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Moving Your Family to Central America for 18 Months : On the Road with Annabel Candy

This is a traveler case study. (Read others or nominate yourself.)

A popular travel blogger, Annabel Candy’s talents extend far beyond putting text to screen. When I heard about some of her adventures with her family, I wanted to share some of her tales of living abroad with three kids.

Tell us about yourself.  

I sometimes describe myself a slow nomad because I’ve lived and worked in eight different countries. When you speak with me you can tell I’m from the UK because I still have a British accent. However for the last few decades, I’ve lived in England, France, Laos, Zimbabwe, the USA (twice), New Zealand, Costa Rica and now I’m in Australia.

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What inspired you to leave home and travel?

My twin passions have always been writing and traveling, so I devoted my life to them. Now I have two passports (British and New Zealand) which comes in handy for travel.

Simple things about travel give me great pleasure: meeting new people and visiting naturally beautiful spots is all it takes for me to be happy.  I’m also mad about wildlife and bird spotting although I have three children so when we go on a bush walk most animals run away a mile before we show up – we’re not exactly a quiet bunch!

Can you tell us a story about living abroad with your kids?

When our children were aged two, five and eight, my husband and I sold our business, home and most of our other belongings and moved to Central America. The kid weren’t very impressed when we sold their toys in a series of garage sales and it was scary for them – and us! – moving somewhere we’d never been before, with a language we didn’t speak, and no work lined up. But we ended up having an amazing 18 month family adventure and living in Costa Rica.

Our idea in choosing Central America was that our kids would become bilingual,  and we wanted to enjoy the wildlife with them. We imagined seeing toucans and monkeys now and then on jungle walks…but it turned out to be way wilder than that.

We literally were living in the jungle and the wildlife was everywhere. There were toucans in our garden every day along with monkeys, pizote and goanna. Over the course of that year we dealt with a huge tarantula on our patio, a sloth that needed help crossing the road, a highly venomous fer-de-lance snake in our swimming pool and more. We even had wildlife inside our house including scorpions nesting under the fridge, hummingbirds which got stuck in our bedroom and a bat which got stuck a lot of places.

One morning my son came into my room and said:

“Mommy, there are two bats in my bedroom!”

“Don’t be silly!” I said confidently and went to inspect. Sure enough there were two fruit bats swooping around in his room.

I went outside to look for a way to chase them out and when I came back in one of them had flown away and the other was somehow stuck down the toilet. It couldn’t get out because the edge of the toilet bowl was too slippery for it to grip!  I got a flipper from by the pool and dunked that in the toilet. The bat climbed on to the flipper, hung on tight and then I carried it outside to a tree. It was soon hanging upside down drip drying and recovering from its little escapade. So now I can add bat rescue to my skill-set.

Seriously though, when you don’t have a TV, Internet or a phone, your family really makes their own fun and you can find things of interest and learning opportunities all around you, or even inside you.



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How do you save for your trips?

Well this is boring, but the truth is that we work hard and save every penny for travel. We don’t drive flashy cars or spend much on eating out, clothes and day-to-day expenses because we want to be able to travel as much as we can.

The great debate: aisle or window:

Window of course!

Have you learned anything from your time abroad?

When you travel you see the best and worst of people but I’m still constantly amazed by how far the best goes.

In Panama we visited Bocas del Toro, a small island on the Caribbean coast, and decided we wanted to stay there for a month. Finding a house to rent was hard, but eventually word spread about the gringo family looking for a temporary home (that was us!) and we were soon holed up in an amazing over-the-water-pole-house totally surrounded by water, wildlife and locals who invited us to parties, on boat trips, and into their homes.

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Have you met anyone interesting?

Have I ever! I met my own husband when travelling too and I think he’s quite interesting. He was brought up in Kenya but we met in Egypt after I’d run away from a kibbutz in Israel. I was living on a shoestring, weaving friendship bands on the beach by the Red Sea. They must have been pretty powerful friendship bands because we’ve been together 23 years now.

Best travel tips. Go:

1. Meet the locals – and hang out with them.

Talk to everyone including shopkeepers, taxi drivers and waiters. If you’re not in a hurry and you ask for travel tips, it’s amazing what invitations they’ll throw your way.

2. Make an effort to learn how to say a few basic phrases.

Even if you don’t speak the language, people will love you for it. It’s amazing how you can form bonds with people and how much you can share and learn about people through sign language, gestures, and body language

3. Eat the street food  – wisely.

Always choose the place with the longest line to make sure you get the best quality—and tasting!—food. You might even make some new friends while you’re standing in line

Where are you headed next?

Our family is planning a trip to Tasmania over our long summer holidays because we want to see a wombat, a quoll and maybe even a Tasmanian devil in the wild!

Follow Annabel and her family’s journey on her site, Get in the Hot Spot, or via Twitter @AnnabelCandy.  

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