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

Browsing Tag:

moving to San Juan del Sur

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.”


Nicaragua Airport

7 Things to Expect when you Land in Nicaragua

  1. Download WhatsApp on your smart phone. – This is the way that a lot of people communicate here. Most restaurants and bars have WiFi and have no issue giving you the password. WhatsAppThis way it is easy to let your taxi driver know you’re ready to be picked up, or set up a time to meet with that cool person you just met.
  2. Download Waze on your smart phone. – This application is the best for navigating Nicaragua. Google’s navigation will take you on the shortest road, but since it isn’t used as often, it can’t wazecalculate that the road is dirt, through a neighborhood, and will take 5 times as long. Since Nica’s use Waze it always knows the best routes, it will steer you around a traffic jam, and there are lots of fun voices you can download to make your drive more fun.
  3. One of the few things that Nicaragua cares about is the importation of cell phones. It is best to keep your cell phone in your pocket so it is seen as personal use and not to be sold. If they don’t like something in your bag it’ll get pulled to a side table.  From what I’m told if you only speak English to these guys they get frustrated and let you go.  It worked for us (by default) when we first got here with two packaged iPhones in our suitcase.  Which is really all they’re looking for, iPhones.  They didn’t bother us about the other 3 phones in our pockets, 2 tablets, 2 laptops, car stereo, etc.
  4. There will be young men in white shirts lined up asking if you need help with your luggage (in Spanish). Use these guys! Pay them about a dollar per bag. Which means have some small bills on Helpers at Aeropuerto Internacional Augusto C Sandinoyou when you land. You need about 1 guy for every 4 bags. Save each bag sticker you get when you check your luggage in your departure city and have them ready to give to the guys with your bags after they’ve collected them.  There will be a man who checks your sticker to make sure it matches to your bag.  The young men will carry all of your luggage to a conveyor, place it on there, then they will take it off and load it up into your mode of transportation.
  5. After you get your bags you are ready to exit the customs area into the swarms of people pressed up against the glass windows peering at you like your are their next meal, tumblr_lbn3p8wSF61qa2nz2o1_500like a scene from The Walking Dead. As frightening as this may look, its only people looking for their loved ones to chauffeur them home.
  6. There are very few street lights outside of Managua. – You most likely will land at night, that seems to be when a majority of the flights aboard come in. If that is the case, then expect chaos in Managua and darkness anything outside of that. There are not many street lights on the freeways in Nicaragua and people, cows, horses, and bicyclers seem to have to no qualms meandering in the middle of the dark road. Which leaves me to my last point…
  7. Hire a driver and have transportation set up. – We still do not feel comfortable driving outside of San Juan del Sur at night, and even here can be sketchy. There are many shuttle companies in place to make this drive for you. Then all you have to do is close your eyes and hold on tight until you get to your destination.
What not to do

7 Things not to do in Nicaragua

7 Stupid Things Tourists Do

1. Feel sorry for the people.

Often I hear tourists talk about how sad it is for the people of Nicaragua. That they are so poor and must be miserable. If they took off their North American lenses, they’d see the genuine smiles I admire daily on local Nicaraguans. Tourists see laundry drying on a line, a small home, and people sitting out in front of their house at night in plastic chairs and assume that they are unhappy. Don’t mistake cultural differences with happiness.

2. Want to bring one of the poor animals home.

Tourists have an urge to adopt. They want to give that poor dog they see on the street a better life. I can tell you, my dog has never been happier than living here in Nicaragua. In the United States, all she did all day was sleep on her pillow-top bed under an attached blanket. The highlight of her day was one trip to the park (if I had time) and dinner. Here, she spends her whole day hunting inside bushes, chasing birds, watching geckos crawl across walls, and following our gardener around the large yard. She gets to go to any beach off leash and most restaurants find no problem with a dog coming inside. Most of the dogs here roam free. They are allowed to dig in trash cans, urinate & dedicate where ever they want, chase people, make doggy-friends, and fornicate when nature calls.

I think as Americans we believe that dogs are happiest on top of a nice, overly-stuffed bed with an owner who treats them like a human. I have to disagree. Looking back, I think my dog was bored. She didn’t have anything else to do but sleep and eat. I took her to the park for maybe 30 minutes a day. She was overweight and possibly depressed.

