Going to a foreign country for the first time has a lot of unknowns. I didn’t know if I’d like it, if I’d be safe, if I’d be myself, nothing…I was walking in blind. I didn’t know how I could prepare myself, so I just didn’t. I knew there was sun, and I liked that. I knew there was surfing, but I didn’t know how. I knew there was yoga, but I didn’t know if I liked that. I also knew there was people, and people are the peanut butter to my jam. So, I went.

But I wasn’t ready.

I experienced new things, new cultures, new food, and new people in a whirlwind of 16 days and it wasn’t enough. When I left, I knew I had a great job, a great community, and a wonderful home, that was true. So how could I enjoy a different place just as much? I’m just getting away for a couple weeks, I thought.

The sun rose at 5:30am the first morning, and getting out of bed had never been so easy. I was up and eager to see this place, to experience El Salvador, with locals, with new friends, and with an open mind.

But I wasn’t ready.

I wasn’t ready to enjoy a place so foreign to me. I had been to Central America before, but I was young and didn’t understand much of where I was or of the world around me. This time, it captured me. The people were so welcoming and eager to share their world with me. I wanted to soak in every moment, but I didn’t know how with knowing I had a life to come home to.

I love easily, I love people that love life, and in El Salvador, people are living life. So here I was, day-by-day, falling in love with this surf village. I was loved right back, I could feel it. I could feel the energy in the village, with every smile, every handshake, every greeting asking “Que onda?”, it was like I was slowly being sold on this life. This life where everything is “Al suave”.

The first 9 days I was immersed by the Salty Souls. They hosted us so well, offering so much knowledge about yoga, surf, and El Salvador. It was overwhelming, but I loved every new detail I learned. Slowly moving from one activity to the next, with 9 other girls discovering this place for the first time with me. Within me there was a constant buzz, a buzz driving me to accept and soak in all of my senses. We called it “stokeness”. I promise you, I did everything in my power to keep the stokeness.

So there I was making friends, learning, feeling, smelling, tasting, and loving every bit, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking, “when will I be ready to go home?”.

Well, I haven’t answered that question yet. I don’t know if I ever would have been ready to come home…nothing could have prepared me.

I wasn’t ready.

Here I am, home, and more confused than when I left. This place I told you I knew so well? I don’t know yet if any of it makes sense anymore. It does, but it doesn’t.

I wasn’t ready to come home. It’s scary. It’s difficult to describe to your family, your friends the things that you experienced, and learned, and the new feelings you’ve developed living in a first world country.

I kept a journal while I was away because my long term memory isn’t great, I’ve got to write things down in order to remember them. And I had to remember these things. This place, this village, the people, the language, the surf, I just wrote it down, all of it, as much as I could. Some days so much happened that my hand hurt.

It was hard to unpack my things…these very items that I wore or used everyday with people held smells, dirt, and memories, and now I just have to wash that away?

I wasn’t ready.

There is one thing that I did to prepare myself though, I created zero expectations. Fool-proof plan, right? No expectations means you can’t be let down, right? True, except for one thing. I only expected to not like it that much, I expected that I would go and feel things and experience this new place without liking it. CRAZY. That was my one mistake because I absolutely LOVED it.

What I do know now, is that I AM home and I can’t pretend that I’m not. I have to quickly figure out how to be present and be with the people in this place that is familiar to me. How? The things about the people and culture that I loved so much, I can bring those home. Start greeting everyone around me warmly, create handshakes with my friends, bring good vibes daily, and keep the stokeness. So that’s what I’ll do. I’ll keep my memories in my journal, in the small souvenirs, and in conversation as I tell stories about a trip I wasn’t ready for.

xoxo Shelby – a new salty sista!
Buena Onda