Memories of Banff

Being back in my hometown for this length of time, has meant that for the first time in my adult life, I have the time to really enjoy it.


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 two years, 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!


Being back in my hometown for this length of time, has meant that for the first time in my adult life, I have the time to really enjoy it.  Chris and I have spent much time exploring around Canmore and checking things out.  I have taken him on walks to my old bush party sights and places that I played as a child, and we have spent lots of time down by the Bow River, even on the cold days.  We have meandered through many of the towns trails, old and new, and I have been really impressed with how well they are kept up.  There is obviously a focus here on public recreation, and the town has done a great job of providing that for its citizens.

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This was a warmer day down by the Bow River in Canmore, back when we arrived at the end of August.

We have also been to Banff a handful of times, and I have taken great joy in regaling my tales of youth to Chris, as we navigate the new, to him, landscape.  Last weekend we headed out on a bit of an adventure to Banff.  Banff Gondola was offering a free ride for locals on its trip up to the top of Sulphur Mountain, in exchange for a donation to a charity.  So we figured that we would head in, and also planned a soak in the nearby Banff Hot Springs as well.

One thing lead to the next and before we knew it, we were checking out Bow Falls, running around lost in the Banff Springs Hotel (now officially known as Fairmont Banff Springs, but I don’t call it that), and hitting up even the Candy Shop downtown.  I also firmly insisted that while there, we absolutely MUST visit the Christmas Store, despite Chris’ obvious disapproval.  (Spoiler, he actually liked it……a little bit at least:))

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The majestic Banff Springs Hotel
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It truly feels like a castle inside as well!
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A Candy wonderland and a MUST stop on Banff Avenue!

It was a great day of playing tour guide (one of my favourite things to do as a local), while also telling him the stories that each place inspired.  I have many incredible stories and memories of Banff and despite the fact that Canmore kids were adamant that Canmore was BETTER than Banff (“Banff Sucks!” we would say), the town played a huge part in my childhood.


I was born in Banff, Alberta, Canada in 1976.  I know that I am from a select few that have had this good fortune, and in fact, I have recently learned that people born in Banff or Canmore are dubbed “Unicorns” by those who aren’t from here.  Without confirming the reason for this, I can only imagine that people think that nobody could possibly be so lucky as to have been born in such a spectacular place.  It’s as if we are all mythical creatures or something.

I lived there until I was three, then my family moved 20km down the road to the much quieter town of Canmore.  I spent the rest of my childhood living in Canmore, but of course, Banff was also such a huge part of this time in my life.

As a small kid my mom would drive me into the Sally Borden Pool for swimming lessons, because, at the time, Canmore only had one public pool that was at a motel on the highway, and it was outdoors.  I remember feeling so cool swimming in that big pool, and that big building and I loved swimming lessons there.

My Dad worked at the Banff Centre, which also housed the Sally Borden Building so I inevitably spent much time up there. I took for granted the adorable little trails that surround the property, and the quaint little stairways that go from building to building.  My Dad is one of the founders of the Banff Mountain Film Festival that is housed at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and I spent many years with my parents at the festival watching films and mingling with climbing greats.  I had no idea, at that time, just how lucky I was to not only be living where I was, but to just be part of such a monumental film event that has now spanned the globe numerous times.  We were very grateful when my Dad offered us his tickets for this years festival.  We felt so fortunate  to attend the event, and it brought back many great memories of my childhood.

Jill and Chris at BMFF

Of course, I also learned to ski at Mount Norquay, Banff’s local ski hill.  My Dad took me up there from the age of 3 on, and it didn’t take many years before I was beating him to the bottom.  Many times, a day of skiing would conclude with a stop at McDonalds, then the closest McDonalds we had to Canmore.  It was the cutest little McDonalds ever, built with all wood and stone, complete with a rustic little fireplace.  (Unfortunately it has now been modernized, and looks, at least through the windows, to be as stark and uninteresting as any other McDonalds!) My favourite dish?  6 McNuggets and fries of course! (My adult self is disgusted!)

Every New Years Eve for quite a few years, many Banff and Canmore locals would flock to Lake Minnewanka to have a raucous party in one of the picnic shelters on the lake.  Somebody would bring heavy duty tarps to block the windows so that the harshness of the winter temperatures would stay outside, while they got the fires roaring on the inside.  The parents would shovel off a section of the lake so that we kids could skate on it, and I remember more than one painful time that I would have to come back in to get my dad to rub life back into my feet, as they had become frozen ice blocks.  The adults would become increasingly drunk, New Years would come and go, and everyone would simply drive home.  Clearly, NOT something that could or would happen now-a-days!

For a time, no childhood birthday party would be complete without a trip to the water slides in Banff.  The Douglas Fir Resort, one of the hotels on the outskirts of the town, was our go to place for this.  I recall numerous visits to these waterslides as kids, and though small in stature, they thrilled us to bits.  It didn’t take much to excite us small town kids!

I also remember trips to Banff to shop at The Hudson Bay Company (HBC), the only major department store that existed in the Bow Valley at the time.  Of course, these trips would be combined with a visit to the Candy Store and often an ice cream at Grizzly House, depending on the time of year.  When we had visitors come to town, we would take them down Banff Avenue and we always had to also make stops in the Christmas Store and The Body Shop.

