By Johnnie Ray Kornegay III | @jayrayisthename
I find international travel equally exhilarating and horrifying. You travel to a place, you don’t speak the language, and hope to God that everything that you’ve seen on the ID Channel isn’t true. You do it anyway, of course. That’s part of life and living. You have to experience things in order to learn.
When the opportunity to travel to Granada, Nicaragua to do some photography was pitched to me, I was in the middle of a huge personal transition. I’d left my cushy corporate job about six months earlier without a plan, and things quickly fell apart. I ran out of money and lost just about every physical possession that I thought mattered - the house, the car, the comfy couch. What was most scary during this time though was the fear of losing my piece of mind.
The fall was hard, a lot of it was ego, but the bulk of it was fear and lack of focus. I’d stepped out on faith, but I still had the lingering fear that was paralyzing, and it’s the fear and lack of focus that doomed me from the start. I retreated in August, almost completely putting down my camera, only to pick it up a few times.
I was fortunate that I had a few close friends to cushion my fall. I kept the entire thing from my family as long as I could, because I didn’t want them worrying about me. Yep, I waited until I was 38 to be fearless. Better late than never right. After being welcomed in, with open arms, to my best friend’s home, it was time to regroup. I had to overcome the fear and focus on what mattered. My art and my business.
With that focus came opportunities, and one of them was the opportunity to fly to Granada to use my eye and photograph a wedding. I didn’t say yes, immediately. I was in the middle of the transition, and the idea of international travel was daunting. In fact, as I spoke with others, I had more people say “no, I shouldn’t do it” than “yes, go.” I chose say “yes, I’ll take the job.”
I was scheduled to leave on November 5th and I received a text message from a friend with the words “Are you packed?” on November 2nd. I was kicking myself, because I really felt like I should have been packed, but I was drawing it out, for some reason. It was on November 3rd that I finally began to at least do laundry, so I could actually begin the packing process. Then reality set in ... I didn’t have any money to eat while I was there. I was broke. Real broke. I'd already committed to the trip, and what I needed were covered. I’d have some food, but how do I know that it would be enough. How was I going to move around the city? Lord, how was I going to do anything? It got really real, really fast.
At the last minute, I decided to ask for help. Pride is a funny thing, if left unchecked it can block things from your life. I know this from personal experience. I had to check my pride for a moment and do a video telling people about what I was doing, but a part was asking for help. In doing the video I was reminded of something. I had just come off the success of creating, from scratch, my first art pieces and selling two of those pieces. (Score!) I had landed a contact to do communications and create art and programming for a non-profit. (Score2!) Also, I had been contracted to do social media for a play, and that play was opening the week I was leaving. (Score3!) In early October, I'd just been in Delaware working on a client retreat for 5 days! (Score4!) I was being a working artist. The pay for a working artist doesn’t allow me to turn up, but I could at least eat, contribute to the house and have transportation around Atlanta. I was really and truly living my mission of “delivering beauty to the world.”
So, I asked for help, and within an hour I was getting some! I am so grateful that 7 people, a couple of them who barely know me, contributed their hard earned money to my dream. Even as I write this, I am exhilarated by that! Other people saw that I trying to do something that’s good for the world, that I was actually doing.
When I landed on November 5th in Managua, Nicaragua, I rendezvoused with my driver who was going to get me to Granada. The amount of internet research I did on which company to pick was exhausting! Nicaroads was amazing to work with, and my driver Luis was very nice, and got me safely to my hotel - Hotel la Bocona.
Hotel la Bocona sat on the corner of a very small street, and it is a restored colonial mansion built in the 1860s. When you enter the hotel you’re greeted with friendly staff and an exuberant “¡Hola!” The lobby was gorgeous including an amazing chandelier and artwork on the wall. The inside of the hotel includes a gorgeous courtyard that’s exposed to the elements and surrounded by amazing long hallways all around. The floors were some sort of stone, maybe marble and there were ceiling fans circulating the air through the creative indoor/outdoor space.
I connected with my clients, and while they attended a family outing, I decided to find some food to eat and take in Granada a bit. The streets engulfed me, and I could see in the background a huge grassy mountain that seemed to protect the city. To say that what I was experiencing was beautiful is an understatement.
As night fell, my clients returned, and we sat and cracked the gifts of Nicaraguan rum that were provided with friends and family, before walking to get food and visit their other friends who were in town. As we prepared to walk I was able to see the same thing I’d seen by day, but beautiful night images of a small city not ready to go to sleep yet. The building colors accented the dark streets like a rainbow, and the people of the town were ready to chat and enjoy the night.
As the days and nights turned, in between my work I was able to reflect on this experience in real time. Once upon a time, I’d dreamed of being able to travel the world and create. The moment I realized I was traveling the world and creating was life changing.
Follow your dreams, and surround yourself with people who do amazing work. They will not only support you, they will inspire you. Thank you to my clients for wanting me to be part of their journey, and thanks to my donors who wanted to be part of mine.
All Photography by Johnnie Ray Kornegay III (Except starter image of Johnnie in front of the pool.)