Possessing the fleeting memory of a goldfish means that I feel INTENSE joy, repeatedly, each time I remember that I have leftover black forest cake in the fridge that my dad made from scratch (as in, the maraschino cherries were soaked in liquor, high quality chocolate was shaved, whipped cream was hand whipped, three layers of fluffy gorgeousness, etc..) but some memories are so intense and precious that even a faulty memory can’t impede.
One of my favourite quotes I discovered just before the first time I travelled to Rise Up Surf Camp in Nicaragua:
“There are moments that I know I will long for even as I live them.”
- Judith Katzir
This is what I want my life to be full of: Moments that are so precious that I long for them. This is how I pick the destination that I’ll travel to next. I’ll see a photo of someone releasing a lantern in the sky in Thailand or chilling by Ik Kil Cenotes in Tulum and I’ll become obsessed with collecting that experience. My life is one big Bucket List that I create as I go along.
Though I’ve travelled more than the average bear, my first trip to Nicaragua was such a revelation to me. Never had I felt so much joy, so consistently, in such a short period of time. It was as if every moment was picture-perfect and a worthy addition to my Bucket List.
For example, during my first trip to Rise Up Surf, I was staying at the beach house which is about a 5 minute walk away from the main camp. While I was walking through a little field, I bumped into a couple of horses. Startled, I looked for their owners but there was no one around. I had just happened upon some wild horses!! Only in Nicaragua could I have such a magical experience.
Here are my Top 10 Bucket List-Worthy Moments from Rise Up Surf Nicaragua:
[x] CATCH THE PERFECT WAVE
People always fret that their poor balance but the instructors are so patient and surfing is second nature to them that they’ll have you up in 30 minutes or less. I remember the first time I caught a wave by myself was a week into the trip. I was hung over from the night before so I didn’t have high hopes for a good surf day. I saw a wave coming and I was seized by a sudden determination to catch it so I paddled hard towards shore. Next thing I know I’m up and flying on top of the biggest wave I’d seen yet! It can be tricky at first but nothing beats the feeling.
[x] VAN RIDES TO AND FROM THE SURF
The rides to and from the surf are what I remember the most of my trips to Nicaragua. Whether I’m stuffed into the back of the van with my Rise Up fam on the way TO the beach, anticipating a morning of epic surfing, or dripping wet with sand in places sand ought not to be with Collie Buds and Rihanna blasting on the radio, trips in the white jeep-vans are always something I look forward to. For the extreme version, I rode on TOP where the surfboards usually are, AT NIGHT, whooping from the top of my lungs as we shuttled down the unpaved roads.
^Image Credit: Xue
[x] TAKE A HORSEBACK RIDE IN THE COUNTRYSIDE
Pretty much everything in Nicaragua involves riding some kind of vehicle or animal, dancing, alcohol, sunsets, or all of the above. The horseback ride takes you through the backroads of the countryside with a pit stop at a bar for a couple Toñas and a game of pool, then back along the beach, just in time to catch the sunset. I get nervous if I go faster than a trot, plus I like to soak in the sights and not just because I’m trying to avoid a bruised backside from galloping.
[x] PARTY ON A BOAT
Technically this is listed as an Estuary trip to Isla Juan Venado Mangrove Forest Reserve but I’ve never seen people get so excited to see wildlife unless you count my co-workers watching cat videos on YouTube. On the trip you can climb a huge tree and jump into the water, try wake-boarding, or just kick back with an impossibly large glass of jungle juice, like me! The best part is getting off the boat on to the sand bank and blasting some Bieber from your phone and hoping that people will join you as you dance like an idiot with the sunset as a backdrop.
^Image Credit: Kelly Drake
[x] VOLCANO BOARDING DOWN CERRO NEGRO
Imagine sliding down a volcano made up of pebbles of compressed ash on thin, wooden toboggans “made of metal and Formica-reinforced plywood” at speeds fast enough to melt someone’s shoes off. If this description doesn’t make you wet yourself in fear then prepare for a windy hike up the active volcano, Cerro Negro and gear up in your orange jumpsuit and goggles! Take in the views at the top and enjoy the adrenaline rush at the end of your ride.
[x] TAKE IN THE VIEWS FROM LEON CATHEDRAL
Like a lot of Latin countries that I’ve visited, the buildings in León are vibrantly coloured but high above the city you’ll find blindingly white dome structures, reminiscent of Greece. To get up to the roof, you have to buy tickets around the corner from the cathedral and it’s only open after 3pm. It’s a bit of effort to find and it’s a bit of a steep climb but it’s worth the effort. The roof area itself is stunning but you’ll also be afforded the best view of León.
[x] SALSA DANCING IN LEON
Are you seeing a pattern? I pretty much like to dance anywhere but going to La Olla Quemada in León is the real Nicaraguan deal! They have performers that take over the dance floor, a live band playing the night away, and and more than enough dance partners to twirl you around till you’re dizzy and sweaty. If you’re not very coordinated, just drink rum until you don’t care anymore!
^Image Credit: Carola Delgado
[x] WATCH THE SUNSET
I have yet to witness a sunset in Nicaragua that wasn’t gorgeous. It is where the phrase “…in colours that don’t exist…” originates. Every sunset in a unique wash of vibrance that will captivate you until the sun dips below the ocean. Watch it from the beach, paddle boarding on the ocean, or from the raised plateau at the main camp. It’s heart-stopping from every vantage point. I’m always a little sad to say goodbye to a day at Rise Up but when a sunset is THAT beautiful, it softens the blow. And jungle juice. That helps too.
[x] HAVE A DANCE PARTY ON THE BEACH
Janelle is the only person I know who has the same taste in music and intolerance for people who wear sunglasses indoors, AT NIGHT. One evening after dinner we went down to the private stretch of beach below Rise Up. We set up her iPhone in a glass to amplify the sound and danced up a storm, barefoot in the sand to David Bowie. It was Insta-perfect. That is, until a rogue wave snuck up and knocked the glass over, almost sweeping her iPhone away. Luckily she managed to retrieve her phone before it became the property of the sea. Unluckily, it didn’t function anymore.
[x] TAKE A NIGHTTIME DIP IN THE OCEAN
I’m not saying I skinny dipped, but if I had, it would’ve been with twenty or so people, running down the palm tree covered stairway, shedding items of clothing along the way with only the moon for light. It is a magical experience that you need to add to the memory banks before you become old and wrinkly. No one wants to see that shiz. We enjoyed the aftermath on the stone steps with some cool beers and Collie Buds playing on someone’s phone. Or, we would have if it had happened ;)
^Image Credit: Kelly Drake