We first met Carolyn Speers while visiting the tiny island of Utila, Honduras in 2013 on a diving trip. Although not a diver herself, she had chosen to make Utila her home. We were intrigued as to why and even more intrigued as to her most recent decision to relocate once again.
She shares her story of her ongoing search for Utopia below. We admire her strength, willingness and her ability to correct and continue when things do not go as planned.
In the winter of 2010, she was stressed and struggling financially. Approaching retirement age, recently divorced and dissatisfied with the expense and stress of living in the states she knew it was time to leave her home in Madison, Wisconsin. She spent the next 10 months researching and planning her move. Then sold her belongings, packed a few possessions and flew to Utila in August 2011.
Carolyn was in search of simplicity, beauty, serenity and purpose. Did she find what she was looking for? Her answer was a resounding yes.
She told us “the cost of living is much lower, and the pace of life is slower. Life in general is simpler. Health care is affordable and doctors/dentists are top-notch. People are happier and no one is in a hurry. I fall asleep to the sound of the surf outside my window and awaken to the most glorious sunrises. I am surrounded by beauty and never have to wear a jacket or shovel snow”.
Carolyn was seeking a new sense of purpose and found it here, she told us “I felt there was a purpose for me in Utila & boy, was I right!” She volunteered for a community organization and devoted more time to writing.
Carolyn, lovingly known as the pie lady back home then decided to use her flair for the perfect crust to launch Paradise Pies. Little did she realize that the natural progression of Paradise Pies would change how she felt about her life in Utila. It would lead to some serious challenges and changes.
She shared her reasons for deciding that Utila was not the Utopia she had hoped and why she is relocating once again. “My love affair with Utila began to wane when I opened my tea and pastry shop, Utila Tea Cup, on October 1, 2014. Hoping to give back to the community by going into partnership with a local woman, I followed the recommendation of another business owner ex-pat, but was disillusioned even before the opening day.
While I worked 24/7 to get the place open, she decided to take a vacation to visit her sister on mainland Honduras. It wasn’t long before I realized that her claim to be a baker was also a figment of her imagination…and from there it went downhill quickly. Personal items were stolen from me; guidelines were not followed; lies and deceit were becoming commonplace…and then the break-ins began. We, as well as the gallery below us, were losing inventory at a rapid pace. Honduran law requires that the victim pay the expenses of the criminal if he/she is caught and prosecuted, so I felt like a pawn in a rigged chess game. Ridding myself of an unprincipled partner proved to be a costly endeavor as well. Once again, the Honduran government was treating the victim as the criminal and I was required to pay a hefty price to free myself.
My dream of helping a local to succeed, of paying it forward, of creating a unique and profitable enterprise in Utila, had gone awry. When the fifth, and final, break-in occurred, I knew it was time to move on. At first, there was anger, disappointment, sadness and disbelief. I had been so happy in Utila…how could this happen? Upon further contemplation, however, I realized that I didn’t have to focus on the negatives. I could take with me all the beauty I had found there…warm breezes, amazing sunsets, lasting friendships, a better understanding of a different culture, serenity and a deeper sense of spirituality…while learning the lessons from what had occurred, but refusing to let the negatives overshadow the positives.
Not wanting to return to the fast-paced life in the United States, I began to research easier, cheaper, happier places to live. Having been to both Belize and Guatemala, they were the first places I looked into. However, the Visa requirements were not much different from Honduras, and I didn’t want to move to a country where I was required to leave the country for any length of time every few months.
It was then that I began to focus on Mexico. U.S. citizens are allowed to stay in Mexico for 6 months. A quick crossing of the border and you can return immediately for another six months. In many areas of Mexico, there are well-established ex-pat communities. The transportation system is widespread and efficient, and the cost of a bus or taxi ride is extremely reasonable.
I then moved on to the next phase of my research and began to look for areas of interest. I thought, perhaps, it would be interesting to try the Pacific Coast, since I had been living on the Caribbean for several years. I found a Facebook page, ‘On the Road in Mexico’ and joined…then asked where people enjoyed visiting or living along the western coastline. Some people liked the touristy feel of Puerto Vallarta, but many more recommended the smaller towns of . I focused on smaller communities, but those with certain amenities that are important to me such as pharmacies, clinics, a good coffee shop, a marketplace and clean beaches.
I checked out long-term rentals on www.jaltembabaylife.com and found a couple of excellent rentals for $350/month, all-inclusive. Three people from the Facebook page live in La Penita and they were very forthcoming with valuable information”. La Penita it is to be! She gave up her apartment in Utila, sold her belongings and arranged a visit with family before her big move.
The universe is lining things up for her. She secured a perfectly timed housesitting position in La Penita, giving her a base from which to find a new home and a warm welcome when she launches once again in July 2015.
She told us “I’m excited about the new adventure awaiting me. Utila was a lovely chapter in my life…one that I will always remember fondly…but it was time for a change. Now I’ll see how this new change will impact my life”.
Her advice to others is “Don’t be afraid to take a risk. I’m not suggesting you should act impulsively, but it’s OK to follow your dreams. Don’t limit yourself with excuses like “I can’t be that far away from my grandchildren” or “I can’t leave my home and my friends” or “I don’t know if I’ll be able to tolerate the bugs/heat/or the language barrier”. Be brave. Embrace life. Challenge yourself. You may just find Utopia, the road may not be straight though, sometimes you have to correct and continue.”
Dream Big – Live Large