Sunday, October 22, 2017

Taking the leap to experience Latin America, our third anniversary

November 1st, 2017 marks our third anniversary of selling our business with the intent of living abroad to experience a different way of life. Years before committing to changing our "location" in hopes of improving who we were, we read stories from others living abroad. Without fail, we paused after reading those expat stories and wondered, what if?  Sometimes, my wife cried thinking about a better life where families spent more quality time together. We both loved reading articles about exotic locations, where kids were free to roam, where children weren't spending so much time on computers, and where they were otherwise encouraged to be with nature as much as possible. Many of those same expat articles mentioned how spouses got closer, talked more and fought less. From our experience, though, my wife feels that she needs more alone time, less husband looking over her shoulder and watching her cook, time. We never thought about the extremes of togetherness, maybe because we were always so busy and distracted in our former lives that we could never have related.
   Prior to leaving on our driving adventure, to South America, we knew some things. We read a lot of articles and studied what we thought we'd need to know. However, we never could have anticipated how real, reality could be. My 9 year old daughter, recently said, "I see more here, I am not hidden from real life. I like real, more than perfect, it makes more sense. You know what I mean, dad?" That statement came from a young lady who has been traveling for a third of her life. My daughters are not shielded from poverty, vagrancy, sickness, or scenes from the other side of life's tracks that most try to avoid. My daughters can experience both sides of life's beautiful coin and be thankful for what they have. As parents, we are certain that their appreciation will provide the most fertile soil for their happiness.
   It wasn't easy moving abroad. However, it was not nearly as difficult as we once thought, either. Moving abroad converted our talk into actions and we were afraid, this we will never forget. Having the advantage, now, of looking back, we truly believe it was the best decision to put living our dream before fear, instead of the reverse. We have had many exhilarating moments over the years, like when a bat that flopped around in our kitchen sink. A rat buried itself in my wife's undergarment suitcase on our very first day in the country. We also had a four foot long snake hide in our shoe rack and we had more lice outbreaks than we care to remember. We got Zika, dysentery and a few broken bones along the way, as well. It wasn't all bad, though, as we also swam with penguins, seahorses, sea lions and sharks, all at the same time and in the same bay, in Galapagos. We paddled kayaks over glowing bio-luminescent waters in Costa Rica, saw the natural wonders of el Valle in Guatemala and even saved a monkey just to name a few. Most importantly, for all of the good and the bad, we wouldn't change a thing. This family adventure has been more like living a marriage vow than we ever would have realized. For better or worse, in sickness and health... we live, and together we stay.
   We have come to realize, life is more about learning how to cope with an occasional bat in the kitchen sink than living some perfect scenario. With the utmost humility, I realize that living abroad would not have been possible without my wife and daughters urging me to live this dream. I must have looked and acted more miserable and unsatisfied, in my old life, than I realized. Sad to admit, but I accepted mediocrity in myself thinking that I was giving my family what I thought they wanted. What they really wanted was a fun husband, a playful dad, a real smile, not those distracted lifeless smiles that I used to give. They wanted happiness and my girls knew we were close, but not quite there. Back then, my daughters were too young to understand my middle aged justifications and as for my wife all she wanted was her soulmate back. An old saying comes to mind, "Before Alice got to Wonderland she had to fall." I have always felt that hitting rock bottom, and being so vulnerable, was my "spark" allowing us to live fuller lives. The fullness of my wife and daughters' unconditional love for me, is yet to be told, as words escape me when I speak of love. Ultimately, my wife and daughters just wanted me to be happy, and for that, I am the luckiest man alive.
   So here we are, three years on, now residing in Nicaragua and living our quirky little life abroad. Is it perfect here? No. Are we doing everything right? Nope, not at all. We have many of the same issues other parents have. In fact, I have tried to explain in a multitude of ways, throughout this blog, that we are a regular family, probably similar to your family. Sometimes we are frustrated and other times content. Sometimes the relentless heat and humidity wears on us. For me, I can't stand the rivers of sweat dripping down my back, starting at 7am. My wife despises that our clothes don't feel clean and fresh because of the humidity. However, we both agree that waking up to flocks of parrots and an occasional toucan can really make up for a lot.
   Are we living abroad forever or temporarily? We aren't sure. The only thing that is certain is we will vote as a family, as we routinely do. Each vote is of equal weight, and to date, each vote has been unanimous. Personally,  I cannot think of anything more sublime than putting my fate in my wife and children's hands. The peace of mind knowing that we are mostly on the same page, makes any hardship more manageable because we are doing this as a team. Recently, we have wondered if we are in Nicaragua or if Nicaragua is in us. A nice feeling to have, especially since we take our happiness so seriously.
   My family and I would like to dedicate our third anniversary "wish" to all of those once happy, lovable, and approachable husbands and fathers, caught in the relentless grind that I was once in. Listen to those closest to you, hear what your kids, spouse or lover has to say. You might discover a new path, one awash in tears at first, but forever paved with the best of intentions. And if it should arise, embrace the tears, for there's probably more truth in them, then in most justifications.

