Happy New Year – 2018 Review

Within each of these simplified paragraphs, lies a wealth of other stories.  Stories of different experiences, friends we have made, people we have seen, and places we have witnessed. 


In 2017 we packed up our life, and quit the 9-5 to head out into the world.  We came with no expectations, we only wanted to experience life.  Since we have left, we have packed more fun and adventure into our lives than we ever could have imagined.  Being on the road now for over a year, has brought with it the freedom to explore what it is that we want to do to create an income for ourselves, the time to pay attention to the things that are truly important to us, and the adventure to truly make life fun and interesting once again.  We left seeking an exciting life, and we have not been disappointed!  Join us as we explore as much of this big old world that we can!


HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Well, we have all collectively made it into another year, and the last year of the 2010’s.  This last year has been a hell of a ride for us as we have lived in 3 different countries!  When I sat down to do some writing today, I realized that it had been almost a month since my last blog post, and that I kind of left everyone hanging.  I still haven’t written my “San Cristobal Part 2” yet, and I kind of had plans to do that today.  But then I realized that with the New Year, comes a good time to reflect on all that we did in 2018.  And so, my San Cristobal Part 2 post will have to wait, as I decided that instead, I wanted to do a recap of what this last year has been like for us.  I must say, after writing it all out, it’s amazing to see all the things that we have done and the places we have been.  Within each of these simplified paragraphs, lies a wealth of other stories.  Stories of different experiences, friends we have made, people we have seen, and places we have witnessed.  Along with each of these paragraphs, we lived a wild and exciting life, and we are both incredibly grateful for all that we have seen and done in the last year.  As you read, you will notice highlighted words.  These are links to relevant blog posts that will catch you up on that particular area if you are interested.  Unfortunately, I lost my mojo to write around October, so the last bit is missing some posts, but I hope to get caught up on those in the next couple weeks, though I’m also not going to put too much pressure on myself to complete them, as we have some big experiences coming up right around the corner.  We will see.  Anyways, for now, enjoy the recap!

January started us off managing a cabina rental in Matapalo, Costa Rica.  Matapalo is located right on the beach in the southwest corner of the country.  It is smack between popular tourist spots of Dominical and Manuel Antonio National Park, and it is often overlooked as people pass right by from point A to point B, not realizing that there is a 12 km stretch of beach adjacent to the highway, that barely has any people on it at all.  We didn’t complain about that though, as we enjoyed the first 2.5 months of 2018 (following 2 months at the end of 2017) hanging out on this perfect, quiet, and picturesque beach.

In February we volunteered at a huge music festival called Envision.  It is held annually in February near Uvita, which was only a short drive south of us.  We spent 6 days frolicking about, dancing and partying and really had a great time.

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The middle of March saw us moving up to El Silencio, a remote mountain village set just at the base of the mountains.  We rented a house there for 3 weeks, and enjoyed watching the toucans, scarlett macaws and many other types of wildlife pass by our place.  We visited an incredible waterfall, swam in the river and hung out with our Canadian friend who owned property adjacent to where we were renting.  It was a lovely break from the more hectic life at Matapalo where we were managing the cabinas and taking care of 3 dogs.

By the beginning of April we were eager to move on, and because we had a housesitting gig set up in Nicaragua at the beginning of May, we decided that we were finished with Costa Rica, and we longed to see something new.  So we packed up and headed north to volunteer at an earth bag construction project with a girl that I had gotten contact for when we were volunteering at Envision Festival.

We were located in a very rural part of Nicaragua, well off the beaten track.  We volunteered and lived in our tent for 3 weeks in very dusty conditions, and literally had to pull at least one tick, if not 4, off of our bodies every night before bed time.  It was an interesting experience and we really enjoyed it, but I’m not sure if it is one that I would want to repeat.  April 18th, a civil war broke out in Nicaragua, and as we were supposed to start housesitting in May, it made for an interesting couple of weeks, trying to decide if we actually wanted to stay in the country or not.

