We’ve shared houses with other single mom families, we’ve made close friends in the apartments where we lived and the kids could play together in the courtyard, we’ve enjoyed access to play and talk when sitting and chatting with neighbors on their porches along the street.
The biggest misconception I had was that I couldn’t do it, or I would be judged, or it was unsafe…
Introduce us to the people you live with?
We are home sharing with a friend (Lisa) and her two children, Glenn and Lauren. Lisa and I are both single parents, raising our kids, doing the best we can…and we both just happen to think life might be a little bit better for our kids (and us) to have more community, closer relationships in-house, & support around housework and childcare…so this past year when I told her we were intending to move back to the area where our sons’ went to school together a few years before, she said, “how about staying with us until you find something?” And I thought, wow, that would be amazing! Now, here we are.
Where are you in the world and what are you living in?
We are living in a 5 bedroom house, 1 block from the school where Sam rides his bike or walks to and from each day, lives with one of his best buddies, and we are less than a mile from one of the largest universities in the country, and the progressive capital city of Columbus.
Why did you choose to live in your current arrangement?
Two and half years ago we were living here in Columbus, it’s where Sam was born and had been raised, up until that point. I was recently separated, working everyday in the information technology field at a local university. I had recently finished a Masters program in Sociology and felt like I was stuck in a job that felt like a shoe on the wrong foot. I tried really hard to like what I was doing despite how I was really feeling and couldn’t imagine doing the same for another 20 years….when my heart was always calling me to learn, experience, travel, and explore the world. At first I could not fathom how to leave the safety of it all…great pay, a big house, health insurance, retirement, vacation benefits, etc. I had all these things for which I was grateful and had been for some time, but from which I wanted to escape and dreamed of greater freedom, exploring other cultures, learning a new language, traveling and showing my son the amazing wide world and how different it could be.
So I found some support, started making a plan, and a checklist, gave my notice at work, rented out my house, bought our flights, and boom we were off to Granada, Nicaragua…. In Nicaragua we’ve lived in hostels, hotels, apartments (both luxury and traditional) with shared courtyard, large rental/vacation houses, and simple/traditional neighborhood homes.
What do you do to personalize your unique (less traditional) living situation?
In each place we’ve always unpacked our travel gear and settled into our bedrooms and living space to make it our own. Sometimes we’ve lived in a place a week, other times 3 months, so spreading out and making ourselves comfortable is how we make something our own for whatever time we have.
Tell us your favorite and least favorite room in your space and why?
I think my favorite spaces are those that we share…It’s important to have places that are our own but really, both Sam and I have found that we like sharing with other people and the stories and dynamics that it brings to our lives. We’ve shared houses with other single mom families, we’ve made close friends in the apartments where we lived and the kids could play together in the courtyard, we’ve enjoyed access to play and talk when sitting and chatting with neighbors on their porches along the street.
What is the biggest misconception you had about your current living situation before you started living in it?
The biggest misconception I had was that I couldn’t do it, or I would be judged, or it was unsafe…Ok, I know that is more than one misconception….but I think they are all really just aligned around fear, and fear of being different, of living in a different way, a way that is not traditional for my country and culture, a way that to some might seem unsafe, insecure, without roots for my child who should seemingly need that.
What is the one household item you carry with you every time you move or the one item you cannot live without?
Hmm… One item…. my toothbrush, cell phone, the usual/necessary tools I guess.
What do you miss most about permanent, stationary, traditional living?
Well we do permanent, stationary most of the time, it’s just that the stationary part changes locations… haha… I guess for Sam it’s the people, he really misses friends and family that he’s close to when we are away from Ohio, and me, I miss them too but it’s easier for me to meet my needs with them using technology, for him, he craves that in person relationship. I miss the adventure of everyday life when I’m away from Nicaragua, living there really fulfills my desire for engaged, intense/immersive learning and I miss that when I’m back in Ohio.
What is the one item your child carries with them to make their unique (less traditional) home more comfortable?
Sam carries a few tech toys with him, (3Ds/tablet) they’re small, flexible (lots of options) and he really enjoys gaming so those are the things that help him feel at home in a new space. He’s a kid with patterns and he tends to maintain those even when we are out of the country, I think it helps to ground him.
Do you have a pet joining you in this journey? If so, has this been complicated? Any advice?
We do not have a pet, but we enjoy the animals and pets of other people wherever we go.
What is your best resource to find items you need for your place?
People have always been my best resources for finding things I need. This last time in Nicaragua we moved around to different homes a few times, the first was a vacation rental house that we shared with another single mom and her son, that house had everything we needed, it was stocked with kitchen supplies and all the essentials. The next house we moved to on our own was a more basic Nicaraguan house, that had some furniture and kitchen items but really needed a lot more for us to be comfortable… I work on my computer a lot so I needed a table, and their was a nice open patio but it was really stark so we wanted to get some plants and pots to brighten it up since we were planning to stay several months. I had spent a lot of time in that town where we were living but finding all the things I needed just felt overwhelming.. I started to mention the things we needed to friends, before long, one friend had offered me some plants she was growing in her side garden and suggested where to go for inexpensive handmade pots… another local friend said, come with me, I’ll take you to the market, we’ll get all you need….He came over the next day and took me where all the locals go to get the items they need….He asked questions to the store owners and helped me pick out what we needed and negotiated prices…that friend was an absolute godsend.
