What It’s Really Like to Retire Abroad

Amy and Darrell Bushnell sought an early retirement in Nicaragua. Now they’re busier than ever.

What It’s Really Like to Retire Abroad

Photo by elaine faith/Flickr

“We were like most couples back in the States: workaholics. But we traveled a lot when we were younger and knew we wanted to retire overseas. Each time we went on a trip, it got tougher to come home. We decided to retire sooner rather than later. We were 55 and 49 when we moved to Nicaragua in 2006. For us, retiring abroad was largely a financial decision. Health insurance in the United States would have eaten up our pension. These days, we pay as we go. It’s that cheap. A doctor’s visit is $17, and you don’t need a prescription for anything but narcotics. Hospitals are of North American quality. And the doctors are not only great, they’re accessible. They’ll give you their home number and cell phone in case you have issues. They make house calls.

The cost of living is what first attracted us, but the people are what keep us here. They’re friendly, hardworking, and funny.

The first four months, we lived in the coastal town of San Juan del Sur. We thought Darrell was going to have to fish for our food every day. We even bought a couple of Bowie knives; that’s how rugged we expected it to be. But the basics were there. We had a house overlooking Nacascolo Bay. Our water supply was unreliable because it was on an electric pump, and electricity was on for less than eight hours a day, but we could walk to town and buy food at the mercado. Every once in a while, we would rent a hotel room in town, just to recharge ourselves. Darrell never fished for our meals.

The cost of living is what first attracted us, but the people are what keep us here.

The changes we’ve seen are unbelievable. The pioneers and hippies were here when we arrived, growing their own veggies and minimizing their materialism. The roads were horrific, and the grocery stores were very basic. Now, the middle class has grown substantially. Health care is better. Schools are better. The infrastructure has blossomed. Forget eight-hours-a-day electricity; now it’s unusual if it ever goes off.

But Nicaragua isn’t for everybody. If you’re the kind of person who is choosing between Nicaragua and the Bahamas, you’re not going to make it here.

Eventually we moved to the city of Granada and opened an art studio and gallery, and started a website and newsletter for expats. We have a farm with chickens, pigs, ducks, and horses. We’re busier than ever, but we don’t work crazy hours. And we’re doing things we actually like. Our lives are joyful.” —as told to Andrew Parks

>>Next: 5 Places in Nicaragua That Will Inspire Your Inner Artist

Andrew Parks is a content strategist for Explore Minnesota and sometime writer for such publications and brands as Afar, Condé Nast Traveler, Food & Wine, New York Magazine, Bandcamp, Apple, Red Bull and Bon Appétit.
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