Life in Chefchaouen

I had seen the odd picture on Instagram of its famous blue walls, but of course, those pictures do not do this place justice!

We are currently living in Chefchaouen, Morocco and LOVE it!  Click ‘continue reading’ below to read about just why we love this place so much!

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To say that we have been delighted and amazed by pretty much everything in the Chefchaouen area, would still somehow be understating it.

We arrived here  (read about our first impressions) weary and jet lagged after travelling across the Atlantic Ocean from Canada.  We had no idea what to expect, we hadn’t researched this place online, and we didn’t even know how to pronounce the name (it’s CHEF-CHOW-AN for those interested) before we arrived.  Of course, I had seen the odd picture on Instagram of its famous blue walls, which has created the monicker “The Blue Pearl”, but, of course, those pictures do not do this place justice!  Continue Reading……..


This post is part of our website http://www.artisticvoyages.com.  Head there today to sign up for our newsletter and follow us along on our journey!  


 

A New Year and A Brand New Adventure!

Before the Morocco idea was implanted in our brains, we had planned to fly to the Southern US to visit friends, then travel by land down into Mexico, travelling by bus and public transit.


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!


Wow!  Who can believe that we are this far into 2020 already?  Time is zipping by, and I suppose that is okay because we are flying off to Morocco on the 15th of this month!

We have been back in Canada since the end of August.  We never meant to stay this long, but we kept getting more offers of housesits, and it somehow felt right to just stay put for a bit.

How Morocco came to be……..

In early September, we had a visit from a good friend of ours that lives in the town we moved away from in Canada, before heading on our nomad adventure, in 2017.  He was on his way to help his mom pack up her house, and decided to stay a night in Canmore while driving through.

He mentioned at dinner that he was trying to get a group of people together for a trip to Morocco in January.  He suggested that we should join him.  Morocco?  Hmmmmmmm, it had a nice ring to it.

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A chance visit by our friend John has sent us off in a whole new direction to Morocco!

Before the Morocco idea was implanted in our brains, we had planned to fly to the Southern US to visit friends, then travel by land down into Mexico, travelling by bus and public transit.  However, we also realized that that plan could potentially get us back to Guatemala and once again stuck in the jungle because we love it so much.  Or, we may have made it as far as our buddies property in Costa Rica, before the jungle grabbed a hold of us and held on tight.  The point is, we LOVE those places, and definitely want to go back, but the problem is that there is also so much more out there to see.

The temptation for familiarity, though, and for visiting our friends that we made that we hold near and dear to our hearts, is very great.  We see peoples faces on facebook, instagram, or whatever other digital means, sure.  But it doesn’t replace the in person contact that is so crucial for our connection to our community.

But I also realize that there are SO many more great people out there in the world, and we want to meet as many as we can!  We want to learn about how other people operate, we want to experience their culture and their language.  We may not understand many of their belief systems, but that part is none of our business.  We just want to know people for who they are as simple basic human beings.

And so, the more we thought about it, the more we realized that we were about to make a crucial mistake.  We don’t have the time required to see all the things we want to see on this planet already!  Let alone if we start spending 3 and 4 years in one corner of the world.  We need to keep moving, keep exploring and keep educating.

Are travellers the real peacekeepers?

I do believe that as travellers, we are responsible for helping others to understand the world.  For example, we are able to help people to realize that certain cultures do things certain ways because that is how THEY HAVE ALWAYS DONE IT!  I think it is important for us to send out photos of our experiences, and the things we see, so that others can understand what a spectacular world we live in.  I think it’s great to share local experiences such as festivals and fairs so that people can see how others celebrate.

Despite the bad news that has reign on social media, news paper outlets, television news……..any news, there are so many celebrations going on in the world, all the time!  There are cultures that are not bogged down by these issues that plague “first world” nations (I hate that term).  They take the time to celebrate the good in their lives, they spend time with families, and they may sit on a neighbours porch just to chat and hang out.  These are all moments of celebration, moments of human to human contact.  But don’t get me wrong, many cultures celebrate big large festivals on a regular basis.  To them it is important to get EVERYONE together celebrating as much as possible, something I think is sorely lacking in our North American society.

For more on this: Travelers, Are they the real Peacekeepers?

Checking in with friends and family

This time, visiting my hometown and area, for this long, has meant that I have had the time required to check in and see so many great friends from my childhood.  It has been a real treat to catch up with so many and to just see how good we are all doing.  I am so lucky to have had the chance to grow up in a town with such close connections.  I went to school with about 30 people from my high school graduation class, since kindergarten.  Now those are some strong and lasting bonds that get formed.

Chris was happy to hear all the fun stories that were regaled about my *ahem* slightly rebel teenage years.   Many stories long since forgotten, brought back to the surface to laugh about again.  I’m so thankful for the happy and fun childhood that I had.  I think it is the best gift that a child can get, and I am forever grateful for mine.

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My spectacular hometown of Canmore, Alberta, Canada!
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New Years Eve on the Pond in Canmore with Jill’s parents!

It’s also been nice to have some solid time to spend here with Chris, showing him around to all my old childhood haunts, like literally ALL of them.  In the past we would duck into town for 3-5 days, barely getting a chance to hug a handful of people, then jet out again.  This time we have had the time to spend exploring trails and pathways, and many places from my past.

I also realized through this process that I haven’t been around my parents for this length of time in about 20 years!  It has been an interesting and enlightening experience, really getting to know them again after so long.  I mean, we all KNOW our parents, but over time, they grow and change like we do, and if you aren’t around them everyday, you don’t notice the subtleties.  My parents are on their own change of life journey right now as they are downsizing their house so that they can sell it and move into a smaller place.  So I have been using my experience of selling all of our things, to help them to get rid of the excess stuff that they have and don’t need anymore.

I have really appreciated having the time and space to really visit them and connect again.  This is something that didn’t exist in my old life.  In my old life I didn’t have time for such extravagances, it was work work work, busy busy busy all the time.  So much running around…….. so much……… too much.

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A visit on the farm at Christmas with Chris’ Mom, Stepdad, and his youngest sister Sienna and her boyfriend Landon.
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GROUP HUG!