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San Jorge Beach looking out over Lake Nicaragua and the to volcanoes that make up the island in the middle. 

We did decide to stick it out, and met the homeowners at the beginning of May.  We were supposed to housesit until the beginning of September but we only lasted about 4 weeks.  We hated to leave Nicaragua, but the political scene was volatile, many people were getting shot in the streets, and all but a handful of tourists had fled the country.  It wasn’t a very nice scene, but again we hated to leave.  As most of the violence was in the north of the country, we had no choice but to retreat back to Costa Rica, to try and figure out our next moves.  At that time, the only other concrete plan we had, was to housesit in Guatemala at the end of November.  So we had a few months to fill in and try to figure out what we wanted to do.

Not realizing how shell shocked we actually were from the experience in Nicaragua, we arrived to a hostel in Samara, a place we had stayed almost immediately after arriving in Costa Rica at the beginning of this trip in October 2017.  It felt good to get back to some familiarity and the warm, welcoming and safe arms of Costa Rica.  We were surprised when we arrived at the hostel to find a small group of us that had fled Nicaragua.  We called ourselves the Nicaraguan Refugees, and we made fast friends and shared many stories.  The owner of the hostel ended up asking us to paint a mural for him in exchange for our accommodation, and we happily obliged.  We really didn’t know where we wanted to go anyways, and we took the time we needed to fully recover and feel like we were ready to move on in our journey and figure out a plan.

We spent about a month in Samara, and left the hostel bound for San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica, on July 4th.  We decided that it made the most sense to fly north, as we needed to get to Guatemala to housesit anyways, and had discovered the city of Flores in the northern department (like provinces and states).  It is an island city, located on Lake Peten Itza, and upon arrival we immediately fell in love with the area, and started searching for a house to rent for a couple months.  The universe provided for us and we lucked into a perfect rental house for about $220/month.  While in the area, we of course visited the famous Mayan city of Tikal, once the center of the Mayan culture.  We fell in love with the jungle, the people and the area, and we extended our initial 2 month rental period to 3.

After a couple of months of being there, my parent’s came down to visit us for a week.  We had some nice days with them, and headed back to Tikal.  Unfortunately Dad got food poisoning the day we arrived, so he spent a couple days in bed.  Shortly after they left, we started painting a mural for a coffee shop/restaurant/bar owner that we had come to know as it was our favourite place to hang out and use the internet.  However, after 90 days of being in the country, we needed to leave Guatemala to renew our visitor visa, but we still weren’t finished the mural.  So we headed up to Mexico for a week with the plan to renew our visa, then return to Flores to finish it.

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On the steps of Temple IV at Tikal with my Mom. 

We headed across the nearest border crossing, finding ourselves in Palenque in the Southern State of Chiapas.  We were anxious to see how the internet speed was in Mexico, as we had struggled with it immensely in Flores for the time that we had spent there.  As we were both still in the progress of really getting our online shops going, we found the internet issue really challenging especially when we needed to upload high resolution images to our online shops.  So we thought of Mexico as a place where we could get caught up on some projects as well.  Unfortunately, the internet in Palenque wasn’t too much better than in Flores, but we did take a few days to get some work done, but we also frolicked in some amazing waterfalls, relaxed in the park, and headed to the equally famous to Tikal,  Palenque Mayan Ruins.  After the week was up, we returned to Flores to finish our mural(s) (there was actually 3 different walls that we painted on, so I guess it was more ‘murals’ instead of just a ‘mural’.)

By October 19th, we had finally completed the murals and headed back to Mexico as we had plans to go to Oaxaca City to be a part of the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival, one of Mexico’s premier celebrations, at the beginning of November. We first headed back to Palenque, then we were off to San Cristobal, high up in the mountains.  We spent about 5 nights in the busy city, then continued on an 11 hour bus ride north east to Oaxaca.

