized that no matter what, I had an incredible childhood growing up there, and nobody can take that away from me!

Did you grow up in a place that has changed a lot?  Maybe there are some insights in here that will make you see things in a different way.


I Dream a Dream 

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I’m very excited that this is the second most visited post at 287 views and 30 comments!  This post was the start of all of this!  This post is when we decided to sell all of our posessions and hit the road.  It feels so amazing to look back on this and remember how full of excitement, nervousness and fear that we were feeling.  It was a HUGE decision to do this!  But now, here we are, and looking back it actually all now seems so incredibly easy!

Through this process we have both realized that our life, and how we live it, is simply a long string of choices that we make.  By making this choice, we have opened ourselves up to a whole new world and we couldn’t be happier!

I hope this post inspires you to make some tough decisions that will give you the best and happiest life possible!


September 22, 2017 – We Are Unplugged!

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The third most visited post at 182 views and 12 comments is definitely one of my favourites!  It is a re-cap on our final days in Powell River, the place that I had called home for 11 years, and a little bit about my feelings a couple days after we left.  To say it was an emotional roller coaster, would be a massive understatement!  But we never faltered in our plan.  We were heading in one direction, and we were doing it together!

This is when we really felt like we had unplugged!  Unplugged from what society had dictated that we do, unplugged from a life that wasn’t serving us anymore, unplugged from other’s expectations of how we live our lives.  In this moment, we felt free!  Free to head out into the world with no incumbrances and no commitments to anyone else.  The horizon was laid out before us, and that was all that mattered.


August 20th – The Bear

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In number 4 spot at 121 views and 4 comments, this little Bear got much more attention than I anticipated.  He became a symbol of letting go, the mascot if you will.

After posting this post about the difficulties that I was having of letting this little guy go, I received many messages from friends and family wanting to adopt him, instead of seeing him go to the thrift store.  It really struck me that not only was it difficult to let go of my OWN posessions, others definitely had a vested interest in my posessions as well.  How strange of a species we are when we are so attached to things, that we can’t even bear to see others getting rid of their things?

In the end, this little fella flew all the way to Alberta where he is now part of a greater collection of family bears, living in Edmonton at my cousins house.


August 9th – The House is Listed

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At number 5 with 93 views and 5 comments, this post was the culmination of a ridiculous amount of hard work to get this place ready to sell.  We finished it about 5 weeks later than we had wanted, but we worked day and night, while also working our full time jobs, and knew that we were doing the best that we possibly could.  We were so exhausted, it’s hard to even comprehend now.

Because we had a housesitting gig in Costa Rica lined up for November 1st, we wanted to leave by about September 20th to give ourselves time to visit family and also arrive in Costa Rica a little early, so we could do some exploring before settling into our job.  Because of our late listing date we knew that for this to sell before we left, it would have to happen quickly.  Well, about 4 hours after posting the video that you will see in this post, our Realtor called us to tell us that he was writing an offer, sight unseen.  The buyers were gardeners, first and foremost, and they knew that it was the house for them based on this video.  They wanted it primarily for the work we had put into the yard, for the time and effort we had put into building the soil and cultivating the land from scratch.  They were EXACTLY the buyers that we had requested from the Universe!  Not a more perfect match could have been made!


So!  That is it!  My top 5 most visited posts that I wrote in 2017!  I’m glad that I chose to do this as it has again reminded me how amazing this journey is that we are on.

We made a decision back in January, almost one year ago, to change our lives.  To live with more purpose and meaning, to live with happiness and joy, to only do those things that inspire us and motivate us.  We made a decision that absolutely changed our trajectory, and along the way all of the pieces have literally fallen into place.  Along the way we have asked for what we wanted, and we truly have received it all.

Miracles can happen, but it is up to us to ask for them!  Don’t sit and wait and hope that something manifests itself.  We must do this work for ourselves.  We must seek out what it is that we want out of life.

So I leave this with you!  What do you want to create for yourself in 2018?  Because until you decide, and until you ask for it, it simply will not happen!

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. If you are travelling in the area, please get in touch! We would love to connect with fellow travellers!

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.

Sweetie, There is a Sloth in our Tree!


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…….


The monkeys were running around on the roof of the house and jumping from palm frond to palm frond as they made their way through our yard, just as they do everyday.  Sometimes there are only a handful of them coming and going, and other times there are a dozen or more jumping around in the trees, knocking coconuts onto our roof, and just causing a general ruckus.  As usual, I generally can’t help but to step out from our covered porch area, and look up to the trees to watch them move around.  They are so curious about us, and really make honest to goodness eye contact, and I generally can’t help but to say “hi!” to each and every one of them.  Although, I have recently learned that making eye contact is a practice that is not generally recommended when interacting with monkeys.  Apparently doing so can make them aggressive and angry.  However,  I have so far found these to be peaceful exchanges, and have had nothing flung at me like coconuts or worse (!) monkey shit!

