Happy 2023 😊
¡Feliz año nuevo! 🎉
I hope everyone has had a great start to their year, and that you are happy, healthy and feeling loved.
We just spent a few amazing weeks with Tom’s sister and her husband here in El Salvador. Between Christmas celebrations as a family, gatherings with friends, surfing lessons, jumping in the waves, great conversations, and two road trips to see more of the country, our days were packed full of fun and adventure—and ups and downs. While writing this, we just have a few days left before we fly to Costa Rica to meet up with them again for yet another adventure before life “slows down” for a bit!
During our Christmas and New Years here, we had a few incredibly fun gatherings with different groups of friends—in the city, and at two different beach locations. Those were some of our highlights these past few weeks, and made us recognize how supportive, courageous, and diverse our friends here are. We’ve come from all over the world, but have so much in common—our love of freedom, our passion to find a good life, and our journey here now, as we’re mostly all newcomers.
We did a little road trip northwest of here, and stayed in the cute little mountain town of Ataco for a couple days. The art, beautiful souvenirs, and finely crafted woodwork all over town make it a very special place, a favourite of ours. We enjoyed walking around looking in shops and how friendly everyone was.
We spent a couple hours venturing through a hedge maze just outside the town, and somehow all found the bell in the center after a LOT of searching and back-tracking. It was definitely a challenge, especially because they’ve made it so you can’t cheat, with barbed wire strung between the rows—yikes! We also enjoyed several hours in the jungle at some natural hot springs where there are many different pools, on various levels, all with differing temperatures of water. The girls had a blast, splashing around with their auntie and uncle. Looking around and above you, you see banana, mango, coconut, and bamboo trees, and hear birds singing everywhere. I breathed deeply and soaked it all in.
We spent the third day hiking Volcán Santa Ana—the highest volcano in the country, at 2,381 meters. The views were breathtaking, once we got a bit above the jungle. And our girls all did great, even in the heat with hardly any breaks along the way. There were some places to stop and soak in the scenery along the way, and at the top we were amazed at the huge crater with its steaming aqua-blue sulphuric lake. There were dozens of people up there, including an American family we chatted with briefly. *Side-note, for those of you interested—they had no idea people can’t even fly into their country yet without a vax-pass.
We drove a few hours to the eastern side of El Salvador last week and a friend joined our group too. The rustic house we stayed at near the quiet beach was plenty big for the eight of us, with its open-air kitchen and dining/lounging area.
There were hens with chicks wandering into our yard, pigs rolling in the mud nearby, hungry dogs that would come around, and even a friendly bunny who came one evening for a short visit. Something (I don’t know what) kept laying little droppings in our shower—let’s just say bigger than a mouse’s, but smaller than a cat’s. That was one of the “rustic” factors as well—haha!
The seemingly endless sandy beach, with its huge waves to jump in, was just a few minutes’ walk away. It more than made up for the lack of restaurants and businesses around. We managed to find a restaurant with amazing sunset views the first evening, without having to drive too far.
We spent most of the second day of the trip driving—first attempting the “shortcut” to Punta Mango, but having to give up after an hour in, as our cars weren’t going to make it. The rough backroad was getting worse as we went. We felt like we’d wasted a lot of time by then, and tried to keep our spirits up as backtracked and then drove along the highway. We arrived at a little beach town, El Cuco, getting lots of stares as the only foreigners around, and ate a delicious seafood “lunch” at 4pm.
We were determined to find Punta Mango, as we’d heard it’s set to be the second “Bitcoin Beach” and “Surf City” in El Salvador. It was a long, bumpy newly-made dirt road with almost no civilization along the way there. We had to ask some locals where to go to find the beach access. It was another rough, bumpy road down a hillside, and finally when we got close, we were told it was $35 USD per person to get into the beach access by the restaurant…wait, what?!
Tom negotiated with them a bit, and since it was already almost sunset, he managed to get us in by buying a round of beers—even though we didn’t actually want them at that point! It was a pretty sunset, and a beautiful beach, but short-lived and felt fairly anti-climactic. We’d spent the whole day for this 20 minutes..?! But we had also seen a side of the country we’d never seen before.
We left before dark, still needing to navigate the dirt road back to El Cuco, and then the long winding road back to El Espino where we had our rustic Airbnb.
What an adventure! We all slept well that night, and enjoyed a lazy morning which included some wave-jumping and shell-collecting before returning home.
In El Salvador you rarely go 100 kilometres an hour. There are always twists and turns in the road, cars, and buses stopped in your lane, people walking on the road’s edge—oh, and cows—yes, herds of cows were crossing the highway multiple times—on the drive home. Never a dull moment—drivers have to always be on the alert!
Our family of five officially has five temporary residency cards for El Salvador now. We want to give a shout out to our friend, Jeremy from @escapetoelsalvador who made this journey smooth and relatively easy for us since June. If anyone is interested in looking into this, you can contact Jeremy :
Or on Twitter at: https://mobile.twitter.com/ElSalvadorVisas
And you can also receive 15% off if you use our discount code when you register: TomEmilyElSalvador
As we welcome in a new year, I don’t feel like I made many official resolutions—mostly goals and dreams. Lately I’ve come to realize—as many mom-friends of mine have—carving out some time each day for myself is vital. And so, whether it’s going to the pool alone to swim laps, or grabbing a book, and “hiding away” for awhile to read, I’m prioritizing this more. I know I wrote a blog on making time for self-care last year—haha! Sometimes we forget to keep going with our newly-found resolutions. Life has a way of getting busy, and I know for myself, I often get caught up in my “to-do” list, instead of prioritizing rest. I’ve still been doing my workouts or runs each morning, but many days I haven’t been making a point of getting away to regroup. In the past I would go to work as a “mental break” from my usual life and my kids. Some people might laugh at me for saying that, but I got to have adult conversations at work as well as not having to be thinking about my girls’ needs, cooking, or housework for eight hours. That was in many ways a “break” for me.
Not making time for myself has taken a toll on my mental health, of course, and I’ve realized it’s time to BE STILL again. Breathe. Meditate on what I’m grateful for, what’s important, and pray for my family, friends, the future, the state of the world, etc. Ultimately I’m not in control, and when I try to be, I don’t fare well. Letting the house get a little dirty in order to take some down-time is OK. As I write that, I ask myself—“Do you really believe that..?!” It’s a work in progress. I’m learning. Each day has enough joy. And enough trouble. And enough grace. Each day is a gift. And I am the receiver. How will I receive it…?
As we begin this year, I pray we will count each moment, each smile, each blessing in our lives as a gift that we don’t deserve. I didn’t do anything to “deserve” all the gifts in my life. But I’m grateful for them. As I take time to ponder God’s gifts, I recognize His love, and receive it.
Love, gratitude, and vulnerability are what make us better human beings.
Here’s to a beautiful year!
Thank you for showing us around a bit! Good to know Punta Mango is up and coming!
Psst... The place is called El Espino, not La Espina ;)