Saturday, July 29, 2017

Thank You Nicaragua

Excuse me while I get philosophical...

La Isla De Ometepe

As we prepare for our next adventure, I'm reminded of what an amazing year we leave behind us. After letting go of all we've been told we needed, all we that was expected that we should do, we headed out to see new land. Like our immigrant grandparents before us we took chance on change, on different, on the unknown. Life beyond normal was a challenge, it was at times frustrating and strange, and beautiful.

A wise man once said, "without challenge there is no growth." I believe this to be true. A small seedling must push the dirt aside to see the sun. I too, needed to push the dirt aside. This is my thank you note to Nicaragua.

Thank you Nicaragua for making my life so much more. More of the important things, more dreams, more love, more real life.
Thank you for the silence, for with silence I was able to listen. I was able to listen to the truth and drowned out the noise, the misconceptions, and the judgement. I was able to hear the truth, my truth.
Thank you for the distance....Thank you for the distance.

There are those that say that travel will change you. I say, it allows you to be who you were in the first place. Some say it is risky to take chances like this, and I suppose to some to degree it is. The thing about life is, everything is a risk. Crossing the street is a risk. One can do everything right and still, "unforeseen occurrence befalls us all." We took a risk, ( a calculated risk ) I'm not suggesting fool heartiness, and we are so much better for it.

Thank you Nicaragua for showing me so clearly that things do not make us happy. Have you ever had a conversation with that guy down the street? That one that likes to let you know how much stuff he has? Does he seem happy or does he complain about how many people don't measure up? Did he make you feel good by telling you about all his things? Probably not, you probably don't care and you probably think he's a tool for bragging. Is that real happiness? If you have to tell everyone how smart you are, how you know the most, how you have the most sought after items to make yourself feel good, you're not happy. Happy people don't need to make others feel less, they don't need to make themselves feel more. It was this kind of misconception about what's important that Nicaragua gave us distance from. It was this kind of misconception that Nicaragua gave us freedom from. Thank you Nicaragua, for the freedom.

Thank you Nicaragua, for showing me that all I need is less.

For now, we're moving on, working on yet another language, and challenging ourselves once more.

Thank you Nicaragua, until we meet again.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Things You Will Understand If You've Been to Nicaragua

I've been thinking about some of the things I'm starting to get used to after being in Nicaragua for a while. I decided to write them down before I forget that this is not really the norm where I come from. If you can think of anything I've forgotten, please leave it in the comments section below.

-Instant coffee.

-Ketchup and Mayonnaise in a bag.

-English sauce.

- The realization that salsa is sauce and Pico de Gallo is salsa.

-The world's strongest laundry soap.

 -Floral scented poop tickets, you know what I''m talking about. I could do without these.

-Fake Oreos.

-Fried cheese that squeaks against your teeth.

-Milk in a box, from the shelf.

-Unrefrigerated eggs.


-Guava Jam in a bag.

-Pigs in sacs on a motorbike.

-Pelibueys on their backs in someones lap on a motorbike.

-Saying "Adios" as you pass someone on the street.

-Pink and white striped plastic bags used as luggage and for just about everything else.

-Sellers of bagged cotton candy that is attached to a wooden stick.

-Pink plastic bags used as rain boots.

-Plastic chairs, sore backs, and butt sweat.

-Walking, hiking, riding horseback in flip flops.

-Waking up to the sound of howler monkeys, and roosters, chickens, numerous other birds.

-If you're on Corn Island...Hog Dogs.

-Panga rides.

-Dropping the 'S', and sometimes other letters on the end of words. i.e...adio, porfa, buenas.

-Heavy loads carried on the head.

-Brightly coloured golf shirt business attire.

-Tricky Tracka, and the sound of them going off on any given day, at any given hour.

-Smiling faces looking at you from the bed of a truck, driving fast ahead and likely holding down a  load of plantains.

-3 a.m. parades.

-Pigs, chickens, cows, horses on the road at all herds.

-Late night card games by candlelight, and being spoiled by the insane amount of beauty all around.

Friday, May 5, 2017

A Name Change

 Because my life is not a country song. This may change a few times...

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Simplification Operation

 Though I've never liked trinkets and useless ornaments with no purpose, I am by no means a natural minimalist. Simplifying my life involved a lot of change for me, both physically and emotionally.

 As I sit here typing I'm about to embark on my third move since arriving in this country. Finally we have found something a little more long term. I'm moving out of my current place because it is a vacation rental and already full of someone else's (the owner's) stuff. I can't deal with it. Seriously, it's one thing to have your own clutter but when it's someone else's !?! Being here has made me more aware of what junk we just don't need. This place has boxes of crayons, spices, empty pop bottles, old magazines, I could go on... I guess the owner keeps them so they can use them when they visit, to each their own. I can't take it anymore.

