I got to retire 11 years early by moving to Nicaragua.

I can live on about $1,000 (or less) a month…and I’m not scrimping. In fact, I can enjoy more here than I could in the U.S. when I had a great salary. I eat out when I want…travel around the country…visit the U.S. once a year…and generally have a better quality of life.

In 2007 I was a technical writer in San Diego, with Fortune 500 companies as clients and a nice home in a great neighborhood. But when I went on a vacation to Nicaragua, I didn’t want to leave. I immediately fell in love with the country and daydreamed about living my life there.

The pristine lakes, rivers and beaches, the majestic volcanoes, and the as yet untouched jungles offered nature in its original splendor and endless days of hiking and exploring. The Nicaraguan people greeted me with an old-world friendliness that I had not seen in years. I knew I would make many good friends here.

The fresh fruits and vegetables from local farms and daily, fresh-caught fish satisfied my healthy eating habits. In addition to all the physical beauty and simple opportunities, Nicaragua also offered a better quality of life at a much lower price. The big stress factors of the U.S.—traffic, keeping up with the Joneses, and worrying about money, did not exist in Nicaragua. Life here was easy, peaceful, and happy every day.

Before the end of my vacation I put down a non-refundable $25,000 deposit on a house.

The huge property market crash in the U.S. came just as I got back from that vacation leaving me with a huge dilemma. I could try to hang on to my work in the U.S. and lose the $25,000 deposit…or just go and take my chances in a financially reeling world.

The main thought I kept throwing around in my head was that the cost to live in Nicaraguawas about one tenth of my costs in San Diego. At least I could get by there on my savings for several years. If I stayed in San Diego, I would lose everything.

So I moved to Nicaragua 90 days later.

Now, I live in the Pacific coast beach town of San Juan del Sur where I own a two-bedroom, two-bathroom home on almost an acre of land with an ocean view.

I’ve learned Spanish, I’m taking marimba lessons, and have taken painting, yoga, Zumba, and belly-dancing classes. My friends hail from all over the world.

And I’m generating new forms of income…I’m doing marketing for the most popular beach restaurant in town…I do translations for a local online news report…and I’m the Nicaragua correspondent for International Living—my dream job come true.

I’m connected to my community, do volunteer work, and have never been happier. San Juan del Sur is small, maybe about 10,000 people with about 1,000 expats. Even if we are not close friends, we all know each other. If we’re in a jam, we only have to ask for help on the expats website on Facebook.

It’s a beach town with a beautiful bay, surrounded by 22 other beaches. It’s almost always sunny, warm weather all year round, no traffic, no stress, no negatives, and fabulous coffee. I’ve found my niche; Nicaragua is definitely the place I was supposed to live.

In hindsight, it was the best move I could have made. All of my technical writing friends lost their jobs. I would have too…which means I would have lost my house, my car, my life.

I tell people that had I stayed in California, I would be living under a bridge. Everyone laughs, but it’s not far from the truth.