The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

- Robert Frost

the 1 less traveled by

A move to Nicaragua

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Moving to Nicaragua

SJDS Bay & Port

Cost of Living in San Juan del Sur

I tried to carefully keep track of all our expenses this past April. I did not include the expenses incurred from building our house including the cost for our monthly daytime laborer and nighttime watchman.

Storage Unit in USA$232
Electricity Utility$112.91
House cleaner with insurance$290
Gym Membership & Boxing Classes$100
Spanish Lessons$37
Escuela Adelante Preschool$100
San Juan del Sur Day School$300
Ballet Lessons (5 classes)$40
Eating Out$157.90
Dentist - Cleanings for whole family$140
Student Loans$232.57
ATM Withdrawal Fees$35
Vacation to Puerto Sandino$200

Buying a Car in Nicaragua

Our Worst Investment

We planned to arrive in Nicaragua sight unseen with a baby, a toddler, 7 suitcases, and 2 dogs. We knew that we needed to have a car immediately. Luckily, one of Kharron’s friend’s fathers, Joe already lived on the Atlantic side of Nicaragua and offered to help us get a car purchased before we moved. He seemed to know what he was talking about and convinced us to spend over our $4k budget so that we would have less problems. He advised us to spend at a minimum $10k, but that was not financially possible, so we agreed that he’d look in the $5k-$6k range.

After test driving a few SUVs he found one that needed a clutch, but he could get that fixed and all said and done it would be $6k. We agreed and wired him the money to purchase our 2007 Mitsubishi Montero. When Joe picked us up at the airport he had our car waiting for us at the hotel in Managua. It was really great to immediately have wheels and a way to get around town. We had a list of items we wanted to purchase before we moved to San Juan del Sur a week later.

            Getting new tires put on

Since that day, we have made many repairs on our vehicle. It turns out Mitsubishi’s have computerized engines so when something goes wrong, the mechanic needs a diagnostic computer to tell what that problem is. This is super easy in North America, but we only found one mechanic in San Juan del Sur who has that computer. The abundance of bumpy dirt roads in San Juan del Sur is rough on cars. It is common to replace bushings annually and hoses come loose often. One of our sensors needs to be cleaned every so often or our car doesn’t start. This is always fun when you have everyone loaded in the car in the morning for school.

Car getting worked on
                   Car getting worked on
Burnt engine
Burnt engine

We found a mechanic we really like, but he is located in Rivas which is 30km from San Juan del Sur, so depending on the issue, it is sometimes hard to get our car to him. Slowly we’ve been ticking off a list of fixes our car needed, but then on our way home from Matagalpa our car finally took a dive. There was a hole in a water tube that caused the engine to overheat. A nice Nicaraguan towed us the 9km to our mechanic.

Over the last 2 1/2 weeks we’ve been having our engine rebuilt and got it back yesterday. Thank you to the “collectivo” for being a cheap was to get to Rivas to pick it up. We are hoping this major rebuild will solve most of the issues and we can finally feel confident in our car.

Mechanic receipts
                       Mechanic receipts

How to Buy Real Estate With Your 401k or IRA

Living in Nicaragua inspires you to invest in this developing country. There seems to be an abundance of opportunities to fill the gaps of what doesn’t already exist. Even living mostly paycheck to paycheck, we still have dreams of owning something in Nicaragua. We want to build a home that we can come visit and rent out when we are not here. 

After working in the real estate business briefly, I heard there was a loophole that allowed you to “self invest” your 401k or IRA. This intrigued both Kharron & I since we had some money in our retirement funds that didn’t seem to be invested well. Using the money in our IRAs to invest in Nicaraguan real estate sounded too good to be true!

Let me explain: We quickly learned that using a 401k verses an IRA is much more flexible when buying real estate. First off, with a 401k Plan, when you make a real estate investment it does not trigger the Unrelated Debt Financed Income Rules and the Unrelated Business Taxable Income (UBTI or UBIT) tax (IRC 514).  However, this exception does not apply to IRAs. In other words, using a “Self-Directed IRA” to make a real estate investment would trigger the UBTI tax. Secondly, traditional IRA’s only allows an individual to contribute $5,500 annually ($6,500 if the person is over 50 years old). A Solo 401k plan allows for contributions up to $59,000 per year. Since we’re planning on building a vacation rental, being able to reinvest the profits back into our retirement fund was important to us. 

