Recently, I returned from a trip to the beautiful country of Nicaragua. I mean, some may already know that becaue I bombarded everyone with countless Instagram posts and the obligatory airport check-in the day I peaced outta the freezing-ass cold. Before I left, I had a number of people ask, “Why Nicaragua?” as the new destination I was about to conquer. In their opinion, it seemed an unconventional choice, especially for a delicate black women like myself, and even more so because I planned on traveling solo.
While Nicaragua is not yet (mark my words) the #1 go-to Central American destination for most people, simply because it’s not as known as say, Costa Rica and Panama are, the underrated once-in-a-blue-moon hidden-gem appeal was exactly what attracted me there.
A good friend of mine lived in Nicaragua after we had lived in Korea at the same time. He had done a big trip all over Central America, but Nicaragua is the place that stole his heart. Trusting his judgement and after a lot of research, the planning began. Call it weird coincidence or the laws of attraction, but as my research began, the more I heard of people in my circle that had gone to Nicaragua, and they came with many suggestions, anecdotes and nothing but amazing tales from this far away land. I was pumped. And having traveled there now, and experiencing it’s beauty and rawness (I was literally living in the jungle, minutes from the beach, surrounded by it’s beautiful and happy people) I’m so glad that I got to go.
Unlike most trips that I have taken in the recent past, I felt a deep need to set intentions to learn something about myself on this trip. I didn’t put pressure on myself about what that would be, and it could’ve been as simple as realizing that to my surprise I’m not actually a morning person, but it was my quiet prayer to seek growth or truth or revelation during this time. If this trip was one that I’d spend in solidarity, then I would. If I made a friend – even if it was the howler monkey that woke me up each morning – then I was open to that as well. But as my timing would have it, the minute I arrived, I was embraced with an immense amount of love and comfort and met such amazing, like-minded, creative, humorous fun-loving explorers who would not only make my trip, but will probably be in my life forever.
I should preface the rest of what I’m about to say with the fact that yes, from a creative point of view, 2016 was a really successful year for me. Getting published and being creatively recognized is a dream I have always hoped for. But as any writer knows, the writing process often comes as a result of a lot of emotional anguish, and last year I endured more inner turmoil than I care to admit. What primarily contributed to this was that I knew I needed to quit the job I was in. It was making me unhappy for many reasons, chiefly that I wasn’t growing anymore, and as a result it began to make me complacent. That complacency started to turn into fear that nothing would ever change, it made me resent my own life, the people around me, and ultimately that fear made me lose confidence in the person I fundamentally know that I am.
I know that work isn’t everything – like in theory, I know this to be true. But for an over-ambitious go-getting goal-setting type like me who thiiiiinks she’s a pretty good worker, I felt undervalued (and evidently quite self-righteous as it would appear) and pigeon-holed in my potential. More times than not, that feeling of inadequacy translated into, “I’m not valued in my friendships” or, “I’m not valuable enough to love” and it made me question my faith, and most importantly, myself.
When I finally came to a place of awareness about the root of my discontent, I made a decision to leave the role I was in, to pursue more creative writing opportunities, a better fitting role, and to travel. The only caveat of course was that the decision to leave my job didn’t mean I had a new one, and the job hunt, my friends, is no joke. But I made the conscious decision to not keep waiting for things to change and not live in fear anymore.
I planned this trip while still at my old job, and got called for the new role I’m in just days after I booked it. Thankfully they respected that I had made these awesome plans, so I gave my notice, and set out on an adventure. This trip came at the right time. I was ready to let go of the past and the emotional baggage I was carrying and move into the future with a renewed and revived spirit.
And I really did. Sometimes the only antidote you need in life is simply to remove yourself from that which you’re so deeply connected with. In this case, it was the monotony of my everyday routine. And granted, I’d done a lot of traveling last year prior to this trip, but like I said, there was something different about this one. Those intentions I had set meant so much more, and while I was gone, I felt so silly and so selfish that I wasted all this time in the last 365ish days in a state of self-doubt, pity and crippling fear.