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Inside the famed “The Spirit of Christmas” store.
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The perfect Canadian mascot!

My later memories start after I gained the freedom to drive a vehicle.  From the age of 16 on, trips to Banff were just part of my perspective.  If it wasn’t me driving there, it was one of my friends, and we would usually head in at least a couple times a week.  In one of my many acts of rebellion, however, I drove into Banff, driving my friends car, with only my learners license!  All I know is that there was a bunch of us girls, and we were bored,  and we REALLY wanted to go to Banff.  The next thing I knew, much to the humiliation and scared shitless-ness of my passengers, I was stalling the standard shift car repeatedly down the length of Banff Avenue.  I’m pretty sure Banff Avenue was the only thing we saw that day.  We were much too scared to actually get out of the car lest somebody actually figured out that we weren’t old enough to be driving by ourselves.  We somehow made it out in one piece, and not arrested, and arrived back in Canmore, vowing that we would never repeat that event again.  After all, the owner of the car was only a month or two from turning 16 and getting her own proper license!

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One of the views along the Bow River in Banff

 

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One of the many stunning views on Banff Avenue.

The freedom that comes with having a drivers license is palpable.  I remember driving with the window down on the highway, feeling the wind blow on my face and just feeling like I could do anything in the world now that I had my license. Quite often an afternoon of a few of us hanging out at Craigs drinking coffee, would end when one suggested that we should go to Banff, and off we went.  Many times we would head up to the Banff Springs Hotel and get lost in the expanse of corridors inside, and of course, we went bowling a time or two as well.  Canmore, of course, didn’t have a bowling alley.

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They call this “Christmas at the Castle” when the Banff Springs Hotel decorates for the holidays.

You might guess, by now, that Canmore also didn’t have a movie theatre (and still doesn’t!) . Tuesday was locals night at the Lux Cinema in Banff, so we would all pile into Banff to watch the latest and greatest release for only $5.  Usually there were 2 or 3 vehicles full of us, and of course we would run into other friends from school that had gone as well.  We would then roam the streets at night, just revelling in the glitz and glamour of Banff Avenue, sometimes stoping in at  Eddies Pool Hall where we would play pool and hang out, enjoying the care free life of a teenager.  On this current return trip home, Chris and I have made a few trips to the Lux, and it amazes me that it is exactly the same as I left it.

Summer time meant that we would drive in and check out Bow Falls, drive down to the Banff Springs Golf Course, explore around Tunnel Mountain, or drive up Mount Norquay to check out the view.  Of course many kids experienced floating, in some device or another, from Banff to Canmore along the surface of the Bow River.

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Looking down on Banff from Mount Norquay
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Bow Falls in the winter.  Located below the Banff Springs Hotel

The Banff Hot Springs was our big backyard hot tub that we frequented often.  We would go all times of the year to revel in the heat of the waters.  Winter was the most fun when it was minus 40C.  After braving the cold to get into the pool, we would set about creating whacky hairdos that would freeze solid in the frigid temperatures.  When Chris and I went there last weekend, I was thrilled that the price is still very reasonable at $8.30.  I assumed that like all other things in Banff, this price would have gone sky high, but it has remained an affordable treat for every sort of visitor to Banff.

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Banff Hot Springs is perched on the side of Sulphur Mountain offering splendid views of the mountains and valley below.

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Happy to be warm!

Our legal years (18+) (and maybe one or two before that;) ) would bring us into Banff to party in the clubs.  Canmore didn’t have venues that played wild and raucous club style music, so again, we would all pile into Banff to take part in this strange right of passage affair.  The Back Alley and Silver City (also dubbed Syphilis City for obvious reasons) were our favourites.  Many nights we would go to one or the other, or bounce around between the two trying to find the most fun possible.  We also sometimes found ourselves caught up in the wildness of Wild Bill’s Saloon!  As the name implies, it was always a good time!

Back in those days we were allowed to be carefree kids.  We didn’t have to worry about date rape drugs or any number of other things that teens have to deal with now-a-days.  I feel like we were part of the last generation that could go out and have a good time, completely worry free, and for that I am so thankful.  Most times we had a designated driver to take us home, but there was the odd night that a few of us would sleep in the car until early the next morning when one would drive, with one eye open, and we would slink back home smelling of booze and stale cigarette smoke.  (Yes, they still smoked inside back then!) Our parents were thrilled with us I’m sure!

 

In later years I had a job working at the Banff Springs Golf Course Pro Shop for one summer.  This again gave me a different perspective of Banff, and was my first introduction to truly working with tourists.  Only in recent years have I acknowledged that I actually grew up in one of the worlds TOP tourist destinations.  I mean I knew that lots of travellers came to Banff, when I was a kid the streets were lined with busloads of Japanese, all standing at attention, cameras poised and ready, but I definitely didn’t put it all together then.

I definitely didn’t understand the majestic beauty that existed all around me day and night.  I, for sure, didn’t understand what privilege I had as a child living in a place where I was free to ride my bike all over town, go hiking in the woods whenever I choose, and to just be wild and free.  And I don’t think I understood how nice it was to be part of a genuine small town community, to be surrounded by people who truly care for one another.