3. Rush around.

Every visitor we’ve had greets us with an air of expedition. This is supposed to be a relaxing vacation and they are in a hurry to go someplace to relax. They want to plan multiple things to see and are nervous that it might not get all done. How can they see fit in relaxing at the beach on the same day as seeing a volcano? They need to swim in the lake at Laguna de Apoyo, but might as well quickly check out Granada while so close. Even my retired parents found themselves frustrated by the pace of Nicaragua. Why does the food take so long at a restaurant? Can’t they open another line at the grocery store? Why are there so many bikers in the way on the road? I find myself relating less and unable to process the nervous energy of my guests. Its like the Tanzanian Devil walking beside you on the beach. A cloud of dust swirling around, unable to land and truly enjoy anything.

4. Assume that everyone speaks English or wants to learn.

We made the same mistake when we moved to Nicaragua and were slapped in the face by the fact that many people here neither speak English nor desire to learn it. We have struggled to learn to communicate with the locals. We try daily through much frustration to master Spanish. It is painful to hear tourists passively say that Nicaraguans need to learn English. That is a ludicrous statement and equal to a Mexican in California saying that California’s need to learn Spanish. Would both parties benefit from the ability to speak the other language? Yes. But that does not mean that the person will never be able to meet their full potential if it is not learned. The native language here is Spanish, so do your best to try to communicate in that language. There are many phone applications now that can help you do this with ease. Nicaraguans are very accepting people and with a little bit of effort you will find they have great patience and enjoy the chance to help you learn their native tongue.

5. Get robbed.

Charlie on Travel wrote a great article about how not to get robbed in Central America. Let me sum it up for you: don’t wear your most expensive jewelry or go parading around in name brand attire & accessories, don’t keep your whole wad of cash in your wallet for everyone to see when you’re making purchases, don’t get so intoxicated that you loose your wits about you, don’t leave your valuables on the beach/table/bar/community dorm room.

If you must carry a phone- especially an iPhone- always be conscious of where you leave it and where you’re using it. If its only to take pictures, then consider using an actual camera. If you wouldn’t do it in Los Angeles, then what makes you think it would be safe to do it in the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere (*Forbes)?

6. Expect Nicaragua to be just like its neighboring countries.

Is the United States just like Mexico? Then why would you think Nicaragua is? I often hear tourists surprised that Nicaragua is so different than their trips to other Central American countries. This is not to say that some days I don’t long for the civil engineering of Anywhere, Mexico, but I did not land here expecting it. Every country has it own attributes. That’s why we travel to different countries, not to see how they are all the same, but to experience something different.

7. Give money to beggars.

Our little town, San Juan del Sur has a drinking and drug problem. The sweet little kids who sell hammocks are high on glue, the man mumbling to himself and asking for money is drunk and will be passed out in the street in a few hours. These people don’t need your money. If you are in the donating mood, there is an abundance of non profits you could give to and insure your money is going to the right cause.

On the Beach

Living In Nicaragua for One Year

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Its our year anniversary today! We’ve officially been living in Nicaragua for 1 year. Some of the time has rushed by, and some of the time was like hiking through a mound molasses. We are learning something every day. I am challenged by simple tasks and easily navigate through things that used to be hard.

I was recently asked if I want to come home sooner. The answer is yes & no. We love & miss San Diego and our life “State-Side” tremendously, but I am thankful almost every day that we took this plunge. A year ago we closed our eyes and dropped into the rabbit hole, holding onto our kids tightly as we fell into the unknown.  Nicaragua caught us with open arms. The people here are amazingly kind and helpful. It is a culture where the importance of family is number one and long, hard days of work is for the uneducated. This country has already taught me so much about myself & what my priorities are or should be.

I’m not going to lie, some days are overwhelmingly hard. Some nights I go to sleep wishing to wake up in my big comfortable bed, in my own home, in San Diego. Where I can knock on the door next to mine and be welcomed in with a full glass of wine, and supportive, understanding ear. Where I can buy everything I need at one store, or even on the internet without ever having to leave the house. I miss English as a first language, especially when its a drastic situation like my mom in the hospital here or our car broken down. Most of all I miss our friends. I miss the endless events with a growing number of kids parading through. I miss when I’m having an exceptionally bad day, that I have willing girlfriends (my “cats”) ready to go out to take my mind off things. I can’t stand that I have to miss major life events and birthdays of the people I care for the most in this world.

