I Should Write a Book – So I Did

The geese of the real Selva Negra

The geese of the real Selva Negra

Many times someone has said to me, “You should write a book!” And I finally did. Our first book is a children’s book for early readers with lots of pictures and only a sentence or two per page. It is called The Geese of Selva Negra, based on our real-life visit to the Selva Negra eco-lodge near Matagalpa, Nicaragua.

Baby Goose goes for a walk

Sample artwork from The Geese of Selva Negra
Art by Tad Sigman

We were fortunate in our travels to meet Tad, a recent college graduate from Fairbanks, Alaska. In a chance encounter at the Backpacker Hostel in Iquique, Chile, Tad informed us he had worked as an illustrator. “Wow,” we said, “we have been looking for an illustrator!” We explained our idea for a children’s book about a real place. We then exchanged email addresses and began following one another on Facebook.

I sent Tad my script and ideas for illustrations, and he followed up with drawings that simply blew us away. Tad and I talked about what we would do with any profit the book might generate. We agreed to donate any profit from the sale of the book to a worthy nonprofit organization that helps children. We decided on St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

End of the day for the goose family

Sample artwork from The Geese of Selva Negra
Art by Tad Sigman

After several months of living and traveling procrastinating, Florence performed the steps necessary to get our book listed on Amazon as an eBook with a list price of 99 cents. This week the Spanish translation will also be ready for publication. We seek to promote our book to school libraries to provide copies to teachers because eBooks can easily be projected for groups or entire classrooms to view at one time. The educational content of the book comes at the end of the story with a map and a question asking readers if they can spot the geographical location of the real Selva Negra.

We both love books and we both love when children’s imaginations are stirred by fascinating stories. We now have ideas for a dozen more children’s books about the places we have traveled and the unique animals that live there. Perhaps one day we will have a series of children’s books in both English and Spanish about far-off places that actually exist. And when we do we will continue to support worthy nonprofit organizations that benefit children from the profits of book sales. For example, our next book project is set up to benefit Girls With Wings which encourages girls to learn to fly. We have set up a “Crowdfunding” drive to cover the cost of hiring an illustrator. Click here is you wish to learn more.

Retirement – It’s Not What You Think

Statistics tell us that 10,000 baby boomers in the United States will reach the retirement age of 65 every day for the next nineteen years. Some will keep working either because their retirement savings were wiped out in the banking crisis or because they have worked all their adult lives and that is all they know. Those are not necessarily bad decisions, as long as those decisions are made for the right reasons.

Hiking up Cerro Negro in Nicaragua

When I announced to friends and acquaintances that I was planning to retire at age 62, I cannot tell you how many people tried to warn me against that idea. The reasons given were typically:

  1. You will be bored.
  2. You will lose 25% of your Social Security benefit, and you won’t have enough to live on if you live to a certain age.
  3. Inflation will eat up your purchase power when you are on a fixed income, and you will not be able to maintain your lifestyle.
  4. The cost of health insurance will eat up your life savings, especially if you become ill.

While none of those ideas are wrong, they all have one thing in common. They are all rooted in fear. Fear of the unknown. The unknown is often scary. Anyone without a sense of adventure will always seek the most comfortable, the most predictable, and the most secure path through life. This story is not for those people. My message is for any younger reader who wants to know what retirement might have in store for you, because unlike life after death, I am still able to contact you from the other side and give you a glimpse of what retirement might be like.

First, you will not be bored. Boredom is for people who never developed any interests outside of their careers. And you will finally have time to do many of the things you put off while pursuing career goals, raising a family, or seeking to fulfill your version of The American Dream. You will suddenly have time to go hiking or skiing, time to play with grandchildren or nieces and nephews, time to volunteer at a school or a shelter or a hospital. And perhaps best of all, now you will have the time to travel! All those expensive vacations you put off your whole life, other than maybe Hawaii or The Bahamas, are now a real option.

Macaw photo op at the Bird Park in Iguazu, Argentina

I don’t have time to be bored. I am doing things I always wanted to do and didn’t have time. I am writing for three blogs and I have a children’s book ready to self-publish. I am traveling (40k air miles in 15 months). I also just completed training to be a Certified International Tour Manager through the International Guide Academy. I am now qualified to work as a tour director anywhere in the world, and I am applying for jobs I only dreamed of when I was younger. Who knows what 2013 will bring?

If retirement is not what you think, then what is it? In a word, it is opportunity – the opportunity you have worked your whole life to experience and enjoy. It is a gift of time, something you haven’t had enough of since you were a child – time to read, time to write, time to play, and time to work at whatever you have been putting off.

You don’t have to be all that adventuresome to enjoy retirement. You just have to decide what is important and to live within your means. I accomplished this by moving outside the United States for the time being. I have been blessed with excellent health my whole life, and that is a gift I don’t intend to squander by sitting around. I still have three continents I haven’t yet visited, and I have my blog name to live up to. Part of my legacy will be that of a global explorer.

Florence and I in Argentina near the majestic Andes Mountains.

The Geese of Selva Negra

Selva Negra is a paradise-like eco-lodge and organic coffee plantation in the mountains of Nicaragua between Matagalpa and Jinoteca. Their lodge restaurant sits on the edge of a huge fish pond that mirrors the surrounding alpine jungle. Among the inhabitants are a flock of about a dozen white geese that live and feed at the site and that appear daily as they make their rounds of the estate.

Like childhood images of farm animal illustrations, the dozen or so geese of Selva Negra line up like a single file of wibble-wobbling soldiers as they exit the water in perfect cadence to an unheard beat and march in a perfect line on one of the paved pathways that interlace the resort. Their mission, known only among their flock, includes marching past manicured flower beds, guest cabins, and decorative gazebos in search of a midday resting spot before returning to the pond. All humans in their path quickly step aside as if to acknowledge that the geese have established their supremacy over all they oversee.

It is obvious this flock of geese spans generations when the size of the largest goose, their leader, is compared with the smallest goose, which has grown its all-white plumage but still paces much more quickly than its superiors to hold its place at the end of the line.

The animals at Selva Negra include, but are not limited to the typical inhabitants of this self-sufficient farm estate. There are chickens, dairy cows, beef cattle, horses and pigs, all of which are fed organically and help sustain the residents and visitors of the resort with their food products. In addition to domestic animals, there are two troops of howling monkeys in the jungle forest overlooking the estate. Their chorus of hoots and hollers echo back and forth across the hills like a raucous alarm clock at first light, drowning out any roosters who maybe thought their crowing to welcome the new day was their exclusive right.

Beyond the captivating beauty that makes one reluctant to ever leave Selva Negra, there is the other important offering – their coffee. It’s not just good coffee; it is world class great coffee! Each morning is made more pleasurable as we roll out of bed in anticipation of wandering over to the restaurant for an exquisite cup of freshly brewed coffee, espresso, or cappuccino. I still sometimes wonder if the coffee producing nations of Central America have perhaps passed federal legislation banning a bad cup of coffee. The coffee adds a little something extra to all that makes every day living here special.

Note – The title for this story was originally conceived as inspiration for a children’s book, a work still in progress.
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