There is one catch, the typical 401k plan does not usually allow for investing in real estate, so most people form a “Solo 401k Plan”. This is a traditional plan, but covers only one employee (and spouse), and allows you to bypass some regulations. If you have or create a Sole Proprietorship, your business can obtain a Solo 401k Plan. Since a 401k Plan is a trust, the trustee on behalf of the trust can take title to a real estate asset.

Don’t let all this mumbo jumbo fool you, after a lot of research we were still thoroughly confused on how to proceed. Luckily we found the company IRA Financial Group. For a small fee of $1,500, they did all the work for us. They set up the Sole Proprietorship, created The Reid Dynasty 401k Trust, and helped us figure out how to roll our existing retirement funds into a the new Solo 401k Plan. We decided to use Fidelity Financial for our Solo 401k since they have a product called a “Non-Prototype Retirement Account” for Solo 401k’s & I already had my IRA with them so in theory the rollover would be easier. 

Everything was set up after a couple months and we started looking at land we wanted to buy.


Daily Work Life

How To Make a Living Abroad

After about 30 minutes of talking to someone new, usually the question that gets asked is, “So what do you do?” Those of us who have lived here long enough know that the real question being asked is, “How are you able to support yourself while living abroad?” Somewhat annoying, the answers often given are vague. “A lot of good luck.” I have heard. “I have a business.” I was told. I don’t know if this is because money is a taboo topic in North America or if people are worried the inquisitor is going to steal their job. Someone told me that those working in Nicaragua are sometimes vague because they never obtained their residency and therefore it is illegal to be making Nicaraguan income.

I feel like we are very forward with what we do for work and how we are able to afford to live abroad. In case you haven’t read through my other posts, here’s a run down: My husband worked remotely as a software/website developer for a marketing company out of San Francisco when we lived in San Diego. When we decided we wanted to make a move abroad for a couple years, he asked his company if that would be okay with them. They said yes, and for the first year we lived here he would fly back to California every 6-8 weeks for about a week. During his off time, he recruited a team of Nicaraguan website developers and once ready, he quit his job and launched a US company, SeñorCoders.

Never a person who liked to sit still, I dabbled in real estate for a little bit. I did not give it all the attention it needed, so I was unsuccessful at making enough to pay for the childcare and contribute to the cost of living. I now work for my husband’s company as a Project Manager. Although I don’t get paid, it saves us the money of paying someone else to do the job.

We are able to rent our house out in California for enough money to cover the mortgage and a large storage unit. We have amazing renters who have given us very little trouble in the year and a half we’ve been gone. We changed our mailing address to my mother’s house and Kharron’s father now drives and takes care of our truck we were unable to sell before we moved.

Well, enough about me, below are some of the jobs I’m aware of people doing that make enough money to support themselves while living here:

Real Estate Agent: If you are a top producer, this is the job that makes the most Nicaraguan money. If you are not, then you might work hard for only a few hundred dollars a month.
Owner of Construction Company: Once established and building North American style homes, a person can make a career out of owning a construction company. You do need to know a fair amount of Spanish for this to work.
Developer: There are many developers here in San Juan del Sur and most do quite well. Obviously you need to know what you’re doing and the lots need to sell once developed.
Business Owner in Nicaragua: The successful upscale restaurants that cater towards Gringos seem to make enough money to live on. From what I have seen, the owners of the smaller shops like bakeries, clothing stores, or less popular restaurants usually have another form of income. Whether its odd jobs, retirement income, investments, other businesses here, or a business in their home country.
Business Owner in Country of Origin: Online businesses are what most people manage from an off-shore location, but one family we met had a pool cleaning business and hired a manager to do what was needed on the ground. Since the cost of living is less here, skimming a little off the top can sometimes be enough to sustain a family here.
Rental Income: Earning rental income from properties here or in their country of origin can be fairly lucritive and allow for a comfortable living here in Nicaragua.
Work in Technology: Graphic Designer, Video Editor, SEO Expert & Software Developer are some of the professions my fellow Expats hold steady jobs in.
Hotel/Hostel Owner: Most of the hotel & hostel owners that I meet are living a lavish life. In fact most of them seem to have another form of income that keeps them afloat. Of course there are the exceptions, so I’m putting this on the list of jobs that can fully support living here.
Retired: I mostly meet retired military, fire fighters, and police in my age group, but there are all sorts of retired people who live very comfortable & happy lives here.
Sold Assets: I hear of people who sold their house in their home country and the profit was enough survive on a modest amount of monthly funds. Some have cashed in investments and are able to do the same. If it isn’t quite enough to survive on, then they do small jobs like Property Management or book keeping to supplement.
Teacher: Teachers don’t get paid very much here, but it is enough for a single person to sustain a life here. Maybe not with the luxuries of air conditionig and hot water though.

