Can Expats Live Without These Things?

“If all you do is think about what you need, you’re no better than an animal in the woods, and no smarter either. To be human, you’ve got to want. It makes you smarter and stronger.”
― Dan Groat

Ron is always telling me I want too much. But, I agree that to want makes me human. It makes me smarter and stronger.  I remember the argument we had about buying an oven when we moved to Nicaragua. We both like to bake, so why was it so difficult to convince him that I wanted an oven?

Now, I do understand the difference between wants and needs. Yet, as an expat there are 14 things I can’t live without. Tropical Storm Nate convinced me that my wants usually lead to my needs.

1. Shelter

We’ve made a comfortable boomer nest in Nicaragua. But, when Nate roared through Ometepe our roof struggled to maintain its composure. The old tin roof tried its best over years with fruits pounding on the hot tin and constant leaks during the rainy season. But, it is time for a new roof.

If you watched our House Hunter’s International show, you know I like “funky”. A new roof is a ‘need’, but I have many ‘wants’ to paint, redecorate, and spruce up our little nest. We are still debating on whether to sell our place and move to more adventures. Meanwhile, I want a comfortable, low maintenance home base. And if we do decide to sell, our beautiful property will be ready for new owners.

2. Gravity-flow running water

Several years ago, we were tired of hauling water from the lake to flush our toilet when there was no power. So, we installed a 600 gallon gravity-flow water tank. It was one of the best decisions we ever made. Be sure to check out Raising the Water Tower. It was a remarkable feat!

3. An Oven

Of course, I had to add the oven to my top 14 list.  Without an oven, it wouldn’t be easy to make my rico cream cheese, sour cream, chocolate chip banana bread.

4. A bidet

Visiting our son in Yosemite National Park in May, we became addicted to his bidet. I know it is a strange addiction, kind of like my kitchen appliance addiction. Yet, a bidet is a wonderfully handy and environmentally friendly thing to have in Nicaragua. We can’t flush toilet paper down our ailing sewage tanks. UGH! The thoughts of nasty toilet paper filled containers makes me sick to my stomach. Enough said about that!

5. The internet

Oh, the creative ways I have tried to get a better internet signal at our house. Check out My Woktenna.

Also, Can I Survive as a Whole Person Without Internet? 

6. The Rainy Season

Since we only have two seasons in Nicaragua, wet and dry, I look forward to the rainy season because everything comes alive and flourishes!

7. The Loves of My Life

Cory, our son, and Ron my husband. Without these amazing men in my life, I would be lost. Truthfully, without Ron, I don’t think I would be able to live in Nicaragua, especially not on our finca. He is the fixer, the analyst, my comforter, and the ying to my yang. Tomorrow we celebrate our 42nd wedding anniversary. What an incredible ride it has been with the loves of my life.

8. My taxi driver and good friend

Francisco and his family have been a part of our lives for many years. Lately, he has driven me to Managua once a week for my eye check-ups. His family has become a cherished addition to our lives. Check out Guide to Taxi Service in Nicaragua

9. Service to others

My list is getting less tangible, but these things are very important to me as an expat. I believe in the trickle-up economic theory. Trickling Up: An Expat Economic Theory.

I believe in helping others when I see a need. I believe in investing in the future of my adopted country.

10. Creativity

When we can’t find what we want or need, we creatively come up with a solution. Without the ability to creatively think outside of the box, I don’t think I could survive in Nicaragua.
Two of my friends had birthdays and I wanted to give them something special. So, I made wire-wrapped pottery shards from Ometepe Island to give as gifts. Aren’t they beautiful?

11. Activism

I have always been an activist. My motto is Do Something! I realize I am a guest in Nicaragua, so political activism is out-of-bounds here. However, I love my home country and will always be politically active when I see a need to Do Something. I attended the Women’s March in Los Angeles and flew the Nicaraguan flag in solidarity for women’s rights all over the world. I fax my representatives daily when there is an issue that deeply affects me. I am preparing a blog post about Why I Left the United States, but it isn’t political, although political activism for one’s home country can take place anywhere in the world.

12. Travel

Expats understand the passion for travel. Because the cost of living is about 1/4 of that in the United States, we can afford to travel and return to our home base in Central America.
Our next trip will be Uruguay and Argentina. We have our house sitters lined up, and are researching and saving for our next big adventure.

13. Passion

Set your life on fire! Other like-minded expats and travelers fuel our flames for a passionate life. We have the world arriving at our doorsteps everyday! Diversity, passion, and creativity are invaluable in my expat life.

14. Sunsets

I can’t live without sunsets, and Ometepe Island has some of the best! There is a sunset every evening and they are absolutely free! Every sunset reminds me that I have lived a full day and fulfilled my goals of living the best life I possibly can live.

What can’t you live without? 

20 thoughts on “Can Expats Live Without These Things?

