Chapin Kreuter: Battling Insecurities and Fears of the Unknown as an Expat
Our special guest on The Moving Roadmap podcast, powered by Avvinue, is Chapin Kreuter. Chapin Krueter lived in Nicaragua for 10 years and loves expats and the expat life. He also loves to surf and is a host of his own podcast.
Transcripts are automatically generated and may not be an 100% accurate transcription.
Nicole (Host): Welcome to the moving roadmap podcast powered by Avvinue. My name is Nicole, and I'll be your host for the show. In this episode, we're excited to introduce our guests. Chapin Kreuter who lived in Nicaragua for 10 years and loves expats and the expat life. He also loves to surf and as a host of his own podcast.
Welcome to the show Chapin.
Chapin Kreuter: Thanks for having me.
Nicole (Host): Absolutely. Okay. So where are you originally from?
Chapin Kreuter: We're originally from Costa Mesa, California.
Nicole (Host): Oh, nice. very nice. And you lived in Nicaragua for 10 years. Is that where you currently are?
Chapin Kreuter: Actually, no, I got quarantined here in the States and back in Costa Mesa, actually.
And then the last five years, I'm kind of straddling time in Nicaragua time in Southeast Asia, primarily, and then tying back in Southern California with family.
Nicole (Host): Oh, amazing. I mean, obviously not the part of, but, so you lived in Chicago for 10 years. Okay. Now you mentioned Thailand Southeast Asia. So do you have a home base in either of those or are you kind of going in between, what does that look like?
Chapin Kreuter: It basically after the time spent Nicaragua had had a breakwater surf retreat business in Nicaragua, which we sold. And then I kind of maintain my clientele and we did sort of this, not all a cart, but they would contact me, I'd run a house. And so I would, I base myself in Nicaragua. And then as I started trying to develop online ventures, I really needed more of a network of people who are like-minded.
So I found the dynamite circle who are kind of having it there. Their biggest event in Thailand annually. And I started going over there joining more digital nomads, like-minded people, trying to get a feel for like how people are really making money online and the things that I needed to learn in order to do the same.
Nicole (Host): Awesome. Yeah. You know, brick and mortar, digital lifestyle, completely different. it's a whole another ball game. Right. but that's great that you're able, to come across that event in Thailand and really take advantage of that. Cause that in Southeast Asia, the digital nomad lifestyle is very, very prominent.
Chapin Kreuter: It is, and it's just been the game changer for me. I was in a small fishing village, as I said for 10 years. And a lot of entrepreneurs were around me, but none of 'em really in the online space. So I just couldn't bounce ideas off anybody. No one could really help me with the troubles that I was having.
So I stumbled into this digital nomad world and specifically the dynamite circle. Like it was just, I haven't, I told them like the first day of the meeting, I was like, I've been looking for you guys for like three years.
Nicole (Host): That's awesome. I mean, and you're so right. Being in a community of people who you can bounce ideas off is so important.
You know, I'm in the tech industry. So being around people who understand when I'm talking about growth hacking, or if I'm talking about, you know, I was literally just working on my website before our call. So like so many different things. And if you're surrounded by those people, it just. Makes things move more quicker and you just feel like you get the support that you need versus, you know, sharing an idea with somebody who's like, okay, thanks.
All right. Let's talk about something else. So you hit it on with, you know, being around that community.
Chapin Kreuter: Yeah. 100%. It's game-changing.
Nicole (Host): Yeah. So, okay. Nicaragua 10 years. When did you know you wanted to move abroad and what drew you to Nicaragua?
Chapin Kreuter: Right when I was 18 or 19 best friends moved to Costa Rica, I was kind of on the university track and he's like, I'm outta here.
I don't want to go to university. So he found, a house in the portfolio, Costa Rica to rent for a year and I went to visit him. Over Christmas break and living in the jungle for three weeks, I was there, the lifestyle, the people I encountered, I just knew with every cell in my body that this is what I wanted out of life.
I just felt I had found my tribe, my people, a place that I just loved. And so after going through university and then kind of pursuing a dream of playing professional soccer, I decided that it was time to really live that dream. And. Made my way around the world with the same friend actually, and then wound up in Nicaragua.
Nicole (Host): Love it. it's funny how, like, after your first experience, right? Like when you visited Costa Rica, you're just like, okay, I need to be part of this. I need to live abroad at some point.
Chapin Kreuter: Yeah, it really was for me that, that sense of community that I'd never felt in Southern California. I really liked the small-town value systems.