Here’s a list of other professions I have heard other people doing: Online Sales Agent, College Sport Recruiter, Non Profit Aid Organizer, Photographer, Gold Miner, Screen Writer, Branding Consultant, Wellness & Yoga Retreat Coordinator, & Tour Manager.

It is very hard to make enough money here to support a lifestyle you are probably used to in your home country. If you plan to move to Nicaragua, the best advice is its best to have a healthy amount of savings or better yet, income coming from outside Nicaragua. Or as I’ve heard it put, “The best way to make a million dollars in Nicaragua is to bring a million dollars to Nicaragua.”



Living in San Juan del Sur

Why we live in San Juan del Sur

We have been contemplating buying property and building a rental home here, so this topic has been on my mind quite a lot lately. With a large impending decision like this, I have been weighing the pros & cons of choosing San Juan del Sur as a permanent tie… So, I thought I’d write about it.

When we moved abroad, our plan was to live in San Juan del Sur for the first 6 months and after learning some Spanish and understanding the country a bit more, we’d relocate to the more northern and less tourist town of Miramar. We were told by a friend who had been living in Nicaragua, that because of the large Expat population in San Juan del Sur and Granada, those cities would make for an easier transition. We wanted to live by the ocean, so San Juan del Sur it was! After the 6 months went by in a blurry flash and still flailing at Spanish, we found we had already started making friends and and a life in San Juan del Sur. We made the decision to stay.

We have a friend who runs a surf camp called Casa Sirena Surf Lodge in Miramar, so we visit often. Every time we go an air of tranquility rushes over me. I have a great fondness for that tiny fishing village that is probably today a lot like San Juan del Sur once was. I had to think long and hard about whether purchasing up there would be a better investment and location for our family’s second home. In the end we have decided San Juan del Sur is the most logical spot for us and with Miramar’s consistent surf and a major paved road connecting it to the university city of León and capital Managua, its only a matter of time before its gentle pace will too speed up.

Here are some of the reasons we choose to live in San Juan del Sur:

Beaches are Everywhere

San Juan del Sur is full of uncrowded beaches. In the year and a half of having lived here, we still have not been on every beach. In fact, we went to a private bay for the first time last Sunday for a BBQ with friends. Playa Hermosa

International School

This was a big one for us, as our children grow older the need for education will become even more important. We are confident that not only will San Juan del Sur Day School be around for many years to come, we also love the education Azalea receives there. Because of the large Expat population here, there are even more schools popping up. Titus will be starting at Escuela Adelante next week and I believe it will continue to grow and prove to be a wonderful bilingual school.

Diverse Restaurants & Food

It might sound trivial, but I don’t think I can survive solely on local Nicaraguan food. Here in San Juan del Sur there are different flavors of restaurants opening weekly. Date Night at Jicaro GardenWe have a Peruvian, Indian, Thai, Falafel, Mexican, Canadian, Mediterranean, Spanish, German, and of course North American. We have a few shops that specialize in selling imported food products like alfredo sauce, Franks hot sauce, rice & balsamic vinegar, cheese, cereal, bagels, olives, spices, Doritos, alcohol, dijon mustard, quinoa…things you never even thought about not being available. Our food menu always consists of some Nicaraguan dishes and a healthy mix of flavors from around the world.

