Our Pretirement Experiment


“The goal of retirement is to live off your assets-not on them”
― Frank Eberhart

I have had many people ask me how we decided on retiring abroad and the process we went through. Although most of the information is in my unfinished book, Pretiring With the Monkey Lady, here is a preview of our serendipitous moments the first time we pre-retired in Nicaragua.

In 2004 we jumped. Trapped in new teaching jobs we hated, we felt as if our lives were bound tightly in Kudzu.  We bought a new home with a hefty mortgage and rented our old home. Our son was in his junior year of college. Finances were tight. How could we possibly escape from the bureaucracy that was strangling the life out of us? What was the alternative? Our gypsytoes were itching to travel.

Enter Bill, the eccentric entrepreneur from Nicaragua.  When an ice storm canceled school on a snowy January day, Bill sent us an email. “How would you like to live in Nicaragua and manage my youth hostel on Ometepe Island?”  We thought about it for three seconds and responded, “Yes!”

In an adrenalin rush, we made plans to finish the school year, sell the house we bought six months before, move everything back to our old house, and jump into a new life. We took out an equity loan to pay off the mortgage on our old house and had a small amount left to live on for a year in Nicaragua. Our son moved into our house, transferred to a closer university…and we jumped.

But, managing a youth hostel was not for us. You’ll have to read by book, Pretiring with the Monkey Lady, to understand the problems we encountered. Here is one chapter of the 25 chapters I’ve finished. California Dreams and a Scottish Cowboy. What was the alternative? We couldn’t return to the states because we sold our cars, gave away all our winter clothes, and were both unemployed. So, we jumped again.

Ron wandered the sandy beach paths in search of a cheap shack to rent. About two kilometers south of Moyogalpa, Ron found this little beach house and it was vacant. We found the landlady in Moyogalpa and rented it for $100 a month with a six month renewable contract.

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Things I’ve Learned About Life After 500 Blogging Posts


500Yesterday was a milestone day. I wrote my 500th post on my blog. Believe it or not, becoming a blogger was never something I planned. I was looking for a way to network and market my book, Pretiring with the Monkey Lady. But, a strange thing happened along the way in my little corner of the blogging world.

Continue reading

Ignorance is Our Deepest Secret


“There are no foolish questions and no man becomes a fool until he has stopped asking questions.” ― Charles Proteus Steinmetz

Fifteen years ago, when we explored our options to retire abroad, I joined many expat forums. Most of the forums were on Yahoo, but today you can find a variety of expat forums on Facebook.

the earth from above Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Relics of the Dead


“Any relic of the dead is precious, if they were valued living.” ~ Emily Bronte

 

Everyday, I walk our beaches and everyday, I find relics washed ashore. Most of the time, the finds are over hundreds of years old…aged Pre-Columbian pottery shards that tell the stories of the ancient ones who lived on Ometepe Island long ago.

Burial urns called zapatoes from Ometepe Island

Burial urns called zapatoes from Ometepe Island

Relics ahead. Keep reading.

The Grand Opening of our La Paloma Airport


“All journeys eventually end in the same place, home.” ― Chris Geiger

I’ve taken pictures of our La Paloma airport strip on Ometepe Island for over ten years (See the links below). It came as no surprise when we were traveling through Ecuador, that I received a notice that our new airport opened. It was finished in 2012. We waited so long, we actually forgot about it, even though it is located two properties away from our house. That’s Nicaragua!

Can someone please post pictures of the grand opening for me? I posted on Facebook. Sadly, no one except for important dignitaries from Managua and Ometepe Island were invited. Our house sitters heard the party, but they thought it was a religious parade. That’s Nicaragua!

Not to be left behind, I’m flying out of our new airport to Managua next Sunday. From Managua, I’m flying to the states for my mother’s birthday. When I return, I’ll fly from Managua back to Ometepe Island and walk home with my backpack. Convenience at its best.

photo by La Prensa

photo by La Prensa

Keep reading. Want to fly with me?

Anchored to La Isla


“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
― Augustine of Hippo

IMG_2027One of the main reasons we retired to Nicaragua is because it is centrally located and only a two-hour flight to Miami. Our original plan was to build a house on Ometepe Island and use it as a home base allowing us the freedom to travel the world and return to our inexpensive boomer nest when our gypsytoes ached for the comforts of home.
Can we cut the umbilical cord? Read on to find out.

Nicaragua: On the Threshold of Change


“He had the vague sense of standing on a threshold, the crossing of which would change everything.”
― Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Threshold. Nicaragua is on the threshold of change. That point of entering just before a new beginning. Join me in my photographic journey of the threshold of change in Nicaragua.

Doorways once leading to nowhere, are getting a fresh coat of paint.
IMG_1720

There are many more pictures of changes. Read on.

