I have always been impulsive, committing to doing things before I think the details through. Surprisingly most of my impulses have led to amazing memories and even the experiences that were not so amazing, still led to a learning event, or at least a good story. My first experience of teaching yoga abroad was an impulse decision, one that has changed the course of my life in a significant way and led to the fulfillment of living my ultimate dream.
I had gotten into an argument with a guy I was dating that left me fuming and eager to get away from the small island we grew up on. I was twenty- four and though I had traveled before, it was always with friends and while it was fun, these trips never left me feeling fulfilled. They left me feeling more of a desire to be immersed in the culture and to be a part of the community I had just visited. I got it into my head it was time to leave my hometown. There is only so much growth a girl can gain while living on an island that is only seven miles long and it seemed my growth had maxed out. I had already completed my first yoga teacher training and through that I had learned that I had a strong desire to travel and share my two biggest passions, surfing and yoga. Surfing and yoga (and running) are huge components to helping me manage my daily feelings of anxiety and depression. I got onto the computer that night and googled ways to travel, surf and do yoga. The first website that came up was YogaTrade.com. I clicked on the website and went into the ‘explore opportunities’ section. I spent hours sifting through all the different places that needed a yoga teacher. I narrowed my search down to places I would also be able to surf and emailed my resume and cover letter out to a couple different places. I went to bed praying I would get a response. When I woke up the next morning my phone was buzzing with emails, mostly from a spot in Nicaragua that was looking for a teacher within the next two weeks. I immediately looked up flights, confirmed a date with my new boss and booked the tickets.
As soon as I got the confirmation email from the airlines I started to freak out. I started doubting my self and the decision to travel to a new country alone, where I didn’t know anyone and barely spoke the language. I still hadn’t told my family or friends, or current boss that I had just booked a one-way ticket to Nicaragua so I started making calls. My mom was the first. As soon as she answered I blurted out, “ I have to tell you something but promise you wont get mad.” I could hear her inhale and exhale loudly. So I quickly added that I had just booked a one-way ticket to Nicaragua and would be leaving in two weeks time. My mom was silent for a while and then she finally started asking questions and once I explained to her what I was would be doing, she told me how happy and proud she was for me. Once my boss also said she was proud of me and excited for me, I knew I made the right decision about getting out of New Jersey. My lease was up at my apartment so timing could not have been better. I called my car insurance company and cancelled my car insurance, called Sprint and put my cell phone account on hold and went to the bank to put travel advisories on my debit and credit cards. I also set all my bills to auto pay over the internet. Then I had to convince my Grandmom to watch my cat, which was the hardest part of deciding to leave, I knew how much I would miss Bonzai. But I knew Grandmom would take good care of him. With all of that out of the way I started to pack and thanked God I would soon be out of Ocean City.
My first morning waking up in Nicaragua was a bit of a culture shock. I didn’t know anyone and felt lonely and scared. I couldn’t help but think I was missing out on things at home and I didn’t expect to miss my friends and family so soon after my arrival. After crying for a little but I opened my door and stepped into the sunshine, ready to explore my new home.
I have been living and working at SOLID Surf & Adventure for the past four months and I love what I do. Everyday I get to share a part of me with someone and in return I get a piece of him or her whether that is through yoga or surfing. One of the hardest things I am finding about teaching abroad is that you only have a short time to practice yoga with students. Most people are here for a week at a time and I never thought I could get to know and miss a person with in that short amount of time. Another challenge I have faced is meeting students where they are in their own yoga practice. I have to admit it took me a little while to adapt to my students needs rather than just reverting back the style of yoga I was used to teaching at home. Some other things I still find difficult is learning the language and the currency exchange but I am confident I will get it one day. It is all a part of stepping out of my comfort zone and finding the growth I wasn’t experiencing at home. Of course I still have days where I am home sick and miss my friends and family but it is easy to face time or send an email or text and generally just stay in touch.
I have only been at SOLID for a short time but have already learned a lot about myself and other people. You tend to make really strong connections to anyone you meet while traveling, I think it is because most people who travel, surf, do yoga and anything else adventurous all have the same mindset. I have noticed that every time I meet someone new. People are eager to find genuine connections in this world and have real experiences not just seen on the tv or movie screen. There is a desire to learn from other people and to share with other people. We had a group here recently that won a scavenger hunt put on by the Rachel and Jackie Foundation, a great foundation that focuses on improving access, quality and relevance of education for youth in Central America. While that group was here I had one of those life altering conversations you can have with someone you just met. This conversation opened my eyes to my many strengths and weaknesses but helped me solidify what I wanted to contribute to the community of El Transito. I had three ideas of what I wanted to do that will be put into motion once the kids return to school. We are starting surfing program after school for girls, a lot of the boys here surf but none of the local girls do, they love to ask about it and seem interested. We will also be doing two programs with yoga, taught only in Spanish, one for kids after school and one for women after work. I am excited to share with this community something that has improved my general well-being and can’t wait to learn from this community as well.
Through out my time here so far as a yoga teacher in Nicaragua, more than learning to adapt or be able to point out my strengths and weaknesses, I’ve learned to not rush life. Some of the most memorable experiences have been surfing at sunset with the local kids and having conversations that are spattered with both Spanish and English and a little hard to understand. The endless smiles prove that the best things in life really are the simplest.
Amanda learned to surf in Ocean City, NJ, where she gave surf lessons at a local surf shop. Amanda later found her passion in Yoga and has since completed over 400-hours in teacher training with HotBox Yoga and Grace & Glory Yoga.
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