Our Lives Abroad in the Idioms of Mind

This week marks the fifth anniversary of our retired lives on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua and the fourth anniversary of my blog. Attempting to explain what these past five years have been like for us, the origin of the word “anniversary” came to mind.

The word “anniversary” first appeared in English in the 13th century, and was based on the Latin word “anniversarius,” meaning “returning yearly” (from “annus,” year, plus “versus,” a turning). The first uses of “anniversary” were in the church, and “anniversary days” were usually dates with particular religious significance, e.g., the days of martyrdom of saints, etc. The use of “anniversary” for the yearly marking of any past occasion dates to a bit later, and such dates were previously known as “year-days” or “mind-days,” times when a notable occasion or person is “brought to mind.”

Mind-Day…I like that expression because looking back on our five years of living on a tropical island in the middle of a giant sweet sea, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America reminds me to always be grateful for every aspect of my life. Happy Mind-Day to us!

Our Lives Abroad in the Idioms of Mind

Mind Boggling
This was our life in luggage in September 2010. It took us five years to plan for our move, and the adventure had just begun the day we boarded the plane to take us to Managua.
My Life in Luggage.


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Who Says Good Fences Make Good Neighbors?

Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies. ~ John F. Kennedy

My news feed is filled with political articles about building impenetrable fences and walls. Robert Frost’s poem Mending Wall represents a very common sentiment among neighbors everywhere. “Good fences make good neighbors.” But, is this statement true?

Geography has made us neighbors to all the wandering cattle along our beach path. Living on a predominantly agricultural island, I have learned that fences here are built to keep the cattle, wandering pigs, and horses out…definitely not people. I prefer it that way.

I dislike impenetrable walls with electric fences and shards of sharp glass clinging to the tops of the walls like prisons. That’s one of the main reasons we chose to live in a rural area surrounded by gracious neighbors with whom we can share our lives.

I understand that human relationships need boundaries. Robert Frost’s poem is a metaphor for establishing one’s boundaries.  When boundaries are clear, human relationships prosper. But, we needed a new fence to keep out the cows who have no understanding of human nature.

Economics has made us partners in building our fence.
Jose needed work, and we needed a strong young man to mix cement.

IMG_9114Even our youngest neighbor, Issac, pitched in to help us build our fence. That’s what good neighbors do in Nicaragua.

IMG_9110Necessity has made us allies in Nicaragua. Let’s face it. Without the help of our neighbors, we would be lost. I do not have a green thumb. Marina knows that. The other evening, Marina and her father planted flowers in my flower bed in front of our house. Early the next morning, Marina stretched her hose across our property line and watered the newly planted flowers…and they bloomed! That’s what a good neighbor does.  Continue reading

Best 2,300 Travel Blogs on Internet

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

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 9.16.45 PMI am happy to announce that my blog is included in the 2,300 Top Travel blogs on the internet. It is listed in Part 3: Regional Travel Blogs, under Nicaragua.

Check out the list. Many of my blogging friends have blogs listed, too.

List of Top 2300 Travel Blogs on the Internet

How many pages of the world have you opened in your travel book?

Let’s Get Real about Time Management in Nicaragua

All that really belongs to us is time; even he who has nothing else has that. ~Baltasar Gracian

Living in Nicaragua requires a different mindset of time management. I used to pride myself in the ability to plan and control how I spent the hours in my day to effectively accomplish my goals. I had mastered the skills of planning for the future. setting goals, prioritizing tasks, and monitoring where the time goes. THEN…I moved to Nicaragua where mañana could mean today, tomorrow, sometime in the distant future, or never… where I am constantly reminded to slow down and be present. What I’ve learned about time management in Nicaragua may surprise you. It’s not all bad.

Let’s get real about time management in Nicaragua.

How many times have you been left hanging?

How many times have you been left hanging?


1. Most Nicaraguans are better at single-tasking, than multi-tasking.

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Expats: Free Birds or Jail Birds

When asked why foreigners immigrate to Nicaragua, often they say,  I just want to feel free, like never before. My response is usually, Free from what? Does Nicaragua offer more freedom than we can obtain in our home countries? If so, what are those freedoms and are there restrictions to our freedom while living in Nicaragua?

I’m reminded of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s song, Free Bird. It is a metaphor for life.  “Things just couldn’t be the same. ‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now,” the group sings. Life happens whether we want it to or not. Since life passes so quickly, I figured that I might as well jump right into the thick of it…take calculated risks…live my dreams…change and grow. I couldn’t handle staying where things were always the same day after day. Life seemed to be passing me by, and I needed a change where I could spread my wings and fly. Nicaragua gave me that change.

What freedoms do we have in Nicaragua?

Some expat business owners say that they have more freedom to conduct business in Nicaragua. I assume that means there isn’t as much bureaucracy. Others interpret freedom to mean less financial stress and less work.  For me, now that we are retired, freedom = lifetime pensions. We can live comfortably on a fixed income in Nicaragua.