It may seem now like all we are doing is running around, but it’s different.  Yes, we move from place to place, and it seems to some like our life is upended all the time, but we spend good quality time in places.  We spend time doing what is important to us.  We try not to get caught up in the constant pressure from society to ‘get a job’ or ‘look busy’ or the common thought that we all have ‘you aren’t doing enough.’  We try as hard as we can to do only what we want to do, which usually means working on our online businesses and our various forms of artwork that we always have going on.   We try as hard as we can to set boundaries and make sure that others understand what mission we are on and what we are working on.

We have also had a few nice visits with Chris’ mom, and his whole family, and even decided at the last minute that we were going to go and stay with his mom and her husband, plus see Chris’ youngest sister and her boyfriend for a good visit at Christmas time.  It turned out to be a beautiful drive and all the trees were covered in white frost as we passed the vast, flat and barren landscape.  Mother Nature was shimmering and sparkling as we drove along, and it was truly spectacular!

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Spectacular Prairie Sunsets!
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Winter Wonderland!

In getting in all of this visiting, we have realized that the most valuable part of this experience, and what has made us the RICHEST, is certainly NOT the money we make (believe me it is a pittance). Instead it is having the time to do the things that are important to us and sharing that time with the people we love.

Freedom of time, from my perspective, is the greatest and best kind of freedom a person could ever ask for.

New changes in 2020!

We are very thankful for this community that has been following us along on this journey.  We are uplifted and inspired by those that email us, chat with us on facebook, or pop us a whats app message or more.  As this blog is coming to the end of it’s life (who knew that blogs had memory and it’s almost full!), we have changed our direction slightly and have put our efforts into our new website and newsletter over at http://www.artisticvoyages.com.  This direction will have a more specific slant towards travel, creativity, and helping to make the world a better place.

 

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Subscribe at http://www.artisticvoyages.com

If you have the chance, please click on the link and sign up for our newsletter!  I will be sending out 1 or 2 newsletters per month just outlining what we have been up to, who we have met, what we have eaten, and what we are learning from each country that we visit.  Our aim is to live life with an open heart and open minds, to see and experience all that we can, and to share it, in hopes to inspire others to live their best life.

We are very excited about new opportunities in Morocco and beyond.  It doesn’t pass me by that the country sits on the north-western edge of the African continent, and gives us access to the rest of Africa itself, Europe AND Asia!  There are lifetimes of places for us to explore, and we can’t wait to see where following our noses will take us this time!

Wishing you all a wonderful 2020!  As my Dad says, it has a nice ring to it!  Surely this will be humanities best year yet!

This is me signing off on this blog!  Please join us over at http://www.artisticvoyages.com if you wish to continue to follow along with us on our journey! 


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: Cochrane, Alberta Canada

Travelling Plans: Off to Morocco on January 15th!

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. (Now under Artistic Voyages!)

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.

 

 

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:)

Our Nomadic Kitchen

I can’t say enough about how much we have enjoyed having Our Nomadic Kitchen! 


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


Back when we were getting rid of all of our stuff, selling our house, and closing down our previous lives, we were given an amazing piece of advice by a friend of mine.  She had seen an article, somewhere on facebook, and she shared the article with me.  It was a post suggesting that if you want to be a full time traveller, you should consider taking a kitchen kit along with you.

It was not something that we had considered at that point, but it made so much sense!  How often do you get to an Air BnB or Hostel and the utensils are inadequate.  You can’t find something to take hot items out of the oven, the knives are ridiculously dull, the carrot peeler is piece of garbage.  It’s so true!  It literally happens ALL OF THE TIME!

Are you a foodie?

Well, if you are a foodie like us, and you love to cook your own food, I encourage you to consider creating a small kitchen kit that you can take around with you.  We use EVERY item in our kit on a regular basis, and we have even gone so far as to saying that, besides our electronics, it is our most valued possession!

Although, in the article, there were suggestions of what she would bring in her kitchen kit, we have tailored her list to our needs, PLUS we have also found unique items to add to it along the way.

I can’t say enough about how much we have enjoyed having Our Nomadic Kitchen!  It has saved our bacon so many times, and it’s just nice to know that we have what we need, and can really prepare a meal anywhere and have the right tools for the job.

I know this isn’t everyones cup of tea.  Many travellers like to travel with only the maximum amount to fill carryon bags, but it’s safe to say that we all travel differently, and we all have our own priorities.  My partner and I travel really slow!  We prefer to stay in most places that we go for long terms, 1 month minimum, if possible, and because we aren’t moving around too much, more luggage works for us.  We find that Our Nomadic Kitchen is a necessary and important trade off for our comfort on the road.

Check out what is in Our Nomadic Kitchen!

Our Daily Adventure Kit:

This sub-kit travels around with us in our day pack once we reach our destination.  This part of our kit gives us the tools we need to reduce waste in the world when we are eating out.

Kitchen Kit #2

Included in this is:

3 Pieces of Bee’s Wrap – These pieces of fabric are coated in beeswax, which means you can fold them around food, and they will stick to themselves, keeping your food contained.  We use these for non-liquid leftovers, to wrap breads and other snacks for picnics etc.

Cheese Bag – The brown bag you see is actually designed for cheese making, which it also has been used for, however, we use it more for getting items from the market, washing vegetables, and using it as a giant tea bag for making large batches of teas.

Metal Straws – Of course we are now all familiar with the destruction that straws cause in our world.  Many places we travel already don’t serve straws with drinks, which is great, but we are also happy to tell them ‘no straw’ when we order a drink, so we can instead us our metal straws.  Every little bit helps!  These are easily cleanable by simply pouring water down them immediately after use.

Recycled Plastic Cutlery – This cutlery is stored with the straws in the fabric pouch that you see.  Of course, these too are used in place of single use plastic forks, knives and spoons whenever we can.  A cute story about the pouch; We had been hauling around our cutlery and straws in our backpack with just an elastic holding them in place.  As you can imagine, we were concerned about the bacteria in our backpacks with pulling these out and using them all the time, so we decided to look for a little bag that could hold our items for us.  A day later we were in a restaurant in Guatemala when I saw a sign that they were selling locally grown and roasted coffee.  We decided to buy a pound, only afterwards realizing that the beautiful hand woven bag that it came in, would be PERFECT for our utensils!

Kitcen Kit #5

In the following photos you will see a variety of items. Let me explain them to you below:

Collapsible Funnel – The blue thing in the top left corner above is a funnel that collapses almost flat.  This is a very light weight item, that takes up barely any room!  We use it to transfer liquids into bottles, and sometimes to filter out liquids from solids.  Plus it is silicone, so it is heat resistant! There are many uses for funnels in the kitchen!

