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Four Months in Central America: Remembering Who I Am

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I recently have returned from my first long term traveling trip.

Wow.

So much life experience condensed into four months. Besides the inspiring people I’ve come across, the delicious and vivacious food that sprung me to life, the tropical paradise that warmed my body with love and relaxation, and intense life lessons that were learned through heart-felt connections, the most moving thing I have brought back with me is the feeling of what it is to be alive.

Before my trip I was living in a way where I thought I was happy. I had a great job teaching kids art, an apartment in a cultured city that I adored, great friends, and an awesome car. It was just enough money to get by. I was grateful for what I had but that didn’t mean I was actually happy in the way that I’d like to be. Somewhere down the line I was led to believe that this is the kind of life that will bring you happiness!

Yet, I was painfully sad.

I was actually extremely depressed, stressed, unhealthy and bitter.

I was so unaware of how unhappy I was that I think I was just numb and in denial.
Great.

It didn’t hit me that I was feeling so shit until the middle of the trip when I realized: I am so fucking happy!!! Hallelujah! I actually remembered what it felt like to be full of life! It took a moment for me to look back and think “oh shit, I was so god damn MISERABLE”. What a revelation.

Slowly the unraveling of stress lightened me up. I became brighter, energized, and full of excitement. Life was interesting again. It was colorful and asked me to explore all the beauty offered in every detail of the tiles in a wall to every cliff that hung over the sea. Then began the introspective questioning: Who am I? What makes me happy? How do I want to create my life? Not “how do I think I should live my life according to someone else’s beliefs”.

Fuck. That. Garbage.

What made me happy was simple: being outside in nature, not having to be on a timed schedule, simple food, a sense of community, having less belongings to care about, and most of all learning to be my-weird-ass-self as freely as I could. Simple things that I had honestly never really fully immersed myself in for a long period of time.

Four full months of slowing down. From Mexico to El Salvador.

Going so slow to the point that I questioned my previous self: why was I worrying so much? Why did I have to think so much about how to live instead of just living? Why was I feeling so incredibly stressed out all of the time? Why did I incessantly think about how much money I had (or properly: didn’t have) or having stupid things, collecting shit I didn’t NEED to survive? What exactly am I even chasing?

All I had was a backpack full of about a week’s worth of clothing. Food was cheap. Places to stay were affordable (not like rent in Southern California, WTF). There was nothing I needed to do except to chill out, do some drawing if I felt like it, or maybe explore. It took a while to unwind, especially mentally.

I adapted to this slower paced lifestyle and thus my perception of time slowed down as well. I felt…normal. I was functioning like a proper human being, not a human doing-1,000-things-at-once. I had to learn again what it was like to do things naturally. When I felt like it. When it was time to relax, I could hop in a hammock. When inspiration hit, I was able to draw and it would flow easily. When I wanted to jump in the ocean, it was waiting for me. Walk down the street and get a bag of groceries for a couple bucks. A sense of community and belonging was right outside my doorstep. The necessities were close by and simple. In fact the entire town in El Salvador was only 2 streets.

This lifestyle wasn’t about doing anymore. The focus became about simply being.

Needless to say, I was in the right place for me to heal and start deprogramming these beliefs that were not mine. Even since I was young there was always a lingering feeling that I was not living in a place that felt like home in my heart and soul.

It’s easy to get caught in a rapidly moving river. It seems, though, that only we can get ourselves out of it once we realize that we’re caught in it. Sometimes the longer we’re in it, the faster we go, we get tunnel vision, missing everything that’s happening in our peripherals. Or we feel stuck like a stick in the mud and don’t know how to get out.

Someone very special taught me that in order to find an answer of what you want is simple. All you need to do is ask yourself the right questions: “what do I want” or “what is the best decision for me NOW”. Key word: Now. Since life is, after all, only happening right now. And the only way we can know is to experience it.

I’m lucky and beyond grateful to say that all of this was even possible because of my friend who invited me on this trip. She took me to these places and showed me an adventure that opened my eyes when they were glued shut. She helped me realize that anything is truly possible, only if we decide to take that chance— that leap of faith into the unknown with the best intentions for our growth and betterment. Our mantra for the trip became “Why the fuck not?”. Because really, if our intentions are not to harm anyone, anything, then really… why the fuck not.

This trip was more than a vacation. I knew from the start it was going to be some intense soul searching and the start of figuring what I actually want and how I’d like to fulfill that. Taking myself out of my living context was like taking a massive toke into my awareness and allowing myself a moment to step back, see the big picture, and realize wwwhooooaa nella, it’s time to make some massive changes.

Hopefully sharing a part of my journey can provide whoever reads this some sort of answer or inspiration they are seeking, as I was too.

♡ & Beauty,
The Magic Toad

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