The city of Oaxaca and the festivities of Dia de los Muertos did not disappoint!  We took part in multiple days of festivities, hung out with friends that we had initially met in Costa Rica, visited a Mezcalaria, visited some artists workshops, went to the botanical gardens and visited the cemeteries to see the fiestas that were happening amongst the families.  It was an incredible cultural experience, and I PROMISE that I will try and get a blog post written about out time spent there.  It was a wonderful 2 weeks, and we FINALLY had found some fast internet.  So we wasted no time in updating our shops, and really getting the balls rolling with them again before the busy Christmas season descended on us.   After 2.5 weeks there, it was time to return back to Guatemala to start preparing ourselves for our upcoming housesitting job.

We returned through San Cristobal once again to REALLY cold temperatures.  We had found it cool on our initial visit, but this time it was down right COLD!  The nights went down to about 9 degrees, and a couple of days it was only about 12 in the day time.  Not too mention that the city is at 7000 feet, so we were pretty much in the clouds which made everything damp and bone chilling.  This normally is not too big of a concern in the north where you have a nice warm house to go into at night, but bear in mind that there is no central heating in these places, and because it was only just a cold snap, nobody had fires burning in their hotels either.  We wore our long johns and toques and pretty much ever other layer that we had, day and night.  We had returned because Chris wanted a tattoo from our new friend that we had met there, so once that was finished, we were happy to be moving on.

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We were REALLY cold! 

Getting back to Palenque (after a bit of a hellish 11 hour bus ride on an alternate route because the normal route was closed by a teacher strike road block) we were so happy to see the jungle again and sit in the warm tropical air.  We decided that 3 days in San Cristobal in those conditions was winter enough for our fragile, and obviously spoiled, bodies.  Living in the tropics for a year has clearly made us soft.  We spent a couple nights back in Palenque, staying in a completely different part of town, which was pretty neat as we hadn’t even realized that that part had existed on our previous 2 visits.  The last day we left San Cristobal, I received news that a childhood friend of mine had succumbed to his short battle with cancer at the age of just 40, back in Canada.  So the time in Palenque served as a mourning stage as I wrestled with the first feelings of homesickness that I think I have ever felt.  With all of my friends from my small home town gathered together to mourn and celebrate his life, I felt very distant and alone, and it took a few days to get back to my normally cheerful self.

We left Palenque and headed back to Flores where Chris had some unfinished tattoo work that he had to complete.  We fell back in with our Flores family like we had never left, and spent another week there visiting and hanging out with the gang.

On November 25th we descended down the Rio Dulce by boat to our next housesitting post in Livingston, Guatemala, which is where we sit now.  Livingston is located on the Caribbean Coast of Guatemala, on a tiny bit of land between Honduras and Belize.  It has a very funky and lively Garifuna (they came from the Island of Trinidad) culture which is mixed with the latino Guatemalans (think reggae culture but speaking spanish).  The community is water access only, no roads reach here, but there is a decent population base, which makes it feel like it isn’t too remote.  We are staying in a fantastic wooden house that was built by the owner.  He grew up here, but his wife is from Holland, which is where they went for Christmas because she likes the Christmas celebration better in Europe (it really doesn’t even exist here), and he doesn’t like the heat (go figure) and loves going to the European winter for a break.

Over the course of our time here, we have had 3 sets of visitors.  Alejandro visited us from Guatemala City.  He was one of our fellow Nicaraguan refugees that were staying in the hostel in Samara while we were there.  He is Guatemalan and has returned home to make some money and save up to go travelling again.  Tom is from England and we met him on our last return from Palenque to Flores.  He spent a few days in Flores, and we got to know him quite well.  After travelling around Guatemala a bit, heading down to Honduras and El Salvador, he decided that he wanted to come and spend Christmas with us instead of in a hostel with nobody that he knew.  And finally Sandra and Ed are friends from the town we last lived in in Canada who are currently travelling around Belize by camper van.  They popped down here for a couple nights over New Years.  So, our time here has been eventful and busy, but we have enjoyed it immensely.