Silicone Pot Holders – How many times has your cooking been in the oven and you are scrambling around trying to find something to take your oven tray out with?  The red items at the top are silicone pot holders.  You simply put your thumb in one side, and your other fingers in the other (like you would a puppet), and their heat resistance means that you can grab any hot item from the oven, or use them to take hot lids off pots etc.

Leatherman Multi-Tool – This tool has many different things on it.  We use it as a small knife to take with us to picnics, and it has many different little tools on it that have come in handy for numerous little projects both in the kitchen and around the house.  If you were to have one item from this whole kit, the Leatherman would likely be the most bang for your buck, and should be every travellers companion.  This also travels with us in our day pack when we arrive to our destinations.

Mini Mortar and Pestle – We found this beautiful little mortar and pestle at an artisan market in Palenque, Mexico.  When Chris saw it, he knew that we needed to have it!  In Central America the spices are sold whole in the markets.  You can shop in the grocery stores for bottles of spices, but the ones in the markets are local and fresh!  This little mortar and pestle allows us to crush the delicious fresh spices that we come across, which add so much delicious flavour to our food.

Silicone Tongs – These are great for so many reasons as well!  Because they are silicone, they are again heat resistant, and can be used to remove hot items from the oven, mix up salads, transfer food from pan to plate and so much more!

Knife Sharpener – The red item at the bottom is a portable knife sharpener.  It not only keeps our knife sharp, but we sometimes sharpen the knives where we are staying as well!

Muddler – Of course, there are so many fresh herbs and spices growing all over the world.  It is wonderful to pick fresh mint and then muddle it into a lovely drink……like a Mojito! We actually bought this at the Bacardi Distillery while we were in Puerto Rico!

Small Shred Grater – This grater is fantastic and is used for so many things.  It actually stands up into a pyramid, and you can use it to grate cheese, spices, vegetables and so much more!  The reason it is dyed orange right now is because Chris has been grating fresh tumeric on it!  It also works fabulously for fresh ginger!

Costa Rican Coffee Sock – These socks are how Costa Ricans traditionally make their coffee.  They simply place the ground coffee in the sock, hold it over a mug, and pour boiling water through it.  We have 3 of these and we use them for both coffee and teas.  They are a fantastic item and can be used over and over and over again!  Plus, we NEVER have to look for a coffee maker, or be frustrated when we don’t have one that works!  All we need is boiling water, and we are golden!

Cork Screw/Bottle Opener – This item is actually excessive as we have a wine bottle opener on our Leatherman.  Plus Chris can open bottle tops with his ring!  So, one day this will likely be purged or passed on to a fellow traveller.

Kitchen Kit #3
Not pictured:  1 good quality vegetable peeler!

Folding Serving Spoon – The spoon at the top actually folds in half, making it marginally smaller.  It’s uses are obvious and it is surprising how few places have soup ladles or large serving spoons.

Silicon Pastry Brush –  Again the silicone means that we can use this in high heat situations.  This is a glamorous item in our kit, but we use it a lot to mostly brush sauces onto things in the oven.

Can Opener – I will admit that this item is not used a lot, since we primarily try and cook foods from scratch, and don’t buy much in the way of canned food. However, we still do once in a while, and this makes opening them a dream.  Again, can openers, like vegetable peelers are often in poor working order in most kitchens on the road.

Spatulas – It is probably redundant to have 2 spatulas, but one is great for large bowls and pots, and one is great for taking with us on a picnic to get sauces and dips out of their containers.  For the size and weight of having 2, we really aren’t that worried about it.

Global Chef Knife – I can’t express enough how nice it is to have a knife that really cuts, and that we can rely on!  Every traveller knows of the crap knives that are in many kitchens around the world.  It’s like the managers keep them dull on purpose so nobody cuts themselves!  Many people have asked how we are able to travel with it, but all of these items go in our checked bags, and we haven’t had any trouble yet!  (Knocking on wood here!!!)

First Aid Scissors – Thankfully we haven’t had to use these for first aid just yet! (More knocking….) But they can cut through pennies, so they have come in handy for many different things both in the kitchen and around the house, like cutting rope, wires and who knows what else!

Stove Lighter – We found this handy lighter holder in Costa Rica, and have only seen one other one since!  Check out the pic below to see how awesome this device is!  You put one regular large lighter into it (remove the child safety if there is one), then you push from the bottom and it provides an easy way to light stoves (kind of like our Bar B Que lighters in North America, but reusable forever!) This has been invaluable in so many kitchens where we have been travelling.  Most stoves are gas, and they are normally flanked by a tiny box of wooden matches.  These are a pain in the butt to use compared to this beauty!  We LOVE our lighter!

Not pictured:

Vegetable Peeler: We have a really great vegetable peeler that we can always rely on to do the job.  Again, this is an item in most kitchens that barely works and is frustrating to use at best!  Knowing that we have a good one makes our cooking experience so much better!

Kitchen Kit #4
Just so easy!  When you close it, you push up on the part where the spring is, and viola, you have flame!

Kitchen Kit #9

Food Storage Bag Clips– These clips come in handy for so many things.  We used to have more of the plastic ones on the left, but when we started losing them, we resorted to buying just standard binder clips from the office supply store.  These keep your bags fresh and your food good, especially in damp and humid climates!

Not Pictured

Zip Loc Bags – When we left Canada, we left with about 6 large zip loc bags. We always wash our bags and dry them out to re-use them, but over time, even they disintegrate.  When we had family visiting us in January, we had them bring a few more for us.  Although we don’t like using plastic, they are necessary for storing liquid food if there are no containers, plus they protect any bottles of liquid that we happen to be travelling with.  They are great for storing food for picnics, and come in handy for storing things like coffee, rice, lentils and other dry goods.

Kitchen kit #8

Whenever possible, we try and build a small clothes line for hanging our coffee socks and ziploc bags so that they can dry properly.  These small clothes pin clips are available in most stores where you travel, or you can bring a small selection of them with you, plus a small piece of string, to make one where ever you go!

All of these items fit with ample room into one of our packing cubes.  The cube pictured measures 14″x10″x3″ and weighs 3-4 pounds.

 

There is still lots of room in it to add items as we see them, but as minimalists, we try really hard to make sure that each item we buy is necessary in our lives, before purchasing it.