Yesterday I learned a new Spanish saying, and it is appropriate for this day as I look back on the last year and what is to come in the future. “Vale la pena” – It is worth it. Through good times & bad, we took this blind leap as a family and it will forever change us for the better.

Woo in Puerto Viejo

How to vacation in style and on the cheap

Living in Nicaragua – Vacation from Paradise

We just took our first real vacation since moving to Nicaragua over a year ago. We honestly thought we’d do more of this, but then life happens, and *poof* a year goes by. We are only on a tourist VISA in Nicaragua, which means every 90 days we need to exit the country and re-enter to renew our VISA. This time instead of leaving and entering turn-style, we made a vacation out of it It was well worth the wait, Puerto Viejo – Costa Rica was beautiful! A couple things we learned:

1. Bring your nanny

Nicaragua has strong labor laws, so we’d have to pay our house cleaner/nanny her salary while we were away. So, we decided why not bring her? Since we were going to another country we needed to either pay for an 8 day pass or get her a passport. We decided to go with the passport since this was in the best interest of our future vacations. It ended up costing $50 for the passport and $33 for 3 month VISA to Costa Rica. At the borders we also paid for her taxes ($9) and entrance ($2).

It was great having an extra hand to help with the kids. My husband, Kharron and I were able to have conversations over dinner, go swimming together, rent bikes for a self-directed pub crawl, and go to a movie. Kharron worked some while we were on vacation and having Juanita there meant I could enjoy some individual time with one of the kids while the other napped.

2. Pay for a cuiador

We have 2 dogs and a cat who are used to a certain degree of lifestyle which includes sleeping indoors and meals promptly served. Juanita’s husband is not only a trusted friend, but also cheap labor. It cost us $10 for the 5 days were were gone for him to make sure the cat’s bowl had food, that there was water in the bowl outside, feed the dogs breakfast and let them out for the day, then feed them dinner and lock them in the house for the night. One of our dogs needs to take an incontinence pill twice a day and he even administered that for us so we didn’t come back to a home smelling of urine. Our dogs spend most of the day outside anyway, following our community’s gardener around, so I’m sure they were happy with this routine.

3. Rent a car and make sure you print your credit card’s insurance coverage

This is a mistake we made, but we won’t let it happen again. In Costa Rica if you decline the rental company coverage, they need to validate that your credit card will cover, otherwise they will need to take a very large deposit and you have to pay for their coverage. It would have been very simple for us to print the policy out to give to the rental agency. Instead it cost us a lot more money than intended and a lot of fuss before our long drive.

4. Reserve early

If you’re going anywhere during high season, make sure you reserve your hotel early and compare prices at the various reservation websites. Our hotel in San Jose had a deal running on Expedia the week we were there. We ended up having to move hotels while in Puerto Viejo and our options were very limited.


Damages to my mom's rental car

Hit and Run in Nicaragua

While attending a baby shower the car we were driving was victim to a hit & run. Unfortunately, the car was one my mom had rented for her two month stay in Nicaragua. We had heard that you need to make a police report before moving the car. Regrettably, this happened on a Sunday when the Nicaraguan’s enjoy a leisure day and move at an even slower than usual.

We discovered our car at about 7:15pm. Soon after, we had the restaurant we were at call the police for us. They finally arrived at 8:30pm. They wanted a copy of my license, Circulation, and Seguro (insurance). Of course, they couldn’t make the copies they needed themselves, so they drove me to a cyber cafe in a tuk tuk to make the copies. Once back at the car with the copies and after some confusion and questioning, they told me to drive the car to the police station. When we showed up, the police at the station wondered why we were there, so apparently we were not expected and no one made a call to alert them to our arrival or any of the information we’d already given. I mistakenly didn’t make copies of all cards front & back, so my husband and I had to go get more copies and come back to the station. Finally the police officer made the report, repeatedly asking a lot of the same questions. For some reason the fact that we were in a restaurant and didn’t see or hear the car when it got hit was very confusing to the police. After the report was made I signed it and was able to take the car. He told me that the report would be available 2 days later in Rivas for me to get a copy. I would need to pay the bank $C100 and then take the receipt to the police station in Rivas.