  1. First of all – Congratulations on celebrating your 42nd anniversary. Number 7 on your list makes it clear that your husband and family is close to your heart. I loved this post as it’s important to keep weighing the needs versus wants. I appreciate too, that many things you listed were the intangibles: family and friends, creative thinking, sunsets and a passion for your adopted country as well as a fire for women’s and human rights. Those who think retirement is all about kicking back and reflecting on the past need to take a look at how you and Ron are redefining retirement, Debbie!

    • Geez. Sorry I am so late in responding. I always seem to miss a post or two and I like to respond to all the comments. It is a fine balancing act weighing needs vs wants and they change constantly. Sometimes I feel like I am on a seesaw. Yet, I guess that is what keeps life interesting, right?

  2. it would be hard for me to live without immersion in nature.. once while in the city for a month, each day i felt more disconnected and more apathy of the soul.. i asked a birding friend/naturalist if i felt that way, what must the indigenous feel like if/when they move to a city/how do they adapt…. he replied, ‘they don’t.. they die a little each day from soul rot.’

    when i was looking for a new place to call home, a good supply of fresh pure water was important. the earthquake taught me that lesson – can you imagine how much more people would have suffered if it had hit at the end of the dry season?

    another ‘need’ i’ve noticed recently is corrective lenses… when i am not wearing my contacts, i am pretty blind.. i cannot imagine what it would be like to run out – or to have the glasses shattered/no backup… i wouldnt be able to see a dodo bird ten feet away!!!!

    • Soul rot…kind of like Crocodile Dundee, right? Whoa! I never thought about the earthquake happening during the dry season. That would have been devastating! As it is now, during the dry season the wells always run dry.
      Lisa, take care of your eyes! A fuzzy, dull view of the world is horrible. Now that I only need reading glasses, I am collecting cheaters and putting them everywhere. I can’t imagine not being able to read or work close up. Hugs, mi Amiga.

      • i’m so ‘nearsighted’ that i remove my lenses in order to read or write – such a great break, and good for the eyes….

        i haven’t checked the weather today and hope that you’re all getting a break…. hope it’s nice there – with no more storms a brewin’!

  3. Happy anniversary. Your wire wrapped jewelry is beautiful and unique. The best gifts are handmade.

    I would make a terrible expat because I can’t do without a lot of things you discussed, or I wouldn’t want to have to.

  4. Happy anniversary!!
    I am so glad you’re doing well after the storm.
    I have to say that I personally can’t live without a big list of tangible things but if I have to be honest the most fundamental things in my life are my family and my capacity to dream of the future without forgetting to smell the roses ”Now”

  5. Lovely story. You mentioned that you have thought off & on about selling. I have been looking for some time. We are renting again in Balgue for all of Nov. If your considering I would like to know more about the property. Our philosophies on life seem compatible. I am retired Canadian & my partner is from Leon.


    I can’t wait to meet u someday….. AND HAPPY ANNIVERSARY

    My was – band is from Buenos Aires.. so I went all over the country , many times , and Uruguay too..
    to bad he ran off with a younger woman after 22 years of marriage …. sad….
    and lied about it all ,,,

    I think its in the culture ..

    wish I wouldn’t have believed all his lies ,,in the beginning till i woke up !!!!
    oh grows on….God works his way …

    LOTS AND LOTS TO SEE IN ARGENTINA …I came close to moving to Bariloche ,, but the winter is too cold .. its soooo gorgeous tho …!!!!

    Its lovely there tho all the way it and El Bolson , Lago Traful ,,,Just sooooooo beautiful and cool.

    The Argentines have”” GREAT TASTE”” ….

    Anyway ..your house is lovely, I can see why you don’t want to leave …once u do all that work …hmmmm…

    Makes me realize more and more that it may be best for me ….
    just renting till time moves on a bit more

    …Im going to make my way in Nov Guadalajara , Mexico for a visit and to see wedding planners …I shoot destination weddings .. and fashion .. and this city looks kinda cool…..

    then go to see Ajijic and Lake Chapala areas , nearby..

    If i like it ……I will head there in about 9 months .. and live there for awhile ….

    Building and all , then maintaining, is not where I’m being led to now ,,
    I’m feeling it will tie me down bit too much work too , Id rather concentrate on my work , I love it..

    Always something pops up ……and talk about wanting ..more ..
    well …why not ???

    More in a spiritual , growing way , more in what makes you personally more happy as a growing being …and that ..for me is “””””constantly”” changing …too.

    Being 63 ,almost 64 .. you really begin to look at things wayYYYYY differently …

    I’d like to find a loving partner , that would be such a gift … your so lucky..
    but , will see…..what my cornerstone will bring to me.

    On that note ..maybe ”more” in that direction would prove to be to tied down too. hahahahahahah

    more or less …keep trucking and ..just en joy all the more to it !!!!

    More light to ya ,

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