In Fall 2013, we started with five students. After 12 months of learning through experience, our first class graduated this past September. One of these students was Muffadal Saylawala.
Today, we’ve handed the blog over to him to share how he’s using the momentum from his year at Ei to propel him into building out a dream project in Central America.
Take it away, bud.
LIFE AFTER Ei
At the end of September, after EXPO (graduation), I journeyed to Peru. I went to work with Paititi Institute, a holistic retreat center in the Andes Mountains. They recently acquired 4,000 acres of land and invited collaborators from around the world to help them create a business plan and program to teach others how to use the land in a sustainable manner.
Their work was just what I needed to see to gain the confidence that I, too, can build the sustainability project I’ve been dreaming about. I envisioned a place that grew its own food, had structures made from recycled and natural materials and facilitated experiences that connected outsiders with local people and their traditions.
Currently, that very dream is being realized. My family and I are building an eco-lodge in Nicaragua. The lodge will act as a retreat center that grows organic food and serves as a learning space where travelers and locals collide.
These last few months, I’ve been going back and forth between Nicaragua and Chicago, hustling with real estate agents, lawyers and the omnipresent bureaucracy that defines the developing world. After many hiccups, we’re set to close a deal on 73 acres of raw land south of Playa Hermosa.
Next up, I’m hiring a topographer, building basic infrastructure and working on the master planning design process. If you’ve ever dreamt about designing and building an ecological space on a blank canvas, I might know just the place; it’s called Círculo.
Last July, I was called up on the stage of the World Domination Summit and gifted an incredible support system to help me write a book I’d been wanting to write ever since I started traveling some eight years ago.
The gift has compelled me to develop a daily habit of free-flow writing and I’m now moving into synthesizing what I’ve written to generate more focused content. The act of writing has been healing for me and I’m excited to see how people react to the stories I will share.
After Ei, I struggled with some feelings of loneliness. I missed being part of a crew of remarkable people doing bold things in the world.
Fortunately, I found tremendous support from my family. Over the last two years, we’ve been having more honest conversations, spending more time together and creating things together. My family has been my rock, always there for me whether we see each other every day or only every few months.
I also find support from Nicaraguans. They have a tough exterior, but they’re soft at the core. A little smile goes a long way with them and they genuinely want to help.
When I share my vision for Círculo with locals, I see their eyes light up as they think back to how they used to live before the civil wars, before the industrialization of agriculture, before their traditions were erased. For a country that has been through two civil wars, hermano against hermano, in the previous 30 years, they are so happy. Hanging around such resilient folks makes me more resilient.
I can barely recognize the person I was before I began Ei. I have stepped into myself, unashamed, unapologetic. I notice that I’m a lot more happy on average and stoked about being here in this world right now.
Since graduation, I find myself talking a lot about Ei and how I was an integral part of its formation as a founding student. People ask me, “how did you do it?” And I tell them about declaring a mission, three experiences, meetups filled with documentation, reflection and sharing with my support community. People react with an, “Of course! Why didn’t that exist before!?”
I’ve realized that you never really graduate from a school like the Experience Institute. I still carry the same approach to learning and my perceptions continue to evolve. In fact, my life is still split up in terms; I’m still writing a newsletter; and still learning by doing.
Nicaragua is my fourth term and there is much to be learned in the process.
Additional Note: If you’d like to read more about what Muff learned during his time at Ei, he has shared more of his insights on his personal blog here.