The End (almost)

Five more days. Five more days until this amazing internship comes to a close. Five more days until I can drink water out of the faucet, sleep in my own room, and eat vegetables without getting sick. However, it also means five more days until I’m no longer 10 ft. from the ocean. Five more days until I go back into an area of unknown in my life again.

What I’ve Learned

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I am a fierce lady. I left the country for an internship. Not for a vacation. I came here on my own, discovered this city on my own, and made a twin bed my home all on my own. That’s pretty badass. It’s also scary. I’ve learned how to handle crises myself. Instead of going straight into the workforce, I feel more prepared to conquer new challenges than I would have been.

What’s Next?

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I’m going home. Yeah, I know, that’s implied. I’m going home to my cat, my new apartment (to be found), and the city I love. It’s time to get a grown up job. Not that my internship wasn’t a grown up job. I learned things I never knew I could. I had a boss who challenged me daily and met my successes with enthusiasm. We worked so well together, and I’ll miss that. But…I can’t stay in paradise forever. I have to start a career, take the skills I’ve learned, and apply them with excellence.

And I need to remember…

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Being Present

It’s day 12 of being here in Nicaragua. That’s 12 days of sweating, new friends, eating fish (and actually liking it), random power outages, and waking up seaside. However, I noticed that I wasn’t fully present in the now. This once in a lifetime internship was being overshadowed by my concerns for the future. What am I going to do when I got home? Where am I going to live? Questions like these were taking me out of the moment. They were robbing me of my joy. Here’s what I’m learning:

All About Balance

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Like everything in life, there has to be a balance. I am terrible at this. I’m a very all or nothing kind of person, which doesn’t allow for moderation. I can be present in this beautiful country without ignoring my future. I can apply for jobs for after my internship without obsessing. I need to enjoy where I am while I plane for the future. Otherwise, I’m going to miss opportunities right in front of me.

Not Everybody Has It Together

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Social media sucks. It shows everybody’s highlight reel rather than the entire journey. Not everything is pretty and full of laughter. There are times when things are honestly tougher than you ever thought. I’m still learning, even at age 22, that you can’t compare your journey to someone else’s. It’s completely different.

Just Smile

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As I walk to work in the mornings, I try to smile at everyone I pass. Some of these people are going to work exactly like me, but to make a living for their family. If I wear a smile on my face, my mind follows, and it makes my whole day better. I don’t want it to be a fake smile though, but I want it to come from a place of joy. This joy comes from starting my day right: daily devotional, a cup of coffee, and a moment of peace.

I’m Sorry, Did You Say ‘Hostel’, or ‘Hostile’?

(Thanks, dad, for the title.)

I’m a people person. I thrive by being around people and working with others. When I found out I was living in a hostel, I was excited. Excited to meet new people, excited to be a part of a community. The first couple days were great. I got to meet backpackers and surfers from all over the world and learn a little about their stories. This seemed like a really intriguing environment for me to be a part of.

However, just like always, you’re going to run into people that you don’t gel with. People who ask you to move rooms, because they wanted the one you were in, even though you’ve reserved that particular bed for two months (I stood my ground). People who decide to roll and smoke joints right next to your bed at 2 AM. People who decide to have sex in the bunk bed above you (yes, all of these things happened to me in the last 24 hours). Here’s what I’m learning, though:

Breathe. It’s a Community.

This is not Hayley’s private room. I’ll admit, I cried. I had a pity party for myself. But now, I’m moving forward. I realize that calling my mom and complaining about it is fine. But obsessing about it for the rest of the day is not okay. Foreign travel is all about flexibility. This is not my first rodeo. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel all over the world and learn about new customs. I need to remember to be flexible in all aspects, especially when interacting in a community setting

Comfort vs. Safety

Just because something is different, doesn’t mean it’s bad. Part of learning and growing is about not being comfortable. There are going to be moments that I don’t feel comfortable while doing something because it is new and different. First world mentality can ruin your experience in a developing nation. Change your lens of how you see the world…I promise, it’ll make your experience more enjoyable. That being said, there is still a difference between feeling uncomfortable and feeling unsafe. Safety should be your number one priority. You’ll know when a moment isn’t safe, and you need to (in the words of Michael Scott) “adapt, react, readapt, act.”

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Find Moments of Joy

I have found little spots around town where I can go and regroup for different reasons. There’s a smoothie place down the street (who knew a strawberry, dragon fruit, and mint smoothie could be so good???) that I go to when I need a moment of peace on my own. On the other had, there’s a cafe a couple blocks away where I go when I want to regroup with people I love over the phone. I also like coming downstairs in the hostel before the majority of the people are awake–I sit and have my quiet time with a cup of coffee. While it’s important to be immersed in the culture you’re in, sometimes you just need some classic comfort food apart from the “one option only” free breakfast. I splurged on a waffle.

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What Am I Doing…

My mom always used to (and still does) tell me “comparison is the thief of joy.”

I would roll my eyes and then straight back into mental comparisons, pitying myself for not being as pretty or smart as another girl. I thought that going to college would be better, but the mentality of comparison continued to follow. Before graduation, I began to see my fellow students get accepted into grad school, get jobs, and follow the paths that were set out for them. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. For this reason, grad school wasn’t an option, because I couldn’t narrow down a specialty. With a communications degree, I have a lot of different options, which is a great thing. The bad thing? I have a lot of different options. Needless to say, it’s easy to lose sight of where my passions lie because I’m all over the place.

Along came the end of March, about one month till graduation, and I had no job prospects. I was pretty sure that my cat and I were going to be homeless (okay, not literally…but, you get it). I remember griping to my friend Lauren about my lack of future plans.

That’s when my phone dinged.

My friend Emily texted me this not even 30 minutes later, no lie–“Could you be in Nicaragua for three months ASAP-blog writing, video editing internship, flight included. Totally serious.” She was presenting me an opportunity to work for her friend’s startup app. My friend Emily has a very nomadic soul and that’s always made me jealous. She has recently began to travel again and do what she loved. That next day, I interviewed with her friend and (somehow) was offered the job. I had no idea what I was going to do about my stuff, my cat, and my friends…but in that moment, it didn’t matter. I was doing something bold. I was saying YES to adventure. I was saying YES to new experiences. I was saying YES to not following the typical collegiate path.

I wanted more than anything to start a job and have my own apartment. To start a life of financial independence. However, I’m learning that opportunities don’t have to be conventional. It’s okay to take chances and go outside my comfort zone. If not now, when?

So, here I am, sweaty, sitting at a cafe, drinking black coffee (not my normal) and working on this hot as hell day.

And you know what? I couldn’t be happier.