Nothing says loving like a bat in your kitchen sink. A funny video for sure.

Below are images from our most recent year in Nicaragua.

The 4 amigos riding off into the Selva Negra coffee plantation.

My wife just had to buy this placard when she saw it. 

We saved this turtle from certain death as it was stuck in the sand and sinking fast.

The moment my daughter came home from school and saw her injured sister for the 1st time.

My daughters are great divers and even chase nurse sharks on occasion.

My kids love ziplining at the base of Mombacho volcano.

Buying a bed is quite the adventure in Granada.
Enjoying Laguna de Apoyo at my friend's house.

The kids made great friends in such a short period of time.

Zoe's birthday and everybody had special powers. 

Paco is our very nice doggy.

Stunning views at Laguna de Apoyo.

Broken bones will mend but the memories of the injury will live on.

Having friends visit us is a wonderful feeling.

The sunsets at Playa el Coco are truly breathtaking. 

My daughters like to dive old shipwrecks.

The clear waters of Aguas Agrias are as beautiful as they are disorienting.

Cows strolling along a beach.

My daughters love to surf.

Kids playing outside, like nature intended.

Roasting marshmellows after a long day of swimming, chasing animals and horsing around.  

Eine Waldkirche (a forest church) in Selva Negra, Northern Nicaragua.

Enjoying a lakeside breakfast at Selva Negra.

Our monkey "Sport" that we rescued. 

Murphy's Law: A water pipe burst, hours after getting a house full of visitors for a week.

King and Queen of the school for 2017

Kids can find anything to play with and enjoy it. 

Best friends having fun.

Kids joking around aboard the party boat, Bella Mar. 

Nothing quite like waking up to a squirrel on your head.

We love how fresh fruit is delivered to your doorstep in Granada.

My Carnival experience.

My wife is not only happier here, she also made lots of very nice friends as well.

Pacific coast of Nicaragua.

There is always some parade or festival going on in Granada. 

Country living.

Renting a Halloween costume from a real life funeral parlour - PRICELESS

All dressed up and ready to go.

Corn Islands are gorgeous.

I have two wonderful ocean loving kids.

This beats X Box, Playstation or any artificial reality game, anytime.

Kids breaking all health codes by dancing on a bar to Calypso music, and everyone loved it. 

Nurse sharks are all around the Corn Islands.

Beautiful lady multitasking.

Best friends being angels for the school performance.

Cannon ball into the clear waters of Aguas Agrias. 

My cowgirls.

We adopted these ducklings until they were old enough to fly away, and be free.

Sierra counting the growth rings from a once mighty tree.

An 8 year old, shoeless, and riding bareback showed us what chores are like in other countries.

We love it when friends come down to visit us.

People you meet on the road are sometimes the best because they end up being so similar to you.

Partying in Lake Cocibolca.

On our very first day in Nicaragua, this rat dove into my wife's undergarments.

The movers arrived to help us move between houses.

My daughters looking into the inferno of Masaya volcano.

My wife's best friend and family loves visiting us and we love having them here.

Date night.

Catching an iguana is much tougher than you think.

Setting our drinks down so we can enjoy a quick swim.

Lia jumping into lake Colcibolca from the second floor of the Bella Mar

Carnival Granada style.

Local children folk dancing at a fundraising ceremony for a community library. 

Children love swim-up bars just as much as adults do.

Some of the cool dads, that we've met, that moved down here as well.

Corn Island beauty.

Christmas in Granada.

Our friend, Kelly, amassed nearly 2,000 books from a North Carolina book company as donations for our school. She has made such a big difference in so many lives. She is awesome!

Country living.

Beautiful Aguas Agrias.

The colorful flowers of the Java apple.

The coolest neighbors anyone could ask for.

History, culture, and pride on display.

Romance over the Masaya caldera.


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