The Edge of Nowhere: Maderas Village
It’s a long, bumpy ride from Managua’s airport to Maderas Village. So long that the car is Wi-Fi-equipped and you’re listening to the same music you normally do at home as you drive through one rural village after another. The endless one-lane road takes a toll on the driver, who makes two stops. First, he pulls up to a gas station to buy a snack. Second, he says “no mas” and just as you think he’s referring to an empty gas tank, he climbs out of the car and bashfully says, “Voy a pee pee.”
Two hours later and you feel as though you’ve passed the middle of nowhere…you’re going even further. Just as you begin to ask the driver if you’re close, he makes a sharp turn on the dirt road, carefully drives up a steep hill, and abruptly parks. You’ve made it. You follow a Maderas staff member to the “lobby”, which looks like it was sponsored by Apple given all of the Macbooks sprawled across the communal tables. Who is behind these laptops? Young “creatives” with enviable tans and a relaxed but focused gleam in their eyes…but we’ll get to them later.
So what is Maderas Village? A yogi’s hot spot? A surfer’s destination? A writer’s escape? A musician’s studio? Yes. This seemingly small village is its own world — a world not yet tainted by social conventions. A place so out of reach, that it is not in the middle of nowhere but on the edge. Just a ten-minute walk from the ocean, Maderas houses an impressive open-air yoga studio and a professional recording studio (sponsored by Gibson). What is more, the team recently took over The Bay House — a neighboring mansion, with a pool and full-service bar, worthy of The Entourage.
Any sense of time melts away. A day in Maderas Village feels like a week as you get to know the other guests. One night you’re having dinner with visiting music executives and the next, you come across sun-kissed screenwriters in the garden who have been here for four months. Maderas is where creatives from all over the world come to work and play. Creatives aren’t necessarily entrepreneurs, although some happen to be, but in the simplest of terms, they are people who make their own rules. Dissatisfied with the 9–5, they forego dogma in favor of individualism. A creative can be an acupuncturist, traveling yoga teacher, 23-year-old architect, and an entrepreneur who prefers the label “unemployable.” In the end, you can tell how long a creative has lived at Maderas by the severity of their tan.
The secret behind the creative lifestyle? Mindfulness. Living in the present rather than agonizing over the past or worrying about the future. That is the meaning behind the yoga studio’s signature purple neon sign: No longer…honor this space…not yet. As the most unlikely yogi, I know that may sound fluffy but I came to understand it well. On day three, I decided to take a surf lesson. My instructor introduced himself as Mike (real name Miguel) and despite a couple of attempts to correct him, he called me “CHAH-di.” So there we were: Mike and Chadi. In the hour and a half lesson, I couldn’t even stand on the board for the first hour. We went over the two techniques multiple times, but I wasn’t getting it. Mike grew impatient but he could tell I was even more frustrated with myself. He changed his approach, gave me a smile, and told me to relax. Lo and behold, when I let go of the criticism and the fear of never being able to do it, I was able to stand on the board — several times! This was my aha moment: I realized how seldom I live in the present back at home.
To call this place a summer camp for adults would be a gross simplification. It’s not a homogenous experience. It’s not planned. It’s more of a reset than a vacation. Most everyone is working and interestingly enough, many argue that they’re more productive here than they are back home. No matter the length of their stay, everyone who visits Maderas gets exactly what need out of it. For Tove Lo, it was inspiration for her latest album. In fact, Maderas regulars swear that each visit is different.
As you make your way back on the one-lane road, you have that same relaxed gleam in your eye that you noticed in others upon arrival. With Maderas Village growing smaller in the rear-view mirror, relaxation fades and you become perplexed. You’re leaving with far more questions: Do we all have the potential to be creatives? How many creatives are out there? Will this be the new normal in our rising gig economy? When you’ve reached the edge, going back doesn’t look the same. You return home and everything looks different. After you’ve seen what’s possible, your whole definition of possible has changed.
A special thank you to Maderas Village for hosting us and to my new friend Merritt, the ultimate creative who invited me along on this ride.erroguide is a carefully curated set of design-first recommendations on lifestyle hotels, restaurants and attractions, bringing to life properties around the globe, and inspiring wanderlusters to Travel By Design.