The big leap from worker/home-owner to retired expat!
The End of a Career and Life in the California Desert
It’s been a looong haul, this past year, not even broken up by another trip to Nicaragua at the 6-month point, as I’ve been doing for the past three years.
I thought I was making great progress sorting through piles of papers and files, selling and donating stuff, and generally downsizing and getting ready to retire in Nicaragua. But when, after my efforts at “staging” it, we put my little house in the seniors’ village on the
market at the end of June, although I knew it would likely sell quickly, I hadn’t anticipated a cash offer with a 30-day escrow! Yikes!
Plus I had to give notice and work three weeks to transfer my caseload and ensure that there was no outstanding or misplaced paperwork remaining on my cluttered desk. That left me with only weekends to pack for the move and attempt to sell or give away everything I could. My final week was a crazy whirlwind of packing till 3:00 a.m. some nights, selling, donating, and running around Los Angeles collecting all the paperwork I’d need for a residency application in Nicaragua, which is increasingly discouraging perpetual tourists endlessly renewing 90-day visas at the Costa Rican border.
There were all sorts of glitches and hiccups in the process of leaving my home of the past five years, but I prefer not to dwell on them, so let’s just say that a company named 1-800-GOT-JUNK more or less (rather expensively) saved the day! My car was left at a friend’s house to be donated to Habitat for Humanity and I spent my last night in Southern California at a nice Air bnb in Marina Del Ray.
Moving and Shipping
My plans involved shipping everything I intended to keep with a freight forwarder to Miami, where most would go into a storage unit, some would drive with me to Virginia where I would visit with close friends, and three trunks and a suitcase would fly with me to Nicaragua. Shipping my stuff was more than enough logistics for me to research and manage, so I happily handed over the logistics of my own travel to AAA, where my agent booked a total of 4 flights, several hotels and a rental vehicle for me to drive myself and a pile of boxes from Miami to Virginia.
Apart from one minor glitch in packing and re-packing that resulted in a thorough TSA search of my carry-ons and the “disposal” of a very dangerous 8oz bottle of body-wash that was forgotten in the last minute repacking to meet luggage weight requirements (do you have any idea how hard it is to find 8 oz bottles of Olay Body Wash anywhere?!!), all my travel went fairly smoothly, and despite an uncomfortable 45 minutes in Miami when the extremely fluid meaning of the “luggage embargo” almost cost me two trunks, I and my luggage all arrived without incident in Managua (unless you count TSA examining a bag somewhere en route and managing to “lose” its padlock!)
My pre-arranged friendly, English-speaking driver met me without incident and whisked me off to Granada and to the guest-house at which I’d made a reservation for my first month as a retiree in Granada. Thus began my first real week as a retiree and expat in Nicaragua!
I spent the rest of Sunday unpacking and going out to eat—happy to be in a familiar place where at least I know my way around town and its restaurants, if not yet around the language.
My First Outing
The very next day I was persuaded by a friend to join an outing to Masaya’s hammock-making district,
San Juan de Oriente’s pottery galleries,
and Catarina’s most enormous and gorgeous plant nursery,
as well as a stop at a tunnel where the old railroad line ran from Granada to Managua, and another stop for a filling lunch before returning to Granada.
It was great to see my friend after a year away and to re-acquaint myself with our tour guide, as well as to meet some of the other retired folks on the tour.
The rest of my first week of actually being retired passed in more mundane fashion: a dentist’s appointment, a meeting with an immigration attorney and various meals in restaurants around town until I finally got myself to the grocery store and gathered up a few ingredients with which to feed myself! Which was just as well, as it turned out, after an entire afternoon/evening of rain/downpour/thunder/lightning/downpour/rain, etc. made going anywhere at all a very soggy and possibly dangerous proposition (wet tile sidewalks are treacherous).