As expats, we express our freedom in many creative ways. We are artists, builders, writers, chefs, teachers, and photographers. We cherish our freedom and our rights to free speech. We defend our home countries, and pack our traditions, values, cultures, and symbols of freedom to display in our adopted country.

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Let’s Get Real About Personal Space in Nicaragua

Four airplanes arrived in Nicaragua on the same day and at the same time. We were standing in an unusually long, disorganized line in customs. There was a small space in front of me…enough space for the man’s backpack to rest on the floor. Suddenly, a family of Nicaraguans rushed into the space in front of me. I glared at them and pointed to where the line ended. Yet, they didn’t move. I think they were trying to tell me, “My happy place is in your personal space.”

Cultural space: The final frontier. Invisible bubbles of space surround all of us and they vary according to the norms of the places where we live. Why do we have personal space issues and how do they differ from Nicaragua?

me on chicken bus

Me holding a stranger’s baby on a crowded chicken bus.

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The Bottom Line: Budgeting for Retiring Abroad

“Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” –Joe Biden


One of our biggest challenges in planning for retirement abroad was creating a realistic budget before we jumped into a new life. After our ‘pretirement’ experiment in Nicaragua in 2004-05, we set a goal to become financially independent. Many articles have been written about adjusting and assimilating into a different culture, but few articles stress the importance of financial planning before making the big jump.

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Five Tips for Making a New Path

“No single decision you ever made has led in a straight line to where you find yourself now. You peeked down some paths and took a few steps before turning back. You followed some paths that came to a dead-end and others that got lost at too many intersections. Ultimately, all paths are connected to all other paths.”
― Deepak Chopra


Ron and I made a stepping stone path to our house. I never imagined that there were so many complicated decisions to make in choosing the best path for us. So, I’ve compiled five tips for making a new path.

1. When you find your path, you must ignore fear. You need to have the courage to make mistakes.

Concrete sidewalk? Stepping stone forms? Gravel path? Which path was right for us? We chose to make a stepping stone path to our house using plastic forms, which I borrowed from our neighbor. In planning our path, it led to introspective thoughts about the paths of our lives.

Living in Nicaragua is a challenge and sometimes scary. We’ve made many mistakes along our paths, but we’ve learned to patch the cracks, or start all over again, and instead of ignoring the fear, we learn to make friends with it.


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Let’s Get Real about Retiring to Nicaragua

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, And that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”
― Dr. Seuss


I am grouchy. The April heat is almost unbearable. It hasn’t rained for six months. My internet sucks because too many people are using the bandwidth on my server. The new paint on my plunge pool blistered and we had to drain it. The power and water are unreliable. The entire community of Urbite has run out of water. The city well is dry.  The roaming cows and pigs searching for something to eat knocked down our fence to munch on the sparse tufts of grass that are wilting in our yard. My neighbor had her thyroid removed and she can’t afford the thyroid pills she has to take for the rest of her life. Do you want me to continue?

When I read articles of fantasy such as the one linked below, all I can do is laugh. Fantasy Retirement? Living in Paradise? Let’s get real about living and retiring in Nicaragua. Life here is not all about surfing, drinking Toñas, and watching the beautiful sunsets. Living in Nicaragua isn’t for sissies.

In 2004, we used to enjoy going to San Juan del Sur. It was a quiet, little fishing village. Then, the cruise ships came, the throngs of tourists, and hundreds of expats moved to Nicaragua searching for paradise. Now, prostitutes, thieves, and drug addicts bus from Managua to where unsuspecting tourists are scammed.  Then, they hop back on the buses to sell their loot in Managua. Yes, it is even happening on our little Ometepe Island.


2004 sunset in San Juan del Sur

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Accidental Nationality

“Everything you are used to, once done long enough, starts to seem natural, even though it might not be.”
― Julien Smith,
The Flinch


Marina’s daughter gave her a chicken killing dog. She tied it to the Mango tree in the front yard because it is a good guard dog. The other day, it chewed through the frayed rope, flew over the barbed wire fence separating our properties, and attacked one of our chickens. She apologized in the only way she could; she made us a pot of chicken soup. Yesterday, her daughter bought a muzzle for the dog. They showed us how the muzzle worked by untying the dog from the Mango tree. It flew over the barbed wire fence, and pounced on one of our chickens, flattening it like a tortilla. This time Marina asked to borrow our machete. I was afraid she was going to kill the dog, so I told her to make us another pot of chicken soup. Ahh…life in Nicaragua. It is beginning to seem natural.

I am an immigrant from the United States, now living in Nicaragua. My nationality was accidental. I happened to be born on one side of an imaginary line, instead of another. If I would have been born in another country, I would feel just as connected with my heritage, social norms, and culture as I do now.

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