The Karma Shack FAQ-list
You may have clicked on this tab because you have questions about Karma Shack massage rates and reservations or yoga schedules, but those answers you won’t find here. You will find all that information on the “services”-page.
This FAQ-page started as a joke, poking fun at curious tourists that always ask the same questions, although they don’t know that. But when you live in a little tropical touristy paradise, you meet a lot of people and they all come up with the same curious questions. After 500 times telling the same story (and parents with small children will confirm this) it gets quite boring, even when you talk about living in paradise.
As I wrote in a blog post, one day I was chastised by a tourist for my unwillingness to answer her questions. She told me that my story could be an inspiration, and pointed out that each person asks their question for the first time. She was right, and I dutifully started answering the questions again, but it didn’t get less boring. If I would have been paid for all the hours telling the same story, I would have a little fortune by now. If I would have done other things in all those hours instead of talking about my past, my garden would not be such a mess, and I would have already written a book.
Then a woman came to our island who wanted to write a book about foreigners settling in Nicaragua, and she sought me out for an interview amongst others. I agreed to participate, thinking that it would be very nice if she would write down my whole story for me. She would send a digital copy that I could distribute amongst all my questioners. Problem solved! But then she fell in love and never wrote the book.
So I am happy to have a website now, where I can put all the information in one spot, and refer all curious questioners to this page, with all the answers written down. Here goes:
- How long have you been here? Since September 2005. I first lived and worked for about half a year in a small hotel at the north end, and then moved in May 2006 to Carlito’s Place (Hotel Sunrise Paradise on Cocal Beach). I rented a cabin for a month, asking permission to make my own food, and told Carl (the landlord) that if I liked it, I might stay longer…….I’m still there, and in 2011 I have built the Karma Shack on his property as well.
- How long have you had the Karma Shack? I started building the Karma Shack around Easter time in 2011 when a Miskito sailboat arrived on our beach with a beautiful load of wood, and opened on July 1, 2011 (it took about three months to build since we didn’t get all the materials at once, which is typical for the island. Friends of mine waited for months for their lumber).
- How did you end up here? Short answer: by boat, like you. Long answer (very long): In June 1999 I was let go from a corporate job that I didn’t like anyway. I had no contingency plan, no career path in my head. That same night, when I was having a couple of drinks with some friends, they of course wanted to know what I was going to do next. When I said I had no idea, someone suggested that I’d go travel. During my endless years in university I always wanted to travel, but never had the money. Every summer I worked to save up money for my tuition fees and books, and maybe a short vacation. When I finally got my degree I had already reached the ripe old age of 30, so I figured I’d better get myself employed in a proper job, instead of the waitressing and house cleaning which, by the way, was earning me quite decent money. But no post-college pre-job travelling for me there. So I got a proper job and started my “career-life”. I lasted 3 years, in 2 jobs, working the office life. I made good money, but I was not a happy puppy. I was relieved when they told me they had to let me go. There was good redundancy money. I had no steady relationship at that point, no debts, no mortgage, not even a car. My mom had died the year before, so there was no worry-butt at home to keep me from travelling. I bought a one-way ticket to Bombay, India for October 1999. I had no idea whether I would like travelling or not, and I had no idea how fast or slow I would go, so no round-the-world-ticket for me. One way. I told everyone that I could be back in 2 months if it wasn’t my thing, or in 2 years if it was. It was. Barely 2 months into my trip I was probably sitting in one of those very slow and crowded trains somewhere in the south of India, when it dawned on me that I was feeling so happy and light. I promised myself there and then that I would never go back to office life, and I haven’t. I travelled in Asia for 19 months, mostly just sightseeing and trekking, doing some volunteer’s work, and getting into the dive industry in Thailand. In 2001 I went back to the Netherlands for a summer of waitressing and meeting my first nephew (he’ll be 16 soon!), knowing I would take off in October again, for sure. Next trip I headed in the opposite direction: Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, back