It’s no secret that I love to travel. However, I chose to use this platform for good when I launched it. I even set my new year’s intentions to remind me of the importance of giving back. When I learned about the opportunity to give back and travel to Nicaragua with Ignite Journeys, I jumped at the chance.
Nicaragua with Ignite Journeys
I attended Spark Ventures spring fundraiser last April in support of my dear friend, Jen Kim. I have followed along as Jen has taken every trip that Spark Ventures offers over the years. She really has poured her soul into the organization and it became contagious. While at the fundraiser, my friend, Missy Greenberg, purchased a raffle ticket that forever changed our lives. Missy had the winning raffle ticket that allowed her to attend the Nicaragua trip in February that also allowed her to bring a guest. She chose me. Little did we know that raffle ticket would give us the trip of a lifetime. Along with four other moms from school, we set out to give back and create a bond that we will always remember.
Ignite Journeys organizes trips that inspire, transform, and connect people through travel. They provide cultural immersion and adventure while giving back to a local organization. Can you imagine going on a trip where everything has been carefully planned and well thought out and all you have to do is show up? Well, that is what Ignite Journeys is all about. They select the hotels, the activities, the transportation, and all of your meals. It was the first vacation since being a mom where someone took care of me. That feeling is amazing!
The organization they partner with in Nicaragua is called Las Tias. Las Tias, which began in 1989, provides educational, psychological, and nutritional support to at-risk youth in Leon, Nicaragua. Las Tias are fighting against poverty to provide the children in Leon a sense of hope and a secure childhood. The children are filled with so much love that you honestly forget why they are at Las Tias. Bittersweet is how you feel once you remember their home circumstances. The connection and the basic needs for children are universal. As a mother, I seriously fell in love with them. I missed them when we left Saturday. The patience they have while trying to bridge the language gap is so heartwarming. I don’t speak a lick of Spanish yet, but we shared a connection.
Giving back is quite an understatement when I share with you how my uber cool mom squad at The Latin School of Chicago gave back. Mariella, Amy, Jen, Melissa, and Missy all teamed up to take art supplies, craft supplies, and office supplies to the women of Las Tias (The Aunts). Mariella founded Upcycling Colors, which collects used or new art, craft, and school supplies for schools in needs. We were able to take 9 bags of donated supplies on our trip. The kids really enjoyed making bracelets and crafts and the staff at Las Tias were so grateful.
In addition to spending time at Las Tias, we also got to hike an active volcano at Telica volcano. Talk about an amazing experience, especially considering I’m afraid of heights. Guess what? I did it and I couldn’t be more proud. I even took a quick peek over the edge to see the hot lava inside. Can we say bucket list? In addition to the live volcano hike, we also got to hike a dormant volcano, Mombacho. It was amazing to see all of the wildlife inside and surrounding the dormant volcano. Great exercise was also a benefit of the hike at Mombacho. Located just 10km outside of Granada City, you absolutely must visit when in Nicaragua.
The food is so much a part of the culture. It’s all so delicious. I’m pretty sure I gained 5 lbs in 5 days in Leon. I ate so many plantains and rice and beans because they were so good. Our host at Las Tias prepared a feast for kings and queens. The cheese is what dreams are made of. I wish I could’ve brought it back with me. The fried fish, which isn’t what we normally think of because flour isn’t involved, made me happy. Have you ever had black bean soup that tastes like it was made by Julia Child? Well, that’s the kind of food I had every day. Our last night was spent in Granada, Nicaragua where I had the best steak I’ve had in a long time.
Life Changing Journey
The trip totally changed my life. It gave me so many life experiences that I am forever thankful for. Every person on this trip, along with Ignite co-founder Rich Johnson and Ignite employee Dominyka Paulauskaite, created life long memories for me on our journey. Enlightened is how I felt as I approached the end of my trip. I want to share this experience with Clark and Stone. I want them to have a heart that serves and gives to those less fortunate. It’s food for your soul.