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The White Faced or Capuchin Monkeys come through our yard pretty much every day just before sunset.

On this particular day, as I was watching them jump around in the branches, I noticed something else crawling around.  At first I thought it was a possum, because it had such a long nose, and was crawling horizontally across the branch. I yelled to Chris that there was a possum in the tree, but as quickly as I got that out, I realized that, no, it was only an iguana.  A really big iguana mind you, but an iguana none-the-less.  We have tons of them around the house, so those too have become common place for us.

But all of a sudden, however, I noticed that the iguana was in an almond tree.  We have been actively learning about the different trees in this area, there are almonds and teak, different kinds of palms and many types of bushes and shrubs and everything in between.  But the unique thing about the almond trees, is that the Sloths like to sleep in them.  I’m not sure if it is the tight knit branches, giving them lots of places to ball up and create a sleeping pad for themselves, or maybe it’s because they are so high up, and away from predators.  Either way, I all of a sudden noticed that we had 5 different almond trees growing around the house.

As I backed away from the house, and looked way, way up there, I spotted one.  Sure enough!  A Big gray ball of fur was peacefully sleeping up in our branches.  WOW!  I ran and got Chris and we watched it for a few minutes.  Of course, Sloths sleep all day, so we weren’t going to be seeing much action at that point anyways.  In fact, we learned on our night walk in Monteverde that sloths are nocturnal, meaning that they are only active in the night, and they usually don’t come down from trees unless they need to poo, or migrate across an open area with no trees.  And so, we decided that maybe later on we would be lucky enough to catch it pooing in our yard!

I did head out later on with the flashlight, and I was pretty sure it wasn’t in it’s perch anymore, and after shining my light across the sand floor outside our door, decided that it was definitely gone.  Since then, I have looked up once or twice to try and spot another one, but haven’t had that particular privilege again.

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A couple weeks ago we expressed some interest to one of our expat neighbours that we would like to see the turtles nesting, or hatching, on the beach if it was possible.  There is a small turtle hatchery just down the beach from us, and each time we walk by, we get more and more curious about what is going on.  The hatchery consists of a bamboo shack on the beach, and a levelled area with plastic netting surrounding it. Inside the net fence, are grids that are laid out, each with a number or a date, or some kind of indication of when the eggs were put there. We had asked a few people in the area about the cycles of the turtles, but nobody seemed to know the answers for sure.  We are both curious about the goings on of nature, and would be honoured to see a turtle laying her eggs, or some small little babies hatching out of the sand.  Of course, turtles only lay eggs at night, so to see that part, we had to go in the dark.

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This shack is maned day and night with volunteers that make sure no turtles hatch without them knowing.  And also partly, I’m sure to protect them.
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These cone fences are placed over the holes where the eggs are put so that if any babies do hatch, they will be contained in the cage.

Because, there are literally no people at our beach, and it isn’t very discovered yet, there is no tourism program to go see turtles,  so there are never throngs of people milling around with lights and shining them in the turtles eyes, like the time I experienced in 2004 at another Costa Rica location.  We felt that a nice quiet walk with a local, would be a much better experience.

Our neighbour hooked us up with Andres, whom we had already met, and who told us that for $15, he would take us for a walk down the beach, to hopefully catch a mom in the act of laying her eggs.  Andres is around 20 years old, and works for the local turtle hatchery where he is partially tasked with walking the beaches in the early a.m. and digging up the turtle nests before a local comes and takes the eggs home to eat.  As we were nearing the end of nesting season, we knew that a sighting was not guaranteed on our outing, however we had seen the holes that were dug up in the early morning when we walk Omber, so we were still hopeful.

In retrospect, though, Andres took us out on a night that was likely not the best.  The tide was really far out, and after we got about 2 kms down the beach, we started to discuss this issue.  At that point, with nary a turtle in sight,  we came up with the brilliant idea that it was probably better to do this at high tide.  At least, I thought,  if I was a turtle, I would appreciate a lift all the way to the beach, instead of having to walk half a mile through dragging wet sand, while ready to burst out all of my eggs!

We turned around to come back, only to find ourselves in an absolute torrential downpour of rain, for the entire 2 kms back to the house.  All I can say is thank god for waterproof cameras!

There were actually 5 of us getting soaked, that night on the beach, as Andres had brought one semi-English translator, and another buddy along for the show.  It didn’t take long for us to realize that the locals were absolutely HATING the walk, and were actually cold, while we were just on cloud nine with it all.  Wow!  That amount of rain, continually washing over you for an extended time, is nothing short of soul cleansing.  We were both completely drenched, and despite our assurances that we were both fine, the local boys continued to worry about us, offering us some small tokens of shelter from the rain, such as an already drenched rain poncho.  We laughed and told them that we were just fine.  I still chuckle about the fact that they were so worried about us, yet we both felt like we had never been better.

