Friends and Family Heal the Soul

We have caught up with much of our families, seen a few friends, adjusted to the North American ways again, and are feeling better than ever about this life we have chosen.


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!


SURPRISE!

Saturday, September 14th marked the completion of something that I have been working on for roughly 8 months now.  I held a successful SURPRISE 50th Wedding Anniversary party for my parents, in the mountain town that I grew up in, Canmore, Alberta, Canada.

When I first came up with this idea, I just felt that this was an important anniversary for them, and it deserved to be celebrated.  Because I knew that we had plans to be back in my hometown this summer,  I knew that I needed to make this happen.

My initial thoughts of a small and intimate celebration, amongst their usual friends in Canmore, somehow became something so large, that I was inviting friends and family members from across Canada.  At first I thought that I would just reach out to people,  just to let them know, at the very least, that they had this milestone anniversary coming.  I didn’t actually expect people to respond so positively, but over time, and as more and more people started saying yes, I could feel something really special building.

People were really excited about coming! I soon realized that, not only my parents, but, I was going to see so many faces that I hadn’t seen in YEARS (in some cases……17 years!!)  As more and more people got on board, I became not only excited about the surprise itself, I just became excited about the entire event and the simple thrill of getting people together.

Every existing and living person in my Dad’s family convened in one place for the first time in decades!  I don’t think we had ALL been in one place since I was 16!  There was always somebody away travelling, or simply just too busy to make a trip to see the rest for previous gatherings, but this time everybody made it!

So much happiness!

The amount of happiness and pure joy coming from the participants of this gathering was astounding and I realized that we ALL needed this party.  It was just SO GOOD to see everybody, for old and new friends to meet, for everyone to get together, to remember the good times, and to get caught up and reconnect.  It felt to me like a good ol’ fashioned happy gathering, of which I remember many from my childhood.  It felt to me like everybody just needed a reason to celebrate something, to revel in joy and happiness, to get away from all of the sad news for once.

This party turned out to be not only for my parents, but for all of us.  For those of us who need to remember how good it feels to be surrounded by people that are important to us.  For those of us who may always feel like we are just too busy to go to these sorts of gatherings.  For those of us who feel like it’s just been too long, and maybe we are almost too embarrassed to get in contact again.

I was able to do this because I had the time to do it!

When the excitement died down from the party, and after I had a couple of days to reflect on things, it dawned on me that the only reason that I was able to host this party, and pull it off so flawlessly, is because I had the time and energy to do it.  I wasn’t distracted by building a career, or by working to pay the large debt load that I was carrying back before I cut my ties to society in 2017.  I wasn’t distracted by trying to run businesses, deal with my household, or the fact that I was too far away to possibly be able to do something like this.  In the past, I only had time for short visits to Canmore, 5 days max normally.  My life was on the West Coast of Canada, a 14 hour (on a good day) drive to get home.  I had businesses, a garden, animals, and any other manner of reasons of why I was too busy to get away for longer.

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Found the time for a nice hike to Grassi Lakes with friends and family the day after the party. 

In my old life, I might have been too exhausted to organize something of this magnitude, I simply would not have had the time.  The pressures of life may have been too overwhelming to have even CONSIDERED attempting such a feat.

So many people congratulated me on my ability to put this party together, to seamlessly invite so many people, and take care of so many details.  I have now realized that I was able to organize this party as well as I did ONLY because I have radically changed my life.  BECAUSE I pulled myself away from the hamster wheel that I was on,  I am now able to focus on the things that make me happy, and bring joy and fulfillment to my life.  And of course, as it does, my joy and happiness, is now reverberating out to those that are around me, and they too can partake in those parts of my life that I am happy and passionate about.

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This is the view from my parents kitchen.  This was just as the snow started to fly.  

Family Time

After the party,  we drove home with Chris’ mom, staying both at her house and going to Saskatoon to visit Chris’ Grandma and Aunt, for about a week.  Along the way, we also saw another 2 sets of Aunt’s and Uncles of his, and it was so great to say hi and check in with them all again.  Chris’ mom lives outside of Daysland, a town in central Alberta with a population of 824 people.  It is just one of hundreds of small towns like it, that are scattered throughout the prairies of Canada.  There is usually one small main street with quaint shops lining its sides, plus just a handful of other streets surrounding it, where the main population lives.  Daysland is no different than the rest, as it also serves the farmers that live out in the countryside, away from town limits, and seemingly, the rest of society itself.

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Chris’ Aunt Denise has a pet steer named Simon!  He is a sweetie! 
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Typical flat landscape of Central Alberta and Saskatchewan.  Fields stretch on for miles in every direction! 

