I was living in Nicaragua at the time, and with a free weekend near the end of 2020 (aka the Covid year), I went on a small vacation with some friends to visit the Ometepe Island (a large island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua characterized by its two massive volcanoes).
But one thing I learned about the Ometepe Island, was that google business hours aren’t really a thing.
When we arrived, many hostel and restaurant owners had closed down for the season. To further dampen the vacation, we arrived at our hostel, only to learn they weren't expecting us. As we walked around, we saw that tourist destinations were labeled as closed, and restaurants had no opening hours.
I was frustrated, and it’s easy to let expectations bog you down, but expectations can sometimes prevent you from seeing the incredible things around you. Things you weren't planning on experiencing.
Things turned around for me and my friends once we embraced the situation. We were lucky to be in a warm country and the people there welcomed us with open arms. We made friends with some of the locals, and were beyond blessed as well as humbled.
Things started to turn around for us once we let life flow around us. When it came to the question for sleep, the hostel owner was eager to clean up a room and make space for us. Each morning, she would make us breakfast and had the opportunity to learn about her life on the island. In the evening we filled the room with worship music from our guitar and voices, and she joined in. She was gleaming with joy, telling us how thankful she was for meeting some fellow Christian travellers.
The next day, we were exploring the island and having an amazing time, until hunger started getting to us. We needed to find a place to eat.
Despite the restaurants being labelled as closed, we were determined to try some of the renowned freshwater fish on the island. We went down to one of the restaurants to try our luck and found an outdoor patio next to it. There were some people nearby, and when we got talking, we asked if they had any fish. One of the girls in their group got up quickly and ran off to the restaurant. We could hear her asking her mother (quite loudly) if they had any fish available.
With fingers crossed, we watched her come back with a smile and say that they did! We ended up spending the afternoon with their family, sharing some (amazing!) fresh fish, side dishes, and life stories.
I look back, and if things had gone according to plan, we would have never had those memorable opportunities with the people around us. Because what I enjoyed the most that weekend wasn’t the planned touristic locations or events, it was the kindness and openness of the local people. They went out of their way to host us, and made time to share food, conversations, and build loving relationships.
I’m not saying don’t planning is a bad thing, but stressing when life doesn't go the way we hoped, prevents us from experiencing life in ways we couldn't have dreamed. Because the best thing about the places we travel to, is to learn to be open enough to be counted as guests by the hosts of the places we visit.
These hosts can either be the people, land, or culture - and maybe if we have the humility to take away our expectations and find the courage to receive hospitality, then we can learn about gratitude and inclusion, and maybe say a couple hallelujahs on the way.