Today has been a tough day. I have just finished packing our final case. Tomorrow we embark on a gruelling and reluctant 35-hour journey back to the UK. I desperately wish I was excited, but instead I am overcome with a feeling of dread and sadness.
In sharing my thoughts through these blogs, I see first-hand how my emotions change as erratically as the wind. Five weeks ago, I was so convinced we were making the right decision. I almost persuaded myself we had a plan and knew what we were doing. Today, I’m not so sure. The road ahead is yet again, unclear. I can’t see a way forward and my head is screaming ‘stay!’. But we can’t. We must press forward.
‘What are you going to do when you get back?’ is the question I hate the most. Yesterday I said one thing. Today I feel another. One minute I know, the next I don’t. One second I’m overcome by excitement just thinking about the possibilities. The next I feel so irresponsible I yearn for my old life. A comfortable chair, fluffy slippers, a glass of wine and a semi-successful career.
I want to continue travelling but I also want a home to return to. I hate the notion of complying with societal expectations but I constantly contradict myself. I feel like every rat in the rat race is missing the real purpose of life and yet, sometimes I feel envious of their comfortable lives. I wouldn’t trade what we have done for the world but I’m scared it has damaged our future security. I don’t want security and yet I do – or do I?
After 18 months of freedom, the thought of school runs, job applications, interviews and knockbacks, chokes me. I know it is an essential means to a potentially new chapter. I’m trying desperately hard to focus on the benefits and remind myself that it is not permanent – only a new beginning – but I’m so weary. I don’t know if we have made the right decision. Sometimes I’m positive we have, other times, like today, I wonder if we are making the biggest mistake of our life. Right now, my heart is confused.
From the moment we decided to return home, we stopped agonising. We gave ourselves permission to just relax and have fun. We ceased chasing money, forgot about our finances and simply immersed ourselves in Nicaragua. And just like that, we looked around and appreciated the amazing life we have created for ourselves here. We started to swim every day, plan excursions, socialise more, meet new friends and share experiences.
Through our early struggles to acclimatise, we never considered Nicaragua as home. We felt like outsiders. Yet, the second we stopped trying, we looked about and realised that we have settled in. We are part of a community. We do have great friends. Our bodies have acclimatised. We do enjoy the heat (to a degree).
We. Do. Adore. Living. Here.
Alas, the realisation has come too late.
That said, in part, I realise our decision to leave gave us the freedom to really forge a great life. It’s been a double-edged sword. If we had decided to stay we would still be frantic and miserable by now, worrying about how to maintain this life. As it is, the past five weeks have been a blissful holiday. We understand that our return enabled us to enjoy the present. It’s a bitter sweet pill to swallow.
We are beyond grateful to Nicaragua for the wonderful memories we will treasure in our hearts and minds forever. To say it has been incredible, is an understatement. This place seeps deep into your bloodstream. It’s not always easy, the tough days are a beautiful hardship, but the good days are exceptional, incomparable and deeply soul-enriching.
I will miss the lawlessness, the laid-back Nica lifestyle and the sense of nonconformity here. Above all, I will miss the sunshine, sunsets and balmy evenings, cold Tona’s, open houses, afternoon swims, chicken wings on the beach, drunken games of Mexican Train, body boarding in warm waves, geckos hiding behind the TV, warm donuts on a Saturday morning, cooling breezes, dramatic scenery, bird song, random animals roaming along dusty dirt tracks, shots of What’s Up Peter with international friends, crowded chicken buses, impromptu parties, fishing on panga boats in the rain, shopping in colourful markets and sitting on the veranda with nothing to do.
We have had an amazing time. The very best. Which is why it is so difficult to say goodbye.
Mostly, my heart aches for Jonah. He has embraced Nica life better than any of us. From day one, he made the most of every second. He is heartbroken to leave. I keep apologising because I feel that I am pulling him away from the life he was always supposed to live. Jonah was made for this existence.