At the end of the walk, Andres offered to take us to the hatchery the next day to see if we could see any turtles hatching there.  Apparently they can hatch at any time, so he just had to let us know when it was happening.  We couldn’t afford to wait another 5 or 6 days for the high tide to again be at night, as nesting season was already nearing to a close as it was, so instead of seeing a mother laying her eggs, we decided that the next best thing would be to see the babies hatching.

The next day came and went, and the next day………. and the next day, and still never a word from Andres.  Mind you, he doesn’t speak a word of English, and our Spanish is still not anywhere near fluent, so these heavy discussions are difficult and do require some effort.  Each time we would see him down on the beach, we would exchange pleasantries, but never really talked about the Tortugas again.  In fact, after a few days I had just resigned myself to the fact that we many never see the turtles around here.

The signs in the hatchery were pretty cute!  I especially like the “Don’t Eat” one:)

However, yesterday, about two weeks since our wet walk, Chris came running into the room early in the morning, and said that “Andres is here and there are turtles hatching at the hatchery!  We have to go now!”

We quickly grabbed the camera and whatever we needed and took off down the beach with Andres.  We arrived at the hatchery not really sure what was going on, but there was a guy headed down to the beach with a cutdown bucket.  Andres yelled at him to stop and we ran and looked in it.  Of course, there were about 4 or 5 baby turtles, only about 3 inches long.  He was setting them free in the water.  Instead of going down with him (duh), I went back up the beach to the hatchery to see if any more were coming.

There were three staff members involved with digging up the spots where the eggs get buried.  One was digging the sand and siphoning through the egg shells for still full eggs, or hatched turtles.  The other was taking field notes on what was extracted, and Andres was throwing the discarded egg shells into a bucket. When we got there, I half expected to see a swarm of baby turtles exploding out of nests, but sadly this wasn’t the case.

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These are the tags that indicate the dates and # of eggs placed in the hole. This one has 59!
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These will be the final ones dug up for the season, or so I understood. Turtles stop laying in December.

They dug up nest after nest of empty eggshells, only finding one fully developed turtle amongs 5 nests, and dozens of eggs.  It was officially heartbreaking.

Unfortunately, we didn’t ask questions, and we weren’t told why the survival rate is so low.  They seemed happy that at least one survived.

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The lone survivor……..

Andres, Chris and I walked down to the water, and Andres passed me the yellow glove to wear, indicating that I should be the one to let our little survivor go.  When we got close to where the water was coming, I gently lifted him out of the bucket and set him down on the wet sand.  He instinctively started heading towards the water, pulling himself across the wet sand with his tiny little fins.  It seemed that the tide was receding, so I picked him up once more and ran with him another 8 feet or so, closer to the water.  Finally a shallow wave came into the flats, and he swam free.  We watched him get tossed around in the surge a little bit, but each time could spot his tiny little head, come back up to the surface for air.  After watching him swim his little body away from the beach for about 5 minutes, Andres yelled “adios!” And laughed.

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This is an Olive Ridley Turtle.

I waved at him/her and yelled “Buena suerte Totuga, Buen viaje.”  (Good luck turtle, good journey.)

I couldn’t help but to contemplate about what a big ocean that must seem like for such a little fella.  Heading out there, I’m sure his/her rate of survival at that size is still slim to none.  But we can only send him/her on their journey with the best intentions, and a hope that they will thrive and prosper.

It was an amazing experience and I asked Andres if he still wanted some money, as we hadn’t settled the entire $15 payment yet, agreeing on a portion of it that night of the wet walk, and the rest when we saw them hatching.  He insisted that he didn’t but made some mention about the tattoo he is getting from Chris next week.  I didn’t understand the entire sentence but I understood enough.

‘Si, una descuento por el tatuaje.” (Yes, a discount for the tattoo.)

His eyes perked up at the mention of this, and I could see that he was very happy with this solution.

We thanked him for his kindness and for sharing the turtles with us, and made our way back to our house.  We walked in silence, as we both contemplated what a neat experience it was that we had just had, realizing again just how grateful we are for what is unfolding around us day in and day out.

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Our adventures with animals lately, don’t stop here though.  In fact, it’s a day in and day out occasion around here!  The other night, somehow, someway, we had a bat fly into our house.  It took us about an hour of chasing it around, poking at it with the broom, trying to swing a sarong over it as it flew, and a lot of jumping around and screaming, but it finally flew out the door.  If it had of been filmed, it would have made a great comedy script!

Pura Vida!!



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.