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A recent photo taken by the Bow River in Canmore.

It wasn’t until I moved away from Canmore and the Banff area permanently in 2002, that I started to realize just how beautiful it all is, and age has brought an appreciation for the community and the group of people who collectively raised me.  Of course, we appreciated the outdoors when we were kids, back then we spent our lives outside.  We would go on hikes and marvel at the views, and we would climb the mountains just for something to do.  But it was all just normal to us, it was our everyday reality.  In retrospect, I can see that I took it for granted, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

But now, I truly do realize just how lucky I was to grow up in this majestic place.  It’s not the tropical paradise that one conjures up when the word paradise is mentioned, but it is certainly a paradise of its own accord.  The clean water and clean air is marvelled at by people from far reaches of the world, who also come to enjoy the plethora of spectacular mountains, lakes, trees and rivers.  The names Banff and Canmore have become synonymous with mountains and outdoor recreation, fit people and world class athletes.

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Beautiful fall days in Canmore.

People flock to this valley to get but a taste of what it would be like to live here.  Many struggle greatly to keep afloat financially, with the ridiculous rates of inflation and costs of housing and living.  But Banff and Canmore are also both places that know unimaginable amounts of wealth and overabundance.  Above it all, and despite what class of person you are, my hope is that people who live here truly appreciate the stunning beauty that surrounds them.

I am thankful that I have chosen a life that has allowed me to spend this amount of time back in my hometown.  This visit has, again, solidified my foundation, it has reminded me that I am one of the fortunate ones, and it has helped me to recall parts of me that were long lost.  I guess you could say that I am one lucky little unicorn indeed!

And, you know, maybe, at the age of 43,  it’s finally time to admit that Banff doesn’t suck so bad after all!


Click here if you would like to read my article entitled Notes on my Hometown – Canmore, Alberta, Canada.


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 in this area until Christmas or New Years.  Details of our next destination are yet to be confirmed.

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:)

Reflections from Flores, Guatemala

Could this be the doors opening that we had been hoping for? Of course it was!


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…….


We arrived in Flores after 3 different flights from Costa Rica, and an 8 hour day.  We hopped our way through Central America, stopping first in San Salvador, where we spent one hour in the airport, but managed to have a glass of beer at the airport microbrewery.  Seriously, not something we expected to find!  Next was a quick hop to Guatemala City where we had a 4 hour layover, allowing us plenty of time to grab our bags, clear customs and check back into our next flight to Flores. 

3 Plane Hop to Flores

Flores is a small island town that is perched on Lake Petén Itzá, in the most Northern Guatemala Department (similar to States or Provinces), also called Petén.  Since we were arriving at night, we were a little concerned with getting to our hotel, which was across the the lake from Flores, a 3 minute ride by boat.  However, our worries were typically needless.  Our very friendly shuttle driver, drove us straight to the boat launch, phoned our hotel to send a boat, and we arrived in fine fashion.  

Guatemala Screenshot

As we entered the Island of Flores, by one single road connecting it to the mainland, we were immediately enamoured with the quaint and idyllic little island.  We could see Bar-B-Que’s happening on the sides of the roads, and plenty of life happening in the streets.  The teeny tiny little streets are just about the cutest little streets we have ever seen (although I think I say that about all the little streets that we see), some of them only big enough for motos and tiny little gas driven tuk tuks.  Small little alleyways, many suitable for walking only wove themselves away from the main roads, and off into the matrix of houses that are intertwined in behind.  As we passed each alley way and road, each of us craned out necks to look down as far as we could.  We were both wide eyed and lost in wonderland and were immediately in love with this place!

Flores Screenshot

Initially our two planned nights in Flores (actually, we learned, the area across the water, where our hotel was, is called San Miguel), turned into 3, and as we met more and more people in and around Flores, we found it really hard to leave at all. 


THE PLAN

Our ‘plan’, when we booked the trip to Guatemala, was to visit Flores for a couple days, then head out to El Remate for a couple more days to see Tikal.  After that we would be off to Belize by bus, heading north to Mexico up the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula.  Our end goal was to get to Merida, the capital city of the Yucatan Peninsula, and where we visited for only 3 days in 2015, but fell in love with it.  Chris had spoken to a tattoo shop there that accepts guest artists, and we have some friends that are currently living there that are from Portland, who we keep telling that we are coming up there.  However, as it is with travelling, and this sort of life, things don’t always go as we plan. 


The morning after we arrived, we were ecstatic to look out of our hotel window to see an island across the way that was literally beaming with colour.  Even from our distance across the water, which is likely less than a kilometer, we could see that there were cute little buildings, seemingly stacked on top of each other.  The coloured roofs seemed to interconnect, making it seem like a giant patchwork quilt set out on the middle of the lake.  In the center of it all, and up on the hill in the middle of the island, stands a grande white church that looks down on the rest of the area.  Needless to say, we couldn’t wait to get our day started, so that we could get back over there to explore. 

A tiny little “lancha” took us across to the other side for just over a dollar for both of us, and we were dropped off in about 3 minutes. We immediately set out to explore what we could, weaving our way here and there up the tiny streets.  Many Guatemalans sat on their front stoops, and I’m sure ALL of them greeted us in some way as we passed.  Over the course of the day, we visited many little stores, coffee shops and bars and met some really interesting people.  We learned that there was in fact a tattoo shop in town, however we didn’t find it that day.  

