My husband says with a smile, “Why am I letting you drag me off to Nicaragua?”
I say, “Because you love me.”
Truth be told, we are both almost giddy with excitement and expectation. I’ve written about our journey to find out “elsewhere” on my life coaching blog and in my newest book, but I haven’t added too much about the, well, GOD side of the story. If you’ve followed Ten Eighteen for any length of time, you know that God was 100% responsible for starting it, for leading me to all the projects and partners we’ve connected with over the past 6 years, and that He is the one who has kept us going even in very dire financial times. So of course there is more to the story of us going to Nicaragua than just looking for a place to move.
Back in the early spring, I kept feeling this word: ELSEWHERE. Now, I’m a writer. Words are my thing. I often get a word from the Lord at the beginning of the year: freedom, faithful, brave. This was different, though – it wasn’t a word for me to watch unfold as they usually are. That word for 2015 has been “brave.” This was a call, a siren call almost. A GO command, gentle and quiet, but persistent. Always present in the back of my mind. Elsewhere.
I didn’t mention it to my husband until the day of the Kentucky Derby, when we were sitting out on the waterfront at our favorite restaurant here in our little coastal town watching a rubber duck derby (our duck spent the whole time upside down, sadly). By then, the word had been percolating for a couple of months, and was starting to get insistent. I had spent those months praying and journaling, because if there’s one thing I know about myself, it’s that I have wanderlust. I love to travel. I could, and would, spend the rest of my life outside the US if given half a chance. My husband doesn’t share this affliction, but he loves me and I knew he would pay attention if I said something. I needed to be sure it wasn’t just me, just some sort of dissatisfaction with life, or depression from a wet winter, or merely the need to get on a plane once again. I needed time to hear from the Spirit and make sure I didn’t uproot our lives over a whim.
By May 2, I was sure it was God. What happened on Derby Day only confirmed it, because when I finally got up the courage and explained about “elsewhere,” my doesn’t-love-change husband was all in. I mean, ALL.IN. We immediately started talking about where, how, when… We even started culling out some stuff, although we’d only moved a little over a year previously and had already gotten rid of a ton of stuff.
On May 6, I got an email from International Living about their upcoming “Retire Overseas” conference in Cancun, Mexico in June. It was a “LAST DAY FOR THE DISCOUNT PRICE” email, and I sort of muttered to myself while I was reading it, since it was still pretty expensive. My husband heard me and asked me what I was chuckling over so I forwarded him the email. By 10:00 that night (a mere 2 hours before the Early Bird Special expired) we were booked at the conference and hotel, and had plane tickets. You’ll just have to trust me when I tell you that this is NOT how my husband usually operates!
Going into the conference, we had done a ton of research on various countries that we thought made sense for us. We’d also added Andros to the list because it was kind of an unfinished bit of Ten Eighteen history, and we had already booked a trip there prior to the conference registration. We were looking at things in the secular realm, of course, but also looking for places that would have opportunities for Ten Eighteen to expand its work AND keeping an ear/heart open for the Spirit to lead us. When we stepped off the plane in Mexico, Nicaragua wasn’t even on our list.
So what happened? Well, we heard a lady speak who’s been living there for 9 years. She was our age and in a similar point in life when she visited Nicaragua with her sister on vacation. By the end of the vacation, she’d bought a house in San Juan Del Sur. She moved soon after, and has loved it ever since. We spent a lot of time talking to Bonnie, as well as some others who live there. But mostly we both felt the clear stirring of God.
Sure, Nicaragua ticks a lot of the expat boxes: inexpensive, growing economy, easy to start a business, friendly and welcoming government policies towards expats investing in the country, great people, safest country in Central America, easy language, not far from the US, close time zone, etc. It also ticks the nonprofit/NGO boxes because it’s the poorest country except for Haiti in the Western Hemisphere.
(However please note, they do NOT need you to send FOOD. They have food. Plenty of cheap, healthy food. They need education, jobs, opportunities… So don’t send food and think it’s helping! There have been a rash of articles about this lately, and the locals are kind of riled up about it. Sending free packaged processed food, which isn’t as nutritious as the fresh food there anyway, also serves to take money out of a farmer’s or business owner’s pocket. Not helpful.)
But mainly, it’s where our heart told us to go. We’ve continued to look at a few other places “just in case,” and I know that sometimes you have to GO before God makes things clear. It could possibly be that the going is first step, and that we’ll discover it isn’t Nicaragua. That’s possible, but to be honest, I’d be shocked. I feel like I could pack up right now, board our plane on Tuesday, and stay. My heart already longs for it… already feels connected.
What’s this trip about?
Well, we’re spending 2 weeks, visiting 3 different locations. (Although we also feel like we know where the “one” is – more on that in a minute!) We’ll spend 4 days in Northwest Las Peñitas/León, exploring the beach area, the city, and the surrounding region. From there, we’ll head to central Granada for 4 days, enjoying Lake Nicaragua and its 365 islets, local volcanoes, Masaya, and the colonial city (founded in 1524). Finally, we’re headed for 4 days in Southwest San Juan Del Sur to check out the 22 beaches, the many expat hangouts, and possibly nearby Rivas.
There are several goals here:
- Obviously, confirm in our hearts and minds that this is where God is calling us.
- Assuming it is, figure out which region we think is where we’d call home.
- Meet as many expats, especially those involved with NGOs, as we can.
- Get the lay of the land: grocery stores, markets, neighborhoods, restaurants. We may do *some* tourist stuff, but this isn’t a touristy trip!
If, when we leave, we know Nicaragua is the “elsewhere,” we will return in the winter (sometime from mid/late January through March) for 6-8 weeks. We’ll stay in whatever region we felt at home, and we’ll live like we would live if we moved there. After that trip… Well, we’d move there if all goes well! (For most of the year, anyway. We’d probably spend at least the rainy season months back home in NC.) Timetable to be determined, obviously!
What do we THINK will happen? Well, we had never heard of Las Peñitas until about 6 weeks ago, when we heard about it 3 times in 6 hours. (It’s not big!) We immediately cancelled our plans to go to Matagalpa and booked one of the few hotels in Las Peñitas. Since then, the whole León region has captivated us, even though it is actually the hottest area in the country. (Temps in León in September were over 100 degrees… yeah… But Las Peñitas is at the coast, so it’s a lot cooler!) Since it’s the first place we’re going, we’ll see what happens… I’m excited to see the whole country, but I feel EXPECTANT about those first 4 days.
What about Ten Eighteen?
Well, when I first went to Uganda, I didn’t have a plan. I have, in fact, planned NOTHING that’s happened there — God has truly led me into all of it. If Nicaragua is the place for us, then He will do the same for Ten Eighteen there. I don’t ever go anywhere and tell the people what they need/want, anyway. We didn’t do that in Uganda or Andros, and I wouldn’t do it in Nicaragua. I am confident that God will lead me to the where, the who, the when and the how. (We already know the Why!) My job is always to be obedient in the going and listening, and just join Him in the doing.
How can you pray?
We would love your prayers for us as we travel November 3-17. Please pray for safety, that we would stay healthy, and, most of all, that we would hear a clear YES or NO. We so appreciate those of you who have come alongside us in enthusiasm and excitement – we can’t wait to tell/show you how it is!