What I Learned from My Trip to Nicaragua

I am currently in those post-graduation months that envelope you, confuse you, and for the most part, overwhelm you. As fall waits impatiently behind the door, I’m reminded once more that I will not be attending a semester at my university. While I’m somewhat nostalgic, I’m also aware that I’m ready for this next chapter in my life. Somehow college already feels like a different era.

After graduating in January, I was finally in the right place to plan a trip to Nicaragua. This trip had been in the back of my mind for a good six months prior to buying my plane ticket. The initial reason was to visit someone who is very important to me and has been in my life for years. The second reason was my innate desire to learn and travel. I daydreamed about volcanoes and beaches, anything that was not New Jersey. I wanted to put distance between College Me and Graduate Me. I knew even before going that this trip would be carried with me for the rest of my life.

I have traveled overseas before. During college, I studied abroad in London, England. But this was different. I was going to a country where I did not speak the native language. I was traveling completely alone (my layover in Houston created some anxiety) and the culture itself was one I had never experienced.

It was due to these differences and this completely new experience that I learned (and relearned) lessons that help build Me, just Me, and contribute my ultimate growth.

Volcan Masaya. Photo from Amy Vaughn.

Volcan Masaya. Photo from Amy Vaughn.

The biggest lesson I learned from my trip to Nicaragua was true appreciation. I am guilty of blindly stating that I’m aware of my blessings and that I appreciate everything, yet I can find myself getting angry over the littlest things (if we’re talking specifics…usually bad drivers).

It’s one thing to say you’re aware of your blessings and it’s another to really mean it. True appreciation came from watching how other people lived, and the overall attitude over the people I came into contact with in Nicaragua. People were genuinely good-spirited. They were happy with what we may consider “less,” though after my trip, I really think we, Americans, are the ones with “less.”

On my second day in Nicaragua, a friend also took us into the barrios of Granada. We met some of the children that he was working with through a non-profit organization called Education Plus Nicaragua.

My feet slipped and slid over the dirt roads as we walked through the neighborhood. I smelled food cooking, heard the sound of televisions through the windows, and saw children playing. As my friend gave some of the children gifts, such as marbles and a soccer jersey, it was moving to watch the gratitude on their faces. The true gift that I saw was genuine pleasure of each other’s company, and humanity. It was humbling.

La Laguna de Apoyo. Photo from Amy Vaughn.

La Laguna de Apoyo. Photo from Amy Vaughn.

I also learned how much I missed nature. This hit me like a wave. Nicaragua is gorgeous. Magnificent. When I went to La Laguna de Apoyo, I swam out to the dock. The lake water felt like bath water, silk, against my skin. As I lay on the dock, I said to my friend, “How can people not believe in God? This is God, surrounding me. The land is filled with peace.” I’ve never been one to feel comfortable talking about religion out loud, but it fit. I felt it very deeply.

When I went to the Volcan Masaya, and hiked up the extinct volcano (right next to a live one), I marveled at the steam rising into the sky. My eyes scanned the landscape crafted by lava years ago. The black soil, the abundance of life that had grown from it, the warm sun shining down and burning my skin; all of this gave me inner peace. I remembered myself as a little girl lying in the grass for hours, staring at the sky, and I was finding that feeling again here.

Nature was giving me time for reflection. It was breaking me away from checking my phone and worrying about the next phase of my life. It grounded me. I was in the here and now, and I was surrounded by what I would call a heaven on earth. It fed my soul.

My trip to Nicaragua taught me that there are other ways to live. In theory, we all know this. My trip taught me that I was born in a country with certain opportunities and I should recognize that. It also taught me that there are things I don’t like about where I’m living, and that’s okay. I was intoxicated with a completely different culture. I found similarities in our lifestyles, but the differences called to me.

Catarina, Nicaragua. Photo from Amy Vaughn.

Catarina, Nicaragua. Photo from Amy Vaughn.

At the very end of my trip, I found myself sitting on a beach in Nicaragua, watching the sun cushion itself against the Pacific. It was my first time in the Pacific Ocean. I wanted to have more firsts. I wanted to see how other people lived. I wanted to go to Thailand, Israel, Germany, and a thousand other places.

The trip intensified my desire to learn and travel. It intensified the way I viewed my own country, the good and the bad. At the same time, it made me fall in love with my home all the more. In my few trips abroad, I’ve never found trees and forests like I can find in New Jersey.

My trip to Nicaragua taught me that the world feeds you, cleanses you, and is at our disposal. There’s a famous quote by Harun Yahya that I’ve always loved: “I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question.”

I encourage us all to fly and to live.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: AMY VAUGHN9d54e19e059511e2a62d1231380fd04a_7

As a Montclair State University graduate with a BA in English, my first love is writing, specifically nonfiction and short stories. International human rights and women’s rights are also strong passions of mine. I hope to someday be able to call myself Chief Editor, human rights advocate, and jewelry designer. I can’t live without Mad Men (er, Netflix), soy chai lattes, or my adorable Wheaten terrier, Pippin. 

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