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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The Gypsytoes Gene


“To travel is to live.”
― Hans Christian Andersen, The Fairy Tale of My Life: An Autobiography 

 

IMG_7542I am consumed by wanderlust, nourished by voyages and treks regarded as less than desirable in popular tourist guides, and gorged with peregrination. Traveling is my life. I am lucky in love to have found a partner who shares my enthusiasm and passion for the roads less traveled.

Yet, I often wonder, “Why us?” Neither sets of our parents or grandparents, had the urge to jump into an exotic new life, even temporarily. They were content to stay on their farms, or the small towns in which they lived. They reacted to our gypsytoes with nervous, worried, and dismayed comments. My mother insisted on telling her church companions that we were missionaries in Nicaragua. Ron’s father scratched his head with puzzlement, “Why would anyone ever want to leave home?”

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Illegal Immigrants and Perpetual Tourists in Nicaragua


Last week, I went to Granada to visit friends. Not only were there throngs of tourists, but there appeared to be many new foreigners moving to the Granada area. Fancy hotels and condos sprung up in Granada, practically overnight. New restaurants and bakeries cater to the tastes of foreigners. Relaxing spas and swimming pools bathe and soothe foreign bones and tired muscles.

I wondered how many of the new foreigners moving to Nicaragua were pursuing legal residency in Nicaragua and/or their reasons for not choosing the legal path to residency. Ron and I lived in Nicaragua two years before applying for residency. We got tired of crossing into Costa Rica every 90 days to renew our visas. For us, the process was a bureaucratic nightmare, mainly from the U.S. side; however, for many the process to legal residency is almost impossible.

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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.

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Hats for Lamps


“Life is a continuous journey of transformation”
― Sukant Ratnakar, Open the Windows

 

“Tienes sombreros para  lámparas?” I asked the shopkeepers. (Do you have hats for  lamps?)
“No hay sombreros para lámparas aqui,” they always responded. (There aren’t hats for lamps here.)

Without a doubt, I have learned that life is a continuous journey of transformation while living on a tropical island. If no hats for lamps could be found, then I had to make my own.

Theresa brought her frames from her three old lampshades and I had a frame made for a floor lamp. New Year’s Eve we spent the day covering her lampshade frames with canvas.

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A Natural Christmas in Nicaragua


“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”
― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

 

There are a few traditions that I cherish on Christmas, but not many. We haven’t decorated a real Christmas tree for over a decade. My old Christmas decorations are sitting on someone else’s mantel, hanging on someone else’s tree, or given to Goodwill long ago.

In Nicaragua, our lives are very simple during the holidays. I still have icicle lights hanging on my front porch, but they hang year-round. Instead, I find Christmas colors and surprises in my natural surroundings.

Our hot peppers become festive lights, swaying in the tropical breeze.
IMG_5651I know it’s corny – but I love ‘Jingle Bells!’ ~ Dolly Parton

That Dolly! I agree with her, but instead, our Jingle bells are on a long, pendulous banana stalk with dusky purple bracts.

IMG_5668“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.”
― Roy L. Smith

My favorite mango tree gifts us with small flowers in December. In January and February, we will be picking delicious Rosa Mangoes.
IMG_5670“I love snow for the same reason I love Christmas: It brings people together while time stands still.” Rachel Cohn

Yet, Christmas in the tropics delights us with soft tussles of feathery snow-like grass.
IMG_5658Christmas comes in many forms and colors. I’ll still make my Christmas cookies to share with all my neighbors and friends. I’ll still sing Jingle Bells. And most importantly, I’ll remember that Christmas doesn’t come from a store.

Someone Else’s Island


I don’t often respond to the WordPress Daily Post, however Someone Else’s Island spoke to me personally. Ron recently asked me, “Debbie, what would we take if we were forced to leave Ometepe Island?” My post is a twist on Someone Else’s Island, instead of being stranded on an island, what would we take if we were forced to leave?

Everyone is nervously awaiting the construction of the Nicaraguan Canal by the Chinese. Construction is supposed to start on December 22nd. I am taking this personally because what if Ometepe Island becomes someone else’s island? I heard rumors…that’s all we get…that over 300,000 Chinese will be granted Nicaraguan citizenship to work on the canal.

The map below shows that one half of our beloved island will be controlled by the Chinese. Everything in red along the canal route.

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What Really Matters?


“As one old gentleman put it,  “Son, I don’t care if you’re stark nekkid and wear a bone in your nose. If you kin fiddle, you’re all right with me. It’s the music we make that counts.”
― Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

 

I am ready to make some music…either that or get stark nekkid and wear a bone in my nose.  We’ve been home a week, and in that time…

  • Our cat, Black Jack, almost died from a urinary track blockage.
  • The police confiscated my new-to-me little orange dune buggy, took it for a joy ride and crashed it.
  • Our lawyer said we have a problem with the title to our property on Ometepe Island…which always involves lots of money.
  • The city put in a new high pressure pump and it blew out some of our water-lines.
  • Ocho, our other cat, was AWOL for five days.
  • The Chinese are measuring property near our new airport for a resort. WE LIVE NEAR THE AIRPORT!  I think it goes along with their plan for the proposed Nicaraguan canal.
  • The library at our local elementary school is ready for me to set-up. HHI wants to return to film us for the library’s grand opening in their new show, HHI, Where Are They Now?
  • And…and…I’m sick. It must be stress related.

So, I have to ask myself…What really matters? If I don’t, you’ll probably find me stark nekkid, running around my yard with a bone in my nose.

Read more to find what really matters to me.

Tell the World


The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow. ~Bill Gates

 

IMG_3800Two weeks ago, we had a microwave internet tower installed. We spent the last four years, struggling with a Claro modem stick which provided slow, inconsistent, and sometimes nonexistent service. Now, our internet speed is fast enough to stream video and watch Netflix movies and my favorite series, Orange is the New Black.
I’m telling the world. Read more.