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November 29, 2017 – Thoughts on Being Busy


***Jill’s ‘letting go’ Diary***

This is part of a series of posts (ordered by Dated Titles) where I have recorded my thoughts and emotions as we got rid of all of our possessions, a house, 2 cars, 2 businesses, and tons of STUFF, in order to free ourselves so that we could live a life of travel. From the day that I came up with this idea, to sell everything and travel the world, I have recorded my thoughts, and still am, on certain days where I feel like writing. These are real time, and not edited (except for grammatical corrections). My hope is that my writing inspires you to live your dream. You may not want to do it like we have, but whatever that passion is, grab and hold it and don’t let it go! Xo


Today marks our 1 month anniversary of arriving to Playa Matapalo to do our housesitting gig (click here to learn about Housesitting).  It’s hard to believe that it has gone by so quickly.

I won’t lie, the first full day we had here, I actually had a physical tightening in my chest and a panic attack with the thought of “we are in the middle of nowhere, with no car…….what the heck are we going to do all day for two whole months?”  Never mind that we had finally JUST arrived in this place that we had dreamed of for many months.  Never mind that it is on one of the loveliest beaches I have ever seen.  Never mind that it is PARADISE!!

I had just sat down to read a book, something that I hadn’t done in literally months, if not years.  Sure I had books on the go at home, but it would be one quick chapter here and there, quick glimpses in between things to do, where I would quickly try and digest some information, or some parts of a story.  Half the time, by the time I got back to it, I had forgotten what I had read, and had to try and quickly skim the last chapter to figure out what I was missing.

The voice in my mind on that first day was that BUSY-body alter ego that I have that always wants to be busy, always NEEDS to be busy.  The one that invents things to keep her busy.  The one that feels that if she isn’t ‘busy’ then what good is she?  That part of me, lets just call her that, the Busy Body, felt GUILTY for sitting down to enjoy herself.

However, I immediately caught the Busy Body at her tricks and proceeded to lecture her, “Just calm down, you are here to relax, you are here to re-focus, and you are here to heal from the crazy ‘busy’ life that you led.”  I took a few deep breaths, and attempted to put to rest that part of me.  I decided in that moment that I wasn’t going to be that busy girl anymore, I wasn’t going to give the Busy Body what she wanted.  I would spend my time re-focussing my life in a different direction.  Of course, I would spend some time being productive, sure, but there was no need to seek validation from being busy anymore.  There was no need to show others that I was keeping busy, and there was no need to prove to anyone that I was being busy.  That was it.

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The first couple weeks was a time of deep reflection, a time to really enjoy ourselves a bit, and a time to try and figure out what we wanted to do next.  While we came on this trip with a general sense of what we wanted to do, it certainly takes some real soul searching and fine tuning to figure it out for sure.  Chris is pretty set on his Tattooing, which he is really making a name for himself in this community we are staying in, and has many bookings coming up.  He’s doing really great at it, and is on cloud nine with the response from the locals.  It seems that they have only ever had one really good tattoo guy here in Matapalo before, he was from Cuba, and was only here for a short time.  Their only other option is to go to Quepos, a near by city, and we have been told that the work isn’t great.  So suddenly, they are all scrambling to find some money, so that they can get their dream tattoos in the next month.  Speaking of busy, I think Chris will definitely be busy this month!  But a good busy, of course!

I, on the other hand, have many different options of things I could do moving forward.  I have an English teaching certification, I have my online art stores, I have my writing, to name a few.  While I would love to make a living at my writing, I have to say that I am quite aware that that could take time to build.  And so, I have recently focused my time and attention on my artwork, and getting my online stores back up and running more smoothly and efficiently.  Only time will tell how successful they will be, but once the initial work is done to get them going, it should be a good passive income if promoted properly.

Getting this stuff going again has certainly kept me busy, although, it too is a good busy, it’s a productive busy.  We have also started to really create a network of friends in this town.  Ex-pats have been arriving for the winter, and we are really getting connected with the locals.  The last couple weeks have certainly been busier than the first two we had here, but it is a good busy.  It is a fulfilling busy.  We are already dreading the day we have to leave, we really like it here, we could stay a while I think.

Our remote situation is a blessing, and we are happy to be away from the crowds that seem to linger in nearby towns North and South of us.  On various occasions that we have had to take the bus to go anywhere for supplies, we are definitely happier when we return to our quiet little nook.  We aren’t suffering for anything, and I think as more and more time goes by, we realize just how little we really do NEED to go anywhere.  A fruit and vegetable guy comes by every Friday with a truck full of goodies to buy, and we finally have a line on the local old guy on his bike that sells frozen prawns and fish.  Finding what we need, it seems, is all about networking around here.  It’s a blissful existence.

Looking back, I’m sure we will view these days at Matapalo as a wonderful time of transition.  One of reflection, and inspiration.  One of relaxation, and refocus.

At the end of the day, I’d say it’s pretty much exactly what the doctor ordered!

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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 get all the way back to my first blog post about our decision to sell everything and unplug from Society, please 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, click here.

To see my blog post menu, click here.

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