When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Arnold Palmers

May 12, 2014
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Three weeks ago today, I endured the experience that any athlete subconsciously dreads. Skiing by myself at Solitude, I took the tumble that would end my season and jeopardize my long anticipated spring travel plans. As I came to a stop at the bottom of the icy face I had just descended, I knew that I wasn’t going to be getting up any time soon. I felt a shooting pain from the bottom of my left leg, almost positive that I had broken my ankle. I waited there in the snow, cringing with pain for 20 minutes before a woman finally skied by and called for help. At this point, my tears were less for the pain in my leg and more for the fact that I was supposed to be leaving for a month long volunteer experience in Nicaragua only a short week later. After being assessed by ski patrol, I was packed into a sled and taken to the Solitude clinic for x-rays. Low and behold, it was far worse than I had hoped. A spiral fractured fibula, with x-rays calling for immediate surgery. At this moment, all of my upcoming adventures, the first joyful opportunities presented to me in over a year and a half had vanished before me. I felt defeated, pissed off, cursed and undone by the reality of my situation. Two days after the accident, I underwent surgery on my fibula leaving me with the 9 screws and long metal plate that will forever be a part of me.

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I beat myself up for hours after the accident but soon came to terms with the fact that accidents DO happen. Injury is an inevitable part of any active lifestyle and frankly it is in everyone’s best interest to move past the ‘what ifs’ or ‘what could have beens‘ in any way possible. I reasoned with myself that the universe kindly broke my leg to prevent me from getting eaten by a shark surfing in Nicaragua or perhaps from drowning in the river’s depths of the Grand Canyon, a trip I had planned only 2 days after my return from Nicaragua. Rather than dwelling on something I cannot change, I committed myself to healing in the open, tropical arms of Santa Marta, Nicaragua.

For those who know me well, I am not one to be defeated by the ebbs of life. Rather, I use them as opportunities to challenge myself to creatively overcome every obstacle that soils my path. Though the challenge of navigating this rural landscape on crutches has proven to be difficult, it has also transformed my experience into something entirely unique and entirely beautiful. Most locals around the area know me as the broken gringa (la gringa rota), often found riding on the back of various motorcycles or slowly making my way through the sand at the beach club of Playa Colorado. Being reliant on locals for rides throughout Santa Marta, I have established relationships that I would never had known had I two working legs. Just the other night, we were cordially invited to a rural Nicaraguan cock fight, La Pelea de Gallos, a spectacle not suited for a weak stomach. A gamblers game at best, the fights lasted over 5 hours while I sat contently behind the drunken debauchery, meeting and conversing with locals who were admittedly surprised at my attendance. Shortly after the fight, we found ourselves at a local night club where the owner quickly sent his friends to find a couch for me to sit on, another service exemplifying the generosity of the locals.

We have been here just shy of two weeks now but have successfully become a working part of our surrounding environment. Our workplace, Finca Santa Marta, (www.fincafarms.com), is a non-profit, organic farm dedicated to the practice and education of sustainable farming to benefit the local community. Adam Kenworthy, CEO and founder of Finca Farms has formed a credible repertoire amongst the people of Santa Marta and has dedicated his time, money and hard work to the progress and future of Finca Farms. Though I am limited to the kind of work I can do at the farm, I have found my niche planting and caring for Finca’s herbal nursery as well as constructing a few other garden projects of my own around the farm. During our first week, we also helped Adam in curating an art project for the local kids of Santa Marta. The kids were instructed to paint pictures of Finca Farms which will be displayed and sold in New York City, alongside individual portraits of each child and their artwork, in an effort to raise money for the farm. Most of these children will not complete an education above a third grade level which is an incentive for these projects to diversify their limited means of education.

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As most of my fellow nomads will understand, traveling is far from a vacation. To me, travel is an experience brought upon us by curiosity. I myself am a creature of curiosity. I thrive on the adventure of the unknown and have taken advantage of the international opportunities that have presented themselves over the years. I now find myself basking in the heat of the Nicaraguan sun, consumed by a third world hospitality that ruminates through the colorful, rural pueblo of Santa Marta.

As with any experience, memories are created and lessons are learned from the trials and tribulations that breech the flow of life. If there is anything I have learned from my experiences, it is that life is indeed short and one must presume that any moment could be the last. Most obstacles are malleable; they can be bended, twisted and flattened by the intrinsic strength that pushes us forward when we can’t help but look back. Stay positive. Stay strong. Stay STOKED.

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