As I stare at our 9 suitcases and 1 backpack, I am overcome with a feeling of nervous excitement. We travel to London in our overloaded hire car on Thursday. Flying to Houston via Toronto on Friday, finally arriving at Managua International Airport on Saturday morning.
A driver is booked to collect us and chauffeur us to our new home in the hills of San Juan Del Sur. ‘Casa Friend’ will be our home for the next 6 months, at least.
Why Nicaragua? Well, why not?
I would love to say that we simply closed our eyes and stuck a pin in a map but the boring truth is, we actually considered a number of countries before deciding on Nicaragua.
We were still travelling through Europe when we decided to just keep going. That was the toughest decision. Once we decided that we would not be returning to the UK (and the rat race), it was just a matter of deciding ‘where?’.
There were obviously a number of considerations that narrowed down our options – ability to earn, schooling, safety, affordability, visa requirements etc. As much as we would love to live in the British Virgin Islands, I’m not sure Sir Richard Branson has a job for two strategic managers and two kids!
Firstly, we pondered Lake Varese in Italy. It was a place we fell in love with during our travels. We were all inspired by the Para-Olympians who were competing for the Rio 2016 Olympics during our visit. The town has a wonderful ambience. The air is full of positivity. It is a place we could easily call home. I wrote Decisions, Decisions whilst contemplating our life here.
But as beautiful as it is, moving to Italy always seemed like a sideways step. After travelling for over 10 months, Europe became a familiar friend. We were comfortable. She no longer challenged us. Whilst Lake Varese felt like home, we weren’t quite ready to settle for comfort again. We wanted to live on the edge of our comfort zone for just a little bit longer.
We needed a forward step.
It was during a relaxing month in Croatia when I stumbled across Nicaragua as an option. The boys were snorkelling in the crystal clear waters of Nijvice when nonchalantly I Googled ‘Top 10 cheapest countries in the world to live’.
I wrote each country down on the back of a tourist map. One by one I scribbled them out based on perceived disadvantages – crime, language, education etc.
The last country remaining was Nicaragua.
I didn’t even know where it was, but I could already feel a buzz of excitement surging through my veins.
I researched a little bit more and was surprised to find that it was one of the safest countries in the western hemisphere. In addition to that, it was outstandingly beautiful with a tropical climate all year around. Sandwiched between Honduras and Costa Rica in central America, I was thrilled to find that it was home to active volcanoes, rainforests, freshwater lakes, national parks and the Pacific and Caribbean coasts.
The more I read, the more certain I became. This was the right place for us.
Embarrassingly, I was unable to pronounce Nicaragua when I called a family meeting later that evening. I had promised a big announcement so there was a bubble of trepidation in the air. Up until that moment, not even Chris was aware our my life-changing proposal.
We all huddled around the small dinette table in our motorhome. Three sets of eyes stared at me from under the dim overhead light. I opened my scrap of paper containing a scribbled list of pros and cons. I came prepared, expecting opposition. This was far more radical than Lake Varese.
‘I have been thinking…’ I started.
Half expecting to be laughed at, I was surprised to see nodding heads and smiling faces. Chris gave me the same smile he always gives me when I present a crazy ‘off the wall’ idea. I could see his brain ticking. He was considering whether this was utter madness or, in fact, a genius idea.
The kids were convinced, though – they were ready to fly on my coat tails!
Over the next few days, we talked a lot. With every new snippet of information, something else slotted into place. It just felt right. By the end of the week, we were making preparations to return home, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Within the space of three months, we have swapped a life of travelling Europe for a future in Nicaragua. It feels like the forward step we were hoping for.
In addition to excitement, we continue to embrace fear and uncertainty. It is a daily battle. Living outside of our comfort zone has become an all-consuming addiction – even though it makes us feel incredibly vulnerable.
Friends and family are somewhat surprised by our choice of destination. Nicaragua is a very misunderstood country. After allaying their fears about safety, we were asked relentlessly, ‘So, what are you going to do when you get there?’.
We would shrug and say, ‘We’re not sure yet’.
It seemed so evasive and irresponsible.
The truth is, we don’t know, for sure, what we are going to do when we get there. Of course, we have loose plans, but certainly no guarantees. To some extent, we are flying by the seat of our pants. We wish we could reassure everyone that everything is going to be okay – but we can’t. Life has no guarantees.
This adventure is unlike our European tour, in that, this time, we have to find a routine – whatever that may look like. We have to find a way of generating income. We have to find a way to sustain our new life.
We have funds to last 12 months but once this money runs out, there is no more. We will have nothing but our 9 suitcases left.
The way we see it, we have 12 months in which to pursue our dream jobs and make a moderate living. A key benefit to ditching all of our excesses back in 2015 is that we no longer need to earn a lot to lead a comfortable life. Nevertheless, we cannot rest on our laurels – we have two children depending on us. Coming back penniless and homeless is not a prospect I wish to contemplate. We have to work hard to reduce the risks.
Jonah starts San Juan Del Sur Day School on the 31st August. He will join his international classmates in a newly built school with open-air classrooms situated on an amazing farm with acres of open space. We hope this move will gift him the opportunity to acquire a second language. He is a boy with big dreams. Whilst we were happy to continue with our own style of education, through seizing teachable moments, Jonah asked to attend the International school. As an extrovert, I think he was missing the social interaction with like-minded friends.
Lola will continue with her un-schooling at home us. We will focus on, embrace and nurture her greatest talents in the hope that she has will have a head-start on mastering what she loves most.
Chris will continue to trade foreign currency online. It took 44 years for him to finally find something that makes him happy and utilises his finest skills . I have every faith that he is walking the path that was always intended for him. It has risks, yes. But with strict boundaries, it also has fantastic perks. The freedom to live anywhere in the world, being the supreme incentive.
I have no idea what I am going to do, yet. Other than write every day. Writing has become a great passion in my life. I cannot contemplate doing anything else. I made a promise in Europe to invest more time into doing what I love. Other than my family, it is the single most important thing that makes me feel unreservedly happy.
I have also packed an entire suitcase of fabrics, upholstery tools and my sewing kit. I am looking forward to touching base with my creative side again – one never knows; it may also provide some extra pocket-money.
All we know is that this is not a holiday and we have a responsibility to do whatever it takes, to make this work. We have to throw ourselves into that with gusto!
When will we be back? We don’t know. What will we do if we fail? We don’t know. As much as everything could go wrong, it could actually go remarkably right! We may just be two steps away from success…
If we are living the true life that is intended for us, we have to believe it will work out okay. Some people may think that this type of blind faith is foolhardy, others may consider it brave. We are only doing what we think is right for us, and right for the kind of life we want to live. We are prepared to make great sacrifices and take great risks in order to achieve it. In the end, we are also prepared to embrace failure. Because, no matter what happens, we will never regret trying.
I’m sure it will make for an interesting story nevertheless.
Wish us luck…