What kitchen tools are we missing from our kit?

Although we are pretty happy with our kit, there are a couple items that we would love to add to it, just to make our lives that much easier. We have been on the hunt for a small cutting board that will fit right into the kit.  We are looking for something small and light weight, for those times where we need to cut something while we are away from the kitchen.  Cutting boards, however, are usually found in most kitchens and hostels as a bare minimum, so this would be a luxury item for sure.

We also are regretful that we didn’t keep our flat potato and veggie masher that we had in Canada.  It functions as both a masher and a whisk, and when we head back to Canada this summer, it is definitely on our list to buy!

Are you ready to put together YOUR nomadic kitchen?

As stated above, I can’t say enough how important this kit is to us, and how much we use these items.  We LOVE to cook and are constantly trying new foods and coming up with new ideas of what to cook.  Making your life easier in the kitchen means that you will eat out less, and eat fresher, healthier and more invigorating food.  So what are you waiting for?  Get started on putting your Nomadic Kitchen together today!

PS. I would LOVE to hear stories about your Nomadic Kitchen! Comment below if you, or someone you know does this as well! Or tell me all about the one that you make after reading this post!

Nomadic Kitchen


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: Nevis Island, St. Kitts & Nevis

Travelling Plans: On August 5th we will start our long journey back to Canada to visit family and friends for a couple months.

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:)

21 Months Later and Still Letting Go

I do think our pasts are important in shaping who we become, but we must sever the ties that do not serve us anymore.  We must cut the chords of our former selves, to allow ourselves to grow and move forward in this life.  


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


It’s been almost 21 months since we flew away from Canada, bound on a one way journey to Costa Rica. We spent 9 months before that ridding ourselves of all of our possessions, pairing down our lives, shedding years of collecting things, letting go of our pets, our beloved garden and the house that we called home.

In that time, I wrote in what I called “Jill’s Letting Go Diary”, which documented the process, physically and emotionally, of literally letting go of everything.  I last wrote under this heading in November 2017 , but since then we have definitely continued to let go of many aspects of our former selves.  It’s impossible to dive down and list all the things, as we have now been given so much time in this life to do some deep soul searching, contemplating and realizing of things that just don’t serve us anymore.  I’m talking about ways of feeling, old habits that needed to be broken, lies we told ourselves, stories that we made up in our heads.  The list literally could go on and on!

But today, I realized that there is still one major thing that I STILL haven’t let go of, and that is the last town that we were living in in Canada.  I lived in Powell River for 12 years, Chris for 4, and I had decided while there that it was the ultimate paradise.  By then, of course, I had travelled to many places around the world, 46 countries in total.  I felt that because I had seen so much, I knew how special Powell River was.  And, I digress, I still do think it is a pretty special place.  But I have to say, it is a small place, but a dot on the world map.  Although it is spectacular, and many of its residents truly do value what it is to be part of a community, it is not the be all, end all that I had decided it was.

Powell River has many different issues that are tackled by the residents on a daily basis, their lives are entwined with what is right in front of their faces.  Of course, this is the way it is with most people that live in their communities.  We all react to those things that are right in front of us.  We choose to be in those places, and to deal with those issues.  There are always bigger problems in the world, but it is that which is right in front of us, that always gets the most attention.

Today, as I was mind numbingly scrolling facebook, I noticed just how much of my news feed still has posts about Powell River on it.  Now, for a while I have been saying that I need to stop getting so wound up and involved in the politics of a place that I have no intention of returning to.  But, you know,  I didn’t really put two and two together that by actually seeing all the things on a day to day basis, that I WAS involved.  It’s like a soap opera on TV that I can’t seem to switch off.  It’s that addiction to drama, the need to keep tabs on others’ lives, the want to just see what happens with some particular project or another,  that has kept me stuck.  These issues literally have NO bearing on my life anymore, yet I am drawn to their outcomes, keen to find out every little detail.

OF COURSE, there are those people with whom I made special connections while living there.  Connections that go farther than just the place that we both lived.  These people are on the same page as me, and I feel like we are kindred spirits that will likely see each other down the road somewhere.  I will keep in touch with these people always, and will always want to stay up to date with who they are and what they are up to.

OF COURSE, I do love it when people update me about the plants that we sold or gave them.  They send pictures of their gardens, or mention us in comments about these sorts of things.  I know that the people who bought our house are taking care of our beautiful garden well, and that makes me feel good.

OF COURSE, I will always have fond memories of Powell River and the people that helped me to grow as an individual.  I grew immensely while living there, and I left a much different person than I was before I moved there.  But the time has come to cut the ties.  I will no longer follow business pages, the local news paper, the blueberry picking farm (oooohhh I miss those blueberries!!), or any other group that I was a part of in Powell River.  My ties to these things are holding me back from moving forward.  It’s like some long tether that keeps me looking back, always interested, always wondering.

It’s time to re-prioritize my time, to allow more space to focus on the issues that affect me in my current space and time.  It is time to get involved in the places where I am living, and figuring out what I can do on the ground HERE, not somewhere else where I have no input anymore.  We all only have so much space and time to put towards certain issues in this life, and it is up to us to decide what is important, what is not, and where we should be directing our energies.

I do think our pasts are important in shaping who we become, but we must sever the ties that do not serve us anymore.  We must cut the chords of our former selves, to allow ourselves to grow and move forward in this life.

You will always hold a special place in my heart Powell River, but it is now time to say goodbye.


An update on our current travels…….

For those that are following along, and are interested in what we are up to and where we are, here is a bit of a synopsis.

We have been working at the Botanical Garden on the island of Nevis since mid February.  We have gone full circle from leaving our 9-5 jobs in Canada, to seek out more freedom, to arriving right back to a 9-5 job (well 8-4 actually) here in paradise.  We absolutely love the garden, and have taken great pleasure in getting back to working with plants, as it is definitely something that we have missed since leaving our home and garden, but I won’t lie, the schedule has been HARD.  The time that we would spend on our art and our online shops before this ‘job’ almost vanished and we found ourselves scrambling morning and night to fit time in in order to keep some progress happening.

One day, after some sort of emotional breakdown from both of us, we suddenly realized that we were both overworked and extremely exhausted with trying to do too much.  We also had been raising 3 kittens and taking care of 2 dogs that kept escaping the yard to run around the neighbourhood to kill goats (plus they killed one of the kittens!), so our emotions were frazzled to say the least.

