Happy Trails!

"Who cares about the clouds when we're together?Just sing a song, and bring the sunny weather." - Roy Rodgers & Dale Evans

I think I can sum up the “Expat Lifestyle” for you in just three words: Sharing, Caring, and Daring.

Ironically, it is the same three words that once summed up the American Lifestyle.

But, this is not a wistful vista, a forlorn trip down a rapidly eroding memory lane. So, for the moment, let’s forget about the land that once was in a bygone era when Roy and Dale taught us, “Faith, hope and charity—that’s the way to live successfully.” 

Happy Trails” to all that!

Instead, let’s focus on the present—and the future—in the lands (plural) south of the border where it’s always “summertime and the livin’ is easy” with plenty of time for Sharing with friends and family. Where Caring enough to lend a hand to neighbors in need is still the de rigeur rule of thumb. And where you could soon once again find yourself Daring to cast your net as far as you can spin your dreams.

In short, in the tiny, “backwards,” backwoods countries scattered throughout Central and South America, “Sharing, Caring, and Daring” is still a way of life. That hasn’t changed in nearly two centuries…and, thank 
God, is unlikely to budge a single inch in the near or distant future.

That’s the Expat Lifestyle I found when I lived for well over a year in the tiny village of El Pino, a half-hour or so ride by “chicken bus” from the bustling seaside Caribbean city of La Ceiba, Honduras.

And it is the self-same lifestyle I have found ever since, as I have interfaced continually with the large and extended family of my Honduran wife, spread out and about as they are throughout that wonderful, warm, and welcoming country.

So, let's go back nearly a dozen years to when I bought my first home in El Pino sight unseen, and moved into a neighborhood about 90 percent Honduran, with one or two outpost expats, both of whom were Canadian.

In short, I was very much a stranger in a very strange land. I looked entirely different. I acted differently (it took months to learn how to properly wear a sombrero—just kidding). And the only words I knew in Spanish were “El Dorado”—because I had owned a boat-size turquoise ragtop back in 1973. What happened in the ensuing months changed my perception of Latin America.

It transmogrified my misconceptions about the Latino American people.

And it set the stage for the Offshore Club, of which I am now president and exists for the sole purpose of helping U.S. citizens “live the good life at a great price” south of the border—enjoying every single second of the exciting and rewarding offshore experience. 

So, please allow me to explain exactly what I mean by “Sharing, Caring, and Daring” being part and parcel of the expat lifestyle.

To my way of thinking, Sharing, when you get down to it, is largely a matter of taking time for others, isn’t it? It’s pausing in your busy routine to grab a cup of coffee with a longtime pal, or even with a newfound acquaintance.

It’s inviting family and friends over for dinner. Not once in a millennium, perhaps, at Thanksgiving or Christmas. But, regularly—just because you want to share the good times with good folks at a nice leisurely pace.

It’s stopping to chat about this and that. Lingering after church to socialize. Going out of your way just to say, “Hey!”

In America, taking the time to make life sublime is now a discarded—even discredited—vestigial relic of an anachronistic era.  

But that's not so at all in Central and South America.

There, the locals still share relaxed meals with their extended families and friends. Neighbors visiting with neighbors—even for hours on end—is not a rare event. It is a daily occurrence.

And lingering after church to socialize is not just accepted, it’s expected. After all, you’ve already been there for two or three hours; what’s a few minutes more?

Why is all that so? Why are the good people south of the border so inherently inclined to take the time to share instead of shun (as we now so often do up north)?

I can sum it up in a word. And that word is “mañana”.

Once you begin experiencing the expat culture down in the lands (again, plural) of the sun, sand, and surf, you will quickly learn mañana is not just a word, it’s a way of life.

And, in fact, among laidback Latinos—who can take forever to spend a day—it is considered a term of urgency.

So, get used to it—and enjoy Sharing in the quintessential pleasure of taking the time to savor every single minute of it… because, as Roy and Dale sang, it’s not the seconds, “It’s the way you ride the trail that counts.” 

And how about Caring? How does Caring in Latin America differ from caring (lower case) in the now downright uptight and appallingly aloof US of A? Well, let’s find an example:

Oh yeah—have you been to one of America’s now pervasive corporate medical conglomerates lately?