This is where Chris’ mom lives, about a 15 minute drive outside of town, amongst a small grouping of trees that block out the winds that sweep the perfectly flat prairies.  She spoiled us rotten with incredible produce from her garden, and her continuous baking and cooking.  We had some lovely moments on the back deck, just sitting together in the bright, warm, prairie sun.  The 9 or so kittens that she currently has, didn’t hurt our stay either, and neither did the fact that because it was way out in the prairies, it was vast and oh so quiet.

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The lovely view from Chris’ Moms back deck!  A truly quiet and tranquil spot.  

Finding old friends.

Chris and I found ourselves in Old’s, Alberta this past week where we were housesitting for a few days.  We were taking care of a dog for two high school friends of mine that, after 15+ years of not seeing each other, found a romantic connection, and are now getting married.

Although I had seen Jess a few times in recent years, usually only for quick interactions, I hadn’t seen Paul since shortly after high school.  We spent a whole day and night with them before they left on their trip, and in no time at all,  the three of us were sharing memories from those days gone by, unlocking times and events that had occurred, pulling them deep from our memories.  It was almost like a time machine, the more time we spent together, the more we remembered, and the more we connected with our shared histories.  Somehow we were all being re-introduced to each other, our discussions fell into easy rhythm, and we realized that although we hadn’t seen each other in years, we all still enjoyed each others company, and it was clear why we were all friends in high school to begin with.

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Good friends reunite!  (Photo courtesy of Jessica Lee)

We took care of their lovely dog Zita and their rabbit Bun Bun.  Jess had left us her vehicle, so we were able to get around more than we usually would be able to, so we took advantage of it and drove to other communities to visit my cousin in Sylvan Lake one day, and Chris’ sister in Rocky Mountain House, on another.  It was such a beautiful time of year to drive around as the leaves on the trees here have now mostly turned an incredible bright yellow, but you can also catch glimpses of bushes with bold oranges and drastic reds scattered amongst them.  As we drove through the landscape, the wash of colours passing our windows was sometimes breathtaking.  I had forgotten just how amazing that fall and its drastic seasonal shift is, and it’s been wonderful to again witness such a stunning time of year.

On what was supposed to be our second last night housesitting and taking care of the animals for Jess and Paul, disaster struck.  Every house sitters worst nightmare played out in front of us and their dog became suddenly very ill.  After seeming fine in the morning, going on a long walk and eating her regular meal, by 7:00 that night she was definitely not fine.  It started with throwing up blood, then diarrhea, and things went from bad to worse really quickly.

I won’t fill in all the details of the roughly 4 hours from then, only to say that sadly, just as the Emergency Veterinarian arrived, Zita took her last breath and her heart stopped.

Words can’t describe our feelings of such an event happening on our watch.  I didn’t truly believe that she was as sick as she was until the inevitable happened. I just kept thinking that the Vet was going to arrive, and everything would be sorted out.  I replay the day over and over in my head, wondering if she ate something she shouldn’t have on the walk, wondering if I let her stick her nose in a bush just a little too long for her to find poison, or something like that. But these are all questions that will never be answered, and I gently remind myself that she was also an old dog.  She likely died simply of old age, and we just happened to be the ones there to witness the passing.

I am sad for my friends who have lost their family member, without getting to say goodbye.   I can’t imagine how it feels to leave your house in one way, then returning to find it has changed beyond what you could have ever imagined.  The fact that they are dear friends to me, makes it much harder as well.  I feel their sadness, and wish that I could somehow rewind the clock, to pick a different ending for their holiday.

In this life that we have chosen, we have learned that it’s not just physical possessions that we let go of, it’s also feelings and emotions that we attach to places, people and animals that we are introduced to along the way.  Through our housesitting, we have now become friends with quite a few different animals that we have cared for, and each time we leave them, we have to say goodbye and let them go.  Sometimes it’s easier than other times, but it is generally just sad.  We emotionally prepare ourselves for these events though, as we always know that we will be leaving at some point, and can ration our sadness out over time.  But with Zita, it didn’t work that way.  We’ve also had to let Zita go, of course, but with her it was oh so different.  Letting go of our emotions attached to this event will take longer than usual, but in time we will all heal from this tragedy.

Zita was such a kind and gentle soul, and such a good girl.  We are both very thankful to have had the chance to meet her and spend the precious time that we did have with her.  My thoughts go out to Paul and Jess as they navigate their new world without such an amazing dog in their lives.

Rest in Peace Zita.