to Guatemala. More and more volunteer’s work, longer periods of staying in one place: 6 months in Guatemala, volunteering in a centre for handicapped children; humbling and gratifying work. Another summer in the Netherlands to replenish the funds, and back to Guatemala, where I lived for another two years. In those years I met several people that recommended me Little Corn Island, specifically emphasising that I would like it very much. So eventually I went on a vacation from Guatemala to check it out. I loved it, but wasn’t sure if I could make my living here, since island life is quite expensive, even in developing countries (I was living as an artisan, selling my crafts on the street). I spoke with the owner of a hotel about a work exchange, but he had some other people lined up for that already. I went back to Guatemala, to my little house with a lake view. It was a beautiful spot, but coming from Little Corn Island I didn’t like it that much anymore. All of a sudden I was more acutely aware of all the construction going on, the crowds of drugged kids from the capital hanging around in the weekends, the closed community that I still had not managed to become part of after more than 2 years. But I was making my living there, and had a very comfortable little house with a cute little garden and a beautiful lake view. I had my comfort zone there, and was not just going to leave without something better in the pipeline. So I stayed, but felt slightly uncomfortable in that comfort zone by now. I had seen what was outside of it, and it was calling me. Life was calling me. Then luckily the Little Corn Island hotel owner got in touch with me, telling me that those other people had never shown up for their jobs, and if I was still interested? I packed my bags and went. It was September 2005. I told you it was a long story.
- Why Little Corn Island? When we are standing outside my house or the Karma Shack, I just spread my arms wide and look around. Is there a better reason to want to live in a place than for its natural beauty? Even with the bad storms and beach erosion, the trash washing up and being thrown around the island, this is still very much a gorgeous place. The various colours of the sea and the sky above, the intense green of nature, the colourful flowers, the funky birds and grumpy iguanas, the beautiful butterflies and giant crabs, the play of sunlight through the palm fronds, the bright moon lighting the trail at night, or a sky full of stars…all that never loses its attraction for me. Better even: every day I feel grateful to be surrounded by it all and find energy and inspiration in it. On top of that the people are all super friendly and relaxed, and we have no cars on this little island, which brings life back to a more human pace. Very good for low stress levels, so I won’t have to worry about a heart attack. Oh, and it never gets cold here.
- Are you here for good? No, I’m sure I am not. At this point I still love it here, in many ways, but I know that life has more in store for me, which definitely lies outside of Little Corn Island. Since I have had the Karma Shack my life has been a wonderful learning curve causing continuous growth, both personal, spiritual and professional. Through my work and all related experiences in the Karma Shack I am constantly inspired to learn or try out new things, move past the end of my comfort zone and grow, grow, grow. If (or most likely when) the moment comes that that growth starts to level off, most likely I will pack my bags and start moving into a not yet explored territory of my life.
- Has the island changed a lot since you got here? Yes, of course. Has your hometown not changed in the last 12 or 15 years? Change is the only constant, remember? So your question is more likely this: what has changed since you got here? Everything. The beaches (mostly eroded), the vegetation (some parts have grown into forest, others have been cut clear for construction), the population (from less than 700 people to more than a 1000, and from less than 10 foreigners to more than a 100), the pavement across the island (less muddy trails!), town power on the east side (for 17 hours a day, instead of 6), the dock (instead of beaching the panga and jump off), most of the restaurants (Full Moon, El Bosque, Rosa’s, Mango’s Pizza, Color View, Tranquilo, Desideri, Cool Spot, Triangle, Light House, Las Palmeras, LCBB, Yemaya), a lot of the hotels and hospedajes (10 in 2005, ca. 25 in 2016), several stores with a larger assortment of goods, the Reggae bar, lots of fences everywhere, all the houses on the south end past Ozzie’s place, all the houses up the hill past the orange house, the whole little neighbourhood behind Cocal beach on your way to Dereck’s place), wifi everywhere (there were 2 computers with internet at Casa Iguana when I got here, and it cost $1 for 5 minutes to use one), and much more. If you ask me what change has had the biggest impact on the island, my answer is Climate Change!