It has been a strange and interesting few months, and I won’t get into details, but many times we have felt like running as far away from this island as we possibly could.  However, we had committed to helping out the owner here until August, and that is just what we are going to do.

IMG_4417
The beautiful Oasis Restaurant at the Botanical Gardens of Nevis.

Call us crazy, many who have been here before us, probably would, but we have also had a huge realization that with this nomadic lifestyle comes the ultimate freedom of when you don’t like something, you just move on.  However, the always running away from things, also doesn’t help us to grow.  It is in the tackling of these issues and annoyances in life, when we can dig deep and learn the most about ourselves.  This stop on our journey has tried us beyond belief, and it’s impossible for me to explain the details, but through it all, we have both come out feeling wiser and stronger than we did when we arrived.  The serendipitous way that this place came onto our radar, meant that we had important things to learn here, and we have tried our hardest to open ourselves up to the learning, and to not be drug down emotionally by things that we have no control over.

Thankfully in June, the owner of the garden sent us off for a bit of a break to another property that she owns on another Caribbean Island called Anguilla.  I have to say that it was JUST what the doctor ordered.  White sand beaches and spectacular turquoise waters surround the island, and with it being the low season, we had most places almost all to ourselves.  The house where we were staying was located a stones throw from the beach, so after our allotted 4 hours of work (yes we still worked a bit!), we were free to do whatever we pleased.

anguilla photo 4
We were so happy to have made friends with BJ while in Anguilla.  He is the caretaker of the house that we stayed at, and he took the time to show us around a little bit.  This is the lookout down to Sandy Ground. 
anguilla photo 7
The fact that turquoise is my favourite colour, and lime green a close second, I couldn’t help but snap this beautiful quintessential Caribbean pic. 
anguilla photo 3
This is the beach that is close to our house where we were staying.  It’s called Shoal Bay, and you can see just how close the corals come to the shore, making it an awesome snorkeling spot for all levels!  

The beach we were on had some spectacular snorkelling right along the shore, and most afternoons we would don our bathing suits and snorkel gear, walk to the furthest point away, then drift on the natural current that ran along the shoreline, back to the house.  This was the highlight of our day, and it seemed like each day we saw more and more incredible sea life than the one before it.  On the last day we saw 3 Barracudas, 5 rays, 1 spotted eagle ray, a few puffer fish, some sort of spotted eel or sea snake, and numerous, NUMEROUS large schools of fish, and other sea life.  The coral is not in the best shape unfortunately, likely trashed by years of people anchoring their boats on it, plus getting thrashed by hurricanes can’t help, but we did see much of it growing back, which gives me great hope that the reefs are mending.

We spent 2 weeks there healing from our kind of over-worked and hectic lives here on Nevis, but returned here on July 3rd to finish off our stint for one more month.  We have arrived back with a refreshed view, and know that in a very short time, we will be off on a whole new adventure.

anguilla photo 2
First day on ‘our’ beach and feeling pretty good about ourselves! 
anguilla photo 8
High above the natural arch!  Photo courtesy of BJ Kirong

On August 5th we fly to the island of St. Martin, also in the Caribbean.  There we will spend 2 nights before we make our way back to Guatemala for a short visit.  In Guatemala, we will not only be checking in with the friends we have made in the last year, but will also be collecting our art supplies and Chris’ tattoo gear (plus some clothing), then we will start our journey back up to Canada to visit family and friends for a couple months.  It’s a loose plan, other than our flights, there aren’t any set dates and times, but we like it what way of course!  We expect to be back in Canada mid-August.

Thanks to everyone who follows us along on our journey.  I know I haven’t done the best job of keeping you up to date, but I try to allow the writing to come when it is meant to, and not force myself to write just for the sake of it.  It is in these moments that I feel like I actually have substance and thoughts that are worth sharing, and hopefully it comes through that way to my readers.

xoxoxo Jill


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: Nevis Island, St. Kitts & Nevis

Travelling Plans: On August 5th we will start our long journey back to Canada to visit family and friends for a couple months.

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:)

Our Plan to Have No Plan, Was a Great Plan!

For us, by having no plan for what was next, we opened our future up to literally ANY and EVERY possibility to come our way. 


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


Well 2 months have gone by since my last post, and mostly, I apologize for that.  When I got to thinking that I really needed to update my blog and let you all know what we are up to, I had that familiar inkling of guilt, for taking so long to write.  I thought a little bit about why I hadn’t done it, and at the end of it all, I really don’t know.

At one point I thought that maybe I was just tired of writing about our lives.  In the beginning it was fun and exciting and I couldn’t wait to share all of our travel adventures with you all.  But as time has gone on, and this just all seems to feel normal to us, i guess I’m not as anxious to write about every little detail.

The other thought is that I really do spend a good portion of my day working on my online business (www.jillianamatt.com), marketing etc, so maybe I was just sick of the computer?

I’m sure if I dug deep enough, I would find a few other excuses, but really, it is what it is and I can’t change it, so I guess there isn’t much point in dwelling on it.  I do know that we have been pretty busy for the last while, and our life has changed, once again, in ways that we never thought possible!  Let me fill you in.

After leaving our housesitting gig in Livingston on January 5th, we headed off into Rio Dulce for a couple of nights.  We had heard great things about staying on the river, so we decided that it would be nice transition from our busier lives with taking care of 3 cats, 4 Ducks, 5 Chickens and 1 Rabbit, to one of relaxation and lounging around for a couple of days.  We stayed in a quintessential bamboo hotel that had a beautiful common area as well as individual cabins.  For the price of about $200 US, we spent 2 nights there which included all of our meals plus kayak rental.  It was really great. Check out Hotelito Perdido Here.

Our days consisted of diving off the dock into the fresh river water, lounging in the hammocks and pretty much just enjoying ourselves.  One evening we kayaked around the corner to a neighbouring restaurant to check out the sunset.  We were not disappointed and afterwards were treated to an absolutely stunning star filled sky for our paddle back.  We even turned the headlamps off to stop and float beneath the cosmos for a while. A beautiful night, and one that we won’t soon forget.

Next we made our way back to Flores where we met Chris’ Mom and Step Dad on the 10th.  This was the start of their 12 day holiday, and we had a jam packed few days lined up for them!  I have another blog post that I am working on that will outline this trip in detail, but we basically did the major sightseeing destinations in Guatemala from Flores to Lake Atitlan!  Every day brought a new and exciting adventure, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that by the end of it, we were all pretty exhausted. Good times were had by all though, and we really did enjoy our time with them and the experiences we shared.