He has embraced the ethos and outdoor education of San Juan Del Sur Day School and the enrichment activities he has come to adore; baseball, American football, lacrosse, surfing, gymnastics, athletics and rugby. He has formed a beautiful friendship with a wonderful boy, Max, whom we have come to love ourselves. They are inseparable. Together they have shared sleep overs on school nights, pizza on the beach, gelato’s on the back of open trucks, piggy backs between houses, swimming fully clothed, jumping off roofs, catching scorpions, flipping bottles, ziplining, body boarding and hanging out at the treehouse.
For Jonah, life back in the UK will be a dramatic shock. For one, he must learn to wear shoes again! It will be a tough transition and we are expecting some anger and resentment. But moving here motivated Jonah and changed his outlook forever. To listen to his dreams is an inspiration. If he fulfils them, we need never worry about his future happiness. He has the rest of his life to return to this and finish what we started.
Lola has enjoyed a quiet sedate existence here in our little neighbourhood. It has been a different experience for her. She has not had a school to attend so friendships have been absent. Instead, Lola discovered new interests and developed old ones. She indulged her introvert nature and invested hundreds of hours into writing and publishing short stories – narratives that blow our mind! I think Lola will benefit from returning. Though I constantly worry about her reintegration back into mainstream education and ‘normal’ life in general, I have watched a very quick wit and a dry, intelligent sense of humour mature over the past 6 months, which I am confident will carry her through. She is ready for friendships and interaction now, and that pleases us.
As a family, we have stowed away a thousand individual memories that will be hard to surpass. From kayaking in a volcanic crater to watching lava bubbling in an active volcano. We have seen sea turtles mating in the open ocean, dolphins playing beside our boat, howler monkeys swing with white faced monkeys, wild crocodiles walking across the beach, sloths hanging from overhead branches, cowboys steering huge herds of cattle and horses, tarantulas being eaten by geckos, people standing on the top of moving buses, six people riding one motorcycle, pigs being carried on the back of vehicles, puffer fish and moray eels going about their business in crystal clear waters, snakes dodging traffic, bugs the size of small mice and herons expertly swooping for fish.
My favourite memories include Jonah catching a 10lb rooster fish on his 10th birthday, jumping 30ft from a Tarzan swing with his dad and ziplining through a jungle canopy. Climbing a 500ft mountain in an all-terrain buggy and standing on the continental divide between the Pacific and Caribbean oceans. Celebrating New Year in town and lighting fireworks on the beach, socialising with friends around beach bonfires, playing baseball with local children in the dark, marvelling at 160 spectacular sunsets, witnessing a wedding proposal and organising a wedding, enjoying the talents of a classical violinist and a fire dancer in our own back yard, swimming in a fresh water lagoon on Ometepe Island, rescuing four kittens, sleeping at the foot of two volcanoes, dining at a butterfly farm, eating fresh red snapper we caught ourselves, delivering gifts to a Nica family on Christmas morning, surviving jelly fish and scorpion stings, an earthquake, tsunami warning and hurricane.
I have also adored the many different seasons or phases. Arriving in the wet season, we relished the torrential rain, lush green countryside and flowers abloom. We delighted in the lightening season and the colours that flashed across the sky every night. Toad season brought the charming sounds of Mexican Tree Frogs outside our bedroom window. Spider season resulted in two huge tarantulas in our home. Windy Season brought gusts far fiercer than anything Hurricane Otto had to offer. Fly and mozzie season was prolonged by the longer than usual wet season. Rainbow season wowed us with vivid daily double rainbows.
Now, we have entered the dry season. No more rain for 6 months. The roads are becoming dusty, the trees are dropping leaves and the beaches are filling up. The sun is warm and the skies are clear. Every evening reminds me of balmy summer nights as a child, running around in shorts and vest with bronzed shoulders and bare feet.
Packed bars kick out techno tunes and scantily clad surfers and backpackers fall about laughing, kissing and shouting. The howler monkey’s early morning alarm call echoes loudly through the trees. Bites are becoming fewer. Alcoholic beverages are increasing, social invitations are constant. Summer is in full swing.
Life will go on without us. New families will arrive. People will come and go. That’s the nature of San Juan. It’s also its charm.
Will we be back? I hope so. If not just for a holiday to revisit and nurture lifelong friendships.