English Speaking Spanish Teachers

One of the major reasons we moved to a Latin American country was for our family to learn Spanish. There are not only a plethora of Spanish teachers here in San Juan del Sur, but because of the tourist influence, many have seen the value in learning English. This makes the answers to questions about the rules of the language clearer.

Our House Cleaner Juanita

It has become a priority for us to make sure that our house cleaner, Juanita, never has to worry about finding work again. She has been with us since our first day of living in San Juan del Sur and we care about her, and her family deeply. She treats our children as if they were her own and our children treat her like a member of our family. Juanita is very honest, always removing money out of Kharron’s dirty clothes pockets and placing whatever the denomination is on our counter. She knows where all our valuables are, maybe even better than we do. Whether we buy a property or not, we will somehow ensure Juanita’s future. If we do buy the property, then she will manage our vacation home and her husband will be our “cuiador”.

FriendsTwo Guys Adventures

We’ve met a lot of like-minded people in the one and a half years we’ve lived here. Although most of these people are Gringos, we have also made close friendships with Nicaraguans. When moving to a foreign land, I have found that friends you can trust are even more important than they are at home. When your car breaks down in the middle of the night on a quiet road, you need someone. When you go out of town, leaving your pets for a few days, you need someone. When you’re kids have taken every last bit of your patience, you need someone. Besides the friends we have here, in San Juan del Sur there is an amazing network of Facebook pages. You can ask any question and strangers will give you an answer.

We’ve been here awhile

Navigating a new city is hard anywhere, but doing it in a foreign country and in a foreign language is a daily struggle. We’ve finally started to figure some things out. I can now offer information when someone posts a question on Facebook. We have a mechanics (actually 2), a wood guy, and someone to help with bank runs and other odd, but complex errands. We’ve worked out a network here and starting over is a task to great for me.


There are many amazing cities in this beautiful country we live in, but San Juan del Sur has proven to be the best fit for our family. Part Gringo, but still mostly Nica, this town has so much to offer. San Juan del Sur will always and forever remain our second home.

Chili Cook Off

I wanted to share a fun event we went to on Sunday, Mango Rosa’s first annual Chili Cook Off!

My first batch of chili's to sample
My first batch of chili’s to sample

For only C$100 (less than $4) you could sample 9 different delicious chili’s. Each set of cups came with a judging sheet & crackers. My method was to sample half at a time. It was great! One came with corn bread, another with a mini corn tortilla. Each chili had a creative name and was served to you by the chef.



Everyone had fun with all the activities Mango Rosa has to offer
Everyone had fun with all the activities Mango Rosa has to offer

My kids not only enjoyed trying the different types of chili, they also had a blast swimming in the huge
pool, jumping on the trampoline, and playing in the grassy area with corn hole games, tether ball, and soccer.

A local band, Pippy’s Posse played music that my son bobbed his head to all afternoon.

Titus really enjoyed this band
Titus really enjoyed this band

Its events like these that make me so happy that we’ve settled into San Juan del Sur. We have lots of friends and there are always a lot of kids around.


Finding Renters When Moving Abroad

The home we’re leaving behind

Taking pictures, posting our house on Craigslist, and showing it to potential renters has reminded us how truly lovely our home is.  I used to look at every floor board scuff or nail hole with disdain, now I see sweet bitterness as I remember how it was created and add it to my mental “Fix It” list.

I recently redid our daughters room, complete with chandelier, pink flowery wallpaper, bright pink curtains, new closet organizer, and a loft bed she hasn’t used.  Its going to break my heart to have to tear apart the unused bed and pack up all her toys & stuffed animals.  Worse, I’m worried that it will break her heart! I’m not procrastinating this task, but I dread the tearful outcome.  Should I do it while she’s away at preschool or in front of her??  She’s only just turning 3 years old, so I’m not convinced she will understand what is occurring.

We decided on a family to rent our home.  They have a 10 year old son and a 2 year old daughter, so we’re hoping they will fit into our amazing neighborhood and enjoy their time here as much as we have.  They are allowing us to keep some shelving up, the flat screen TV arm brackets, a corner cabinet, the plants, and our 2 chickens.