  Being surrounded by so much stuff is overwhelming. I can't concentrate, I just wander around in circles, paralyzed by clutter. Clutter has an effect not only on our physical state but our mental one.

  There are some that will read this and think they are already minimalists. If you have a second closet full of clothes or a cabinet full of fancy items you only use once a year, or maybe never. You are not a minimalist. Organized, maybe. Minimalist, no.

  I'm not judging, I've had that box of crayons. I've had a packed closet. I'm telling you, it's better over here on the other side. I'm able to pack all of my belongings in a few hours, I can find what I want when I need it and it feels great! Planning for this move got me thinking about the simplification process and I thought I would share some of the ideas that helped me.

  First, give yourself time. When I started this process I wanted to get everything done quickly, it took longer than I'd hoped. The more you get rid of, the more you will find. There's a good chance you've got more stuff than you think.

  Make a list. Some choose to go room by room, others prefer to go by category. Whatever you decide, write it down and go through items methodically. You might decide to go through the junk drawer (you know you've got one), or a storage closet. Do the first thing on the list and move on to the next one. This will help to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

  Take a half hour each day or a few hours once a week, whatever works best for your schedule.Just do something regularly.

  When removing items, start with what you no longer use. It might still be useful but if you haven't taken it out of a drawer, or closet in a long time it's no longer useful to you. Think about donating it, or giving it to someone who might appreciate it.

  Next move on to items that you don't love. Maybe it's a nice dress but it makes you feel uncomfortable. Get rid of it, only keep items that you love and make you feel great!

  Now there's the stuff that cost a lot of money, it's still good, and it would be a waste to get rid of it. Sell it. If you can't sell it and you're still not using it, keeping it isn't saving you anything. It was still a waste of money because you are not using it! Get rid of it, we all make mistakes. Move on.

 Here's where it starts to get harder. Those items you still like but know very well you rarely use. What worked for me was putting it in a bag and out of sight. If I didn't miss it or find myself needing it, I let it go.

  And then there's the keepsakes. There are some things you will not want to let go of and that's o.k. When making your decision about what to keep try to decide if it is something that you will be willing to put on display or in a box. If the answer is that the keepsake will be kept in a box, take a picture of it and let it go. An item in a box isn't making a difference in your life, it's sitting in a box getting old.

  What to keep? Keep what you love. That dress that looks perfect every time. The jeans that work with every outfit, and that blender that always makes the perfect smoothie!

  By keeping only what you love, you appreciate what you have, enjoy using it, and feel good every time you get dressed.

Less stuff, more peace.

Monday, April 10, 2017

You Will Have To Pay The Tax: How to get through the airport in Managua with minimal hassle.

  How can I put this? Pack as little as possible. Then pack less.

 I've heard tales of people going through the Managua airport with ease, however, that has not been my experience. If you have anything slightly out of the ordinary someone will find some way to give you the run around. My family and I have been hauled over to what I like to call, 'The Tax Room' for a spear fishing gun, a cat, and a drone. There are spear fishing tours here in Nicaragua but never mind that. Inspectors eyes light up on sight of such an instrument, here it comes..."you don't have proper documents, you will have to pay the tax." Upon bringing in my cat with all the proper documentation, which I paid for and checked thoroughly, I was asked to come into the back room and told that I would "Need to pay the tax". They also wanted to take my original documents because they couldn't make a copy due to their copy machine being out of ink. They didn't get these docs. but it took a fair amount of time, convincing, and aggravation to finally get an, "O.K. Leigh, you can go." On our last trip in my husband tried to bring in a Go Pro drone. He had searched for information on whether or not he could bring one into Nicaragua but information was hard to find and apparently he didn't look hard enough because, guess what? Drones that fly over 30 m. are illegal in Nicaragua. Again the inspectors eyes lit up. Seriously, they get pleasure out of this, I'm sure. "You cannot bring this into the country, it is illegal. We will hold it for you until you leave" Our other option was to have it shipped back at the cost of around $400 uninsured. If they lose it, which is a 50/50 chance, you have paid someone to steal your item. We decided  my husband would fly back to the U.S. that day and ship it back to Canada from there. There is a daily holding fee at the airport for confiscated items and no guarantees it will be there when you return. Consequently, I was lectured at the hotel where I was staying about being more prepared and not booking last minute, since I needed extra nights while my husband was off to Florida. Gong show, it was a gong show. Note: calling them liars won't help your case, in the instance that you too are a mom who's had enough of peoples' crap in the middle of the night.