If you could only have one of the following in your home which one would it be and why?
Space, natural light, dishwasher or above average internet.
I’m always drawn to light and the outdoors…so windows, natural light, however I can get close to being outdoors when I’m in a house it’s important to me.
If you were to compare your unique (less traditional) home decorating style to a kitchen appliance or gadget what would it be and why?
I don’t decorate too much when I’m living in other peoples’ homes.
How do you keep traditions alive for your family in your unique living situation?
Sam and I try to keep our holiday traditions alive however best we can…. Our first Easter in Nicaragua the Easter Bunny came to visit and thanks to a friend who came to see us before Easter we had an egg coloring kit, peanut butter eggs, and a few other usual treats to share. The Easter Bunny used a traditional basket off the wall of our home rather than a typical basket that year, and much of the candy and toys were local things you’d fnd in a market or grocery there, I love how that bunny can improvise! We didn’t have a big feast that day like we’d typically have back home, (we were new in town still) but we did take our peanut butter eggs and walked to visit our friends (many were working that day) and we took them candy eggs and shared our tradition with them. We are usually home for Christmas and Thanksgiving so all our traditions with family back home have mostly remained unchanged.
How do you decorate for the holidays in your unique (less traditional) home or do you skip it all together?
When we are in Ohio this has not changed much, we have a few things we put out for each holiday and sometimes make others.
What is your favorite part about this lifestyle choice?
My favorite part about our lifestyle now is that I feel I have a great deal more choice in my life than I did before. I felt very much stuck in the lifestyle we had back before we traveled to Nicaragua, but now I feel like whichever we are in at the moment is my choice, and I love the opportunities and new doors that have opened around that. I love that we are back in Ohio but now we live with and share traditions with another family…it has been really amazing for both of us to have a bit more community and support around us and to feel like we have something to offer to others as well.
Many traveling families subscribe to the “house is not a home” theory. What is home to you?
For Sam and I houses have played a big part in our lives, he is very attached to some places, to the memories he has of them, to the comforts they have provided him….so the houses have been our homes, but also, we’ve made new homes…and we talk about the things in each that we like, miss, enjoy… and so they have a real place in our home life.
What makes you love the place you live?
There are things from each home I’ve really loved… they mostly center around comfort and community. In the neighborhood we lived in last year for a month I loved the kids who would come calling each evening and so openly and acceptingly invite Sam to come out and play, I loved the friend who taught me Nicaraguan sayings and allowed me glimpses into her family life, I loved that we had people around us and a shared pool and courtyard where we could relax in the tremendous heat of the day and just sit in our rocking chairs and talk. I loved the doorman at our last apartment who Sam would give a warm fist-bump to every time we came and went and who cautiously kept an extra eye on him whenever we walked to the shop next door to get a smoothie or ice cream alone.
Can home be a person, or an idea?
Yes, despite all my thoughts on houses and such, ultimately home is wherever we are together with those we love. That’s how I think of it.
Words of wisdom to anyone considering venturing out into the world of unique, less traditional homes?
Take time, reflect, pay attention to what is important to you when it comes to making some place home. What do you need more of? less of? Ask for that, in conversation, on message boards, in Facebook groups, etc.. Put it out there…you never know what answers might come.
What is next for you? Will you continue to live in your current home or try something different?
We have a plan to be in our current house until the end of 5th grade, then we’ll go back to Nicaragua for a month or so. Reconnect, tour around, host some new families to get to know Nicaragua. We might take some other trips in between, shorter in length, just to explore someplace we’ve never been.
How do you educate your children?
Sam has gone to a lot of different schools, we’ve done online schooling, we’ve done unschooling/ world-schooling, and he’s gone to public, private and international schools… there are so many educational opportunities. We are fortunate.
How do you make a living?
I have a property in Columbus that I rent out and that provides a small income. Also, after our first long-term stay in Nicaragua I began Nicaragua Immersion to be that personal guide for other families who want to explore the amazing country, culture and sights in Nicaragua but aren’t quite sure where to start. I connect people locally for very immersive experiences, some families do homestays with locals, others include a service or philanthropic project, and all of them see a volcano, lake, ocean and meet local people who teach them about their home. It’s a beautiful and uniquely personal way to travel and experience a new culture. I love being a bridge between the two cultures!
Quote to ponder
Yes, despite all my thoughts on houses and such, ultimately home is wherever we are together with those we love.
Martha has created a resource for 1st time visitors to Nicaragua.
It’s free, and written by Martha and another single mom who lives fulltime with her son in Nicaragua. Our hope is that more people will explore the beauty and culture of this place we’ve both come to call our second home.
Marvelous. I just love seeing single mamas defy the odds and get out there living their lives. So many times we make excuses for days/months/years down the line and we never make it happen.
WorldTowning’s services can help make this travel dream ‘your reality’ and we can do it all stress free. We will be there with you every step of the way.