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RIP Zita

Despite our sadness for what transpired recently, our first month back in Canada has been really wonderful.  We have caught up with much of our families, seen a few friends, adjusted to the North American ways again, and are feeling better than ever about this life we have chosen.  If nothing else, it has provided us with time.  Past visits were harried and exhausting affairs, trying to see all and do all in only a few days.  But now we feel like we really do have the energy to spend the time doing only what is important to us, like visiting friends and family, and that is the most freeing feeling in the world .


Where Are We Now?

We returned back to Canmore, Alberta, my hometown, just a couple days ago, and have started a new housesitting job.  We are taking care of an adorable little dog that looks to have part Weiner, Daschund and Doberman in him.  His name is Napolean, and the name just suits him great!  He loves to snuggle and, I have to say, is keeping me nice and toasty in the evenings when we are sitting on the couch.  The SNOW has started to fly here, and we find ourselves pretty much cold ALL THE TIME. 2 years in the tropics has softened us up much more than we could have imagined!

Originally we had thought that we would only stay here until the end of October, but Chris is starting a guest tattoo spot in a very busy tattoo shop in Banff on October 1st, so we have decided that it may make sense to stay for a while.  Which can only mean that it will get MUCH colder than this before we fly out of here again!

 

In the News!

Click this link to check out an article that was written about us in Canmore’s local paper!

New Milestone!

September 20th marked the 2 year anniversary of the day that we left the town where we were living on the West Coast of Canada.  (Read that post here.) While these last couple years have flown by in some respects, it has also felt like we have both lived a lifetime in them.  When we left Powell River, it was impossible to predict where we would go and how it would all play out.  And knowing what we know now, we could have never guessed any of it.  It has been a journey of literally just putting one foot in front of the other, and living each day as it comes.  We have done very little planning in advance, and we have really enjoyed watching the chips fall where ever they may.  I know it is cliché, but we feel that the universe is guiding us, and the more we can let go of what we think we should be doing next, and resist the urge to plan, the more things fall into place perfectly all around us.


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: Canmore, Alberta Canada 

Travelling Plans: Our plan is to stay here until Christmas or New Years.  Details of our next destination are yet to be confirmed.

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Some Observations of Costa Ricans…..

It also got me thinking that we have literally not seen one bad exchange between people here.


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…….


There is this guy and his little puppy that are often sitting on the same log on the beach when we walk by with Omber in the morning, or afternoon. The puppy is the cutest little thing, but we can’t get near to it as it barks it’s head off and seemingly wants to tear us limb from limb. Usually we are walking down at the bottom of the beach, while they are sitting at the top of the beach. The man looks to be about the friendliest person you could ever lay eyes on, he has a huge Afro and a great smile. We always collectively laugh at the state of the puppy going crazy, and even from 50 yards away, you can see this mans massive smile light up, and he sends a friendly wave our way.

Today, I was at the top of the beach walking, and I could see from down the beach a ways that he and a friend were sitting in the usual spot. This time I decided to try and get closer to say hello. The sun is shining today, and it’s been a bit of a dismal week around here with cloudy and rainy days seeming to never end. We exchanged a few words about how nice it is to see the sun, we asked each other how we were doing, the puppy barked it’s little head off, and then I decided that I better get going.

I had a task to do, you see, I was walking the dog.

After we walked to our usual spot, and returned down the beach, we were further down by the surf, but he and his friend were up at the top still, just chilling. I kept walking and started to think about the fact that we had been passing this guy and his puppy for a month, and still didn’t know his name. I immediately started to feel bad for not asking his name, and finally getting to know him a bit. I realized that I too could have just sat on that log and chatted for a while. ‘Why didn’t I do that?’ I asked myself.

Oh right! I remembered.

I was on a mission, you see, I was walking the dog!

And in that moment, I caught myself, I suddenly, miraculously, realized that I too have all day to chat if I so desire. I too could just sit on a log and hang out for hours, if I really felt like it. Omber would be happy to just chill in one spot. There really was no rush. Besides, what could be better then practicing some Spanish and making new friends?

Hmmmmmmmmm…..

A few hundred yards further down the beach, Omber decided to run to the top of the beach to chase through the palm trees where I couldn’t see him. Of course, I walked up there to find him, and a man was doing some raking amongst the palms. As soon as he saw me, he immediately waved a friendly hello. “Hola”, I yelled.

This got me realizing how pleasant our exchanges are with the locals. Rarely do we walk by someone, whether on the beach, or on the road, where they don’t take the time to say “Buenas Dias, Hola, Pura Vida, (Good Day, Hello, Pure Life) or some combination of all three.” In fact, as we walked the road the other day to the bus stop, a man crossed the street and shook Chris’ hand, wanting to know who we were and whether or not we owned some piece of property in town. We chatted with him for a bit, then were on our way.

