The Downside to Life in Nicaragua

Everytime I talk to someone back home it seems like the one question that always gets asked… ‘How is life in Nicaragua?… It makes me think… How many times have you been asked ‘How is life in Canada/United States?’ What would you say?

Canada/United States: ‘Life is good… we commute to work, the kids go to school, we have all the kids activities and school functions, we see our whole family together for dinner and bedtime… (some families don’t even get that). It made me think of my answer to people when I’m asked about living in Nicaragua.

Playa Maderas
Just Beachin’

Nicaragua: Our days are pretty simple… I hike up a mountain that overlooks the ocean 5 days a week. Most of those days are with my 40lb toddler on my back. I work in the mornings while my daughter attends half day kindergarten, and we have a lovely Nanny that comes to our house to play with my son while I work. She also cleans my house which is AMAZING because it’s something that I never had/could afford in Canada. My son is exposed to Spanish language all morning while he plays. My daughter has an abundance of friends in the community. In the afternoons we choose between going to the beach, spending the day in the pool or just enjoying our time together. We are looking at Spanish classes, and horseback riding lessons, surf lessons and music classes as potential activities to fill our afternoons, but we are in no rush to fill the time. We are outside every day… even if it’s just to swing in the hammock with a book.

So, what’s the downside? It sounds so terrible right? Social media doesn’t show you the things we struggle with… it’s not designed like that for anyone. It is designed for people to ‘put their best selves out there’. Well even though life is overall wonderful here in Nicaragua we still have struggles… Here are my top 4 personal struggles with living in Nicaragua.

Making the Most of our Circumstances

1) Maintenance… OMG the maintenance on things that break… EVERYTHING breaks here. In the last 3 months we’ve been without a vehicle more than we’ve had one. It’s been hard… relying on friends for grocery and water runs… taking taxis… walking everywhere we can… At first, it was frustrating, having to keep sending my truck back to the mechanic. Then I started to change my mindset… it’s 30 degrees outside every day, and we live in paradise so ‘put your sneakers on and get to walking’. It has helped me to appreciate when we actually have our vehicle and are not house bound. Having an amazing community of friends here helps immensely. Without them I wouldn’t make it.

2) The trash… unfortunately this little town grew very fast. With increased tourism came increased need for single use plastic items to accommodate the ‘North American comfort levels’ of the tourists. As a result, way more trash litters the back roads and fill the landfill than you would typically like to see. Don’t get me wrong, there are efforts like beach cleanups, roadside cleanups, and plastic art initiatives, but it’s hard to teach a community about things like recycling and composting when the problem didn’t originate from them. It absolutely is a result of North American culture invading a small fishing village at a rate it was not prepared for. My hope is that there is a solution that can be found to benefit everyone.

3) The animals… the number of animals that I see that give me a pit in my stomach is really hard to handle. From the street dogs (which increased in population when the political crisis arose and many foreigners abandoned their dogs as they fled in fear – unjustifiable reason to abandon your animals in my opinion), to the work horses that have clearly been put to work too young and are not properly cared for. As an animal lover it is really hard for me to see as I have that bone in me that wants to save ALL of them and it’s just not possible. Now, there are a LOT of animals that are cared for properly here, but the ones that aren’t definitely pull at your heart strings.

4) My Husband… the BIGGEST downside to us living in Nicaragua right now is the time we have to be away from my husband. In most cases if we were in Canada we wouldn’t get to see him very much with him working up in a camp but the amount of distance between us is difficult. It’s hard for me to solo parent our two kids for most of the year… it’s just as hard for him to be away and not get to be there for our kids for most of the year. Lately I’ve been reminding myself and him that this is temporary… because we made the choice to move to Nicaragua (where cost of living is substantially lower than Canada) by the end of 2020 we will be in a financial place to have him semi-retire and only work 3 months a year. 3 months a year will be amazing! Being able to have him here for 9/12 months is more time than we’ve ever gotten to have him home consecutively.

Our Hearts
Just a Beach Bum

So yes, there are downsides… just like any place you will live… but the positives outweigh the negatives for us, and we are focused on our family goals. When I weigh out the differences between living in Canada and living in Nicaragua all I see is the better quality of life that we have here, the very real possibility of reaching our financial goals just 1.5years after moving… and while being away from friends and family is difficult, I see my children thriving in this environment and my health has never been better.

