Five Things I Learned in El Salvador

There are tons of things I want to accomplish with this blog, but one of the big ones is to share my life, my experience, with you guys. If I should subject you to some of the lows of living with mental illness, I owe it to you to share the highs, too!

Two weeks ago I touched down in El Salvador to visit family and see where my brother-in-law is from. What I love about traveling is that everywhere I go, I find unique things that turn it into a one-of-kind experience. Whether it was cutting down banana trees, flying down a hill while standing in the back of a pickup truck, or using my high school Spanish to tell my new family how nice it is to meet them, El Salvador gave me a ton of memorable experiences I will carry with me for a long time. The experience also taught me a few things as well.

1. You can’t have it all. Whenever something wouldn’t go according to plan, this is what I would tell my sister, and it became our mantra during the trip. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to achieve all you can or do your best in everything you do. Absolutely do those things. But when something goes wrong, it’s not the worst thing in the world. If things went as they’re supposed to, life would be very boring.

2. Be where you are. This is one of my favorite things about being in a new country. You’re transported to what sometimes seems like another planet with new customs, cultures and languages, and it all seems so new and interesting. ‘Living in the moment’ sounds like the biggest cliche in the world until you experience it. Once you have, it seems like you’ve been doing things wrong all your life. Don’t be afraid to absorb things as they’re happening to you. Sometimes those make the best experiences.

3. Happy places exist. You probably heard it as a kid when you’d get angry: “Find your happy place.” I used to think a happy place was made up, that it couldn’t exist in real life. But I remember the first time I looked down on a town from the mountains above and realized I’d found my happy place. There are so many mental snapshots I remember from El Salvador that will bring me joy for years to come. Realizing that happy places are not only real but attainable is one of the best things traveling has taught me.

4. Just go with it. Before I touched down in San Salvador, my sister warned me that the culture there would be very different than the U.S. Even though I was prepared for it, I learned that ‘going with the flow’ was a necessary part of life there. For example, since my brother-in-law grew up in a rural part of the country, it took a little longer to get from one place to another. As I learned one thing after another about this new place, I realized that ‘going with the flow’ didn’t simply mean being easygoing or adaptable. It meant adjusting to a new culture by involving yourself in that new culture, which allowed you to see what it’d be like to live in that place.

5. We’re all human AF. This is one truth I’m always reminded of when I go to a new place, especially where the culture is so different from my own. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by another language or country for sure. But when you meet the People and see the Places, you see that they aren’t all that different from your own experience. I reveled in that shared humanity, and it brought me closer to this beautiful place – and my beautiful new family – than I had been before.

It took me 20 years to discover that I loved traveling more than anything else in the world. It is my hope that you find those things worth doing in your own life. Once you find them, DO THEM! I promise – your life will never be the same.




3 thoughts on “Five Things I Learned in El Salvador

  1. Mary Crane August 23, 2018 / 5:35 pm

    Nathan, I love reading your blog – both the lows and the highs. Your July blog about wellness hit home. It is hard to stay healthy in all the categories, but they are sooo important. So I copied it and will keep it in my classroom because when I’m stressed at school, it is hard to remember how to keep on track mentally. I hate losing ground in the classroom because I haven’t been focusing on my wellness.

    And your writing is focused, informative, and well-structured! A+ from the Crane!!


    • Nathan Smith August 24, 2018 / 12:25 pm

      Thank you so much! I really appreciate you reading, and I’m so happy to hear about the positive impact the blog has had! And of course, I would have to thank my teachers for teaching me how to write 🙂


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