I’ve Lost 40 Pounds in This Low-Cost, Mountain Paradise

In the cool-weather, mountain city of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, stress is a word I no longer use.

When I first arrived, in 2011, I instantly liked the town. Nestled high in the mountains, temperatures fluctuate between 60 F to 87 F year-round, but there’s always a gentle breeze that keeps you cool. The city itself is surrounded by lush, verdant plant life—looking at it from above, it almost looks like it grew right out of the mountain.

On the first day I was here, I met a local man who listened patiently to all my questions about Matagalpa—in my broken Spanish. When he learned that I was considering living here, he shook my hand and sincerely thanked me for choosing his city to live in. It was at that moment that I knew I was home.

Today, when I take my morning walk into the center, everyone I meet greets me like an old friend. There are many places in the world where you can find great weather but that friendly, small-town vibe is what truly makes Matagalpa special.

One of the unexpected bonuses of living here has been the health benefits. Matagalpa is a real mountain city and covered with hills. I don’t own a car but I love walking and I’ve lost 40 pounds in the five years I’ve lived here. If I care to ride a bus across town it’s just 15 cents or I can catch a taxi to almost anywhere for just 30 cents. To go up some steep streets can cost double but it’s still cheap.

Matagalpa is still somewhat of an undiscovered gem, with a small but growing community of expats. This has helped keep the cost of living low. So low in fact that I’m able to live here comfortably with my family of five on $1,200 a month.

We rent an unfurnished house for just $270 a month, with all our utilities costing about $100 on average. There’s a brand-new grocery store about a 10-minute walk from our home, and the downtown area is just a half-hour walk away. But I buy all our fresh produce at the street market just a block from our house. Here I can buy a dozen bananas or a bag of tomatoes for just $1. Pineapples, fresh from the field, are also just $1. And there are great deals on meat too, with a pound of chicken costing less than $1 and strip steak at less than $2.50 a pound.

But you shouldn’t decide to move to Matagalpa just because it’s affordable. Allow it to inform your decision but try to think of that aspect as an added bonus. What defines Matagalpa is the laidback, slow pace of life—it’s like traveling back to a simpler time—and the warm, welcoming community. I know all my neighbors. Every day, as I walk my dogs through the market I will literally be greeted by dozens of friends. I have truly found my home.

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