On January 24th, we flew off to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida where we then connected to St. Thomas in the USVI.  We were meeting my parents for a two week holiday to celebrate my Mom’s 70th birthday.  We managed to celebrate it many times through the course of the trip, although her actual birthday was on the last day, February 9th.  We spent one week chartering a catamaran in the British Virgin Islands, then another week on the Island of St. John (USVI) in a timeshare.  It was a nice reminder of days gone by when my family used to head down to the Virgin Islands over Christmas and New Years for many years when I was a teenager.  We visited lots of the old places we had hung out in, plus some new ones, but were a little shocked and saddened by the changes that had occurred since the last big hurricanes tore through the islands. All in all though, I think we all enjoyed going back, just to check it out, and we had a wonderful time filled with fun and laughter with them.  This trip marked the end of our ‘planned’ future, and just as that adventure was ending, another one was beginning.


Now, this is where our lives managed to find the familiar serendipity that we have experienced through this chosen life of ours………

The story starts with us deciding to head the the USVI on a one way ticket from Guatemala.  With our last booked housesitting gig in Livingston behind us, we found ourselves with literally no plan, after the Virgin Islands, of course.  Our future was stretched out before us, every corner a possibility, over every horizon another adventure waiting to unfold.

It was a risky move.  The USVI is NOT cheap!  I knew this heading in, but I really didn’t realize just how expensive it was, as the last time I had been there was 24 years ago.  We knew after the trip with my parents, that we would have to figure out SOMETHING . Maybe find some work on a boat, maybe Chris could tatoo, maybe a housesitting job would pop up in the area (secretly this was my hope.) We didn’t know what was going to happen, we just went and knew that we would figure out something.  The worst case scenario was that we found nothing, then flew somewhere else, if even back to Guatemala.

Once arriving in the Virgin Islands, we vowed that we would take the first week on the catamaran, to really enjoy ourselves and not get too worked up over what was next.  Something would unfold, we had faith that it would. After the sailing trip, we would be spending a week in a hotel with good wifi, so we would figure something out then.  For now, we needed some time to relax and not think about what was next.

Not 2 or 3 days into our sailing adventure, I got a notification for a housesitting job on the island of Nevis, part of the Caribbean country called St. Kitts & Nevis, and only an hours flight south of us.  As soon as I read it, I had that feeling of “YES! I KNEW SOMETHING WOULD COME UP!”  Without hesitation, I messaged the lady to let her know that we were indeed interested in her housesitting position.  Up until this point, I had rarely seen housesitting jobs posted for the Caribbean Islands.  But here one was, and it was right in our neighbourhood! This could not have been more orchestrated.   The only catch was that she wanted us to start April 1st.  Since we knew that our time with my parents was over on February 10th, we didn’t really know what we would do to fill the time in between the dates.  But I messaged her none-the-less to let her know that we were interested.

The post stated that we would have our own self-contained cabin, taking care of 2 dogs and a cat.  Fair enough.  We could handle that.  However, she didn’t reply to my application until a couple days later with a hasty email explaining that she was seriously busy and promising to write us again in a couple of days.  But, she told us, in the meantime, we were to check out her ‘project’ The Botanical Garden of Nevis.   After clicking through to the website and seeing the property and the gardens, I was ecstatic!  I could barely contain myself when I told Chris what she had sent me.  At this point we didn’t know what was in store for us, we just knew that this lady had some pretty awesome gardens that we really couldn’t wait to see!

A couple more days go by and she finally writes us to let us know what the posting is really about.  She is looking for a couple to come and help her with organizing her volunteers at her botanical garden.  We were asked to commit to a bit of a longer term than most of her volunteers that are only 4-8 weeks.  Our housing would be covered, all lunches while working, and a small grocery allowance for each month.

Now, as avid gardeners and plant lovers, I have to say that we both have been missing this aspect of our lives since we set off travelling.  While we have dabbled in a bit of gardening here and there at various properties that we have taken care of, we certainly hadn’t satisfied our gardening itch since leaving Canada.  This was a great opportunity for us to get back to something that we love, all while having most of our expenses covered.  Plus, in retrospect, I think that we were both craving something a bit bigger than what we have been doing.  Most of our ‘work’ time is spent on our art and promoting our various online stores, but at times, that gets to be old, and we tended to be flailing around a little bit with trying to find other ways to entertain ourselves.

This was an opportunity to really get into a project, and a REALLY big one at that. We were ecstatic of the prospect!  Not too mention, we both have put on a few (ahem) extra pounds since leaving Canada, and this would be a good way to use our bodies again and rebuild some of the strength that we have lost.

But there was still that one catch, though.  The post stated that we would be starting in April, which meant that we had 7 weeks to kill before heading there.  With the Virgin Islands being unbearably expensive for us, and no other cheap options in the area, Dad suggested that I just tell her that we are available now if need be.

Again, another couple of days go by…….

Then, gloriously, she wrote back telling us that if we were willing to share a house with another couple that had a shared bathroom, then she could arrange for us to come at the beginning of March.  This was making it better, as we would only have to find somewhere to stay for 3 weeks. OF COURSE we didn’t mind!

Because we had decided that St. Thomas was too expensive, we figured that it would be a good idea to head to nearby Puerto Rico instead, only a 30 minute flight and a MUCH bigger island.  Surely there would be cheaper accommodation and cost of living there!?  I looked online and was dismayed with the prices that were laid out before me.  All of it was still well above our budget, but we still reasoned that we could likely find something that would work for us once we got there.  We knew that there was small villages and towns where we could find something that would carry us through for 3 more weeks before we could head to Nevis.

We booked our flights and felt good that we had a new plan moving forward, and were ecstatic to get to Nevis to start our journey there.  Well, within a couple days of booking our flight, she said that if we wanted, we could come anytime after February 21st.  This meant ONLY 10 days in Puerto Rico!  This was getting better and better by the minute!

We flew out of St. Thomas on February 10th, ending a wonderful 2 weeks spent with my parents, and jetted off to Puerto Rico to wait out our 10 days until we could head to Nevis.   New adventures were right around the corner, and we couldn’t wait to see what was next!

