First of all, I want to say a huge thank you for your kind words on my last post, My Story. I wrote it with the intention of sharing said story, and I was blown away by the emails and messages I received. Many of you were brave enough to share your own stories with me, and that’s amazing. That’s what this space is about – community.
Of course, I posted about my fitness journey, and disappeared. If you follow me on Instagram, you know why – I was at surf camp in Nicaragua! I’ll have more on Nicaragua and ChicaBrava soon, but now that I’ve been back in the States for a couple of days, I’ve had some time to reflect on my experience.
I stepped way outside of my comfort zone for a wealth of new experiences.
Traveling does that to you. It kicks you out of that safe of knowing what to expect. It takes you away from being able to walk into your local coffee shop and the barista know your name and order before you ever reach the counter. It takes you away from knowing the rules of the road, the location of a loaf of bread in a grocery store, and a lot of times, the ability to simply strike up a conversation with you neighbor on a train because you don’t speak the same language.
I’m really comfortable with the art of traveling. I know all the tips and tricks and hacks and apps that will make my trip smoother. I know the best snacks to take on the plane, to download my playlists and books before I get to the airport, and to always pack my raincoat, no matter what the forecast may say.
I realized when I was packing late Wednesday night that I was really comfortable with traveling. Tto Europe. All of my adventures until last week have taken me to places like London, Edinburgh, Paris, and Rome. Places where, while out of my comfort zone, a blonde haired, blue-eyed American girl can still get by with ordering her latte in a broken mix of English/French/Italian and pack her favorite well-worn Lucky booties that are perfect for traipsing about ancient architecture and cobblestone streets.
Packing for a third world country in Central America was a very different experience. Instead of chic layers and cute-yet-functional boots, my carry-on was full of athletic shorts, tank tops, bathing suits, and sandals. My personal item was chocked full of snacks, bug spray, sunscreen, a first aid kit, Ibuprofen, Pepto-Bismol, and Benedryl – just in case.
We spent our first night in Nicaragua at a Best Western in Managua. We were baffled as to why we needed a shuttle to take us quite literally across the street from the airport, but as we made the U-Turn out of the airport, we got our first glimpse of the desperate poverty that riddles Nicaragua and realized it was a safety measure. Hundreds of people live in what I hesitate to call even shacks, sleeping on mud floors and covered in filth, just on the other side of the hotel’s wall. It was going to be a common sight for the remainder of the week.
Surf camp itself was way out of my comfort zone. There I was, in a surf house in San Juan del Sur for a week with seven other women, six of whom I didn’t know. We slept in bunks, had lukewarm water, at best, lost electricity various times over, and couldn’t drink the water. It was a far cry from the hotel rooms and Airbnb flats I’ve stayed in throughout Europe.
Prior to surf camp, I had a fairly deep fear of the ocean. I was pulled under by a wave when I was younger, and tumbled around in the surf for what felt like a lifetime before my dad pulled me to the surface. I also don’t like not being able to see my feet in water, and honestly, I’m not that strong of a swimmer. There was also the fact that I had never so much as touched a surfboard before.
All of this, and I signed up for surf camp anyway.
Regardless of ocean fears and a lack of surf knowledge, I heaved my surfboard onto the roof of one of the camp’s Land Rovers each day and off to the beach I went. By my fifth attempt on day one, I was standing on my board, cruising towards the shore without fear. It was exhilarating.
There’s that saying about how the magic happens outside of your comfort zone. I’ve found that to be true time and time again. Each time I’ve taken a leap of faith, be it as simple as a new workout or as crazy as a trip to surf camp in a third world country, the reward has ultimately been greater than the risk, even if the middle was messy.
I’ve been really comfortable in my comfort zone lately. I’ve been so cozy that it has been as hard to step out of it as it is to get out of bed on an ice cold Monday morning, even if my desire to get up and start my day or try something new is there.
Traveling to Nicaragua and learning how to surf changed that.
Each day brought about new challenges, whether it was learning how to turtle roll, battling a brutal high tide, losing electricity while out to dinner, or trying to recall all the Spanish I once knew to order dinner. I tackled each one head on, and even if my order wasn’t exactly right and my legs have epic bruises to show for my turtle rolling attempts, I was reminded of the magic of leaving that comfortable place and trying something new.
I (begrudgingly) returned to the States with a renewed sense of purpose, not to mention a reminder of what can happen when I step out of my comfort zone and let the pieces fall where they may.
I learned to surf the last time I stepped out of that big, comfy space.
Who knows what I’m capable of next?