By mid afternoon, we found ourselves back down by the water, and where we would be catching our boat back across to our hotel.  We had noticed a really neat looking coffee shop along that road that morning, it was covered in plants from top to bottom, and really caught our eye.  So, we decided to head in and have a beer before we headed back across the water.   It wasn’t just the plants, and the lure of feeling like we would be sitting amongst a jungle that brought us in here, though. It was the bright vibrant colours that everything was painted in, it was the funky bohemian decor, and it was just the good vibes and the feeling in general.  We felt very comfortable in that little place right away, and it felt like home to us. We took our boat back across the water after a fulfilling and great exploration day, and decided that maybe 2 nights wasn’t enough for this place.  

The next morning, we told the hotel that we wanted to stay another day, and we headed straight across the water for breakfast, back to San Telmo, the comfy little bohemian coffee shop/bar that we had fallen in love with.  Right away when we got there, we met William, or Docter Gato, as the locals know him as.  He started chatting with us immediately when we came in. Having grown up split between Canada and the US, he has now been in Guatemala for 25 years.  We don’t know how old he is, but I can imagine its between 60 and 70 somewhere.  Although, he is also one of those spirited, spry people, that could easily be 80 as well.  

He sat down to ask us what we do and all kinds of questions about our life.  In an instant I felt like I could tell this man anything, while simultaneously feeling like I couldn’t get enough of what HE had to say.  He immediately suggested that since we had no schedule, we should stay for longer in Flores since it is such a nice spot.  We agreed.   

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San Telmo Coffee Shop

Chris sourced out the tattoo guy through Facebook, and sent him a message asking if he was looking for any guest artists.  He replied right away that he was interested, and, of course, wanted to meet us.  We finished breakfast and then headed to his shop.  We found it with no problem and felt completely at ease and comfortable in his presence, right away.  He seemed excited at the prospect of having another artist in the shop, and we spoke with him a bit about needing a house to rent, if we were to stay longer . He immediately took us through the streets to look at a couple options.

We didn’t find anything that was suitable at that time, but later in the day after we had moved on to other things, Vladimir, the tattoo shop owner, messaged us that he knew of a place in San Miguel that was available and he wanted to show it to us at 9:00 the next morning. He would pick Chris up with his motorbike (actually he thought he was picking us both up at once, as they often do here, but I opted out of that one….) and take him to see the house.  If we didn’t like it, we decided that we would head back over the the Island of Flores, and would stay in a hotel there that was just as cheap, but a little more part of the action than across the water at San Miguel.  

Little did we know, Vladimir was hoping that we would stay in a room at his house!  Him and his girlfriend had completely cleaned out one of the bedrooms, but left the mattress on the floor (a King Size Mattress none-the-less), complete with clean sheets.  He stated that we could stay there for as long as we wanted, as long as Chris was working in his shop, and didn’t want any money or compensation for it at all.  We were astounded at his offer and decided to spend a night to see how it went.  Unfortunately, between many lights not working, a shower that never stopped running (at least while the water was actually working), water constantly on the bathroom floor, and a living area that had no furniture to sit in, we decided that this place wasn’t quite as comfortable as we wanted to be, and we set out the next morning to continue our search for accommodation.  I booked a couple nights at a hotel in Flores, then booked 3 nights in El Remate, where we would explore Tikal from and we resigned ourselves to the fact that maybe Flores wasn’t the place for us to be after all.  After talking to countless people and trying our hardest to find a place to live there over our first 3 days, we figured that no doors opening, meant that other doors would open somewhere else.  At that point, our plan was to see Tikal, and then continue on to Mexico like we had decided before heading up to Guatemala.  Maybe that really IS the best plan, we thought. 

After our first night staying in Flores proper, Chris had decided that he wanted to tattoo Vladimir.  Throughout our stay there, Vladimir had told him how excited he was to have another tattoo artist around, and there were some things that he really wanted to get finished on him.  It turned out that what Vladimir wanted, was something that Chris would design himself, and be something that represented his art style.  Knowing that he had very little money, but realizing that we were leaving, he still wanted to gift Vlad with his art, in exchange for how kind he had been to us, so he did it for free.  At that point, it was our last day in Flores, and it needed to be done then, so Chris headed up to his shop, while I went back to our favourite cafe to do some work on my computer, visit with our new friends, and have some coffee. 

At some point through the day, I left go to our hotel for something, and when I returned to the coffee shop, my initial seat had been taken, so I sat down to chat with a Guatemalan lady that was sitting on her own.  We immediately got to chatting like we were long lost friends, and she started telling me where she lived, back across the lake in San Miguel, where we had initially been staying.  The way she described her house somehow seemed so familiar to me, and I immediately asked her if she had and Air BnB there.  “Si!” She announced.  I really don’t know how I knew this, but the morning that we had woken up at Vlad’s, and after searching out some other options of accommodation possibilities, I had found her house on Air BnB and it was very reasonably priced at $15/night.  I almost messaged her to see what she would charge us for a month, but quickly also realized that it was her house, and that we would be living with her if we wanted to stay there.  This wasn’t ideal for us……we really needed our own space, so I didn’t. 

