A baby howler monkey at the Jungla de Panama animal rescue near Boquete, Panama
Animals, Travel
Our Big News (aka “Why 2016 really will be the Year of the Monkey”)
A baby howler monkey at the Jungla de Panama animal rescue near Boquete, Panama
A baby howler monkey at the Jungla de Panama animal rescue and rehabilitation center near Boquete, Panama – Photo by Nikki Wall

The last year has marked a huge turning point for me and my husband, Brian. Our son, Joel, has moved up to North Dakota and joined the working world, leaving us as empty nesters. More business opportunities, a better job, paying down debt, and a healthy real estate market have given us more financial flexibility. Between the two of us, we’ve traveled to Panama, Poland, and the Bahamas, and we’ve already planned a trip back to the Panama in December (which Joel will be joining us for — his first international trip!). It really has been an amazing year.

Swinging on the dock in Bocas del Toro, Panama
Swinging on the dock in Bocas del Toro, Panama – Photo by Nikki Wall

You might think that all this travel would be exhausting or leave us longing for the comfort of home. We have put in countless hours making our house a home: we put in new flooring, bought more furniture and decor to fill the spaces, created an amazing garden, landscaped the yard, painted the walls, and made a studio for Brian. We love these things, and we love the sense of home that they have given us.

Our crazy garden
Our crazy garden – Photo by Nikki Wall

But we’re still restless. In our eight years together, Brian and I have always talked about travel. Seeing the world, learning about new cultures, speaking foreign languages, tasting new food, and experiencing other ways of life. Between us, we’ve been to eight different countries, and all it has done is whet our appetite to see more of the amazing places that the world has to offer. We try to take advantage of our situation and travel each year. We dream about future vacations and research locations we think we’d like to visit. We scour travel sites, consume travel blogs, and talk to people about where they’ve traveled. We’re becoming travel junkies. We talk about living abroad someday: where would we go, what would we do, how our day-to-day would be different, what would it cost, what would be better or worse, and, more than anything, how badly we want to do it.

And so we’ve decided: it’s time to move abroad.

This spring, we will put our house up for sale, liquidate all our stuff, sell as much artwork of Brian’s as we reasonably can, buy two one-way tickets to Central America, hop on the plane (with three dogs in tow), and begin our new life as so-called “digital nomads.”

Road in Boquete, Panama
Road in Boquete, Panama – Photo by Nikki Wall

I will go ahead and answer your question here: yes, we are a little bit crazy. It is the craziest and most amazing adventure that I can imagine at this point in our lives. I doubt it is the “perfect” time, but I think it’s safe to say that there is no perfect time for most anything in life, whether that is traveling the world or getting married or having a baby. But we don’t think of getting married or having kids as being crazy, because everyone does it. Many people dream of traveling the world, but few people ever do it, because it’s not the norm. It’s not the expected trajectory of a modern life. But I don’t think that Brian and I have ever been accused of being particularly traditional spirits. And to us, the world feels like home.

Kayaks on the dock in Bocas del Toro, Panama
Kayaks on the dock in Bocas del Toro, Panama – Photo by Nikki Wall

A few details:

  • We will start our new adventure in Central America, most likely Panama or Costa Rica. We will be there for somewhere between three months and however many years we feel so inclined. We’ve visited both countries and loved them both, so it will probably just end up being a matter of ease of transport (especially with the dogs), cost of living, stability of Internet access for work, and finding the right property that we love and is good with the dogs. In the next year or two, we will probably visit Ecuador, Colombia, and/or Nicaragua as potential places to live for a while in the future.
  • Yes, all three dogs are going with us. For the countries we’re looking at, they just need proof of rabies vaccination and a clean bill of health from a vet, and there are no quarantine requirements other than “home quarantine”. We are pretty certain that Buddy will bark at everything. But, personally, I think that they would make excellent beach dogs.
  • As far as work, I will either be working remotely for my current company or doing contract work similar to what I’m doing now. Brian will be ramping up his online art outlets, creating small pieces of art that he can sell locally and ship small works back to galleries in the US for sale, as well as looking into the possibility of being able to do decorative painting work wherever we happen to be. And maybe I’ll become a divemaster for a scuba diving operation. You never know. One of the amazing things about traveling is the amazing people you meet and the opportunities that open up to you that you never even dreamed of before.
  • Yes, you can come and visit. In fact, we really, really hope that you will!
Cloud forest in La Amistad National Park in Panama
Cloud forest in La Amistad National Park in Panama – Photo by Nikki Wall

This is something that we have always dreamed of. It is thrilling, exciting, terrifying, and amazing all at the same time. I am sure that we will get homesick, miss our family and friends, long for some of our lost first-world conveniences, and wish for a great vegetarian restaurant sometimes. We’ll get used to “suicide showers,” eat a lot of rice and beans, tolerate some bug bites, and possibly even get some stuff stolen somewhere along the way. But I am also sure that we will meet amazing people and have astonishing experiences. We’ll wake up to the sound of howler monkeys in the morning, hike deep into the jungle, see both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts from the summit of a volcano at dawn, dive with whale sharks and giant manta rays, become fluent in another language, spend time working with rescued animals, drink some of the world’s best coffee on our patio in the morning, and walk down the beach at sunset while our dogs tag along.

And that’s just what’s in store next year. The world is an amazing place.

“Somos instantes,” which means “We are moments.”  Life is a series of moments.  Let’s live as many as we can.  – Photo by Nikki Wall

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  • ailishcasey

    November 6, 2015

    That sounds incredible! Good luck, and congratulations on taking the plunge 🙂

  • Lyssie

    January 24, 2016

    How cool – that is something I dream about too! I can’t wait to follow your journey, good luck with everything!

    • Nikki

      January 24, 2016

      Thank you! This has been a dream of ours for a long time. Still a little hard to believe that it’s actually coming true! 🙂

  • Rob Taylor

    January 24, 2016

    FYI, you just made me cry a little bit. I think about when my kids go move and are real adults, and then us taking a big leap like this. It’s tough for me to think about without getting excitedly sad.

    • Nikki

      January 24, 2016

      Aww! Thank you! 🙂 I love your pictures with your kids on your blog. I think it’s so awesome that you guys are traveling with your kids from such a young age. So fantastic for them (and for you!).

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  • Sheila

    January 30, 2016

    Wow Nikki! Good for you and Brian! Tom and I have been together 8 years also and we’re travel junkies too. We often think of where else we would consider living rather than our beautiful Colorado. Looking forward to reading your stories and learning about your experiences! Sheila


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