Travel Inspiration Series: Emily Sharp

I recently caught up with a good friend of mine who currently calls Central America home. Emily is a different person than when I first met her nearly 10 years ago. Her friendship has shaped me and her journey continues to inspire me.

JG: Emily, you and your husband are on quite an adventure. Tell me, where are you and what are you doing?

ES: My husband works for the State Department. We move every few years around the world including the U.S. Currently we are in Managua, Nicaragua. I work at a private international school here in Managua as a counselor. I also teach psychology and leadership. We’ve been here for about 16 months!

JG: Language is a core factor, not only in building meaningful community, but in maintaining some sanity in your daily life. What’s the journey of learning the language been like for you?

ES: Language has been one of the most difficult things about living here for me. I took high school Spanish but past some very basic phrases I did not retain much. Aaron was able to go to language school for 8 months but it was not an option for me at the time due to some logistical issues. As a result, I came to Nicaragua very lost and confused!

I struggled tremendously our first few months here. I had a Spanish tutor when we first came and have also recently finished with on-line courses. The school that I work at is also bilingual so I’m surrounded by Spanish daily. I still feel like I’m struggling but looking back from where I started, it’s a HUGE difference! I’m able to follow conversations and get things done for myself when I need.

The biggest obstacle for me now is confidence and being okay with messing up. I rely on those around me that can speak fluently but I need to learn to just dive in and start talking!

JG: How have you handled being away from friends and family back home?

ES: Being away from home has been very difficult. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. The most difficult times have been holidays, birthdays, and emergencies. However, I feel I have learned to treasure the times we do have together so much more. Skype, Facebook, and texting have been an amazing tool for us to stay in contact with everyone. It’s also been awesome to have several people visit and be able to show them our lives here in Nicaragua.

JG: Tell me a story of your greatest joy in Nicaragua.

ES: My greatest joy in Nicaragua and the biggest blessing has been all of the amazing friends I have made here. The opportunity to meet and connect with new people is constant and it’s been great to form new relationships and learn new things about the world through these friends. People have opened their homes, kitchens, hearts, and lives to us and as a result we’ve formed some life-long friendships.

JG: What influences have been most significant in your desire to travel?

ES: I don’t know that I can pinpoint one thing that has influenced me to travel. I do know that I want to see everything possible. It was a blessing growing up that we were able to take several family vacations and travel around the U.S. I think that sparked my desire to get out and go.

However, my family is extremely shocked that out of everyone, I’m the one living overseas and traveling. I’m typically a homebody and enjoy being near my family and loved ones. In college my dream was to find a job in Dallas and never leave. Things have changed! I’ve enjoyed the ability to travel and see new things. I know eventually a time will come when we are ready to stay in one place but until then…where to next!?

JG: What’s the best piece of advice you can give to other travelers?

ES: Travel with an open mind, willingness to learn, and a flexible attitude.

Rarely will things go as planned and if you aren’t ready to be flexible it could ruin a whole trip. In addition, traveling in a new country and culture allows for so many opportunities to learn about the country, people, history, and land. Take every opportunity to see what you can and be open to ideas that are different from your own. Listen more than you talk. If you find that you don’t understand something or are confused, don’t be afraid to ask questions. In my experience, most people are typically more than willing to talk and to teach you about the culture and customs.

JG: What one item is essential for your packing list? What do you not leave home without?

ES: I know it’s cliche but a camera. We have had the opportunity to see some amazing things here and it’s impossible to capture the beauty in a photo but it at least helps us to remember the amazing things we’ve been able to do. It’s allowed us to share our experiences here with our family and friends and to show people the beauty of Nicaragua. We have had an action packed time here and will continue to do so and it helps being able to take pictures to remember everything we’ve done, everyone we’ve met, and all that we’ve seen. I will treasure the photos we’ve taken here forever.

JG: Travel brings a lot of unexpected turns. Any favorite moments which were totally out of the blue?

ES: Directions here tend to be different than what you would receive off of Google maps or traveling through Dallas and there are no real set addresses that are widely known or used. You typically give directions by referencing a landmark or building. A few times I’ve been traveling with friends and we have had to stop every few minutes to ask where to go…most times we will get a different answer from every person or just get an “Over there.”

Over there can mean SO many different things ranging from 5 minutes down the road to two hours.

The other “unexpected” has been earthquakes! Before Nicaragua I had never been through an earthquake. I have now been through several! We had several earthquakes in April that were extremely strong and school was canceled for a month.  I’m constantly on alert now, maybe too much! The dog ran into the couch the other night and I thought it was an earthquake!

JG: Where to next?

ES: Well, we are headed back to Washington DC for a few years! I’m excited because I’ll be able to get back to working in my field of school psychology and it’ll be a little bit easier traveling to see family. After that, who knows!

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