It also got me thinking that we have literally not seen one bad exchange between people here. There have been no children throwing tantrums, no people yelling at each other in hatred or malice, no aggression of any kind has been displayed, in fact.

Hmmmmmmmmmmm…….

Chris had a tattoo job the other night just down the street from us. I popped over after a bit to see how it was going. It was the father that was getting tattooed, and his wife, 9 months pregnant with a second child, was busy in the kitchen. Their little girl was playing in the corner as quiet as could be, with her dolls and a handful of toys. They were not spread all over the room, they were in one spot, and she happily toodled away talking to them and playing by herself, with hardly a peep to anyone.

I asked her mom how old she is, and they told me ‘5 years old today’! You can imagine my immediate surprise as this certainly didn’t seem like your average 5 year old on their birthday, at least where I come from. There were no streamers and balloons hanging up, no huge party with a thousand other kids running amuck, no big deal was being made…….at all! I told her “Feliz Cumpleanos!” (Happy Birthday), and she turned and gave me a shy “Gracias”, then busily got back to playing. In the two hours we were there, she never once bothered her mother or father for anything, just happily, and QUIETLY played in the corner with her dolls.

When I had initially arrived to the house, I immediately walked over to see how the tattoo was going. The father said hello and asked me how my day was going, in English. Without really realizing what was going on, I just told him “Oh it was okay, I was lazy today.” Later I realized that I never even asked him how his day was………did he notice, did he think badly of me. What was my problem?

Hmmmmmmmmmmm……….

The other day, Chris and I caught the bus to Uvita. We hadn’t been there before, and needed some groceries, so we thought we would just go there and hopefully get some supplies after doing some exploring. While waiting for the bus, we sat on a bench in front of the Pulperia (Convenience Store), and had many exchanges with locals coming and going. Old or young, they all had time to say hello and ask us how we were doing.

As we rode the bus to Uvita, we sat in the front 2 seats to the right of the driver. As I watched people get off the bus, most people thanked the driver, one guy shook the drivers hand and exchanged a few words with him. The driver wasn’t in a rush to get going again, it was more important to talk to this man for a minute, then to worry about his schedule.

I watched as the driver eased his big bus through tiny communities, and yelled and waved out the window at familiar faces. Were these people he knew, or just people he saw on his route everyday? “Pura Vida!”  was yelled more than once, and the people on their porches or in their yards returned the exchange with huge smiles on their faces.

In one instance a man was standing on the side of the highway and waved the bus to stop. The driver pulled over and the man simply stood on the ground at the door and spent about 5 minutes asking the driver a bunch of questions about the schedule and where he went. Obviously gathering information for a future trip.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm………..

Our friends that moved here from Canada two years ago, told us of a time when they had first bought their property up in the mountains. For the first while, they obviously couldn’t speak much Spanish, but their neighbours would come over anyways, and just sit with them on their porch, sometime for two hours, with barely a word spoken. They just wanted to interact, to share the human experience. Words weren’t needed to be decent human beings, to show their new neighbours appreciation of their arrival onto their lands.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm……….

All of this has me realizing that these are the sorts of things that you may not notice if you are travelling to a place for a week or two. It’s only after being in a spot for a length of time, when how a society works, is repeated enough for you to you start to notice it, and you begin to realize what really makes it tick.  We have been here now for over 6 weeks, and although it didn’t take us this long to see that people are friendly, it has taken this long to really notice that it definitely is a way of life.

In Costa Rica, it truly is the land of Pura Vida. People have TIME for each other. It isn’t normal to just say hi quickly, and then be on your way. What’s normal is stopping, and actually talking. Looking people in the eye, and asking them how they are doing, asking them how their day was or is. Taking the time to connect with each other and respect and appreciate each other.

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As of today, I am making a commitment to myself to really start to notice when I rush myself, when I push myself to “get going” because I think I have something important to do. When I start to think that ‘getting the dog walked’ is more important than stopping to meet somebody and learn about them, I will stop myself. I will stop this habit of being on a mission, of being in a hurry. As of today, I will stop to connect with people better. I will take the time to learn their names, I will spend the time learning about them, and finding out who they are and what they do. I will make TIME for them, because, this is truly the way it is here. This is what people do here. This is literally how their society functions, and I really can’t think of anything more beautiful than that!

Pura Vida to you all! I hope this inspires you to take a moment to reflect on what you spend your time doing.  And is it meaningful, after all?

NOTE:  Of course, this is our experience of Costa Ricans outside of heavily trafficked tourist zones.  In places where we have noticed that many tourists go, the Pura Vida mentality certainly does not extend as far as it does in these smaller more remote areas.  But it is in these places, where you truly get a sense for how people actually live.  

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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!

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

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

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

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