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Why This Nice Couple From Vermont Retired To Nicaragua

01/30/2013 08:17 am ET | Updated Apr 01, 2013

"What in the world is a nice, retirement-aged couple from Vermont doing building condominiums in Granada, Nicaragua?"

Jay Snyder gets that question a lot.

Jay's adventures overseas began about eight years ago. He and his wife Cathy had spent the better part of 40 years building and operating the Landgrove Inn in Vermont. Finally, their thoughts turned to semi-retirement and change.

"We intended to sell our country inn business," Jay explains, "and that prospect put us face-to-face with the big 'What Next?' question."

Jay did what anyone who faces this question does this day and age. He turned to the Internet. There he found loads of articles on the idea of retiring overseas. He was most intrigued by the ones focused on Central and South America.

"I wanted to see these places," Jay remembers. "I wanted to know them firsthand. It was as though I could hear a voice saying, 'Go south, old man'."

Jay made a list of countries to explore. At the top was Nicaragua, partly because, Jay admits now, it was the shortest flight time from Vermont, but also because, by all accounts, it seemed a very inexpensive place to live.

Jay planned a visit to Granada, where he enrolled in a Spanish-language immersion program. He lived with a local Nicaraguan family and went to Spanish classes (where no English was allowed which, Jay says, was "exhausting but also exhilarating") each day for a week. Then he took off to see the rest of the country -- remote villages, coastal towns and planned developments. With only three days remaining on that first visit, Jay felt a strong desire to return to Granada. So he did. Back in that colonial city, Jay took the plunge. He began speaking with real estate agents.

"Walking around Granada with the agents," Jay remembers, "I realized that all my senses were satisfied. I liked what I saw, what I smelled, what I heard, what I tasted, and what I felt.

"I place a lot of value on the sixth sense, too -- on intuition. And I liked what my gut told me about Granada. The place felt right, and I felt at home. Why continue looking and waste precious time? I asked myself. There was no reason I could come up with, so, the next day, just before leaving for home, I made an offer on a piece of vacant land in town.

"I didn't come to Granada with the idea of buying land to build condos," Jay continues. "Not at all. But that day walking around the city with agents, I asked each of them if they could show me condos with rental management programs in place. They all insisted that no such thing existed. I figured that I couldn't be the only retirement-aged guy considering Nicaragua and interested in that concept. It's really the most sensible option for active retirees and second homeowners."

In Granada, Jay believed he'd found an alternative, a viable, appealing option for Americans trying to figure out how in the world they're going to make it in retirement. Nicaragua offers exactly what people like Jay are looking for -- an affordable, quality lifestyle bundled with the chance to start over, to make a significant change in your life.

Plus, in Nicaragua, you're not too far from the United States, so you can travel back and forth easily, and the medical care is both inexpensive and excellent. The Vivian Pellas Metropolitan Hospital in the capital of Managua is state-of-the-art.

Jay Snyder recognized all these advantages of retiring to Nicaragua and decided he was ready to act. Returning home from that initial scouting trip to Granada, however, he prepared himself for battle.

"I rehearsed responses to the incredulous stares and raised eyebrows I expected from my wife and family. But they disappointed me. Instead of, 'Are you out of your mind?', my plans were met with enthusiasm, excitement, and encouragement. The support I've enjoyed from family and friends has had a lot to do with my being able to follow through on the plan I hatched those first days in Granada."

Today, this adventuresome retirement-aged couple from the northeast divides their time between Granada, Florida and Vermont. They make five trips a year to Nicaragua, staying two to six weeks at a time.

"I don't have a solution to the problems facing Americans right now," Jay says. "It's too frustrating to contemplate. I do feel, though, I've found an alternative that works for me and that could work for many, many others, as well. You've got to think outside the box -- the box being the United States. I realize this isn't a new idea, but it's truer and truer. Statistics show an increase in the numbers of Americans leaving the States and a big increase in the numbers considering the idea.

"It's tempting to continue living the way you've been living. It's easy. Certainly easier than making the kind of change I'm talking about. It can be very frightening to think about creating a whole new life for yourself in a foreign place. That fear can keep us from acting on chances for fun, for adventure, and for possible profit.

"All I can tell you now is that I'm thrilled with this project. It has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my life."