But all of a sudden, here I was, sitting across a table from the exact person that owned this house.  As we discussed her house a bit, Doctor Gato sat down and I told him the story.  Suddenly these impossible words began spilling from his mouth “she is planning to move out of her house, you should live there.” 

WHAT???!!!  I couldn’t believe it!  Here I had been already, researching this possible place to stay, feeling like it would have been the perfect house for us, but just not wanting a roommate.  However, with her planning to move out, things were coming together perfectly!  My mind buzzed with excitement!

I quickly asked her how much it would be to rent it, and she told me the magic number.  We had been looking for something close to US$200 per month, and she wanted the equivalent of $225.  Could this be it?  Could this be the doors opening that we had been hoping for?  Of course it was! 

After explaining our situation and insisting that we were VERY interested, I asked her if she could wait there while I ran up the street to ask Chris about it.  Of course, I was quite sure that he would be ecstatic about it as well and I arrived breathless and barely being able to get a word out, as I expressed how excited I was about this place.  We agreed that it needed to be looked at, and made a plan with Heidi the very next morning to see it. 

Of course, the house is perfect!  It has 2 bedrooms (one which we can Air BnB if we desire), a beautiful deck, perched high up on the hill with a view of Flores from San Miguel.  It is smack dab in the middle of a teeny neighbourhood of homes, and our closest neighbour makes fresh tortillas every day,  4 for 1Q (about 15cents!).  The house is very modern, and we immediately fell in love with Heidi, she has spunk and a zest for life, and she knows all about Europe and Canada and many other places in the world.

We are so excited that things have worked out for us here.  We really didn’t feel like leaving, we just hadn’t given it enough time for the Universe to lay out the possibilities.  We are looking forward to being able to use this place as a launchpad to explore this area.  Plus, with all the friends that we have made already, we really already feel like we are part of a community, and we look forward to sinking in even more and enjoying this place for a while. It is in the staying in one place where we feel the most productive.  Where we can really sink into our artwork. Where we can make friends, meet people, and really learn about the culture and the people of this land. 

Not to mention that being here on the lake brings with it a certain peace that is hard to quantify.  It feels tranquil, welcoming and refreshing.  After spending so many months on the Ocean, we are very happy to be near fresh water. 

This is the life that we have chosen!  Not a day goes by where we aren’t ecstatic about the opportunities that cross our paths.  Every day is an adventure.  Every day offers a chance to take a different path if we so choose.  However, when you get to those places that bring you so much happiness, sometimes it’s nice to stay a while. 

Next up, we are off to El Remate, as planned, to explore Tikal!  We are over the moon with excitement about this chance to visit these sacred lands.  Stay tuned for a full story on that adventure! 


In other news!

In January I joined a network called Location Indie.  It has about 350 members that are either already location independent, or are working their way to being so.  It offers mentoring and advice on how to achieve a location independent lifestyle.  There are many valuable free workshops, lectures and a great forum where you can post any sort of question, and you will get many answers from other members.

If you are interested in checking it out, and signing up for their newsletter, please click here!

In June, I was honoured to be featured as the monthly member spotlight, and got interviewed on the network for all members to watch live.  The interview was also turned into a podcast!  I am very happy to share that link here (find episode 113). It tells of our journey to location independence, and gives you an inside look at how we did it, and how we are making it work now.  Give it a listen if you like, and sign up for their podcast.  It is very inspirational!

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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 currently in Flores, Guatemala.  We have rented a house and expect to stay here for a minimum of 2 months.

Travelling Plans: No plans to go anywhere at this point!

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

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

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

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

To contribute to our Patreon account, please click here.

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

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Off to Guatemala!


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…….


Although we have been content here in our hostel in Samara for 3 weeks now, we also realize that we can’t stay here forever.  We exchanged part of our stay for painting a mural for the hostel owner, but we are now living on paid time, and while the price tag is only $25/night, we also realize that over the course of time, that adds up.

A couple weeks ago I went online to find cheap flights up to Cancun.  Obviously, flying is not our travel method of choice, but since the roads are blocked in Nicaragua, civil war has broken out, and the country is at a standstill, there really isn’t any other option.  If we want to go somewhere, it has to be by plane. 

As we are to be housesitting in November in Guatemala, it only made sense to head North, and not South, to cut down on future travel expense and time. 

A couple weeks ago I researched flights up to Cancun.  We have our sights set on Merida, a beautiful colonial city that we spent only 3 nights at back in 2015.  It sits about 4 hours by bus to the west of Cancun, and is close to the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula.  We fell in love with the city and vowed to return for longer some day.  Being close to Guatemala, makes it a good option for us to be close to our housesitting gig in November, and we can find apartment rentals for $150-$200 per month.  Good deal!

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Image courtesy of Googlemaps.com

When I did my my initial search, the flights were looking like they were about $200-$220 per person.  Not bad.  I researched many different days around the beginning of July, and found them all to be about the same price. So I figured that I would wait until we got closer, to see if any other opportunities came up for us around Samara, or in Costa Rica, before we committed to something solid. 