Top 3 Things I’ve Learned in Our First 6 Months Living in Nicaragua

View of San Juan Del Sur from a lookout point under Cristo De La Misericordia

Hard to believe that we have already been out of Canada for 6 months. As I look back on our time here, is does not seem to have been that long, but at the same time it feels like we’ve been here forever. It has been a bit of a whirlwind as we found our community, adjusted our mentalities, and learned/still learning how to slow down and enjoy the little things again.

First thing I’ve learned… Parenting is HARD… no matter what country you are in. Finding our balance has been one of my biggest challenges. One of our biggest reasons for making this move was to give our kids more life experiences. To that avail I guess we’ve succeeded so far. Both our kids play outside more, we’ve been to more beaches in the last 6 months than we’ve ever been. We get daily doses of awesome nature to explore, be it the pelibuey that roam the roads (they are a breed of sheep/goat only found in Nicaragua from what I’m told), the horses that don’t seem to have barriers, the frogs that only come out at night or the scorpions that lay in wait to scare you. One of our favorites are the house geckos, they come in a range of sizes and move so fast they scare me at first, but they keep the other bugs at bay. I knew parenting was hard before leaving Canada… I don’t think I anticipated exactly how much harder solo parenting 2 kids under 6 was going to be. I had never had to solo parent before. My husband has always worked out of town but I relied on my parents a lot for support when we were in Canada. Moving here while my husband was still at work smacked me hard in the face with parenting. After my mom flew back to Canada I was all of a sudden solo parenting both of my kids for the FIRST time ever… and I was in a new country… Those first couple of months I questioned my sanity on multiple occasions. These kids tested my boundaries and my patience often… I had to constantly remind myself that they were adjusting also. They were in a new place, meeting new friends, with none of the comforts of home.

Second thing I’ve learned since being here… everything we thought we knew and things we had planned… didn’t run so smoothly. We had every intention of moving here to live a more simple life, be more active, eat healthier, save money and start the journey of a minimalist, traveling homeschooling family. We are now 6 months in, and we are nowhere near where I thought we would be. My children who ate everything under the sun when they started eating now eat only the same 4 foods, I haven’t been nearly as healthy or active as I had wanted. We definitely have less stuff than when we lived in Canada but even as I was unpacking our suitcases I realized I packed too much. The challenge with a journey like this is you really have no idea what you are going to need. Now I know how much ‘stuff’ I can still get rid of if/when we decide to pack up and head to another location. We have moved houses since getting here as our first house was always supposed to be short term temporary until we found something else. Bills on a monthly basis cost way less than in Canada (our rent and all our bills cost the same as a 2 bedroom apartment rent only in Canada) so in that sense we are saving money. However, with moving here we have had unexpected expenses, we bought a truck and since have had to put money into it (which is normal for here), we’ve had to make improvements to our house so we can stay for a year without challenges, and we’ve had to learn how/where to shop. When you first get here you try to keep some of the comforts of home which makes you end up spending more money because all those things are imported. The more ‘local’ we get with our choices the cheaper they get. We know we want to stay here for at least a couple of years so we don’t have to put our dog through the stress of travel again, so now that we are in a long term house we finally feel like we can settle in, try to get our groove going and get our budget under control.

Third thing I’ve learned… the importance of letting go of expectations and being more present. In Canada finances were a constant stress for us. Always weighing on us. Moving here and thinking we would have all the opportunity to save from day one was unrealistic. I’ve needed to learn to roll with our changing situation. Now that we are set up in a long term rental and feel comfortable in town, have build incredible relationships with the local expat community we can see this incredible adventure through open hearts and fully enjoy the experience. Yes, we are not where we thought we would be… but, we can see the light on the horizon. We expected life to simply role right into line after moving… thinking of it now we were naive. We have had to pivot more than once and the adjustment period was longer than we anticipated… but, by letting go of the things we can’t control and keeping our faith alive that we are doing something that is going to bring our family closer together we are starting to figure it out.