TO BE CONTINUED…………


Now, I will continue our story soon, I promise (!), but I want to just touch on a couple points with what has taken place in these last couple months.

  1. We had NO PLAN.  I believe that this is one of the scariest things that humans have the capacity to do,  live a life with no plans.  So many of us have completely constructed our life so that each day is meticulously laid out, each hour scheduled, each year has its holidays, x number of years means retirement.  We take comfort in the knowing what’s next, and we feel like we have no worries when it is all structured and neat and tidy.  But with that structure comes a life of predictability,  a life with less excitement and adventure. and possibly can lead to life that is stagnant and somewhat boring.  For us, by having no plan for what was next, we opened our future up to literally ANY and EVERY possibility to come our way.  Because we did this, there were literally infinite amounts of things that could fall on our laps.  We didn’t have a structure laid out, we just sat with the unknowing.
  2. We got hired because we had no plan.  A couple days after she had emailed us with the info about the Botanical Garden, my parents commented that it would be nice if we knew for sure that we had the job.  There had been no mention of others applying, but one never knows.  This was posted on our housesitting site where we apply for housesitting jobs, other do as well, of course.  But I had a knowing in my gut that we needn’t worry about any others.  I stated out loud “Don’t worry, we got the job if we want it.”  It was a brazen and bold statement, and of course Dad said it was so.  “Well surely other people will be applying as well?”  He stated. Sure, they would be, but at the end of it all, how many people can apply that have managed their own businesses (and crews), one being a landscaping company, absolutely love gardens and anything to do with nature,  PLUS (this is the biggy), have the time and flexibility to stay as long as she needs.  THIS was the catch, and Dad agreed on that point for sure. BECAUSE we have NO PLAN, we are able to orchestrate each day as it comes, and figure out every moment by every moment.  I can’t tell you how much stress this has taken off of our shoulders.  One would think that having our life structured before us would make us comfortable and relaxed with the knowing.  But the problem with constructing everything, is that you are then expected to make it all work.  You are suddenly tasked with deadlines and expectations.  If you don’t get your to do list finished, it’s a failure because then your next day is set back.  This could set back your week, unless you work harder to make up for it so that it doesn’t leak into your next week.
  3. We got this job because we are FLEXIBLE.  When I initially told her that we were flexible and could make anything work with our accommodations and any arrangements that she had for us, this set us above most others as well.  Even since we have been here for 2 weeks, we have seen her turn away potential volunteer candidates that asked a thousand questions, challenged her on why things were certain ways, and obviously displayed to her that they had their own agendas and expectations.  We didn’t have that when we agreed to this.  We were open to anything really.  I believe that by being flexible, and displaying to her our willingness to make this work, she felt more comfortable in our commitment level and seriousness of taking on the job.

So, you can see how this job, in the words of my mother “fell in our laps”.  However, it is also important to understand the reasons that it did seemingly do so, as I have outlined above.


From the beginning of this journey, and since letting go of so much,  I have felt fully supported in all decisions that we make.  And I feel like the more that I trust in that support, the more I feel like somehow, someway, somebody out there is looking out for us.  By letting go of so much that tied us down, we are in the position to let the universe guide us, and in doing so, the most beautiful and wondrous life is unfolding in front of us.  Day by day we are thrilled and excited by life.  It is constantly changing, morphing and rearranging itself to provide us with so many wonderful experiences.  Through the places we have seen, the wonderful people that we have met, and the ‘pinch ourselves’ moments that we have had, we have found a life that is full filling in ways that we never could have imagined.

My hope is that you too can build yourself a life filled with wonder and excitement, a life of adventure and a bit of unpredictability.  Because, let me tell you, it is the most exhilarating way to live!

(a sneak peak of the gardens!)


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: Nevis Island, St. Kitts & Nevis

Travelling Plans: We hope to be here for up to 6 months, but we are taking things day by day, and haven’t committed to anything long term 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 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:)

 

Happy New Year – 2018 Review

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


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


HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We were REALLY cold! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: Livingston, Guatemala

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

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

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

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

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

To contribute to our Patreon account, please click here.

To learn about housesitting, please click here.

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

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

Cool San Cristobal de las Casas – Part One

As we sat in stunned amazement, watching the spectacle unfold all around us, we couldn’t help but realize just how lucky we were to have witnessed this. 


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


As our collectivo (small shuttle bus running locals from town to town) wound its way from Palenque to San Cristobal, we noticed that the flora and fauna all around us began to change.  And then, just like that, we were up in the mountain tops, not a palm tree in sight!  It was if we crossed an invisible line, dividing the jungle from the mountains, I guess, in essence, that is just what we did.  We were now amongst the pine trees and the higher altitude scrub brush.  The lush tropical jungles that we had grown so accustomed to over the last year, disappeared behind and below us.

We arrived in San Cristobal de las Casas, the first time, at around 6:00pm.  Immediately out of the bus, we could feel the cool crisp air, and I have to say, it was a bit of a relief.  We were excited to not only breathe the fresh mountain air, but we looked forward to spending some days without the familiar sticky humid feeling on our skin that we had grown so accustomed to.

We had heard many a good thing spoken about San Cristobal, namely the amount of art and creativity that the city exuded, so we were eager to check it out.  We had been warned that it was cooler, so we prepared ourselves for that, and were excited to finally use our wool sweaters and other warm weather gear that we had been lugging around with us through the tropics for the last 12 months.

We had left Guatemala only 2 days earlier, leaving behind our beloved Flores, the place we called home for 3.5 months.  We were on a mission to get to Oaxaca, the capital of the Mexican state of the same name.  There we would be celebrating Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), one of Mexico’s premier festivals.  San Cristobal was on the road to Oaxaca, and we would visit it on the way, and again on our return heading back to Guatemala.

Since we knew that there was much to see here, we decided to spend about 5 days exploring the funky mountain town.  The temperature was cool at night, I would venture around 15-17 degrees celsius (59-63 F) (although there would be frost on the grass first thing in the morning, so it must have gotten colder), but was brilliantly sunny during the day with temps at a reasonable 22-25 C (72-77 F).

We enjoyed ourselves as we walked around this magnificent town.  Although, sitting at  2200m (7200ft) above sea level, we found ourselves very tired for most of the time, and also did a lot of sleeping and relaxing as well while we adjusted to the altitude.  The town sits in a sort of valley that is perched between several small peaks that flank its edges.  Normally, atop most of these surrounding peaks, sits a church or other significant building.  Many of them have stairs that go up to them, so we found ourselves huffing and puffing up these stairs, in order to gain a good view, and a better perspective of the city below us.