When living a nomadic life, booking a flight is a bit of a big deal.  When you are trying to live day to day, and take whatever opportunity comes your way, committing to some far off point can be stressful and a bit overwhelming.  But as everything in life, we have to make decisions, and once we do, new opportunities will arise that never existed before. 

Last night, feeling like our time is definitely up here in Samara, and in Costa Rica in general, I decided that I should sit down and find a flight and just book something.  We needed to make a move.  However, I was dismayed when I saw that all of the $200ish flights had now jumped to sometimes $350 or more!  If we wanted a $200 flight, it would mean staying in Costa Rica for another 2-3 weeks, which would negate the cost of the cheap flight anyways. 

Not to be deterred, I checked many websites and although I found the odd cheaper flight, most of them only allowed carry on bags and charged extra for checked bags.  Unfortunately, although we are nomadic, our bags do not match our nomadic lifestyle!  We have one complete duffel bag that is full of Chris’ tattoo gear, our tent, some thin sleeping bags, and (shudder) wool sweaters and cold weather gear!  We do plan to get to Ecuador eventually and these warm clothes WILL come in handy, but just thinking about them at this point makes me sweat!

PLUS we have an entire carry on suitcase that is dedicated to our art supplies.  This case in particular is a little worrisome as we have been adding heavy paper and other supplies to it making it quite heavy.  Even if it does fit in the overhead bins, there is a chance that they won’t allow it onboard the plane due to its weight. On top of all that we have 2 small back packs and another large backpack that contains both of our clothing. 

Like I said, one would NOT think we are nomadic with all of the stuff we are hauling around, that’s for sure!

However, this is a cross that we bear, and is why once we got down here we had resigned ourselves to bus travel only, at least in the near future.   But, with travel comes uncertainty, changed plans, and never really knowing what is around each corner.  So here we are, booking flights and stressing about our luggage!


I continued my searches through many websites and finally decided to switch things up a bit.  Previously, I had considered checking flights to Guatemala, and they had all been quite cheap as well, in fact cheaper than to Cancun.  I decided to throw that into the search engine to see what came back.  Right away it was obvious that flights were cheaper, but Guatemala City is so far away from Merida, it seemed silly to try to save the $100 when we would have to spend days travelling north from there.  Sure Lake Atitlan is nearby, a very popular destination and a “must see” Guatemala sight, but with the explosion of Volcan Fuego happening recently, maybe that wasn’t the best place to go.  I’m sure there is an economic spin off happening with that, tourism is likely down and possibly, there could be other problems.  No, we weren’t really interested in going there, at least for now, especially having just gotten over our shell shock from Nicaragua. 

However, as I typed Guatemala into one search engine, just to see other options, in tiny writing and in an obscure corner of the page, was an option for other airports.  Other airports?  I had no idea that there were other international airports in Guatemala!  I assumed that all international flights flew into Guatemala City, then connected from there (never assume….I know, I know.)  I quickly chose another destination, Flores, yes, that looked like a nice name, meaning Flowers in English.  Lets look there, I thought. 

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Image courtesy of googlemaps.com

Our German friend Nico, one of the same hostel family members that had been with us since we arrived in Samara, and who also left Nicaragua, had been to Flores.  He quickly announced “Oh yes, Flores is lovely, then you can go to Tikal.” 

Tikal???  What??  I have dreamt about going to Tikal for so many years, but it’s never been a solid plan, just some sort of far off fantasy.  One that would manifest itself one day when I ever got to Guatemala.  Well, all of a sudden this far off plan was suddenly manifesting itself before my eyes.  Chris announced “Book it!”, and Nico was immediately on his feet with enthusiasm, whipping out his Lonely Planet guide, pulling up maps on his phone, and showing me all sorts of things to do and places to go in that area.  I had to get him to slow down for a few minutes while I booked the flight, but I was pumped for his excitement.  Clearly this was a great place to head to!  Plus, it’s located in the Northern part of the country, which means getting to Merida, may be a little bit easier than it would be from Guatemala City. 

The flight to Flores is $160 each, and includes one checked bag each (now we just have to make sure they are below 24kg!).  BINGO!  In an instant our flight was booked and just like that we are off to Guatemala.  The hilarious thing, also, is that our flight is on the same day (July 5th) that our friend Nico’s is to Mexico City, and within half an hour of his.  So we are all going to travel to San Jose together, stay in the same hostel, and see each other off at the airport. 

In the course of a couple hours, we went from not knowing what we were going to do, or where we were going to go, or if we were EVER going to get out of Costa Rica, to finding a cheap flight, booking it, and planning our trip to Guatemala!  For the first time since leaving Canada, I am finally going to a country I haven’t been to before, and I couldn’t be more excited! 

We have no idea how long we will spend in Guatemala, we don’t really know anything about what we will be doing when we get there (other then going to Tikal of course!) but we are going, that much is clear!  It feels incredibly good to have a bit of a plan, and to know that very soon we will be in a new county, experiencing a new culture and seeing new sights. 

This is the life of a Nomad, this is what is exciting!  One day at a time, step by step we choose our futures.  It’s an exhilarating feeling and we wouldn’t want it any other way. 

Pura Vida from Costa Rica (for only one more week!)