The next day we told the guy we use for all of our miscellaneous car needs what had happened. We explained that we needed our police report to submit to my mom’s credit card so the insurance would cover the damages. He mistakenly thought we needed a forged police report and we were all confused when he said it would cost $50. Once we got that figured out he said he’d make some calls and get us our report. Weeks went by and many confusing stories before we had the police report in hand. We ended up paying $C400 total, but from the sound of it, it wasn’t just a quick trip to the bank and then a nearby police station…but it never is.

Now the battle begins with my mom’s credit card insurance. A word of warning – when you opt not to use the rental car company insurance because your credit card says it will cover, make sure you read the fine print. My mom’s fine print says that it won’t cover if the car is rented for over 31 days. Unfortunately this accident happened after my mom was in Nicaragua 32 days.

Sleeping training 2 kids in 1 room can be difficult

How to sleep train two siblings in one room

Two kids, one room

A three bedroom North American style home seems to be hard to find in San Juan del Sur. Both homes we’ve lived in have been two bedroom. There does seem to be plenty of five bedroom homes, but not only is that excessive for our family of four, it is also out of our price range.

With the help of In Nica Now we looked for a three bedroom home to move into initially, but were unable to find one that worked for our family. Having a two bedroom first home ended up not being problem when we first moved here since Titus was still very young and nursing a lot at night. It was convenient to have him in a Pack ‘n Play in our room.

It wasn’t until our second house, and my desire to sleep through the night, that this predicament became apparent. Surely people do this everywhere. While driving past the local’s small shack-like homes, I started feeling guilty that this was such a dilemma for me.  I know a lot of Nicaraguans have to all share a bed or sleep in hammocks and I was fussing over how to put two kids in one room in their own beds!

After some bad moods and a few tears arising from lack of sleep, my husband Kharron Googled some modus operandi. We thought the one that made the most sense was to try to get the kids to go to bed at the same time. This would mean Azalea would go to sleep an hour before her usual time and Titus would have to wait an extra 30 minutes for his bedtime. It also meant a race through cooking dinner, eating dinner, bath time, books, & nursing Titus.

The following night we had it all planned out, taking advise from a blog we found “Its time to sleep train the baby” – I would bath both kids and then nurse Titus while Azalea got to play in the tub a little longer. We would both read books so one person could hold Titus, then off to bed for both. We read and followed all the advise about how to prep your toddler for the crying baby in their room and how often to go in and check on both participants.

First night we missed our targeted time of 7pm by 30 minutes. I don’t mean to say that both kids were asleep by 7:30pm, what I mean is that we didn’t even start the adventure until then. It didn’t go well after that. There were many tears and lots of explaining. In the end once the kids were finally asleep it was time for us to go to sleep as well.

Reluctantly we attempted the same process again the next night, but about half way through it we realized that this wasn’t for us. We let Azalea get out of bed and watch a show while I got Titus to sleep. Then once Titus was asleep and it was Azalea’s normal bed time I escorted her to bed explaining that she needed to be quiet. I bribed her with the promise of a donut in the morning if she didn’t wake her brother.

Now we are settled into our two-kids-in-one-room routine and it is going fairly smoothly. We still bath the kids together, but after bath Azalea gets to watch a show on her tablet or sometimes we have a late dinner. At 7:30pm Titus waves goodnight to everyone and gets rocked in the rocking chair and one last nursing session before being put in his Pack ‘n Play bed. Sometimes he gives a couple cries as I shut the door, but he is usually asleep in no time. At around 8pm I read a couple books to Azalea in our bed, then we brush teeth, go potty and she gives goodnight kisses. She now knows that she needs to be very quiet in her room and she hardly ever wakes her brother.

Now I need to figure out how to get only one kid to wake up at a time. Its seems one is always waking the other which makes a zero-to-sixty feel to the start of the day.