- Is this weather normal for the time of year? Again: Climate Change! What used to be normal isn’t anymore. 2013-15 were 3 very dry years, but with more and more winds. The end of 2016 and start of 2017 is in my experience an old-fashioned island season with tons of rain and storms, where you want to huddle inside and wear socks and drink chai. It used to be like this every year. But in the last few years, it is beautiful weather in what used to be rainy season. it blows when it used to be calm, and it rains in the middle of “summer”. So please don’t ask me whether this is normal weather for the time of year, the weather’s got me confused.
- How often do you go back (to Holland). Hardly ever. It’s bloody expensive to travel from Managua to anywhere in Europe, and I make my money in a developing country, remember? I have very little family in the Netherlands, so there is not a strong pull on that front. The few old friends I have, will be that for the rest of our lives, regardless of how often we speak or see each other. Now that I have refused to go back for three years, some of them finally have decided to come and visit me here, so that strategy worked:-). I also do not miss anything from life in the Netherlands. Last time I was there I went to the supermarket on my last day , and found cookies that used to be my all-time favourites 20 years ago. I had completely forgotten their existence! I could have stuffed my face with them for a whole month, but they had not appeared on my radar:-). Lastly, there are so many other places that I would like to visit, especially since I meet so many people here from all over the world, that I rather travel to new places than go back to the familiar. It’s that comfort zone thing…..you gotta get out of it to live life to its fullest!
- Is there a path here that takes us back to the village? (walking into the backyard of the Karma Shack). Yes! but not here! The map you are holding in your hand should point you in the right direction: along the beach either past LCBB and Stedmans to the left, or just before Casa Iguana to the right. Behind the Karma Shack you quickly walk into the swamp, and there may be 1 crocodile there, although we are not 100% sure about that.
- Do you never get lonely? That is always an interesting one, and it has set me thinking, several years ago. No, I do not get lonely. Why? Because loneliness is nothing but the need for someone to do something for you, and the absence of that someone to do it for you. Whether you simply need a hand with a little chore around the house or yard, or a listening ear when you have some issues going on that you need to vent about, when you need a shoulder to cry on or someone that can help you make the right decision…..if you need help and it is not available, is when you get lonely. First of all, I have quite the singular personality, so I do not need company all the time. Secondly, I have learned that there are many things that you can just figure out by yourself if you overcome your fears of that which you don’t know yet. That’s how I learned basic plumbing, electricity fixing, carpentry, gardening, running a business, becoming a yoga teacher. Creativity and resourcefulness come in handy here. Basically, you become very self-sustainable when you live by yourself in a place like this. Also a good one is to learn to just ask for help. Very scary for many people because asking for help, you admit that you cannot do it all by yourself, which makes you feel vulnerable. But the moment you have asked, most people will jump to the occasion to do something good (it will make them feel good about themselves too, you know). So give them that opportunity, and ask them to help you. It’s a win-win for both of you, and it creates a lovely bond in accomplishing something as a team.
- What did you do before you got here/back in Holland? I studied forever, then managed 3 years in the corporate world of office life in publicity, and then was let go. My last job was to develop business seminars. It involved too much talking on the phone to people that all felt they had better things to do. I felt their annoyance all the time and never got good at the dogged attitude that we were supposed to develop. Glad I was let go within a year!
- How long does it take you to make one (coconut carving)? Can’t tell you. My clock stopped the one time I tried to time it. It depends on too many factors anyway. And does it really matter? Time flies, when you’re having fun!
This list is not complete. I have referred you to this page telling you that you would find your answer here and if you don’t, or if you have another question that is not answered above, please contact me here. If it is indeed a FAQ I will answer it and add it to this page.