When nothing is sure, everything is possible


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 have been in the El Dorado Hostel (highly recommended!) for 3 weeks.

Travelling Plans: Heading to Guatemala on July 5th!

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.

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Nicaragua – Should We Stay or Should We Go Now? Part One

This unspeakable and despicable act is what forced us from the country.  Because you realize that if a person is capable of that, he is capable of anything.  This is our story of 8 weeks in Nicaragua, when a civil war broke out.  

We arrived in Nicaragua on April 9th, 2018.  On April 18th, we got news that President Ortega had put into law a new social security reform which would negatively affect the entire population. The students took to the streets to protest, and in what would become the historical beginning to this crazy civil war that they have now entered, over 70 people were killed, mostly students, and many more hundreds were injured, around the country.  On May 10th, we began a housesitting job in Rivas.  Things had calmed down a bit, and we felt right in our decision to stay in the country.  The violence had’t reached where we were, we really felt like it would stay calm.  Day by day we watched as things escalated around us.  We started to feel trapped.  Roadblocks made travelling impossible and we weren’t sure if it was even safe to go anywhere.  Maybe it is best where we are, we thought.  On May 30th, a peaceful Mother’s Day March took place in Managua, the capital of the country.  Estimates of 200 000 people took to the street to show solidarity and a will to make a point, to tell Ortega they wanted him out.  They marched to remember their children that had already been lost in this bloody war.  They were thousands upon thousands strong, mostly waving the Blue and White striped flag of Nicaragua.  It was a sight to behold and I felt a surge of pride for the country and what it was representing.  We read the following morning that late in the day, Snipers located high off the ground, started shooting into the crowd.  That day they killed upwards of 15 people and injured hundreds more.  One boy was shot right from his mother’s arms.  On Mother’s Day.  This was the turning point for us. This unspeakable and despicable act is what forced us from the country.  Because you realize that if a person is capable of that, he is capable of anything.  This is our story of 8 weeks in Nicaragua, when a civil war broke out.  


We had been staying at Amanda’s farm for about 10 days when we started to feel like it was time to go somewhere new.  We had been living in our tent, it was dry and dusty, we were covered in ticks every day and we were dirty.  It was time to move on, we both felt it.

It was April 19th, and we were scheduled to start housesitting around the beginning of May.  So we had a few days to kill and we thought that spending them in Granada, would be a nice way to see another part of the country, before settling into our house in Rivas.  I instinctually looked on Booking.com and found a place.  I booked it and paid for it, but it didn’t go through for some reason.  After a while, I received a message from the owner saying that they are not taking bookings because Granada was under attack.  Under attack??  What do you mean under attack??  We had just been there the day before.  Amanda had commented on the amount of police vehicles around, but other than that we didn’t see anything else unusual.

The man said that there were blockades and fighting in the streets and that they were closed.  That was it.  He suggested that we leave the country as soon as possible.

I went to find Amanda to tell her what I had heard.  Mostly dumbfounded and really not sure what to think.  It was all beyond comprehension to me.  When I found her she said she knew.  I don’t know for how long she had known, but she was in close contact with her Aunt in Managua and things didn’t sound good.  But we were in Nandaime, nowhere near Managua, and everything seemed normal there.  The 4 of us decided to just see what was going to happen.  This could go many ways, and we wanted to make sure that what we were hearing was fact based, not just based on fear.  And none of us were going to make any rash decisions about leaving, until we heard the outcome of this.

Because at some point this “fight” will end.  Won’t it?

Obviously, we were as glued as we could be to the internet.  Looking on Instagram and Facebook for updates.  Many expats had started reporting about what was happening in their neighbourhoods.  It was frightening and terrifying and we really weren’t sure what to think.  But that was there, and we were not.  We felt safe where we were, on a small farm well away from main roads and big cities.

Amanda’s Quidador (property caretaker) who is roughly 70, would come around our camp a couple times per day reporting in on the numbers.  Letting us know how many had died that day.  Stating that the revolution had started.  Fearful for what he remembered from the last one.  Sickeningly, looking back, we joked about it.  “Viva la revolucion!” we yelled as we all laughed, his Nicaraguan nephew included.  I think about that scene now and it makes me angry at myself.  How insensitive were we?  To think about what that man had been through, and for him to know what’s coming, and we all just made light of it.  Maybe I only feel bad because I know now what I didn’t know then.

I mean really.  How bad could it get?

There was a general feeling around us of “NAH, it can’t be that bad!”  We knew it was serious and that people had died, but we really just thought it would blow over.  Nobody really gave it too much credit.  Or maybe that was our brain’s defense system.  We went to town in numbers in the day, and we didn’t go anywhere at night.  We hung low.  We were cautious and we knew crazy things were going on around the country.

But they would sort themselves out.  Wouldn’t they?

We stuck it out through the weekend hearing reports of more and more dead.  By Monday upwards of 65 to 70 people, mostly students had been killed in various locations around the country.  Mostly they were marching peacefully.  They wanted Ortega out, and they were making a show of it.  Somehow people got killed.  Many say it was government trained snipers, other say it’s junior Sandanistas that have been groomed to kill.  Who ever it was brought violence to the equation, and with that brought a fight.