As I type this, we have 2 days left before the owners arrive back, and we will be continuing on our journey.  We have a very exciting month ahead of us as Chris’ Mom and Step Dad are arriving to Flores to see us on January 10th and we will be travelling around Guatemala with them for almost 2 weeks.  Then at the end of January, we fly off to the US and British Virgin Islands where we will be spending 2 weeks with my parents for my moms 70th Birthday celebration.

Beyond that, the only plan is that we have no plan.  Our hope is to find some work there on boats, and somehow make our way back to Guatemala, before we head north to Canada next summer.  Between now and then we have about 6 months to fill in, and I am realizing by now, that 6 months can contain a wealth of experience and excitement like nothing I could ever plan or expect.

If you have read this far, I thank you.  It was an event filled year, and it’s so hard to pack so much stuff into a few words, but I hope it gave you a good over view of how our life has looked for the last 12 months.

We both wish you all a wonderful 2019, and hope that you too can find some time to get out of your comfort zone and find a little adventure!


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: Livingston, Guatemala

Travelling Plans: We are housesitting here until January 5th.  After that we are headed up Rio Dulce for 2 nights to stay on the river.  Then we are off to Flores to meet Chris’ Mom and Step Dad for 2 weeks of travelling around Guatemala.

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 learn about housesitting, 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:)

Overwhelmed? Stressed? Anxiety Ridden? How Many of us Feel This Way?

Buying stuff WILL NOT make us happier.  Having the latest and greatest gadgets WILL NOT make us happier.  Working our asses off and saving up for ‘retirement’ WILL NOT make us happier!  So don’t let it 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…….


In recent weeks, my email inbox has started to receive a few kind messages from different people letting me know that our story is inspiring them in some way.  Whether they are living vicariously through our travels, or they are struggling with getting rid of an overload of ‘things’ in their lives, they are reaching out.

The other day I received the following message from Arnold.  With permission from Arnold, I am able to post his letter here (copied and pasted as written) with the hopes that others will learn from, or be inspired by his story.  He writes:


Hello, I enjoyed reading your story very much.  I am currently at a crossroads myself. I am sixty years old and living in the house I inherited from my parents. This is my fifth house but the only one with only a fifty thousand dollar mortgage left. My dad passed five years ago and I moved from Vegas to Connecticut to be a caretaker for my handicapped mother. She passed a year ago. Because caring for my mom was a full time job I have not worked in five years. I do play in a very popular band which plays about 120 gigs a year but don’t earn much money. In fact I am in debt up to my neck. Getting shut off notices from everyone. I have even been driving without car insurance for two weeks. This alone keeps me awake at night. The house like yours needs a great deal of work but I don’t have the resources to make these repairs. It is currently up for sale as is. Some interest but not a lot. If I do sell I might walk away with $100,000.00. Not much but I need to find a way to unplug from getting a bill from someone every time I turn around. And like you I am governed by my stuff. I have three cars. WTF. I am coming around slowly to getting rid of stuff. Hard for me but I know in my heart and more importantly in my head that it is the right thing to do. One thing that I liked about your story is you live in Costa rica. I have heard many great things about this region and would like to learn more. I have no problem living outside the US because everything, EVERYTHING is so expensive. I know I am not framing my thoughts very clearly but just wanted to say hello and hope that your story inspires me. I want to live life and be happy. I don’t want to be burdened with to much responsibility. Been there done that. Raised four kids and had a business that made millions. All gone. lol I just want simple. I want to unplug and detach from the norm or what’s expected of me. In a way I blame my parents generation. They instilled in us that success was measured by how big your house was, how pretty your wife is, and how smart your kids are. Bullshit. All this mentality does is chain you to seeing these things come to fruition. Work the same job for decades to keep it going. Well I’m going to try to find Minimalism now and watch it. Thank you for lisening. Arnold.


My question is this:  How many of us feel this way?  How many of us are overwhelmed and desperately just want to unplug from it all?

There are a few key points to discuss in Arnolds message, and I will attempt to break them down below.

