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“Dad! Dad! A sea turtle is laying eggs on the beach and poachers are stealing them!”
I leapt from my chair at the sound of my son’s frantic words. We’d spent the last week in a surf shack on a remote stretch of Nicaraguan beach hoping to see an endangered sea turtle lay its eggs. Now it was finally happening and everything was going wrong.
I grabbed my camera and ran out the door. Shielding my eyes from the tropical sun, I saw a cluster of people down the beach, with two men on their knees gathering something from the ground. Turtle egg poachers. I noticed my friend Shawn hurrying back into our little rented surf shack. I headed for the men, hot sand under my feet as I ran.
We’d arrived on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua in the midst of a seven-month journey through Central America I was taking with my wife, Jacqueline, and our two sons, Silas, 14, and Jonah, 11.
TURNS OUT THAT SHAWN WAS SOMETHING OF A FINANCIAL PHILOSOPHER AND FOR THE NEXT HOUR HE SHARED WITH ME HIS STORY.
Through social media, I’d learned that an old friend, Shawn Sheely, had also left the U.S. for a solo motorcycle odyssey through the region. After I messaged him, he spent a long day piloting his bike across dirt roads and water crossings of undetermined depths through rural Nicaragua until he rolled up on a dust-coated motorcycle to our little casita on the beach.
We stayed up late that night as the sun slipped beneath the sea and shared a bottle of locally made rum. As waves washed on the sand, we talked about our lives and the winding paths that had led us to that faraway beach. Fed up with America’s materialistic excess and obsession with personal wealth, I’d long wanted to take my sons out of school for a year and head to Latin America, a part of the world that is poorer and simpler but in many ways richer. After the unexpected death of my mother, I’d decided it was finally time to follow my unfulfilled dream. It was my mother’s final lesson to me: don’t wait to live your life.
Shawn, who I hadn’t seen in over a decade, explained that he’d recently shut down his successful tech business in Minneapolis for a mid-life recalibration. He was here seeking some perspective and a bit of adventure. Turns out we were both escaping the churn of the modern world to seek what was true in life.
It was a few days after Christmas and I told the story of how happy the boys had been with the simple gifts we’d managed to acquire from the little family-owned tiendas in dirt-road villages. Instead of pining for iPhones or whatever piece of status electronics all the cool kids had, they were just glad to have a couple Oreos and a new hacky sack.
“That’s a big part of why we took this trip,” I said. “To give our kids a sense of perspective and gratitude.”