Let’s put this into perspective for you.

When I was a kid in the America that once was, you went to the family doctor. Or, lo and behold, he may even have come to you. (For the woke progressives among us, they were known as “house calls”. And we weren’t scared to death old sawbones was going to drag in leprosy, mange, or (oh my God!) the dreaded COVID-19!)

Back in the day, you could tell by every move the good doctor made, every word he said, and even the look in his eyes, that he really cared. And he healed the body and soul alike.

So, how about today?

Well, the other day, I went to the corporate clinic. My shoulder had been aching for weeks, and I figured the doctor on duty might be able to offer a little solace and surcease. 

Wrong!

Once they finished having me fill out all the foreboding government forms, they ushered me into a barren, sterile examination room (mask firmly in place so I didn't dare spread any vile disease they seemed to be convinced I was carrying).

The doctor asked a handful of pro forma questions, all of which he read off a computer screen. He told me to move my arm up, down, and sideways. After which he perfunctorily sent me for x-rays.

Several days later, the diagnosis arrived: “You’re fine. Live with it.” And the bill was astronomical. How does that contrast with medical care and Caring in Central and South America?

I have a dear friend in Nicaragua. He had kidney stones. He went to the local clinic where a team of doctors and nurses spent half a day with him, offering him comforting words as well as comprehensive care.

When they finished, one of the doctors walked him to the pharmacy to ensure he got the right prescription.

The cost was $58…for the care—and the Caring.

And allow me to add, that same spirit of Caring pervades throughout the entire society—from the store clerk helping you find the item of your choice (instead of nodding, pointing, and staring empty-eyed off into the distance) to the person passing on the street, giving you a friendly smile and a hearty, “Hola!”

This column is already getting lengthy, so let’s quickly move on to the Daring.

Daring, to me, is summed up in the entrepreneurial spirit.

In that lone, often lonely, diligent, die-hard individual who sets out with single, solitary determination to seek his or her fortune...

Who dreams the impossible dream—and overcomes the odds to make that dream come true.

It is—no, make that was—Ray Kroc staring wide-eyed at a hamburger stand in San Bernardino, California… Steve Jobs laboring away in his parents’ garage… and Mike Lasky went from selling sports picks out of his one-bedroom apartment to, in the words of Larry King, "inventing the modern handicapping industry."

Back in the America that once was, they each felt free to try their hands at tempting fate. And no one—no, back in the day, not even the government—stood in their way.

Try any of that today in the U.S., and the governments—plural, at all levels—will crush you like a cockroach, or if you insist upon persisting, toss you in the hoosegow.

The politicians and their bureaucratic henchmen will come at you with their thumbs down and palms out, snarling, “You can’t do that.”

Unless, of course, you pay them out the gazoo an endless array of fees, assessments, taxes, and fines for their permits, licenses, inspections, and oversights—all ruthlessly enforced by rigid and relentless rules, regulations, and miles upon miles of ruinous red tape.

And how does this compare with the expat life in Central or South America?

It doesn’t compare—it contrasts.

In the little town of El Pino I mentioned to you earlier, my friend Enrique dared to start his own little furniture-making shop. Not an easy task in a poor country.

When I asked him about government requirements, he looked at me like I had three heads and replied, “Es mi empresa. Por que necesita el gobierno?”

Damn good question. And that needs no translation.

You get the message, don’t you? It is why enterprising entrepreneurs throughout Central and South America—the owners of food stands, small shops, and roadside kiosks—are continually Daring to open their own
“empresas” on a daily basis.

And, perhaps, more importantly, it is why you will be able to as well—once you begin enjoying the expat lifestyle south of the U.S. border, where it’s always...

Summertime,
And the livin' is easy
One of these mornings
You're going to rise up singin'
Then you'll spread your wings

And you'll take to the sky

In short, for expats, the new American Dream is the Latin American Dream. And your own individual expat lifestyle success is all a matter of when you are ready to make your move south—and begin Caring, Sharing, and Daring to make your every dream come true.

“Happy Trails to you—keep smiling until then!” 

Please click here if you would like to contact Carter Clews.

Trail by Drew Farwell is licensed under unsplash.com

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