  1. “I’m in debt up to my neck.”
    • This is a sentiment that rings familiar with so many people across the Western World.  Societies push to have the ‘latest and greatest’ gadgets has created an overbearing consumer society.  People simply do not have the money to purchase items, but they use their credit cards to do so instead with the hope to pay it off someday.  Arnold is certainly not alone in this!  In fact, here is a link to the average debt that American Households have, and being a Canadian, I can guarantee that these stats are just as applicable there as well.

      Here’s the Typical American’s Debt Load

  2. “I do play in a popular band……..”
    • I have to say…….KUDDOS to Arnold for continuing to do what he loves, despite the overwhelming pressure (likely) to get a job to pay off his debt.  If Arnold didn’t do what he loved, he would likely be much further along down the Rabbit Hole of depression.  Stress and Anxiety have reached EPIC proportions in the US and beyond.  It is CRUCIAL to unplug from your worries of life, by being creative in some way.
  3. “if I do sell, I might walk away with $100 000. Not much………”
    • $100 000 in Canada and the US, definitely is NOT MUCH money.  But, after living in Central America for over a year now, I can certainly attest that it is PLENTY for down here.  Chris and I housesit as much as we can, or find locals houses to rent in other places where we aren’t housesitting.  In Flores, Guatemala, we rented a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom house with a beautiful deck overlooking a lake for $225/month.  When we shopped at the market, we would spend about $15-$20 for a week of produce.  Eating out was also inexpensive.  Even in the nicest restaurants in Flores, our meal cost would top out at $30, for both of us, including a couple drinks each, but we also frequently visited the street food stalls that usually charge no more than $4 for a very fulfilling meal.
    • I haven’t kept perfect accurate records of our expenses, but I estimate that the last year of living has cost us about $15 000.  Bear in mind that this does include some travelling and staying in Air BnB’s, plus a flight from Costa Rica to Guatemala.  This is everything combined.  In Arnolds case, if he stayed in one place, and lived like the locals, he could likely get by on $7000-$10 000 per year.  Suddenly, with no bills to pay, and all of his debts paid off, Arnold’s $100 000 will go a seriously long way!
  4. “I am governed by my stuff……”
    • This is an all too familiar sentiment for so many people.  I myself was completely governed by my stuff.  And worse, I didn’t even realize it.  Watching the Minimalism documentary, opened my eyes up to the fact that my stuff was controlling my life.  I had spent years building up mountains of stuff all around me, yes I too wanted ‘the latest and greatest’ gadgets.  My life ran off of credit, house payments, loan payments, car payments……the list goes on and on.
    • After living for over a year with only what I can carry around with me, I can tell you with 100% authority that WE DO NOT NEED ALL THAT STUFF!  Sure you might need a few things here and there to make your life comfortable.  But in Arnolds case, he has 3 cars!  What does one person need 3 cars for?!  When we sold our cars back in Canada, we vowed never to own a money pit like that again!  It is one of the largest expenses that we have in the North!  Insurance, gas, car payments, maintenance…….it all adds up to being so much money!  Then when you go to sell it, it is worth basically nothing.
