The road to Popoyo is a road not typically traveled… on a 40-foot school bus.
We, bus mates Roger, Katie, Amara and I, arrived to this spot, Camping Luna, in 4 hours on a dirt road and with 20 local Nicaraguan men maneuvering the bus into the narrow entrance of the campground. For two weeks we stayed, embracing the beach bum lifestyle. Wake up, cook frijoles and eggs for breakfast on our outdoor gas stove, go to the beach to surf or wade in the tide pool, papaya bowl for lunch, hammock nap, read, journal, back to the beach for sunset, cook dinner, usually rice and beans again, then in bed before 9pm, drained from the hot and sunny day.
That was basically as much schedule as I had for these two weeks camping beachside, no calendar necessary. You could think of it as a waste of time, or a place of growth. I believe, for me, it was the latter. In this time with little wifi, my choice to limit myself to about one hour a day, and for two days didn’t connect at all, I was able to really dig deep and get truly acquainted with myself amongst this time of simple living.
I read two books during this time, thanks to Katie letting me borrow, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and Essential Writings by Thich Nhat Hanh. Big Magic, a book about harnessing your creativity without fear, was a great reminder for me to write everyday. No matter what. Not just blog, but write for the sole purpose of nurturing my craft, doing something creative that I enjoy on a daily basis.
Thich Nhat Hanh is a monk from Vietnam, and was a warrior for peace during the time of the Vietnam War, and still to this day. His teachings are from his Buddhist background, however can be implemented into every life. In Popoyo I did my best to implement his teaching of presence. From this I feel I had a breakthrough in connecting with my surroundings. When I walked I felt the soles of my feet deepened into the sand with each step, as I washed dishes after cooking I really engaged my attention on the way the soap slid along the dish’s surface, making them clear once again. I still executed all the seemingly mundane tasks of my day, some more difficult than others due to living on a school bus, but by simply becoming aware of what I was doing rather than getting lost in my thoughts, everything became much more pleasant.
Reading became my main form of entertainment for these two weeks living beach side. A way to continue educating myself and learn something new. That and playing a card game called Monopoly Deal with fellow campers, an Australian couple named Zac and Bre. The two have been traveling for one year from California to Costa Rica, surfing and becoming fluent in Spanish along the way. Zac, Bre, Roger and I would spend long afternoons playing this shortened card game version of Monopoly. The game itself would last about 30 minutes or so, and would become quite competitive. Their last night before traveling to their next stop of the Corn Islands (on my list for my next Nicaragua trip), we played our final few games of Monopoly Deal together on the bus. We brought out the disco ball our bus supplied and shined a headlamp underneath it to turn it aglow, put on glow stick glasses and finished a bottle of Flor De Caña. With no distraction of the Internet, all together sitting in a school bus on a beach in rural Nicaragua, we connected and genuinely enjoyed each other’s company, just a few fellow travelers crossing paths along our journey.
Surfing was also a form of entertainment, but more so exercise and a mental challenge for me. I surfed for three days, for at least two hours each of those days, and maybe stood up twice. Learning a new skill is very humbling, there were times I grew extremely frustrated, would lug the long board back to the beach and sit there to reassess the situation, then go out again only to be pounded by the strong current again and again. Although I wasn’t really ‘surfing,’ I did learn a few things. I certainly feel more comfortable in the water, whereas at the very beginning of this trip in Panama I didn’t get in the water for two weeks, intimidated by the size of the of the crashing waves. Now I was good with constantly going under water, getting salt water up my nose, and in fact it was really exciting, fighting the waves and working hard to paddle out further and further to where the waves form. I felt surfing was just as much of a mental battle than physical. Right when I reached the point of being utterly defeated and ready to give up, I would have a tiny breakthrough, whether it be feeling that moment of catching a wave or even finding my footing on the board for one second, those little glimmers of hope kept me going.
On the days that I choose to take a break from the struggle, I took the inflatable swan out. That’s right, a blow up swan thanks to Amara for bringing it from the states. When the waves were calm and not breaking as harshly, Roger and I would take the giant swan out. I would still gain physical exertion by using my arms to paddle out, but I then would lay with my head resting on the tail of the swan like a pillow, and sun bathe as the gentle rocking of waves pushed me back to shore. It was great comic relief for fellow surfers, and a fun and way to be on the water.
There was no interference from the busyness of life, and I was truly able to enjoy the simple life in its most natural form. Watching ants at work as if it were a Netflix show, playing with hermit crabs for hours on end, gathering interesting sea shells during long walks, tossing sticks at the crabs (they like sticks for some reason).
I told myself if there’s nothing else I accomplish while I’m here, it’s watching the sunset every evening. And I did, all eleven of them. Each sunset was special, the first night there were rays that alternated shades of pink and blue, illuminating the dimming sky. It absolutely blew my mind, and the next evening I walked to the edge of Magnific Rock to spectate the glorious ending of the day. Another jaw dropping sunset, 360 degree view displaying shades of orange and purple my eyes had never knew possible. Some days were clouded, but every evening I discovered what made this one distinct, paralleling with the uniqueness of my days. A few of evenings Zac, Bre and Roger joined, and we would finish off a giant Toña. One evening it was so clouded, we couldn’t even see the sun set below the horizon. We were ready to go back to camp when we turned around, and there was the most beautiful rainbow behind us! The clouds reflected a warm hue of orange which then reflected on our skin, making everyone and everything appear as if we were on the planet Mars. As the sun lowered further and further the orange color slowly shrunk into a dome shape, until the sky had turned to night. Nature seized to amaze me in that moment; I called it the ‘sneak attack’ sunset. I failed to bring my camera with me for many of the sunsets, but these images will be ingrained in my mind forever.
The sunrises were also a beauty to see. One especially, I woke up early to catch the sunrise, and to my surprise have some fellow gazers to keep me company. This moment was so simple, yet so powerful. I became so present to my surroundings. I watched the wild horses enjoy themselves in the coolness of the sand, as we together witnessed the miracle of the new day beginning.
With this moment, all of the other experiences written above, and so many others I did not express in this post about my experience in Popoyo, I was constantly reminded that life doesn’t have to be so complicated, in fact the simpler you can create your life to be, the more sweeter it becomes. I’ve learned to engage with my surroundings and be completely present with where I am at and what I am doing, because that is where life is happening. That is where the living occurs, not in the past and not in the future. Living in the present creates the future. If I want a good future, I need to take care of THIS moment. I’ve learned to be more mindful, and I am excited to take this learning with me as I come near to the end of this adventure and back home to Texas.
But first, I have one more stop before I return to the USA….