The streets consist of ancient cobblestone sidewalks that are worn smooth with wear over the centuries that it has been occupied.  The main downtown area, a pedestrian section only, bisects the center of the city and is rife with artisans and street pedlars from all over the world.  From the get go, we could see that San Cristobal was not JUST another Mexican City, it was in fact very multinational.  Because of this, for the first time in many months, we had access to Sushi, Noodle Bowls, Indian Food and more!  In fact, our very first foray into the city brought us straight to a little corner restaurant that served Poutine!  (If you don’t know what Poutine is, it is one of Canada’s national dishes along side Maple Syrup, Back Bacon and Ceasars.  Check it out here.) Of course (!) we just HAD to have some poutine! It warmed our hearts and our bellies, and literally, our bodies, the first night we arrived.

After a couple days we found ourselves climbing some random stairs up a random hill and stumbled upon a funky bohemian bar.  Immediately upon entry, we knew that we had found ‘our place.’  The building functions as an artist coop and we made quick friends with the people running it, plus met the current artist in residence, Jackie.  Jackie is a hand poke tattoo artist, which of course, intrigued us.  She is from LA, but would be living at the coop for 2 months while she promoted her art and secured some business.  She has been travelling and working in many parts of the world, so we had lots in common and tons of stories to share.  We hit it off with her right away.  Most of the rest of our evenings were spent in this spot hanging out, and enjoying what must have been, one of the best roof top terraces with a stunning view over the city, that there was.

On our last full day in San Cristobal, we decided that rather than just hanging out in the city, we had better see something of the surrounding area.  Together with Jackie, we decided to head to Mamut Caves, a cave system that was located just outside the city, a 15 minute cab ride for about $1 per person.  We asked the guys at the artist coop where we should go.  I had heard about Rancho Nuevo, but Meow (local born and raised) said that the Mamut Caves were just as spectacular, and not as busy.  Perfect!

We headed off at around 12:00 and wound our way through the city streets and out into the wilderness.  We arrived to an open field and a young man, clearly not happy with his day (or life) to pay our entry fee of about 50 cents.  I asked him if this was his family’s property, and he begrudgingly nodded.  After walking another 20 feet though, we were approached by another young man, this one asking for 50 cents more.  He gave us a ticket and we reasoned that the first guy was charging us for driving onto his property to get to the caves, and the second guy actually owned the property with the cave on it?  Who knows!  Either way, for the price of $1.00, we weren’t going to put up a stink.

We entered the cave and were pleased to find out that we were, in fact, the only people that were visiting it at this time.  Thank you Meow! We explored the well worn trails that had lights on them, plus went a little further with our headlamps into the far reaching corridors, until it got to the point where we would have had to crawl on our bellies to get any further.  At the beginning of the cave, and the largest ‘room’, we had noted a vent in the ceiling and we could see greenery and light coming down the shaft.

 

After exploring the rest of the far reaches, we found ourselves back at the beginning and kind of feeling like “now what”.  We had explored every nook we could, and it had only taken about half an hour.  We didn’t want this party to end so soon.

As I went over and inspected the vent, I noticed all sorts of greenery, lichens and mosses, growing on the sides of the shaft.  I commented that it would be really cool to be there when the sun shone down, which I was certain that it must do at some point during each day.  Not 5 minutes later, after we had started looking at other parts of the room again, Chris pointed and said, “Look!”

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Looking up the shaft. 

There it was, a single sun beam shining down the shaft.  We were immediately drawn to it.  The cave was quite cool, and we relished in the warm beam that came down and caressed our faces as we stood under it.  Little did we know that the show was just about to get started.

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Playing with the sun beam. 

 

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Favourite pic of the day! 

Immediately, Jackie noticed a green mound at the base of where the light hit.  It was iridescent green like pond algae, and it looked just as slimy.  But when we all touched it, it was hardened rock.   It was a feast for the senses as we took turns touching it.  Water would drip on it from above every few seconds, and somehow, probably because of the tiny bit of sun that hit it, it was retaining some chlorophyl or other green element, that the rest of the cave didn’t have access to.  We were mesmerized by this phenomenon, and we spent much time looking at it, and playing in the sun beams.  We affectionately named the green blob…….well ‘Blob.’  How appropriate.

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This is Blob.  It is solid rock, no slime at all! 

 

 

In no time at all, we started to notice that the cave was illuminating all around us.  Previously missed features that were hidden in dark corners, were now receiving light beams that were refracted from the tiny crystal structures that graced the entire cave.  Light bounced into every recessed corner and we started to see just how intricate and incredible this cave was.  As the sun moved, and the light beam adjusted with it, the light  would bounce around to different spots and we sat for about an hour and watched one of the most spectacular shows that mother nature could ever produce.

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This formation didn’t have near as much detail as this before the sun came through the vent. 

As we sat in stunned amazement, watching the spectacle unfold all around us, we couldn’t help but realize just how lucky we were to have witnessed this.  Our timing could not have been more perfect, and we were all so grateful.  As the sun beam crept up the wall, starting to leave the cave, we heard voices coming in.  Those voices were followed by other voices, and it became apparent that we were no longer the only ones in the cave.  Although we were sad to not have it all to ourselves anymore, we also couldn’t help but feel sorry for the new arrivals, as they had literally just missed the most awesome event of the day, by mere minutes.

 

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People arrived just as the sun was starting to sneak back up the wall of the cave. 

We thanked ‘Blob’ for the show, and continued outside back into the stunningly sunny and beautiful day.  A little trail wound up the hill above the cave entrance, so we headed up to hang out on some sort of old zipline platform, to decompress from what we had just experienced.  While up there, some butterflies flew by us and all around us, and as they flew away, Chris declared that he wanted a butterfly tattoo on his hand, to remember this experience.  With Jackie being just the girl to do it, our plan was set, we would return to San Cristobal again on our way back to Guatemala after visiting Oaxaca, so that he could get his tattoo.

We hailed a taxi from the side of the road as the sun was setting, and headed back down to San Cristobal, but not before we took a selfie and watched the awesomeness of the San Cristobal valley below.

To be continued………


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

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: Livingston, Guatemala

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

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