Somewhere amongst it all, the students and their supporters started building barricades in the streets.  They literally pulled the bricks up that were laid in the streets and built walls out of them.  They staggered them through towns and cities, intermittently, with not much organization.  Some road blocks turned into shields as the odd time guns were involved, and they would all crouch down behind them to dodge the bullets.  These road blocks are meant to put pressure on the government to halt deliveries of supplies, and cause general disfunction in the country.

And oh ya, by Monday morning the newspapers were ordered to stop reporting and a national radio station was closed down.  He was censoring the news.  Our hearts sank.

After the weekend ended, Ortega finally agreed with the church to have talks.  They were going to do some negotiating.  The priests were tired of blood shed.  Videos on Facebook and You Tube showed them walking into the conflicts, dressed in full regalia, to halt the fighting.  They were tired of the violence and they knew that it needed a solution.

Day one of the talks, a young Lesther Aleman, a University student, told Ortega point blank to his face that the Nicaraguan people want him to step down.  They are tired of his regime, and his presidency had gone on long enough. In fact, Ortega himself was the one to decide that he could be president for a third term, and in effect for life, by changing the laws that stated presidency was two terms, maximum.  He also somehow decided while entering into his third term that the rules should state that his wife be allowed to be Vice President.  You can imagine my shock when I read this in an article shortly after this all started.  I remember distinctively thinking “His WIFE is the Vice President??”  My heart sunk with this knowledge as right there laid out before me was the perfect dictatorship.  Complete power.

The thing is that the people knew it.  They knew that he was amassing an empire.  They knew it, but it didn’t matter as much because their lives were good.  Nicaraguas economy was booming, tourism had never been better.  Expats were buying up land in droves and new guest houses, cottages and hotels were popping up everywhere.  What’s to complain about?

But apparently however good Nicaragua seemed on the surface, things were not so good behind the scenes.  Bit by bit Ortega had been amassing unbelievable wealth, and power. He made himself the head honcho to every branch of government, took over the countries electrical company and bought many more businesses and things to create a very powerful and dominant structure.  Even if he did step down as President, he would still be controlling the structure of Nicaragua.  It’s very scary to think about how entangled he is in the country. Taking notes from Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and the Castro boys, he seemed to be following a game plan.  A long strung out government take over that would be done so slowly that nobody would notice.  However, his plan backfired, Venezuela stopped their supports for Nicaragua, and a desperate government,  one that knew that it was about to go broke, made a decision that stepped over lines and crossed boundaries.

I was told by a Nicaraguan friend that two years ago, Ortega was told that if he didn’t fix the Social Security program, it would be broke by June of 2018.

So it was in April, not even 2 months before that fateful month, that Ortega decided to finally do something about this.  I read that he did it without speaking with the business sector, and without asking for any input from any other branch of government.

He just decided that it was so, and so it was.

His new bill would instantly increase the Social Security rates that the current employees AND employers were paying, and simultaneously reduce the current amount that seniors were getting now, and in the future.  Thereby affecting the entire population of the country.

This is what started it all.  This was the tipping point.  The people had had enough of his power.  This time he had pushed too far. It was time to say no to the monster!  It was time to take their country back.  It was time to rise up.

To continue to part 2 of this story, click here.


Disclaimer:  The information provided in my writing is based on articles that I have read from many publications, information gathered from Nicaraguan Expats and Locals, and from videos that I have seen posted online.  I don’t pretend to be an expert on Nicaraguan politics, and if you feel like I have misrepresented information in anyway, please email me at jillamatt@me.com. 

For news on what is happening in Nicaragua and to learn all about this crisis, please visit the La Prensa website.  Their online newspaper has covered this from the beginning. 


After selling all of our possessions in Canada in 2017, we flew to Costa Rica to do an initial housesit for 2 months.  Our journey has continued and we have now been ‘on the road’ for almost 8 months.

Current Location: We are currently in Samara, Costa Rica where we are staying in a familiar hostel with 2 others that left Nicaragua in the last few days.  We have also met 5 other people in town that just left.  We call ourselves the Nicaraguan Refugees. 

Travelling Plans: Our ‘plans’ have been flipped upside down and we are now trying to figure out a new one. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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:)

A Glimpse of the Costa Rican Highlands

Our house was perfect! We giggled with joy as we scoured every corner and checked it all out.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Beautiful sunsets from the restaurant!

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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EW!

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

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

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

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After I fell on my butt, this is the sight that beheld me as I looked up.
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Easily 150 feet high, this waterfall seemed as though it was falling directly from the heavens, making us all wonder where exactly the water was actually coming from.
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Perfect heated rocks lay below allowing us to bask in the warm sun while enjoying the coolness of the water spray below.
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The canyon walls were absolutely rife with life!  It was a sight to behold!
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Crystal clear clean water was awaiting us!

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What’s Next?

We clearly have been here too long if we are starting to get woven into the Payton Place dramas that are going on around us.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Off to El Silencio!

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

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

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

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

We are off to El Silencio on March 15th!

Next to Nicaragua!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pura Vida from Costa Rica!


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wandering in Varna, Bulgaria – Guest Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!

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

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

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

To see my blog post menu, click here.

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

 

 

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