A Little Food…Macadamia Nuts and a Slice of the Expat Lifestyle

Last updated on June 19, 2016

The chicken bus bumped to a stop in front of the Valhalla Macadamia Nut Farm and I got my first glimpse of the expat lifestyle for Emily and Lorenzo, an expat couple that have created an entire non-profit movement in the region toward sustainable farming. The farm is about 15 minutes outside Antigua and fully trades the jostling elbowing on Antigua’s brightly colored streets for a vast expanse of trees lining the curved drive that leads into the nut farm.

Unsorted Macadamia Nuts
Unsorted Macadamia Nuts at Vahalla Farm in Guatemala

Walking down the dusty dirt path we dodge the low hanging branches and read over the signs that ask us to please leave all of the macadamia nuts on the ground. London backpacker Kat and I found the two line description of the macadamia farm in the Lonely Planet and decided it was worth the trip outside of town – a bit of adventure and escape from Antigua.

We were well rewarded for out trip outside of the city. The pace at the macadamia farm is subdued and as we wander the grounds Emily, an expat who has been running the macadamia farm for more than 30 years, scoops us out from between the macadamia trees and within minutes she’s plying us with various types of macadamia samples.

Macadamia and dark chocolate.

Cocoa covered macadamia nuts.

Macadamia nuts coated in cardamom flavored chocolate – my favorite.

Their Story and a Farm Tour

Emily and her American husband Lorenzo (he’s quite a character and will talk your ear off with good-natured cheesy jokes and his theories on the expat life in Guatemala) started the macadamia farm decades ago before it became fashionable to expat yourself in another country.

Emily from Valhalla Nut FarmRipening Macadamia NutsLorenzo from Valhalla Nut Farm


They’ve cultured some of the strongest and most disease resistant macadamia trees in the Americas and also run non-profit efforts to give macadamia trees to locals and help them create businesses and process and sell macadamia nuts.

The tour is short, sweet, and personally guided by Emily, so I was able to ask any of the questions that popped into my head about the process.

Then comes the best parts. Emily guides you into the corner of the farm’s small shop hut and Kat and I sunk back into reclining chairs. Within minutes we received our complimentary macadamia nut facial and a mini massage. It lasts a mere two minutes but the two Guatemalan women work a bit of magic in those two minutes, exfoliating your pours and then finishing it off with a dab of pure macadamia oil rubbed into your face.

Valhalla Macadamia Nut Farm
The Entrance sign for the Valhalla Macadamia Nut Farm outside of Antigua, Guatemala

Emily has me convinced as to the miracles of macadamia oil for keeping skin young – she’s over sixty but has the skin of a thirty year old. If you’re interested, a US-based woman ships this Guatemala macadamia oil throughout the US.

The Pancakes Alone are Worth the Trip

With freshened faces and a lot to think about we hunkered down at an outdoor table and prepared for some of their famous pancakes. The farm runs a small restaurant and we just couldn’t resist Emily’s sales pitch on the farm’s famous pancakes.

Macadamia and Blueberry Pancakes
Delicious macadamia pancakes smothered in macadamia butter and blueberries!

Two pancakes made with macadamia flour, smothered in the creamiest macadamia butter imaginable and topped with a dollop of blueberries from the blueberry farm they also own in own in a nearby region of Guatemala.

It was, in a word, fantastic. The macadamias are a subtle flavor but delicious.

And Emily and Lorenzo get to eat this every single day! Their farm is breezy, shady and relaxing and they both still wholly love their jobs and lives after thirty years of operating the small macadamia farm. Though I’m not saying I want to run a macadamia farm in Guatemala, it’s really fascinating to see how expats are able to make new lives in other countries that embrace completely alternative lifestyle choices than the standard nine-to-fivers and yet still find contentment.

24 thoughts on “A Little Food…Macadamia Nuts and a Slice of the Expat Lifestyle”

  1. We were there also two weeks ago and fell in love with the oil. It works miracles and wish I would have purchased more. Any way to get this in the U.S.?

