Since arriving in the beach town of San Juan del Sur last year, Marisa Francis has come to appreciate life’s simple pleasures. She loves riding bikes with her kids to the pulperia (convenience store) down the street to buy candy. “I have such fond memories of my sister and me doing the same thing when we were kids and visiting our grandparents,” she says. “I love that Nicaragua feels like the ‘old days.’”
Nicaragua opened up a whole new world for Paul, Marisa, their two kids Owen, 11, and Abigail, 8, and their three dogs…not least in slashing their cost of living. “Comparing our expenses in the U.S. with Nicaragua is pretty comical,” says Marisa. “Back home, our mortgage including taxes, two leased vehicles, and school tuition cost us $2,600 a month. Our electric bill was $400 a month. We paid about $200 a month for two cell phones. We spent about $5,000 to $7,000 a month in the States.
“Living in San Juan del Sur is easy. We withdraw $1,100 each month from the bank, pay our rent, electric bill, and internet. The remainder is what we use for food and any other expenses. We rent a two-bedroom, one-bathroom home for $550 a month. That includes water. We pay about $60 for electric and $57 for internet monthly.
“We spend about $50 to $60 on food each week. That covers us for mostly fresh produce from the central market and meat from the Pali supermarket (Walmart). We spend $32 for a bag of dog food, which lasts about two months. We also pay a Nicaraguan neighbor $10 a month to collect our trash twice a week.”
It’s quite a change from home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Paul’s pizza shop was doing well. Marisa’s job at the Pennsylvania Medical Society was rewarding. They owned their own home and the children attended a great private school. It was the proverbial American Dream. But something was missing.
“We always talked about selling everything and moving to a tropical place,” says Marisa. “But we assumed it was just a fantasy we would never be able to afford. One night we were commiserating over the $12,000 we spent on real estate taxes for our home, for the business location we rented, and business sales tax. At that point, we had the option to sign another five-year lease for our pizza shop, find another location, or put the business up for sale. “We decided to sell. Less than a week after it was listed, we had a buyer. So we were ready to move.”
Since moving, the family has not lacked for friends. They have met their neighbors and, through them, have been introduced to others. They also meet friends through their kids.
“I hardly knew my neighbors in the States, and really enjoy the personal relationships I already have here in such a short time,” says Marisa.
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