    • In the last year we have ridden on buses, tuk tuks, taxis and any other means of public transport.  When we can, we walk!  We haven’t walked as much in the last year as we have for most of our lives, I’m sure.  When walking isn’t an option, riding public transport is always affordable.  The people down here rely on these services because many of them certainly can’t afford a vehicle.  They are well used, and cheap!  There is no need for vehicles in any place that we have lived so far.  Sure, having a car would have made our lives a little easier in some spots, but we didn’t NEED one.  That is the difference.  Up north we buy things (whether we can afford them or not) because we WANT them, not because we NEED them.  It’s important to create this distinction for yourself and figure out what it is that you only NEED.  Get rid of the rest! Click here for my blog post about How to sell all of your things to travel full time. Even if travelling isn’t your end game, it will give you insights into how to tackle selling at least some of your possessions.
  5. “Had a business that made Millions. All gone. I just want simple.”
    • It is with sadness that I hear this.  Arnold obviously had a productive life back in his younger years.  Made lots of money, bought lots of stuff.  But where has that gotten him?  Here he is at the end of it all, saddled with debt, an overwhelming amount of stuff, and trying to figure out how to get himself out of it all. How many people have worked so hard their whole lives, just to get to this same place?
    • Well, I’m here to tell you that NO MATTER HOW OLD YOU ARE, it is NOT TOO LATE!  At 60 years old, Arnold hopefully has much time ahead of him.  But you know what?  None of us know just how much time that we have.  It is so important to take the steps to make you happy NOW!  Life is short, and we really need to make it count!  I can not STRESS this point enough!
    • After realizing that I had too much stuff, and also realizing that I constantly was trying to figure out ways that I could do more travelling, I FINALLY came to the conclusion that my stuff was getting in the way of it all.  If I wasn’t burdened with all the stuff, all the bills, all the RESPONSIBILITY, I could unplug from it all, and head out into the world to travel freely.  This realization was the single most important lightening bolt moment that I have ever had.  But the thing is, I acted on it!  I didn’t just sit there and feel sorry for myself.  I got busy!  I started selling things!  In a small amount of time, things snowballed and we kept at it.  And in 9 short months, we were heading off on a totally different adventure in life.
  6. “In a way I blame my parents generation.”
    • Yes, I can understand this sentiment.  Society has structured our lives in such a way that in order to succeed at life, we need to go to college, get a job, find a husband or wife, have kids, work our butts off, then retire.  I agree with Arnold, it is all BULLSHIT.  But you know what?  We can change the dialogue any time that we choose to.  WE can decide that we don’t want to live that way, and that alone is where our power is.
    • Having lived in Central America for the last 13 months, has taught me that there is much more to life than all of this.  Granted, nobody here can figure out why we don’t want kids…..but that’s a totally different story.  But no, here they know how to enjoy life.  If they need to work, they go out and find work.  If a restaurant owner is tired from partying the night before, they simply don’t open the next day.  If a group of men are sitting around on a porch on a Wednesday afternoon drinking, nobody questions it.  Nobody gets mad at the restaurant owner, they just go somewhere else.  Nobody wonders why the men aren’t working, it’s none of their business.
    • There is no pressure to be as busy as you can be.  There is no pressure to work yourself into exhaustion.  There is no pressure to ‘get a real job’.  People in this culture ENJOY their lives.  They live for the day, they live for the moment.  They don’t worry about some far off distant place called ‘retirement’.  If they feel like going fishing for a day to feed their family, instead of working to buy groceries, then they will do that instead.  The community spirit is strong, and neighbours support neighbours.  They work together to help each other if they need it, and everybody has SOMETHING to share with others, despite seeming like they have nothing at all.  It is a beautiful thing!

