SYBeInspired Gives Back to Healthcare Heroes
March 2020. All of our lives changed forever. We started working double shifts in the ER and ICU, coming home with ulcers on our noses from extended mask usage, exhausted beyond comprehension, completely isolated from everything we knew and loved, and only able to connect with friends and family via Zoom or Facetime.
Professionally or personally, the stress of the pandemic weighed on all of us in different ways. Life as we knew it was forever changed.
“The stress I had experienced working as an ER doctor in the pandemic became my baseline way of life. I knew that something had to give, but with all the limitations of the new world we were living in, I found it hard to find things that gave me the release I needed. The things I saw couldn’t be unseen. The emotions I felt I had never experienced before, even working for years in Emergency Departments in one of the largest cities in the world and dealing with tragedy regularly. I lost a sense of balance in my life and felt so desperate to get it back but didn’t know how to find it amidst this changing world” - Marney, ER Doctor in New York City.
“It's definitely not an easy job at the best of times, but something that really impacted me was when I was caring for a patient whose family was in India - in the middle of a massive Covid-19 outbreak - and had no chance of flying to Canada due to travel restrictions. I still get shivers when I think about this young man, who was the same age as me, suffering from life-threatening injuries, having no family member by his side to be there for him, hold his hand, and tell him to be strong. So this is something I took on - to ensure this man knew his family and his healthcare team were by his side, so he had to keep fighting.” - Stephen, Trauma ICU nurse in Toronto.
When we were contacted by SYB that we were the recipients of a gift of a trip honoring two health care workers (for those that dedicated their lives to serving others during the pandemic), it felt like the universe was sending a sign to us that it was time to make a change. After giving our all to help others over the course of the two years, we didn’t even realize how much we needed to do something for ourselves.
We arrived in Managua as strangers. We first met at the airport and sat next to each other in the back of the bus for our epic journey across the border to Nicaragua. The conversation was easy as if we had known each other for a lifetime. Yes, we bonded initially since we are both healthcare workers in the ER, but the conversation quickly left that topic, and we instantaneously found ourselves sharing stories, making jokes, and laughing effortlessly. And that was just the beginning. Unbeknownst to us, the bond would grow, we would leave as the best of friends, and the experience we were about to have would be the trip of a lifetime.
The SurfYogaBeer trip proved to be something totally unique, exciting, and truly something special. Upon arrival at beautiful Playa Maderas, we were greeted with lots of hugs, smiles, and a delicious and refreshing welcome drink! It didn’t take long for fun conversations to start flowing more than the Toñas - the incredibly tasty Nicaraguan beer. After one night, we knew that the week ahead was going to be an epic adventure!
A typical day began with waking up to embark on early morning beach workouts, leaving our quads en fuego, followed by an amazing breakfast to refuel (we have never seen such large and fresh avocados in our lives) Follow that up with surf lessons and then back to the beach to chill, it was all about fun in the sun. There was nothing like having the opportunity to surf daily with local instructors, feeling like the ocean was ours, and chasing the high of getting up on that board.
Lots of laughs, many smiles, a few sunburns, and maybe a couple too many Mai Thais proved to be the perfect combination to make Boat Day (an SYB staple) a pretty wild time! Spending the day sailing the ocean with new friends, snorkeling in quiet bays, eating fresh tuna caught by the captain, and watching dolphins play by the boat was nothing short of a perfect day.
Yoga. All we can say is wow. The tranquil atmosphere of the yoga deck, overlooking the ocean, hearing the waves crash, with the sunset in the background, was an unparalleled experience. We found ourselves in tears during moments of self-reflection which helped us to experience the release we had been searching for. We even had a surprise visit by dozens of puppies, brought over by a local animal rescue organization, and did puppy yoga! Yes, downward dog with actual dogs! Just thinking about that day makes us smile.
And then there were the late nights that often turned into mornings. We dressed up for theme nights, adorned our faces with gems, ate delicious tacos, took way too many tequila shots. Those early morning excursions led to memories made lounging in the pool, eating ranchitos, dancing on the deck, and for some, taking a late night skinny dip in the ocean.
Little did we know this trip would turn out to be more than a few days of surfing, yoga, beach workouts, and passion fruit mojitos on the beach. What sounded like a fun getaway with a bunch of strangers became an epic adventure where we laughed harder, smiled wider, and made memories that we still reflect on and talk about daily. Those strangers became family, and it made for an incredible experience.
Returning home was hard because as cliche as it may sound, this trip changed our lives. It changed our perspective on the meaning of wellness. It reminded us of that thing that a lot of us have let slip to the wayside over the past few years. That life is about balance. That self-care comes in many different shapes and forms. It brought a kind of clarity we’d been searching for for years. We feel forever indebted to this trip.”
When we reflect back on the week spent in Nicaragua, we can't help but smile and laugh. The nostalgia is unreal. The two of us communicate daily and have made plans to visit each other. We have already had reunions with other members of the crew even after being back for only a month. The energy from the trip is addictive. It's contagious. And you just want to relive it over and over again.
No matter where you are in your life, whether you feel fit or have been striving to get in shape, whether you feel you’re in an emotional rut or you feel fantastic, SYB is all about mentally and physically choosing your own adventure. As the mantra goes, “Don't think, just do.” We are both forever indebted to SYB for allowing us to be a part of this life-changing adventure. And let’s say that we are so glad we just, well, “did.”
Written by Stephen Lambert and Marney Gruber
SYBeInspired Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is in the pursuit of leaving a positive impact in the places we travel and the people we connect with. Our previous fundraisers have focused on breast cancer survivors, relief in Nicaragua, and healthcare workers.
Posted on Tue 24 May 2022