Part Two: The Gift of Reading


“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

 

C. S. Lewis said, “We read to know that we are not alone.”  Red Oak Elementary School students in Shakopee, Minnesota understand this need, and are graciously sharing their lives and their joy of reading with my tiny La Paloma Elementary School on Ometepe Island.

Keep reading. There’s more.

The Soul of the World


worldmap1There is a small concrete pyramid on the top of a hill on Big Corn Island, Nicaragua. Supposedly, this is a sacred place…the soul of the world…only one of eight places in the world, where the vertices of a flattened cube meet.
Keep Reading!More mysteries to solve.

Part Two: Natives With Netiquette


Globalization, as defined by rich people like us, is a very nice thing… you are talking about the Internet, you are talking about cell phones, you are talking about computers. This doesn’t affect two-thirds of the people of the world.
Jimmy Carter

Part Two in a series of travelers vs tourists. The first part was: Codes of Responsible Travelers. In this post, I explore the problems that arise with sustainable and cultural tourism through the eyes of the indigenous community of Los Ramos.

Ten years ago, we gave our cell phone to Francisco of the Los Ramos indigenous community because we were returning to the states. For generations, this community lacked any means of high-tech communication. Grandpa Cabo announced special events in the community with his ancient bull horn.  With my used cell phone and a tall tree, the people could now climb to the top of the tree to receive a stronger signal…and voila…they were connected to the world. Although, it worried Francisco when his grandmother became trapped in the tree and he had to rescue her…picture a cat in a tree meowing frantically… the cell phone signified a new beginning for this isolated community.

DSCN0694Years later, progress in Los Ramos advanced rapidly. With generous donations, they bought an electric transformer…yes, you have to buy your own transformers in Nicaragua…to run a pump from the well located two miles down a long, sloping, dusty path to the beach. Now, they had running water in Los Ramos. Their lives became a lot easier.

Getting water in Los RamosThis agricultural community continued planting and harvesting their frioles, plantains, and sesame seeds. However, they were losing their young people to Costa Rica and other more cosmopolitan places in Nicaragua. There were no jobs to keep this community intact. Something had to be done to help their young families bring in the hay.

Bringing in the hayEnter sustainable/cultural tourism in Los Ramos. With the help of many knowledgeable and professional tourism people…including my son, Cory, and his good friend Sam…they compiled lists of available resources in Los Ramos, developed 12 cultural tourism programs, created brochures and a website, and perfected their programs with ‘fake’ travelers. Zac, the Peace Corps volunteer, helped them create a budget and worked closely with the community to develop an accounting system.

Front page of BrochureWord spread quickly about the authentic cultural programs in Los Ramos. Los Ramos hired their local son, Ever, as their new tourism director. They have a well-organized system of accounting, preparing, and planning for their programs. Yet, cultural tourism isn’t without its pitfalls. This indigenous community has learned that there is a fine balance between providing authentic cultural experiences and maintaining, yet improving their lifestyles, culture, and traditions passed down through generations.

First, they have learned that marketing their programs requires computers, cell phones, and internet access. Grandma can’t climb that tree anymore to call the world. It’s a dichotomy of development… a clash of cultures. The world was suddenly at their fingertips, if they learned how to boot-up the computer.  They had to quickly become natives with netiquette to run their programs.

Second, they experienced language barriers. More travelers passing through their community, meant they needed someone who could speak some English. Fortunately, Ever has the skills to explain their programs, provide answers to questions, and help tourists limited to English only.

Third, more visitors = more money for the community. More money = more ‘conveniences’ for tourists, as well as their own families. Does providing authentic cultural experiences mean that they can’t buy microwaves, big refrigerators, open an internet café, start a smoothie bar, or buy a big flat-screened TV or iPhone? How do they balance authentic experiences with wanting to offer more comfort and ease for everyone involved in their lives? They are beginning to understand the dilemmas they face. Tourists seek authentic cultural experiences, then they complain about lacking a comfortable mattress, a hot shower, wi-fi, or ice cubes in their freshly squeezed orange juice. Where’s the balance?

Fourth, more money coming into the community always partners with jealousy and power. Host families have to offer safe, comfortable housing for their guests. When non-host families see the money coming into their neighbors’ host homes, they want to become host families, too. Yet, their only accommodations are the pig sty behind their house or the chicken coop. Then, little fights break out, feelings are hurt, and jealousies erupt like the active volcano looming at the top of their community.

Sustainable tourism, in my opinion, is a viable option for Los Ramos, especially considering the alternatives…high rise resorts, where the locals become the maids and gardeners…young men moving to Costa Rica to find jobs to support their families left behind…or cleaning houses in foreign gated communities. I have no doubts that this lovely community will be able to resolve these problems…poco a poco. They are resourceful, creative, and oh…the places they can go with a little help from their friends. This vivacious community of natives with netiquette are learning as they progress to…keep their traditions close to their hearts…proudly share their lifestyles with the world…and most importantly, love their neighbors.

Los Ramos Mi Casa es tu Casa website.
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