I know that Arnolds story is not unique.  I know that MILLIONS of people are feeling just like he is, in many parts of the world.  Trying to fit into societies standards has been a great undoing of the western worlds culture.  Until we realize that, individually, we need to live life to the fullest, be our happiest, and do what we love, the world will continue to dump its expectations on us, and we will continue to be over worked, over tired, and over run with anxiety and depression.

Buying stuff WILL NOT make us happier.  Having the latest and greatest gadgets WILL NOT make us happier.  Working our asses off and saving up for ‘retirement’ WILL NOT make us happier!  So don’t let it happen!

It is time that we all, individually, started living life to be happy.  Find something that fills your soul and try not to worry about the money.  If you put your best out into the world, you will be rewarded in some way.  Things will fall into place all around you, and you will be surprised by what life has to offer.  Be a role model for your friends!  Show them how life can really be lived!  Show them how they too can be happy and stress free!

Thank you Arnold, for writing me to let me know where you are at in your process.  And for all of you others out there, that are feeling the same way as Arnold, please don’t hesitate to share YOUR story with me.  I really do care about helping you to become a better version of yourself!  You can do it!  I know you can, and I am cheering you on 100%!


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: Livingston, Guatemala

Travelling Plans: We are housesitting here until the beginning of January 2019.

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 learn about housesitting, 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:)

50 Experiences in 300 Days

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So true, so very very true.

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


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


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

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

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

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

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

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

To contribute to our Patreon account, please click here.

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

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

 

 

 

 

Venga Vale Vamos Guest Interview

I am honoured to join the ranks of many before me, and have been featured in this section with regards to our recent experience of travelling and living in Costa Rica.

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Kristie Jeffries is a traveller, blogger and digital marketer.  She has been on the road for a few years now, and has travelled to 72 countries…….and is still going!  Her website offers a wealth of information about travel around the world, expat life, budget backpacking, working as a digital nomad, Australian working holidays/work visas, the Spanish auxiliares de conversación program, and so much more.

She has a section of her website where she features interviews from fellow travellers, called the Travel Talk Interviews.  These interviews run the gamut from learning about being a Digital Nomad, to becoming a Spanish Teacher’s assistant in Spain, from travelling on a budget to seeing the world in style.

I am honoured to join the ranks of many before me, and have been featured in this section with regards to our recent experience of travelling and living in Costa Rica.

You can read that interview here.

Thanks so much Kristie for the opportunity to share my travel story and my tips to travelling in 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 currently in Flores, Guatemala.  We have rented a house and expect to stay here for a minimum of 2 months.

Travelling Plans: Our next plan is to head to Livingston on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala, where we will be housesitting for roughly 6 weeks at the end of November.

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:)

Pieces falling into place……

You see, I drew this image before I had ever visited an island, before I had ever been anywhere that I may have seen something like this.


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…….


This morning this image came up on my Facebook timeline.  It was from 4 years ago.

Basement Wall

At first glance, this image just looks like a bunch of kids scribbles, like children were let loose to live out their wildest fantasies of scribbling on the wall.

It was an exciting day.  My partner had just procured his first air brush, a type of device used to paint, using paint and air pressure to spray the paint out of a nozzle.  We both were excited and needed a palette to play on.  It’s the sort of thing that takes time to get good at, and practice is a necessity.

We decided that this wall, in our recreation room, in our basement, was the perfect place to scribble and play with our new toy, and indeed we did both feel like kids going wild, if for only a short time.

Today when it popped up on my Facebook timeline as a memory from 4 years ago, I smiled at the memory and almost dismissed it as just that, a fond memory.  But then, I noticed a familiar word in it all.

You may notice in the middle in red, the word is TRAVEL.  It’s a scribbly mess, but it is there none-the-less.  I immediately thought back to where I was 4 years ago in my life, and what my life was like.

4 years ago, I was still recovering from a broken marriage and honestly, a shattered life.  I had lost myself in my 30’s.  I had been trying so hard to conform to what society had expected of me, that I completely forgot about what was important to me.  Through my 30’s I started multiple business’, I bought and sold multiple houses (never really making money on any of them), I worked at trying to save a marriage, but ended up letting it go as it wasn’t serving me anymore, I worked tirelessly and endlessly to make ends meet.  But no matter what I did, it never seemed like enough.

4 years ago, I was JUST starting to realize that I hadn’t travelled overseas in 8 years!  This may seem normal to some, but coming from a girl who spent her teens and 20’s travelling as much as she could, this was significant.

4 years ago, it seems, I was starting to put the pieces of my life back together.

I was 1 year into a new and healthy relationship with a supportive and loving partner, I was working as much as I could on my artwork, trying to make a name for myself in my small community, and clearly, I was starting to think about travelling again.

Also around that time, my partner tattooed (InkCap Art) the following on my foot.

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The symbolism in this piece, that was designed by us together, is that I wanted to start living a life that was exciting and bold. One that would make me ecstatic to get out of bed in the morning.  One that was fulfilling and exciting.

Of course, the symbolism of the planet relates to travelling, but there is also another interesting symbol in this.  The Palm Tree.

There is something about Palm Trees that excite my soul.  Maybe it’s just being near them, which means that I need to be in warmer climates, but I also somehow feel like in a past life, they have been a big part of me somehow.