I met so many rad and beautiful people on this adventure. My roommates for the majority of the time that I was at the Maderas Village were three fabulous 20-somethings from New York. They felt like home right away and our mutual bond was such a saving grace. It’s cool when you can connect with people you’ve never met, but all of a sudden can’t imagine your life without. And others will always meet you where you are too, but you have to meet yourself there first. And that can only happen when you have the courage to let go and realize that you’re not in control. As soon as I fully accepted that, my ego shed and doors opened. Doors I didn’t think could be opened because I was so focused on certain things coming to fruition that I completely negated the possibility of anything else.
On the Sunday of my trip I received some tragic news from home about the passing of a friend. There is never a right time to hear bad news, but this was a particularly difficult time because I was so far from home. So there on the beach in San Juan Del Sur, gutted by the news, I was comforted by my two of my new friends, with the warmth of the sun on my face and the ocean washing up at my feet.
I can’t quite describe the juxtaposition of emotions I felt in that very moment. It was utter devastation and complete bliss all in a single second. I realized that I never ever wanted to waste time worrying or thinking about inconsequential things in my life any more. Jobs would come and go, things would begin and end, financial security would go up and down…. but self-love, and the people in your life? That’s the shit that matters the most. There I was, sobbing in pain about something so senseless happened to someone I knew, but also sobbing in complete delight that in that very moment I had a choice to turn it all around and give myself a second chance.
On my final night on this trip, I was petrified about the decision I had made to start a new chapter in my life. But I remembered that there was nothing to fear anymore. It didn’t matter how things would work out, so long as they were done with lots of heart, in love, and perfect love casts out all fear. Every time.
I know it’s a little corny and you may be think “k, Danai relax, it’s not that deep” but, I’d like to believe that instead of me choosing Nicaragua, that Nicaragua chose me. And man, life always chooses you; you just have to open your heart and mind enough to listen to what it has to say. Leave room in your life for that type of feeling, because it’s always waiting for you to embrace it, I promise you. Leave room for your dreams, for the unexpected, for surprise, for adventure, for mystery, and as much as you can, don’t let fear get in the way. We’ aren’t promised to never feel afraid; it’s a natural feeling. But when we do get scared, we should just do it any way, you know?
It’s a great feeling to be loved where you’re met. Not in a place of who you can be or what you can do. But in the now. I forgot what that feeling was like, because in this low season of my life, I wasn’t giving myself that very courtesy. The habitual roller-coaster-of-a-journey we call life always starts with you, and how big and beautiful it is will be is in direct proportion to how brave and self-assured you are. Without that, nothing else matters and more importantly, nothing can change or get better.
Courage. Courage I asked for. But courage I gave myself. Traveling does that, I’ve often said to friends or people I meet abroad or even here at home, it’s just like Confucius said, no matter where you go, there you are. There I was. And for the first time in a long time I really liked what I was. All flawed stretched-marked dimpled bit of me in all of her glory. And my personal freedom meant that those around me could also be free too.
I’m back to my (albeit extraordinary) regularly scheduled life, but the gift I’ve been given is that I know for sure that I never ever ever want to forget the feeling of immense gratitude and simplicity about what life is all about: good people, good conversation, good drink, good food, good work and lots of love. It took me going away to remember what I already knew. It took meeting people I didn’t know to meet myself again. It took the friends I have here at home to continue to love me even though it was harder than usual to do so.
And I know moving forward that I’ll have my moments. And I know it’s going to be hard. It’s not meant to be easy, I’m not naïve to that fact. I’ll curse each cold day and moment in traffic but I’ll also remember that every breath I take is a massively huge gift.
No matter where I continue to go, there I will continue to be. All of me. Even the parts I don’t want to deal with, or the parts that are often difficult to love. But I’ll honour them anyway, with bravery and humour and curiosity and gratitude.
So muchas gracias Nicaragua. You chose me to find those places within myself again.
Author: Danai Mushayandebvu
Author Bio: Danai Mush is a PR pro and freelance writer who still feels 17 at heart. While she has no formal dance training whatsoever, she hopes to be part of a professional hip hop troupe some day. You can follow her escapades on Instagram and Twitter, or on her website, mushlove.ca
Link to social media or website: http://mushlove.ca