Obviously the freedom, the third world kind of provides you with the lack of authority, really was something I appreciated. And, I just felt I could be my true self. In any way I really wanted and kind of create the lifestyle that I've always where I didn't even know I dreamed of, but once I was there, I was like, Oh yeah, this is, this is for me.
Nicole (Host): Isn't that amazing? Like how you can feel almost like you belong somewhere else versus where, you know, you were raised. so you found that sense of belonging there.
Chapin Kreuter: Yeah, I think that it's a topic that comes up in a lot of conversations and that's actually why try to bring forth within my own podcast is helping those who might feel stuck in their life situation, in a town, mostly in America, Canada, I'll show you where they feel like they never fit in, you know, there's options out there.
And I really try to bring stories like ours out into the world so people can get a sense for how they did it, why they did it and how they're making it work.
Nicole (Host): Absolutely. And we're definitely going to link your podcasts in the description. So anyone who's listening can follow your story. but so with your move, and I know you mentioned, can you visit it first with your friend, to Costa Rica, and then after you went to university professional soccer.
Awesome. and then you made your way around the world. So how long did it take you to officially decide, you know what, I'm moving? Because I know there's, there's so many different stages in life, but how long does it take you to feel ready?
Chapin Kreuter: It was a combination of after the year on the road with a friend, I did come back to Costa Mesa.
I had missed my family. I was the longest I'd ever spent away from my family. So obviously reconnecting with them was important to me. but within the first few months of being back, I really. Knew that I wanted to get out as soon as I could, it took nine months though to find, or just actually rekindle a relationship.
I had a friend of mine since high school. And I had heard what he was doing down in Nicaragua. And I asked him if I could come down and join him for the start of his surf camp, to which he said, yes. And within two weeks I had quit my job. And I was down in Nicaragua and not really having a plan of staying for 10 years, but.
Knowing that this was going to be something that I really was going to enjoy and was going to milk it for everything it was worth. So in fact, he actually left after the first year and I stayed with two other business partners for, I stayed 10, they stayed five.
Nicole (Host): Wow. You were in it for the long haul.
That's awesome. and to even start a surf camp in a foreign country, like congrats to that because, you know, that's. Really difficult for many people to go abroad and, you know, start a venture. And you being able to rekindle with your friend from high school really probably helped start that, for you to easily more easily move abroad.
Chapin Kreuter: Oh yeah. I mean, for me, I was so lucky to stumble into that friendship again and have that opportunity because I don't think I would have done it on my own it's as you noted. Difficult, especially in the third world, you have a mountain to climb every single day, just with local political employees, the government.
And it never gets easier. After 10 years, it never got any easier. And I realized very quickly that it's a lifestyle. And if you can generate enough income to maintain your lifestyle, you are blessed because. Over the years I spent in Nicaragua, I saw so many people come and so many people go with just so many broken dreams and, their head between their hands, just not knowing where, you know, their, their life savings had gone or the desire that they had come down with.
So horrible wholeheartedly to help these people. And then left with a bad taste in their mouth because they had just been robbed of everything, you know?
Nicole (Host): Oh, wow. Wow. And that kind of goes. Yeah, absolutely. And you know, that's what we also like to talk about because for people who are listening and they're planning their move abroad, you know, not everything is sunshine and rainbows, it's there's challenging aspects.
And even how you mentioned a third world country, There's all kinds of other things too, to think about, politically and, and, different angles like that. So what would you say was the most challenging aspects?
Chapin Kreuter: When I first got there, the most challenging aspect was daily life. I lived in a small fishing village of 500 people.
We were the first gringos to live full time in the village. our house didn't have water. So we had to go to the well every day with a makeshift like water unit attached to the back of our truck and pump water to fill the tank, which then we drove back to fill our water tanks. So that on a daily, you know, would take hours.
and I was very limited in my Spanish and the amount of anxiety. I had to go to the well where women were like the bucket out of the well and washing their clothes. And I was like dropping this giant hose into their wealth and sucking out thousands upon thousands of gallons of water made me feel genuinely very uncomfortable and that didn't go away for a long time.
So it's just, but it was also a blessing in that. It was the first time of my life. I've felt like an active participant in my life. You know, living in such a cushy place in Southern California like the grocery stores are filled with food at all times. gas is easily accessible. Like everything is just so easy, even though obviously it's not for everybody in comparison.
It's so easy here compared to there. And that was the first time in my life that I really felt present and an active participant in my own sort of daily survival, if you will, even though I was never going to like starve or anything like that.
