I recently spent a week in Nicaragua with 18 people - most of whom were friends from different places and different times of my life. I almost didn't go on this trip; I didn't think I could afford to be away for that long, I had too much work that needed to be done, I didn't want to hassle the grandparents with the chore of watching our 2 year old daughter for a week, and who was gonna watch our dog?  After a little reflection, I realized I was being ridiculous and would truly regret missing out on this experience. My wife and I are fortunate to have family around us that supports our adventurous spirit, and if there was a way to make it work, I knew I should take the opportunity.

I bought my ticket late, but thankfully not too late. We flew into Managua, on a warm, sunny day in February. The escape from the harsh South Dakota winter was much needed, and we all enthusiastically stripped off our long-sleeve shirts and hoodies as we walked out of the airport into the warm Nicaraguan air. Two vans were waiting for us, accompanied by two men holding pieces of cardboard with our last names written on them in black marker like in the movies.

After a two-hour drive from Managua to Rivas through some rough terrain, we eventually arrived at Hacienda Iguana where our three houses were located - right on the famed Playa Colorado Surf Break. It was breathtaking. We literally had miles of white sand beach to ourselves. The vibrancy of the colors amazed me:  brightly painted shacks contrasted by the dusty dirt roads and overgrown forest. The people were friendly. The fruits, vegetables, and seafood were fresh. The weather was perfect. The water was warm. And the waves were big.

We squeezed a lot of activity as well as a lot of relaxation into our week in Nicaragua. We spent a good amount of time on the beach and in the water: body boarding, swimming, and generally getting pummeled by the surf. We cooked everyday: rice, beans, fish, chicken, and an endless list of exotic fruits and veggies. We spent a day in the beautiful city of Granada, which was filled with historical sites, unbelievable architecture, vibrant colors, and delicious cuisine. We visited an active volcano and took a boat ride around Lake Nicaragua. We went fishing for Mahi Mahi, Red Snapper, and Grouper - and had an amazing fish fry with our catch. We played dice and dominos, ate, drank and conversed late into the the night, every night. Inevitably, the week went by quickly.

Visiting a place like this really made me think about where I'm at and what I'm doing with my life. It would be nearly impossible for a person to take this trip and not be inflicted with the travel bug. I know I look forward to next year's excursion, as well, with the same group of people, to yet another amazing destination.

I spent a lot of time documenting this trip - very rarely putting my camera down. I wanted to capture the feeling of this beautiful country, and I hope I did it justice. I encourage anyone wanting to scratch that travel itch to take the leap. Life is short. Everything will work out, and you'll come home with amazing stories and an even more amazing feeling.