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From California to Nicaragua: International Mel

13 February, 2014 10:52  Erin Erin

International Mel Hi, I’m Melissa from the website, In 2013 I gave up a comfortable existence in California to move to Nicaragua and live a life of adventure. A need to renew my visa has now sparked an extended trip through Central America and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

1. Why did you move abroad?
All my life I’ve had a love affair with travel. As a child, I used to cry when vacations ended. For many years, I had a great life in California – a beautiful home, great friends and a good job. But I needed a challenge. I wanted to see if I could create an entirely different life that incorporated some of the things I loved, but did not get enough of, like travel and creative freedom.

2. How do you make a living?
I still make most of my income in my old industry, doing freelance projects from the road. I’m very grateful for that base. I’ve also expanded into marketing for the tourism industry, and done some writing, which I really enjoy, and of course there’s the blog, which is a work in progress. I love trying and learning new things and I have the time to do that now, which has been a wonderful experience.

3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I communicate with friends, family and clients back home almost every single day! Skype, gmail and facebook are my best friends.

4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Nicaragua?
Nicaraguans have a joyful spirit that I appreciate and haven’t been able to find anywhere else.

5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Nicaragua?

6. What do you miss most?
At the moment I don’t really miss a thing. I’m so caught up in the excitement of all that Central America has to offer that it’s hard to dwell on life back home. Even when things get frustrating, I try to find humor in the novelty and enjoy the cultural differences.

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I’ve found it very easy to meet people. When I first arrived in Nicaragua, I signed up for the facebook group “Expats in Nicaragua”. It’s a welcoming community that has lots of events and activities, and I’ve found similar sites in every country I’ve travelled to in Central America. If you make an effort to participate, you’ll meet people easily. I’ve also met people through my blog, by taking Spanish lessons and just walking down the street!

8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Strange in a good way is the Nicaraguans tendency to celebrate everything! I love it. There are fiestas all the time, street processions, fireworks and music everywhere. There is even a tradition called “waking up the streets” where in the days before a celebration, the locals will drive or walk through the streets with fireworks, music and good cheer. A fiesta before the fiesta – it does not get better than that!

9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
That Nicaragua is paradise. It’s wonderful, but you will have to put up with some inconveniences, like potholes, lack of infrastructure, a lot of garbage and the inability to get some modern conveniences. That being said, there are many wonderful things about Nicaragua – the rich culture, interesting folklore and religious practices, incredible natural beauty and warm, welcoming people.

10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
Costs in Nicaragua are much, much lower than California or anywhere in the US. In fact, I think it’s the least costly place in Central America. If you eat like the locals it’s possible to have a big, hearty delicious dinner for about a dollar. If you eat in the restaurants targeted at expats you can get delicious cuisine just like back home for under US$15.

11. What advice would you give other expats?
Go for it! For years I thought what I wanted was impossible. I dreamed about location independence, but didn’t take any action. In 2008 I decided to make changes that would lead me to my dream. For five years I saved money, took classes, did research, got a TEFL certificate and slowly got rid of my possessions. It took me longer than most, because I’m a planner and I wanted to make sure my bases were all covered. Now that my dream is a reality, I’m thrilled with the way it all happened. If you want it, you can make it happen. But I suggest a solid plan and funds to fall back on so you don’t have to worry if things don’t go exactly as planned. There’s nothing worse than worrying when you’re trying to enjoy new experiences. Over prepare. Then go with the flow.

12. When and why did you start your blog? International Mel
I started the blog about a year before I left the US, purely as an experiment. I wanted to build the site myself and learn as much as I could about web design, SEO, web advertising, affiliate marketing and maintenance. The results are a bit spotty, but I’m proud of it because I created it myself starting from a knowledge base of zero. I still have a lot to learn and I expect the site will evolve over time as I develop a clearer vision for it and my skills improve.

Blog LinkMelissa's blog, International Mel


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