Nicole (Host): Yeah. And that's amazing that you just share that story.
Cause I think that it really paints a. A great picture of, you know, what your daily life was, but also, you know, you have a great heart. and I think that shows really well just in what you shared. Thank you. So walk us through like the steps you took. And I know you mentioned like took several months rekindled with your friend, but once you decided you were going to move.
What steps did you take? And I know it was 10, 10 plus years ago. So curious to know like what that was like?
Chapin Kreuter: Yeah, of course, it's a, something that comes up with my audience. It's a lot in my podcast. So I know, I didn't know exactly what you're asking, which is that decision to go was already in me. Like I was going no matter what when that opportunity came to me or I got so sick of living in America, that I was forced.
So the opportunity that was presented to me was. A lot easier because it was just a presentation of an opportunity that I was already would have been interested in. So then the step after that, where obviously notify my boss, that I'd be leaving within two weeks. I've always had a rule of having at least two to $3,000 a month bank account before I leave.
So I'm always saving. You know, I try to pay myself first, with every paycheck, pay 10 to 20% of the gross of my paycheck, put it into a savings account for either investment or travel. so I had that two to $3,000. In fact, I think it was only 2000 at the time, that I could buy a one-way ticket with land, with whatever I had left, you know, and say like 1600 bucks.
And from the year of travel, I had done six months prior, nine months prior. I traveled for a year with $3,500. So I was, well,
Nicole (Host): Wow, okay.
Chapin Kreuter: On very, very little. And knowing that I had a place to go where I have a room at least, or a place to sleep, was obviously very comforting cause I had a contact there.
So. After the plane ticket was purchased. I put my two weeks in, all I had to do was, you know, put a few things in a, a tote in the garage at my parents' house, and pack my surfboards. And then I left. And, that's kind of the end of that.
Nicole (Host): Awesome. And I like how you mentioned like you bought your plane ticket first, and then you notified your boss.
It's almost like when you buy the plane tickets like this is happening, right?
Chapin Kreuter: Yes. For sure. That is definitely one way of doing it's not for everybody, but I'm somebody, if I say it out loud, then I am committed to doing it. So yes. Buying a plane ticket is an act of like, this has happened. Absolutely.
Nicole (Host): So what were some things, you didn't expect to happen during your move?
Chapin Kreuter: I didn't expect the amount of insecurities to come up throughout the first few years that I was down there. Like I still to this day get travel anxiety. So that's very familiar to me and was familiar to me back then. You know, the fear of the unknown is, is very real within me. So especially when you're landing in a foreign country, you don't speak the language, you have that sense of anxiety of like, Oh, my gosh, what could possibly happen next?
You know, you just don't know. but what I didn't expect was, The insecurities that I had about certain things that I didn't really understand, like the language, I didn't know. I wasn't that gifted at learning languages. So even to this day, my Spanish is terrible and it's, it's something that's like really, after 10 years, you still can't speak Spanish that well, And then being put in, like I said, the situations of like having to go pump water with a water pump, I've never used a water pump.
Like turning it on was an issue. Like we were in an environment where we were still having to build portions of the house, like power tools. I didn't grow up in a family that like, we work with our hands that much. So that was like the, like, you know, it's kind of embarrassing to be around a bunch of guys who know how to use power tools like mmm.
And then that mixed with. I mean something I already knew just because of the travels was like just how genuinely kind the people of Nicaragua were. You know, what the stigma was. Stigma was still very strong in 2005. When I landed, you know, from the revolution they had in the late seventies, early eighties, a lot of my family was obviously very concerned about my wellbeing going down there since they remember it.
So well, And landing and just realizing like the war is over, you know, nobody is interested in conflict. All they want to do is show you how beautiful their country is and, and, and how welcoming they were. So I think. Those were the two biggest things I hadn't expected.
Nicole (Host): And I love that you bring that up, you know, with the insecurities, because we all have some form of insecurity and it somehow seems to come out during.
Almost difficult or challenging, frustrating times. And when you move abroad your experience with so many different cultures and barriers and things like that, that can bring out those insecurities. And I know. For many experts that have been on our podcast and just that I've met as well. You know, they may not always say it up upfront.
Right. But it's something that we battle inside and part of that growth that we go through by living abroad. So I'm glad you brought that up and even gave really great examples, of how that, you know, what you did at expect when you moved.
Chapin Kreuter: Well, thank you. Yeah, just one thing to add to it. It's like travel and then becoming an expat brings you into such a state of presence because you're encountering stimuli that you've never encountered before.