    • I do have a US contact I asked them for!

      If you are outside of the US then let me know, Emilia sent me information
      for some distributors in Europe as well! :-)

      Good luck finding more – I'm hording what is left of mine!

  2. Shannon,

    The picture of those pancakes looks amazing! I love macadamia nuts… who knew you could do so much with them?!

  3. “…it’s really fascinating to see how expats are able to make new lives in other countries that embrace completely alternative lifestyle choices than the standard nine-to-fivers and yet still find contentment.”

    Quote of the year for me. Pretty much validates how I feel about motivating others to become expats. Thanks Shannon!

    • You're welcome – and thanks for checking out the site, I look forward to
      looking through yours and getting thoughts for my next plan…which is to
      expat myself somewhere rather than all of this nomadic wandering! :-)

    • I emailed them to find out for you and they recommend:
      — I will be updating the post with
      these details, this is a site that's great for the US, that works for you
      right now, right?! :-)

      • Oh my gosh THANK YOU! I'm not in the US right now, but I'll definitely buy some when I'm back in the States. Thanks again :)

    • You are most welcome Tom! I was pretty impressed myself, they simply
      could not have been happier and pleased with the lifestyle they could
      afford to live :-)

  4. Shannon,

    Had a busy week and didn’t see this posted until today. The feedback I got from the kids was awesome. Thanks so much. One girl, in particular, just a few days before said she thought that you were wasting your life because you didn’t have a “job” or a family. The day after our chat, she came to me and said she respected you and also Chris McCandless more. To have her articulate that without any prompting from me made me realize the endeavor was more successful than I could have imagined. I’ll keep following your blog and try to stay in touch as I would love to do this again next year. If any teachers have questions about the technology side of the event, I would be happy to help. I’m surprised more teachers aren’t doing this sort of thing.

    • Yikes – kids are brutally honest! But I am so glad to hear that through the
      chat she was able to come to more of an understanding :-) Makes me feel
      good that the kids were able to get something out of it.

      Definitely stay in touch and I would love to connect and do this again with
      next year’s class. Cheers! :-)

  5. Awesome that kids are reading “Into The Wild” and even more that with technology that this was even possible. Great thing on both sides (you and the teacher) as i bet at least one kid in that class was watching that will somehow inspire him on a trip someday.

    I know for me personally, it was my 5th grade geography book with a photo on the cover of Machu Picchu that made me think to myself “One day I will go there!” Fast forward 15+ years later and I made it! lol A dream is planted by the smallest things sometimes and i bet you planted many seeds in that 50min. Awesome!

    • Love that you were inspired by Machu Picchu – and even better that you’ve
      made it there :-) I definitely agree that the mere fact that the technology
      enables this is fantastic. Good to hear from you and hope you’re back on the
      web now!

  6. That is so cool — I can’t believe a middle school teacher would come up with that idea, but big kudos to him! I wish some of my teachers had been that creative. I’m so glad you were able to be an inspiration to those kids — it must be really gratifying. So exciting!

    • Thanks Emily! It was really a neat experience to be a part of :-) Agreed
      on the teacher though – mine was never that creative either!

  7. How neat!! What a great way to introduce young generation to the love of travel and an awesome opportunity to give back as well!

    • Thanks Amy – it was pretty neat all around and hopefully inspired a bit of
      wanderlust in a few of them! :-)

  8. What a cool opportunity! I spoke with my high school French teacher before I left for Nice, and she mentioned having a Skype session with one of her classes once I get settled in. I had never thought of it, but what a great idea to get the students involved and speak with someone who was once in their shoes and who is now living in France! It’s so nice to see teachers integrating technology and involving travel!

    • It’s a really rewarding experience, so I definitely think that you should
      shoot your teacher an email and take her up on the offer – plus you’ll have
      the opportunity to expose the students to such a neat experience!


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