Travelbetic.

Nicaragua – My Last Surf Trip Before Diabetes

Having been diagnosed with T1D at the age of 22, only two and a half years ago, I have vivid memories of life with a working pancreas. One of those final memories before blood sugar checks and insulin injections was my trip to Nicaragua in the Summer of 2013. As I go through photos from the trip and prepare this post I am flooded with emotion. I see myself, long dreads flowing as carelessly as my attitude and wonder just how and why I was burdened with diabetes. I can’t help but wonder how things would be different now, how I would be different.

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I miss my dreads…

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But I definitely don’t miss those 40 extra pounds…

As I reminisce and wonder deeper I have come to a realization. While yes, life may be easier if I still had beta cells producing insulin, I wouldn’t trade T1D for anything. That may sound absurd but the universe chose to give me this challenge and I accept it. I don’t necessarily believe everything happens for a reason but instead we must create and accept a reason for everything that happens (if that even makes sense). Before T1D I lacked a sense of direction and motivation. Yes I was in school, nearing graduation, working a great job at Red Bull but under the surface I felt disconnected from my path. I was just going through the motions, sliding by and living life the way others expected me to because it was easy and required minimal effort.

Diagnosis with T1D was a wake up call, a glimpse at my own mortality. It changed everything. Now everyday is a challenge. You won’t find the word “easy” coming from my lips very often anymore. Facing the daily challenge of blood sugar control translates into other areas of my life. I now challenge myself to take better care of my body, train my mind and muscles and challenge myself daily to learn the knowledge necessary in finding my own path, a path that veers away from the norm and comfortable and into the unknown.

Diabetes is like a personal trainer constantly glued to my hip, motivating and reminding me I have no choice, either face everyday and every challenge head on or fall victim to my worst fears, not following my dreams or reaching my potential. I place a lot of pressure on myself now but I am used to it, T1D is constant pressure, pressure to stay healthy, keep blood sugars in range, count carbs, pressure to exercise and stay on top of prescriptions and supplies. Others may feel sorry for those of us with T1D and see it as a curse but I am sure I’m not alone in saying it can feel like a blessing sometimes. Finger sticks and injections aside, nothing has motivated me more in this life. I have always been a consumer of inspiration but now I find myself in a position to produce inspiration and hopefully reach others facing chronic challenges in life and show them by example that the only way around our challenges is straight through them, head on, no looking back.

Well, this turned from a story about a surf trip into a passionate exposé on life with T1D, but I am ok with that and I guess you are too since you’re still reading. I think I needed to remind myself and refuel my fire a bit before I embark on another journey next week. With that being said, check out these photos of the old, less motivated, slightly more care free version of myself on my last surf trip before T1D in Nicaragua.

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WuuPahh!

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My little brother Sam getting shacked! This is the first trip where I noticed that he surfs better than me now, Im not exactly happy about it…

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Everywhere you go in Central America you are sure to make a few four-legged friends

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Flying off an end section at Colorados

This is a travel blog so I guess I should tell you more about Nicaragua. Although Nica borders my beloved Costa Rica, it is an entirely different place from the culture, to the landscape to the economy. Once you cross the border into Nicaragua you leave the dense rainforests of Costa Rica behind and are welcomed by milder topography and shorter vegetation. Looming over Lake Nicaragua, just North of the border, are two beautiful volcanoes which well warrant a visit by boat. The lake itself has drastic effect on the winds in the area, directing gusts towards the coast giving Nicaragua’s Pacific beaches offshore winds everyday, making for excellent waves.

There are plenty of waves up and down the Nicaraguan coast but accessibility becomes the issue as the tourist industry has not found its way through some of the dense coastal vegetation, a good thing in my opinion. We stayed on the Southern part of the coast and found easy access to surf by taxi and motorcycle near San Juan del Sur and found accommodations within walking distance to waves in Hacienda Iguana and Popoyo. If you really want to discover magical surf with no one out, find someone with a boat that will take you up the coast looking for waves.

San Juan del Sur is the traveler mecca of Southern Nicaragua. It is a beautiful, quaint little town nestled on the shore of a stunning fishing bay. Void of large hotels and fancy resorts, but loaded with small hostels, San Juan del Sur boasts an authentic vibe and attracts backpackers from all over the globe. I met and partied with new friends from Norway, Amsterdam, Canada, Australia, Brazil and all over the place. When I say partied I mean it! San Juan has a few lively beach bars with live music and DJs that keep the party going all night. This place can wreak havoc on your ability to get up and surf in the morning so try and avoid at least a few rounds of shots that are sure to be offered to you.

The culture in Nicaragua is very much centered around family, work and positivity. Nica is the poorest place I have ever been, the closest to the “Third World” I have ever come yet the people are some of the happiest I have ever met. Everyone had a huge grin on their face and they were genuinely happy that you were there to visit and experience their home. With limited tourism the locals do not see travelers as a nuisance or imposters, they welcome visitors with open arms. The lack of tourism restricts the local economy and leaves many Nicaraguans in poverty but this does not seem to phase their resilient attitude and perpetual positivity.

One of the reasons tourism has not quite taken off yet in Nicaragua is the country’s unstable government and its lack of amenities. For travelers searching for an authentic experience, this tourism restriction is a beckoning invitation. Everything is dirt cheap compared to neighboring Costa Rica and you will find few English speakers, offering you the chance to immerse yourself in the Spanish language and get outside your comfort zone. On the other hand be prepared to see police on quiet street corners with AK-47s and to be stopped often for passport and visa checks. Remember Nicaragua is a poor country and police are not paid well, don’t be surprised if they ask for a bribe.

Now is the time to visit Nicaragua! As Costa Rican tourism explodes, head North for a much more raw, authentic and affordable experience.

“Nicaragua Tranquilo” 

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