The Upside to Squat Toilets and Bucket Showers

Did I ever tell you how much I love Nicaragua?

I mean look at those smiling faces!

I can’t tell if it’s the magic of its lakes and volcanoes. The majestic dance between its mystic jungles full of life and its numerous beachfronts humbly proclaiming the wide range of tastes it continuously satisfies. It might be the rich, luscious aromas of coffee, cacao, brush-burning fires, and sweet, freshly ground corn tortillas cooking over an open flame. It may also be the innocent and curious looks I catch from those deep, brown eyes, and the children playing soccer on the streets.

Perhaps it’s the apparent ways in which this treasure hasn’t yet been exploited to the degree other countries have. You can still find many little pueblos that don’t have corporate chains at every corner. With this being the case, I can go and truly immerse myself in a life relatively untouched by external influences. A lifestyle in some ways given access to a homecoming, to abide once again in the traditions and habits of its ancestors.

I fell in love with this place the moment I arrived. The chaotic, outward appearance as I made my way through the tiny airport seemed to have an underlying harmony and perfect stillness. Being shouted at, it seemed, to take a taxi, as well as observing others’ facial expressions to try to assess whether this was normal or people were actually mad, managed to make me, although I spoke Spanish, feel out of place. Which was perfect. It’s why I had come.

My travels to Nicaragua never leave me, no matter how long it’s been since I was last there. Someone from my hometown once asked me, bewildered, “Why do you go to under-developed countries when you can live so comfortably here?”

Well, my friend, that’s exactly why I go.

When I spend time traveling in less developed countries, I consider it a privilege to not have access to all the amenities we take for granted on a daily basis. To use squat toilets, to wash my clothes outside on a washboard, to take bucket showers, and to coexist with the other humans who have lived this way their whole lives, as completely equal. To me, that’s the nectar of life.

Of course, there are times when the sounds of cockroaches crawling close to my bed while I sleep and being a little doubtful of the sanitation of restaurant food make me think of my home in the US. But that’s why I do it.

Being removed for a time from the privileges we have access to and consume to the point of exhaustion makes you a lot more aware of what you have.

It compels you to feel gratitude for all that you do have and all that is right, when our normal tendency is to complain and focus on lack.

It causes you to pause and consider the millions in this world who don’t yet enjoy such conveniences and luxuries as we do. It makes you question how we could be so short-sighted and wrapped up in our petty concerns when so many would trade problems with us in a heartbeat.

One of the most beautiful takeaways I carry with me always from having spent time in Nicaragua is this: the ones who live with so little are the same as you and I. They spend time connecting with family and friends, they entertain guests, they experience loss and they celebrate the new and exciting. They don’t complain about their circumstances, because it’s all they know. They make the most of it.

I sometimes get discouraged seeing the over-emphasis in our culture on materialism and advancements that lead us farther away from genuine human connection and understanding. So I want to remind you that we have the capacity to put things into perspective. We are fully capable of redirecting the trend of our culture toward one of inclusiveness and empowering the ones in the shadows. It simply takes becoming aware of what’s going on that we haven’t yet acknowledged, and considering the role we’ve had in it until now.

So get mad, get annoyed, get bothered by little things. And also travel. Get out in the world. Talk to the ones you normally wouldn’t. Allow yourself to be taken in somewhere you never thought you’d belong. See what’s wrong with the world and speak up when it calls to you.

When we can see the contrast that exists, it’s much easier to identify the areas that really need our energy and effort. The purpose and fulfillment you get from fighting for something rather than against it is actually the kind of sustainable excitement so many of us are seeking. Simultaneously, it is the stimulation we need in order to override our tendency to complain, putting us back in touch with our resiliency to handle whatever inconveniences come our way.

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