And that then exposes who you really are. You know, you're not the glorified hero of your story anymore. Like you are bare naked, standing there having to deal with the situation, a foreign language, and you're just reacting or responding in the best way. You know-how, which sometimes can be tremendously demoralizing when you realize that, like you haven't either behaved.
In a polite way or that you just didn't behave in the way that you had always expected. So if you do that enough, you get pretty close to the root of who you are and you can then build upon all those insecurities and non strengths, if you will, to create that beautiful person you want to be.
Nicole (Host): Yeah, absolutely.
And that's the thing like we're always changing, always evolving. So, you know, being able to reflect. And find, okay, who am I? What do I want to improve on is the perfect opportunity. Because you know, when you're back home, people like to say, Oh, they feel like they know you, right? Like it's hard to change or be somebody else when you're around people who they like you to say the same, in some ways.
So it's nice how you mentioned that.
Chapin Kreuter: Thank you.
Nicole (Host): So now looking back, what would you have done differently in planning your move?
Chapin Kreuter: Nothing. There's nothing I would have done differently.
Nicole (Host): Nice.
Chapin Kreuter: Yeah. I really don't have anything to add to that. Like I, I just have all I've been away and started new lives now in so many different places that I always kind of do it the same way.
And so there's. Nothing that I can say I've ever done in a way that I was regretful of. It's just always been pick a spot land, obviously do a little bit of research before land and then figure it out as I go. And that really works well for me. I know there's a lot of planners out there who want to hear something else, but like we kind of said, like I buy the ticket and then I tell my boss when I'm leaving.
And that works well for me.
Nicole (Host): Absolutely. So now, like, especially with this glow, digital nomad lifestyle, it works perfectly for the adventurous person to book a ticket and go. so. Sounds like you're on the right path. Now, what advice would you give to someone considering to move abroad? So either moving abroad as, you know, five years, 10 years, or even digital nomad lifestyle, what advice would you give to someone?
Chapin Kreuter: I think taking that first step in getting real serious with yourself and not filling yourself with a bunch of nonsense of like I can't, or especially in America, the amount of fear that's. Just inject into us through the media. It's just, it's so such a sad state here in America. I would sit down with yourself and have a serious conversation of like, what do you want to get out of this?
You know, what is your goal? And then acting upon it rather than continue to make excuses, because there's always a reason to not do something, but. One thing I've learned is that I've never regretted going out and doing it. I don't look back on one trip I've ever taken or one place I've ever lived and said, like that was a bad decision.
You know, even if I didn't have the money, like the last few years I've been living. Off my credit cards, trying to make my online ventures work and I've acquired way more credit card debt than I've ever wanted, but there is not one single amount of regret in me for having lived in Thailand for six months, you know, or, you know, just jetting around the world to these different conferences.
Like that's one thing you'll never look back. And I would say confidently that you'll ever regret is. Going and doing it.
Nicole (Host): Love it. So if you're listening and you're considering going abroad, just do it, take that adventure experience it, find out, of course, like you said, what's your goal? What do you want to get out of it?
It's really important to do that reflection, self-reflection and figuring out what's the best path.
Chapin Kreuter: Absolutely.
Nicole (Host): All right. So I like to always ask our guests. What's the best city you visited.
Chapin Kreuter: There's so many wonderful ones, but Hanoi really stands out for me. I just Hanoi was something that I hadn't expected.
And, it kind of contrast, it is everything I love about countries that are still kind of up and coming and you know, that kind of edginess that I love about places. Also, like street drinking and you can sit and just have a beer on any corner, which is amazing.
Nicole (Host): Nice. Very nice. All right. So thank you so much for sharing your story.
Like, I think this is really great for our listeners who are, you know, also trying to figure out where they should go, what they should do and how you were able to, you know, shift from being an expert to even a digital nomad, completely opposite side of the world. Right. And I'm making. Making it happen. So I appreciate you sharing that.
So where can our listeners find you on social?
Chapin Kreuter: Thank you again, Nicole, for having me. I do appreciate you. And, what you're doing, you can find me on Instagram at “misfitsandrejects” or my website is “misfitsandrejects.com”
Nicole (Host): Awesome. Thank you so much. So for those of you listening, definitely follow Chapin on his journey.
And also we'll just give a shout out, I guess, the dynamite circle that you kept mentioning. It seems like a really great opportunity for those, you know, considering the digital nomad lifestyle. So, thanks again, for joining the show. We appreciate it.
Chapin Kreuter: You're welcome to call. Thank you.