The Gifts of Discomfort

The Gifts of Discomfort

How a 10-day trip to Nicaragua pushed my buttons and pushed me further. 

I just spent 10 days in Nicaragua with Chantelle Adams and 10 change-making women. My mission was to film (alongside my partner Ryan, naturally) their volunteering journey in the rural village of Jiquilillo. At least, that was the mission on paper. I soon discovered my true mission was to sit for 10 days with acute discomfort and notice what that did to me.

To arrive at our destination, we had a 3.5-hour drive with 30 minutes on a gravel road that felt like the surface of the moon. This was not your typical gravel road. It had deep craters and huge mounds and you had to do some tricky maneuvering to get through it.

As we passed by different villages, I began to get a sense of what life was like in rural Nicaragua. Households had dogs, pigs, horses, and chickens if they were lucky. Cooking happened in outdoor kitchens. Houses were situated in 100 square foot plots of dirt. Drying clothes hung outside, sometimes on lines of barbed wire. People in sandals carried pails of water and small children played on dirt roads.

When we reached the village, we discovered that our beach hut was home to many creatures: iguanas, bats, spiders, and frogs. At 5 am every morning bats would shit in the middle of our floor. (We moved our luggage once we realized this would be a nightly occurrence.) Our outdoor bathrooms were mosquito-infested and boy, did they love me. I had about 40 bites by day 2.

Before long, I had to admit to myself that I was having a hard time. I was uncomfortable. In many ways.

It’s somewhat embarrassing to admit it, but I’m a bit of a germaphobe. I picked up a fear of “dirtiness” when I was a kid, and I’ve found it hard to completely shake. So while I filmed Chantelle and her team doing beautiful voluntary work (painting a home, making pottery with entrepreneurial women, cooking a meal for 300 children), I struggled with my fears.

I felt like I didn’t have a space that was safe. Even under my net, the mosquitoes could get me. When we entered the garbage dump community, the children were so happy to see us that they came running, wanting to be picked up, hugged, and held. They just wanted to feel the love and I was uncomfortable. I felt terrible.  

But it’s a good thing I had Chantelle to inspire me to push myself further. On her flight over she got the devastating news that her brother had passed away unexpectedly. The tragedy was especially mind-blowing because her brother was the one who had first brought her to Jiquilillo. In fact, he had brought his and Chantelle’s entire family there in the past to build a community school.

Despite this unbelievable blow, Chantelle showed up for all of us. She still functioned as a leader, helping us through all the soul-expanding activities she’d planned for us. She put her mourning on hold for us.

I sat with my discomfort and she carried her grief.

I think there are few learning experiences as profound as experiencing acute discomfort. Discomfort can puncture your sense of being in a protected bubble. It exposes you to feeling vulnerable, and that vulnerability connects you to other human beings.

I feel more connected now—to Chantelle, to the other women on the trip, and to the people, I met in Nicaragua. That sense of connection drives certain choices.

Now I would much rather spend my money on supporting the soup program in Chinandega for the garbage dump community than a $300 coat. I would much rather conserve water and not waste food than take these necessities of life for granted. I would much rather travel and really meet people rather than hole up in a nice hotel.

After this trip, I will make different choices. Even if they make me less comfortable. Especially if they make me less comfortable.


No MOSQUITOS are getting to me! And then here’s Ryan, half naked with not even one bite.

Chantelle Adams LOVE. 

This dirt road was nothing like the one into Monty’s Beach Lodge.

Working during Magic Hour.