Do we regret making the move? Not at all. We have had an incredible 18-month adventure through 15 different countries. It has been a truly remarkable and rewarding experience.
Has it been worth it? I’m not sure. We will have to see how tolerable, or intolerable, the next 12 months are in the UK.
This adventure has not come without huge sacrifices.
We return on Saturday with no home (we are staying at Chris’s mum’s temporarily), no jobs, no income and very little money. Chris will still have to disclose his past, justify himself and open himself to judgement in the employment world again. Unfortunately, this adventure never did solve that issue and it terrifies me what that process will do to his self-esteem. I hate the thought of undoing all the progress we made in rebuilding his confidence across Europe and Nicaragua.
Effectively, we are starting from scratch. We arrive in London without any coats or winter shoes. I’m sure the journey home in shorts and flip flops will shock us back to reality!
We have been overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of amazing friends, who have gifted us furniture and clothes so that we have something to rebuild from. Though I am embarrassed that my sister purchased us new pants and socks, I’m also indebted because essentially, I’m all too aware that we brought this situation on ourselves (somewhat).
I’m sure there will be days of dark depression when we despair at our situation. There is nothing honourable about living with parents at our age. I worry that our memories will fade and the experience will lose its charm if the UK brings nothing but hardship and misery. It will take fortitude and persistence to keep ourselves positive and focused. I’m certain we will rely heavily on the love of family and the company of amazing friends to see us through. It is the excitement of seeing them, and our beloved dog, Buddy, that motivates us to keep going. We really have missed them terribly. In truth, it was the intensity of our ‘miss’ that sparked our decision to return. Amongst the dark days, I know there will be special moments of brilliance that will reassure us we have done the right thing.
I’m anticipating crisp cold mornings, hot chocolate for supper, long walks with the dog, laughing with friends so hard I cry, crumpets, chocolate, a proper cup of tea and of course, scavenging around my favourite carboot sales and vintage shops. I dream of feeling cold, wearing slippers and watching old movies without the TV buffering. I smile at the thought of a week without losing electricity. A day without losing Wifi. An hour without being bit. A second without sweating.
Life in the UK is not all bad.
What we will do on our return is still an enigma. We change our minds daily. Each time we look at the job pages we despair, overcome by a thick black fog in our hearts. It makes us want to bolt again or bury our heads in the sand. Ultimately though, we must face reality. We need money. We can’t afford to be fussy.
We are torn between saving and travelling the world. Saving to restore a motorhome to have as a bolthole. Saving and staying, renting a place of our own and rebuilding our lives in the UK. The latter is the least palatable.
However, we are now in our 40s. We have two children to think about. We have no place of our own to call home, no pension or savings. It seems awfully irresponsible to keep travelling around the world, only to return to our family when the money runs out. Yes, we can always find jobs when we return, save again and continue, but what happens when we are 50 or 60? At what point do we take responsibility? At what point does our lifestyle cross over from inspirational to selfish? At what point will we become the black sheep of the family who never made anything of themselves?
It’s so hard to truly live the life you want. I’ve tried so hard to shake off the concept of societal norms but my brain is so institutionalised I jump continuously from rebel to conformist. Half of me wants to wake up each morning and not give a shit. The other half worries what people will think.
When I’m sat outside in a cold motorhome at 65, will I look through the warm living room windows of my peers in their mortgage free homes and their white picket fences and envy them? Especially when I see their motorhome on the drive? Is it better to wait and do it ‘properly’, take a gamble on our health, or throw caution to the wind and prioritise happiness first?
I don’t know anymore.
The toughest part about returning will be to avoid the pull of convenience. Everything we do, needs to take us closer to what we want (when we decide what that actually is). The one thing we are sure of, is that we don’t want our old life. It took too much courage to escape the rat race to ever consider re-entering it full-time.
Forward is the only way to go.
For now, I pray for rain. I pray for spiders. I pray that something will happen in the next 24 hours that will ease the sadness of going home. I want to board the plane feeling excited and hopeful. Instead I fear I will stare at the tarmac of the runway and cry.
With a very heavy heart, I wish you a fond farewell Nicaragua.
Thank you for the lessons. Take care of our friends.
Until next time,
The End x