Go Slow - Lessons learned backpacking through Nicaragua

While I was visiting Nicaragua two summers ago, I bought one of my favorite t-shirts I’ve ever owned. The message reads “Go Slow” and features an illustration of a sloth on a surfboard. I’m both a fan of the message and the sloth…naturally.

The words “Go Slow” really summed up my trip and the lessons I learned on the road. Honestly, every time I travel I’m reminded of these two words. They can make all the difference in truly enjoying a place like a local, or just feeling like a tourist. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather take the local route. How can you really appreciate a place if you’re just rushing through it?

Nicaragua’s economy isn’t in the best shape—many people have very little. However, this doesn’t stop them from waking up with a smile on their face and making you feel at home. They don’t have, want or need a lot. I felt the same way about the people in India. Daily life is more simplified and moves a lot slower.

At the time of this trip, I was living in New York City—one of the fastest cities in the world. It is quite literally the city that never sleeps. Nicaragua was just the opposite. I woke up each day and had a cup of coffee or light breakfast outside in the waking sunshine. I let the day unfold slowly. Sometimes I read a bit if I wasn’t quite ready to start my day. I would literally never read before I went anywhere in New York—there simply wasn’t enough time! Always in a rush! The rest of my Nicaraguan days consisted of a variety of activities: surfing, hiking, swimming, scootering, etc. We always stopped for a nice lunch, taking our time to really enjoy it. In the evening, we ate our dinner, had a beer (or more) and struck up conversations with strangers. Sometimes locals, other times they were fellow travelers. Either way, the people were the same—they were there, they were present and they weren’t anxious to be somewhere else.

New York moves fast in many ways. Often though, it was the energy of the people around me that influenced how I felt. A lot of New Yorkers are impatient and flaky; there is always somewhere better to be. In Nicaragua, people are happy exactly where they are. Sure, the sunshine and surf don’t hurt, but it’s more than that. The energy felt different from the moment I stepped off the plane. Go slow. How can you really stop to think about how you feel if you’re always on the go? The mental and physical benefits of slowing down are unparalleled. Even if you can’t hop on the plane to Nicaragua right now, you can practice this in your every day life. Take time each day to revel in the slow moments. Wake up and have a cup of tea to get your day started—a simple yet beautiful routine that has worked wonders for me. Make a point to spend at least ten minutes outside, even if it’s just to take a few deep breaths. The options are endless—moving slowly doesn’t have to be a chore. It’s really not so difficult to get away.

Try it, and let me know how you feel!

All photos taken by me, on my iPhone.