Finally! I’m a Retired Expat!

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

"Staging" the Patio

“Staging” the Patio

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

Pallet-2BMy 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.

Pallet 1

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,

White and Grey Hammock








San Juan de Oriente’s pottery galleries,

Pottery 2

Pottery 1







and Catarina’s most enormous and gorgeous plant nursery,

Catarina Nursery

Catarina Nursery 2

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.

Old Railroad Tunnel

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).

Spot the Birdie!

Spot the Birdie!

10 Responses to Finally! I’m a Retired Expat!

  1. Your favorite Florida realtor :) says:

    SO happy you finally made it, friend! Congratulations on your new life, you are an inspiration to me!

  2. claire..great read..i wish u all the luck in the world..ure new life sounds great..a little advice from a oldtimer..dont worry about ure spanish..just get out and talk..u will be surprised at how much u know..and matter how good or bad ure spanish is or isnt..spme people just wont understand a word u sau..and others will enjoy talking to u

  3. Debbie says:

    Excellent, Claire. I am sure this post will be valuable to most newbie and wanna be expats. I honestly don’t know how you did everything to prepare for your new life. But, you are an extremely well organized person and I know that helped. Hurrah for the mundane experiences to give you an opportunity to relax and regroup.

  4. stanlee says:

    Well … don’t know how all that can apply to anyone not already having the experience, but nice report on the process of leaving “home” and arriving in a foreign “home”. Good job!

  5. Alex says:

    Congratulations! I remember well those first heady days of retirement. I count my blessings daily.

  6. John Safford says:

    Congratulate that’s a terrific success story!

  7. Miriam says:

    Wow, Claire, yay! It’s funny, I was thinking about you the past few days and wondering how close you were to moving. This is exciting!!

    As for me, I just turned 64 and am looking at my options. Let’s please stay in touch. I think it may be a couple of years but I’m not far away from change.

  8. Amy says:

    I’m so excited!! I’m wondering what your star charts were for Nicaragua….hmmm!! I’m just so happy for you to be on your adventure. Once you are really settled, Karen Kohls and I will come visit if you want us to. Let us know when you’re ready for some midwestern nice!

  9. Jean W. says:

    Wow Claire!! So happy you are there. Hope you are savoring all the hours. Take care Brave Claire!

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