  Electronics are something that they love to tax so bring as little as possible, you should be ok with your cell phone but if you don't need your lap top or portable speaker, leave it at home. Pack only what you need for clothing and enjoy the beautiful beaches and rich culture, it's worth it. They tried to tax me on my camera but I think my face told them to lay off this time, and I was able to pass.

For travel photography prints go to

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Joyful Side Effects Of A Simple Life

  Well, it's about time that I got something done around here...

I got a new double walled stainless steel water bottle and I'm pretty excited! As I mentioned before, finding a water bottle around these parts is pretty difficult. I was expecting to have to make a trip elsewhere to find one of these so when I came across one at a nearby resort I was stoked!

  The feeling I got from finding this vessel was one that took me back, way back to a time before adulthood and responsibility came up and slugged me in the face. A time when life was simpler and it got me thinking about how much we take for granted and how little we appreciate in our busy, modern lives. In most places in north America we have easy access to just about everything. If it's not available at a store around the corner Amazon can ship it to you in short order. We have instant gratification. Life should be easier but it often doesn't feel that way. When we buy something new we are happy for a moment but how quickly does that new top (that was a great deal) get pushed to the back of the closet as we stare woefully at our wardrobes lamenting "I have nothing to wear!"
 Almost everything we have can be instantly replaced. We might like our new purchase but do we appreciate it? I know I didn't, not fully at least, not the way I appreciate my water bottle. My water bottle will keep my refreshments cold in this heat and it's pretty. I will take such care with my pretty refreshment holder. I will gently place it in my bag when I am travelling so as to avoid any chips or dents. I will wash it with tender, loving care after each use so that it never gets stinky or dirty.I will value this magnificent container for beverages because it was hard to find and it can't be easily replaced!
 Learning to appreciate the little things is one of the joyful side effects of a simpler life. Who knew a water bottle could make me so happy? It does make me happy though. I like it, I like it a lot! A lesson I hope to take with me wherever I go is the appreciation for what I have and the ability to get excited over seemingly small stuff!

 Another great thing about a simple life is that I'm able to pursue projects that I never made time for previously. I'm back at making jewellery and out photographing the world. For a long time now I've been wanting to make my favourite pastimes into my job and I've finally begun that process! Prints of my photos are now available for purchase through my store, Wanderland Studios on Society 6. They have some pretty cool beach bags, coffee mugs, and pencil cases available along with other items as well, all with beautiful images of sunsets and the sea! I'm excited to try something new and being able to combine that with doing what I've always loved, maybe I'll pick up my pencil and sketchbook again soon!

One of the limited edition images available at

I hope I never get used to this view!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Masaya, Nicaragua

 I've been to Masaya twice now but I need to go again. It's busy, dusty, crowded and hot but it keeps me wanting more.
 The streets are colourful with a lot of activity. I don't normally like busy places, I like a more relaxed vibe but there's a feeling and a character about Masaya that I love.

Our reason for heading to Masaya was to visit the Artisan market. There are two markets that I know of, the 'old market' which looks like the new market to me, caters to tourists. It is held inside a cool looking building that looks like an old fort. The inside of the market has hand made items neatly displayed and easily accessible. You will pay for this convenience though, prices are higher, you may barter and get a better deal but not great. 

Streets bustling with horses, bicycles, and taxis. There's a unique old world mixed with modern world feel to Masaya. It's fairly surreal walking around this place. There's a smell of dust and the tropics. The sound of horses pulling carts clicking by at the same time as the sound of a motorcycle whizzing past so close you feel the wind blow your hair. There's an artistry to Masaya and I think that is my favourite part.  

Streets were packed, it was hard to get a clear picture of the market.

Inside the 'old' artisan market

If you see this street, you're almost at the Mercado Municipal. 
You will have to walk a few blocks further from the old market to get to the mercado municipal.

Workers at mercado municipal.

Inside mercado municipal is crowded and hot. Bring water and travel light. I didn't even get to see the whole market, I felt like a mouse maneuvering through a maze. If you get lost just look for the light, follow the light...

If you're not a shopper you may not like this place but I love treasure hunting and I love hand made goods. If you like a bargain and enjoy the treasure hunt, this is the place for you.

We also stopped in at Kaffe Cafe Bistro which is worthy of mention. The food was good, portions generous and character was rich. The price was reasonable as well, prices ranged between about 100 to 300 cordobas give or take (about $4 to $12 u.s.)

Super cool powder room at Kaffe Cafe Bistro.