I wake up naturally, no alarms needed anymore. The sun greets me, as it does every morning, and my French doors open onto my patio, where I can watch the waves crash over the rocks in the bluest of oceans. Birdsong mixes with the calls of howler monkeys, letting me know that they are somewhere in the trees. My yard looks like a jungle—coconut palms, fruit and avocado trees, a herb garden, and so many colorful flowers: plumeria, hibiscus, marigolds…
I take a sip of my coffee, the best I’ve ever had and the cheapest—only $3.50 a pound, grown not too far away. I sit on my patio, with a smile on my face, happier than I’ve ever been…and realize that I live this dream every day!
Back home in San Diego, I never dreamed that I could afford to own something with an ocean view.
I’m just a middle-class gal. There you can pay $1.5 million for something like that. Yet in San Juan del Sur I own a small two-bedroom/two-bathroom house, on an acre with an ocean view, which cost just $132,000. I pay real estate taxes of just $151 a year. And in my backyard, in addition to what I mentioned before, I also grow mangos, papayas, citrus trees, a cinnamon tree, and even moringa, the tree of life.
My house is an eight-minute drive or a 20-minute walk from a vibrant beach town with a big international expat community. If the mood takes me, I can go to a nearby restaurant for a fresh red snapper ($8) and the best mojito in town…or to another restaurant for international fare like a chicken-curry rice bowl or a fish fillet with orange-chili sauce for the same price. Fish tacos for $1, veggie wraps for $5, a raw-food sandwich for $6, fresh-out-of-the-oven cinnamon buns, sushi…you can satisfy any craving here.
I moved to Nicaragua in 2007. I got to retire young, 11 years before my planned retirement age of 65. But I didn’t want to wait for the next phase of my life to begin; I wanted to make it happen.
I was drawn by the >good weather, too—average temperatures are 85 F year-round—and it is so cheap to live here. Monthly living costs, without rent, for a couple living comfortably are around $1,000. Many of my friends here rent furnished apartments or vacation homes at prices as low as $300 per month for a one-bedroom furnished apartment, with water, electricity, and Wi-Fi included.
Many people who come here, ages 20 through 75, figure out a business they would like to do and give it a go. Popular ideas include restaurants, surf shops, spas, construction companies, classes, yoga, and massage. (We’re still missing an acupuncturist…and a holistic clinic/pharmacy—any takers?)
All in all, my life is more fulfilling here than in the U.S.
Only about 10,000 people live in this tiny beach town and the surrounding area, but in this tiny town we have plenty to keep us busy. Lots of classes exist…so far I’ve taken Latin dance lessons, painting classes, yoga classes, and recently a belly-dancing class. Each of these classes costs me only $4.50 an hour. You can’t beat the great exercise and the camaraderie.
The 1,000 or so expats who live here make it easier for people who don’t speak Spanish. However, the biggest selling point of living here has to be the locals themselves. Nicaraguans are warm, friendly, and always willing to help you. They are the real reason I felt comfortable enough to come down here by myself.
And if I want a different experience, I hop on a bus for about $2.50 and go experience this country’s beautiful colonial cities. Or I jump in my pickup truck and haul a bunch of people to one of the 21 gorgeous virgin beaches that surround this little town.
My kids often say, “Mom, you’re busier than we are and you are retired!” It’s true. And I’m loving every minute of it.
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