One less car to sell

Ever since making the decision to abandon the First World, I am constantly amazed at my own ability to look on the bright side.  I’ve never been a pessimist, but this is ridiculous.

Today, I received a call from the Volkswagen mechanic telling me that my piece-of-shit Jetta is dead.  The list of mechanical failures is impressive and basically adds up to way more than the car itself would be worth.  So it’s off to the salvage yard, hopefully for enough cash to cover the towing charge.

My first emotion was relief.  After all, I’ve got one less thing to get rid of before we pack for Honduras.

I really had no idea that my new world view would arrive months in advance of actual departure.  Good to know if you’re thinking of doing something similar some day.

I’ve noticed another profound change: the realization that I have no desire to buy anything, primarily because I will have no use for it in just a few months.  Eventually we will most likely go shopping for backpacks and other provisions, but until then it’s cathartic as hell knowing that ‘stuff’ has absolutely no value.  This is something we all give lip-service to.  But feeling it become tangible is a different thing entirely.

My mind is so clear, even my job performance has improved.  If that isn’t ironic, I don’t understand the definition.

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It’s like my Jetta read yesterday’s post.

Yesterday I blogged about the day–coming very soon–when I would no longer need a car.  Having spent most of the Memorial Day weekend under the hood of an old Jeep Wrangler we were trying to sell, I was frustrated.  I probably said things I shouldn’t have.  Exhibit A: “As much as this sucks, I can’t help thinking about the bright side: the day, very soon, when I will no longer own a vehicle of any kind.”

I was referring to our impending move to Central America–most likely Honduras–and the fact that we won’t be owning a car down there.  My piece-of-shit Jetta appears to have taken it personally.

Today I was driving to work, then suddenly I wasn’t.  Instead, I was coasting.  No backfire, no lurch, not so much as a click or grind.  It was as if the piece-of-shit Jetta merely turned itself off with just enough momentum to coast safely into an approaching farm yard.  This, as the car surely knew, was a road with absolutely no shoulder, so timing mattered.

It apparently also knew there was no particular cell coverage in the area, so calling Diana to come rescue my late-for-work ass was not really an option.  Unless of course, the farmer’s family was home.  NOTE: This post is not a ‘farmer’s daughter” joke in disguise.  It really happened, just this morning.

To make matters worse, the farm dog appeared to be a recent descendent of the wolf breed.  Not barking, but keenly aware of my arrival.

All of this, along with the fact that I had a full day of meetings, including a new business presentation, on my schedule conspired to fill me with a profound sense of…calm.  I’m still not joking.  For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to give a flying fuck.  The Jetta had spoken, the cell phone hadn’t, and wolfy was going to do what wolfy was going to do.

I stepped out of the piece of shit, extended my Iphone to the AT&T Gods, and received a blip.  Not really a bar, mind you, but that first little baby mark in the lineup; the one that’s no longer than it is wide and therefore cannot seriously be called a ‘bar.’  Still, I accepted this zygote with surprising optimism and punched out a quick text to Diana. The ‘sending’ bar was slow to fill, but I heard the all-important swoosh of modern-day communication just a split second before my reception nub hitched a ride out of there.

Ten minutes later, a second vagabond blip brought Diana’s reply: “Be right there.”

There’s nothing like finally yielding the illusion of control to a world that was never really playing along anyway.  I ended up making my meetings and selling my campaign with a little help from my Dad’s piece-of-shit Toyota pickup.

Also, the wolf didn’t eat me.  Turns out he just needed a scratch behind the ears.

Selling the Jeep Wrangler. Another step closer (kind of).

In my very first post I mentioned selling the Jeep Wrangler.  It was actually first on the list at the time; a list that seems to get longer–not shorter–with each passing day. Of course it hasn’t helped matters that the key was lost when we received that all-important first Craigslist call.  We’ve located it since then, and now it won’t start.

We replaced the starter.  No good.  We replaced both battery cables.  No good.  We took apart everything electrical, cleaned it, and tightened its connection. Apparently for no good reason.

As much as this sucks, I can’t help thinking about the bright side: the day, very soon, when I will no longer own a vehicle of any kind.  Or anything else significant for that matter.  Even back in college–before I  owned a pot to piss in–I knew Henry David Thoreau was onto something when he suggested that our possessions own us, not the other way around.

Still, I got my degree and entered the race to acquire anything and everything I could get my hands on.  Heck, I didn’t even have to wait for payday thanks to the miracle of credit cards.  I bought a couch that was worth more than my car.  And a refrigerator that was worth even more than the couch.  All for three- or four-hundred easy monthly payments, thanks to the miracle of 21% interest rates.

But I digress.

Does anyone know about Jeep Wranglers?  Particularly that green wire with the white stripe?  It seems like it’s definitely up to something.

Why Central America?

So far, the majority of what I’ve learned about the expat lifestyle in Latin America has come from a series of Podcasts by John Mueller of http://expatwisdom.com.  The podcast series itself is titled The Expat Files and can be found for free on Itunes.  I definitely recommend it if you’re interested in what’s really going on down there.  John spends much more time talking about the unique challenges of living in Latin America than, say, daiquiris and palm trees. 

In 20 years, John has managed to avoid establishing residency in Latin America.  Instead, he takes advantage of the fact that your passport, all by itself, gets you 90 days.  That being the case, he simply makes sure to cross a boarder  three times a year, effectively resetting his passport. 

I think this is a brilliant idea for several reasons, but primarily because we have no interest in finding ourselves tied down again anytime soon.  We’ve had enough of that up here in the States.  That being said, we won’t be looking for a gated expat community down there.  If we were normal retirement age I suppose that might be the goal.  But at 47 and 48, we’re much more interested in the real Latin America, imperfect as it may be. 

Tela, Honduras looks like a candidate.  So does Livingston, Guatemala.  Both are small beach towns recommended by Mr. Mueller.  Neither is going to have anything resembling first-world infrastructure, so we won’t accidentally find ourselves living in the States down there.  And because we’d be in the relatively small group of countries comprising Central America, crossing a border from time to time should be reasonably convenient. 

If we do this right, we may not even have to own a car.  

Holy Shit, I Think I’m Serious!

A milestone of sorts was reached today.  I don’t think that’s too strong a word for it.  I turned down an incredibly generous partnership offer.  One that I would have killed for just a few months ago.

What made this decision particularly tough was the fact that the offer was extended by two of my best friends.  The three of us have worked together in a client/vendor relationship for nearly 20 years, and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather partner with.  If I weren’t leaving.

I gave them my answer over drinks on the patio of a neighborhood bar.  The sun was out and the mood was light.  They had been politely waiting for my answer for two weeks, so I knew I had bring it up.  I set down my whiskey glass and told them that not only can’t I accept a one-third ownership position in their successful and growing company, but I am moving to Latin America by the end of summer.

They responded with the appropriate mix of disappointment and curiosity.  I explained that now was our time to do something like this; that waiting a year would most likely mean forfeiting the opportunity altogether.  They couldn’t disagree.  After all, the partnership itself would have been enough to close the window for at least a decade.

I’m confident that if they thought I was making a wholly stupid decision, these guys would have been compelled to tell me.  Instead they congratulated me and said they were excited for us.  Although they are both around my age, leaving the states is not an option for them.  They still have young children, a business to run and–let’s face it–common sense.