When I was 5 years old, I also created the following image:

Kindergarten Plate

In the small town that I grew up in, making these plates was a right of passage in Kindergarten.  Every person that I went to Kindergarten with made one of these plates.

And although I let it go in my big purge before coming on this trip, and sometimes I get a pang of regret about it, I remind myself that it isn’t the physical item that is important, it is the image on it that matters the most.

You see, I drew this image before I had ever visited an island, before I had ever been anywhere that I may have seen something like this.  My 5 year old mind concocted this picture seemingly out of thin air.

Of course, the trees don’t necessarily look like Palm Trees, but I like to think that this is a  deserted tropical island in the South Pacific somewhere.  Because as long ago as I can remember, I have dreamt of tropical turquoise water, white sandy beaches and palm trees.


So you see, travel has been a part of me for as long as I can remember, even before I ever did any of it.  It’s a deep seated feeling that I have, and I will not be satisfied in life ever again, unless it is taking a front seat in my manifestations.

4 years ago I was just starting to realize that I had spent the majority of my 30’s NOT travelling.  I was just starting to put the pieces of a broken marriage, and a somewhat broken life, back together again. 

With a new relationship established, it was time to start building a new life and new dreams.  Obviously, travel was a part of that vision, and this was likely part of the start of the manifestation of what we are doing now. 

As these memories pop up on Facebook, I realize that this life we have created was just a tiny seed that was planted so many years ago.  It has taken time for me to start listening to the voices in my head, to the yearning and the want to get back to travelling. 

It took me realizing that the reason I wasn’t travelling was because I was so busy building a life that wasn’t conducive to travelling, that it became impossible.  Until I finally figured out that the life I had created for myself was actually IN THE WAY to my travelling, I wasn’t able to realize my dream.

But here we are!  We are doing it! I miraculously figured it out!  

THIS is the power of envisioning and manifesting our dreams.  We must keep at it, day by day, minute by minute.  Do NOT let your dreams go.  Keep them at the forefront of your mind, and you too will eventually bring them to reality. 

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 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:)

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.

Horses in Samara
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:)

Life as a Digital Nomad – April 2018


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.

 

Life as a Digital Nomad – January 2018

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


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.

 

Emily’s Voyage Interview

Life is such an interesting journey, and you never really know where one path will lead.


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…….


Emily approached me to do an interview after I wrote a travel piece for her blog about Varna.  She had looked into my blog, and learned about what we are doing, and wanted to know more!  As we communicated back and forth, I came to learn that she is seeking a degree in Creative Writing.  I have to say that the irony was not lost on me, as I had many teachers in my early life, recommend that I follow the same path.

However, with all things in life, we don’t necessarily take advice, and have to do things in our own way.  I’m not sure if I was encouraged, nudged, or pushed to learn business in my secondary education, or if I just decided that that’s what I should do, because that is what I thought was expected of me, but that’s what I did, either way.  I have to say though, I am forever grateful for the business skills that I did learn, as they have guided me throughout my life, in all things that I have done.

And now, after 20 years have gone by, here I sit, attempting to build a career on Creative Writing, and navigating this big strange world on my own.  There are times where I feel like it sure would be nice having an instructor, or someone to guide me along, and tell me what to do.  But I do know that there are mentors, and there are other’s doing these things, and if I need help, I just need to reach out for it.

Thank you Emily for reaching out to the traveller community, and asking for people to share their experiences with you.  I know that you have been inspired, and I have to say that you have given me confidence and determination to know that writing certainly is something that I truly enjoy, and it is certainly worth plugging away at and pursuing it as a career.

Life is such an interesting journey, and you never really know where one path will lead.  It is important that when we see an opportunity, or if something feels right, we follow that feeling, pursue it and see where it goes.  Something about Emily’s call for writing appealed to me, and this is where it has led.

I hope you enjoy reading the interview (click here), as much as I enjoyed answering the questions!

With gratitude,

Jill xoxo

When nothing is sure


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!

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

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

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

To see my blog post menu, click here.

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

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