This is the first time we’re becoming landlords and its under strange circumstances.   One of the families we interviewed didn’t like that we were just looking to rent for only 2 years.  They wanted to “dig their roots in” and thought they wouldn’t be able to do that knowing we were returning.  Other people had a lot of questions about whether we might come back prior to two years. Our simultaneous answer was that we will definitely be gone for 2 years, whether that’s in Nicaragua or another country.

We’re truly going to miss this home, our neighborhood, and our wonderful neighbors.  We’ve created lasting friendships for both us and the kids in this neighborhood and we know we are blessed to live here.

luggage stuffing

Packing To Move Abroad

Is it too early to pack?

My husband & his family are making fun of me, we are 2 months out and I’ve already began packing the suitcases.  Actually I’ve barely started packing, but started accumulating items for the move; scourging the thrift stores for extra large suitcases (since we’re only bringing 6), scanning Craigslist for boxes & dog crates, sending group texts to neighbors to collect newspaper, buying packaging tape…  Its true, I am a planner, but with all there is to do “I don’t feel like this is too early!”, I say with a defiant stomp…well, at least that’s how it gets played out in my head.

I’d like to do more, but Kharron isn’t convinced that getting our storage space this early is necessary. I’ve never done a move like this.  When I moved from Northern to Southern California, everything I owned fit in my Honda.  I didn’t have kids to worry over, I didn’t have a whole house worth of belongings to compact into a 15 x 10 space, and I couldn’t just call my mommy if I forgot anything.

Now my and Ze’s closets contain no shorts nor sundresses…I think that’s a fair start.



Advice from an awesome Kiwi

Date night at Karl Straus Brewery, Carlsbad CA.

While having date night drinks & apps with the hubby, a man walks up to the bar. My husband, who has met no stranger, of course starts a conversation with the accented man. Turns out he is from New Zealand and has lived in 8 countries and had a kid born in 4 of them. We asked his advice on our move… “Only do one big thing.” he said, “Don’t plan a trip in the first 6 months, don’t have a baby the first year, and don’t start a business right away.”  I’m what you might call a busy body and have already made plans to go to Belize in July to visit some friends visiting there.  Part of what I want to accomplish (there I go again) while living in Nicaragua is to see the surrounding countries, work for a non profit, and maybe invest in a business. Although I haven’t changed my plans, his advise certainly does put everything into a realistic perspective.

Tday on the Porch

Moving to Nicaragua

The Journey Begins

With an emotional breakdown by Jenna and some research by Kharron, the decision has been made and implemented.

After a particularly hard day trying to sell a new mortgage company to a shrinking industry my mind returned to the late night buzzed conversations I once had with Kharron about moving abroad while running a US business.  When we first dated this was a dream of ours.  I once read “The Five Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss and in it he talks about working in another country where the US dollars you earn can go further.  When we met, Kharron was self employed as a website developer and we fantasized he could build websites for the drop-ship companies we created. They would essentially run themselves while we traveled the world for a few years.

These thoughts were the backsplash to my frustrated & fearful tears.  I worried about my depleting income; whether we could afford the house we lived in, our lifestyle, the baby growing in my belly.  I had become such a consumer I thought about the remodel we wanted to do on our house, our landscaping dreams, my daughter’s next birthday party. I didn’t sleep much that night because these trains of thoughts crossed and when they did I felt it like a collision within my body.  Suddenly it all made sense- this was our moment, this was our sign, we could actually do this, we could actually move to another country for a couple years!

At my computer the next day I blubbered to Kharron about my career woes and causally mentioned the idea of moving.  Feeling foolish as I heard the words escape my mouth I couldn’t help but notice the glimmer of hope I felt once spoken. Once my monolouge came to an end, Kharron disappeared to our home office, but within 10 minutes I got an email from him with the subject line, “I like your idea” and a link to this blog  I was skimming through it when Kharron reappeared.  He had already read the whole blog and was ready to start packing. The path was set.  Let the journey begin!