Solo Travel

Selfoe
It’s only been a week and a half, because I don’t count my time at Spanish school as solo travel. For one, I wasn’t travelling; I was living with a family. And, for another reason, there were other students to hang out with all the time. I was rarely alone. So, I have only been travelling alone for about 10 days, and I am glad it’s almost over.

There are a lot of things to like about solo travel. I was able to go see some amazing places that no one else I knew had the time to visit with me! I did it anyway. Plus, when alone, I can do what I want when I want. I generally don’t sleep late, so not having to wait for anyone in the morning is a plus. I also don’t take long to get ready, so not having to wait for someone else is good too. I can get up and go – get coffee, breakfast or start a tour at 7am. That’s nice. I also can decide on a whim to go to a museum or on a tour and not to have to sell anybody else on it. It’s all up to me. I also got to spend my downtime however I wanted. I got some good night’s sleeps (not easy with all the noisy animals in Nicaragua) and read a lot of good books on my iPad.

A lot of the time, for me at least, solo travel meant being alone. I don’t mind being alone. It gives me the opportunity to watch what’s going on around me and experience the world. But then it can also get boring. Or lonely. Meals especially. Who wants to read during every meal? Not me. I am done with it. The good thing in Nicaragua is a lot of the interesting sights involve tours. (You can’t visit most of the volcanoes on your own. They don’t allow it.) And most of those tours have involved other people. Volcano hikes, coffee tours, all of those have included other tourists to talk to. Most of the people who tour around Nicaragua have been very interesting too! I met a Belgian coffee processor, a Kentucky documentary filmmaker, Australian backpackers, an American retiree who volunteers to teach Nicaraguans sustainable farming techniques, and more. There was also my last night in León, where I spent a couple hours with Silke, my friend from Toronto, who had just arrived to town! That was a treat!

But most of the time, I was eating alone, riding buses alone and visiting museums alone. I got to see a lot of cool things, and I don’t regret it. I just prefer company! I am ready to end the solo travel and go back to being social.

Good timing too! Brian is almost here! Technically, he should be here already, but he wandered too far in the Mexico City airport and missed his connection. I really don’t know how it happened, but for me, it meant another night of meeting new people at the Managua airport hotel and reading my book. It’s been fun, but I am ready for company.

Today I head to Corn Islands. Hopefully Brian will be there too. It looks like a paradisiacal Caribbean vacation spot, with diving, lobster and beachfront relaxing in our future. Check here for photos.

Made it to Matagalpa: Facing My Solo Travel Fears

Leon to Matagalpa
Leon to Matagalpa

I asked around and did online research, and the only way to get to Matagalpa was 2.5 hours on the chicken bus. I barely slept on Friday night I was so nervous about the morning bus ride. Things I worried about: not getting a seat, losing my bags, missing the bus, getting robbed. You know what? It was awesome!

I got to the bus station early so I could get a good seat, and it worked. The bus driver gives out assigned seats! I got a window seat (score) near the back door (double score!). I was able to put my bags above me and a woman sat next to me and that was it for the whole trip. Easy peasy. Nothing like Rivas! I had worried for nothing. Continue reading “Made it to Matagalpa: Facing My Solo Travel Fears”

The Natural Beauty of Laguna Apoyo, Nicaragua

Yesterday we moved from Ometepe Island to Laguna Apoyo on the mainland, and we are very happy with the change.

Leaving Ometepe

We left Ometepe Island yesterday via taxi, lancha and another taxi, and 3-4 hours later we were at Laguna Apoyo. It may only be the resort we selected, but what a difference those few hours made.

Let me tell you why we were so happy to leave Ometepe – the only reason was our hotel. I struggled trying to get us a room on the Island to begin with – we did have a few parameters, but it shouldn’t have been that difficult. Wanting 2 separate beds in a room in Nicaragua seems to be a challenge for the hotels here. Be forewarned. Anyway, I found this place on booking.com and it was a great location and had decent reviews and was cheap. When we arrived, they tried to hold our air conditioner hostage. Seriously. They took the air conditioner remote with them and left us in this windowless basement room and walked away. I followed. Good thing I took Spanish lessons because now I knew how to call them liars. I still don’t know Spanish for scumbag. Need to ask around. I showed them our booking. Apparently, they tried to claim that it was $20 more to get air conditioning and that I hadn’t booked it with air conditioning. They had clearly not given an option on the online listing, and the listing said it included air conditioning. I showed them. Lyna and I sat down to lunch and debated leaving right then. But then, the receptionist seemed to realize her mistake, apologized to me and gave us the cherished air conditioning remote. It was unbelievable. First time I’ve had a hotel ransom the air conditioner remote. How about you? So that left a terrible taste in our mouths about that hotel and we were happy to leave. Continue reading “The Natural Beauty of Laguna Apoyo, Nicaragua”

Spanish Lessons in San Juan del Sur

Spanish YaMy experience at the Spanish school, Spanish Ya, has been great so far.  The teachers are friendly and very capable, the space is really nice, and it is very well organized and run.

As I mentioned, the school is very close to my home stay. The classes are held outside on a veranda in the shade of some trees across the street from a small river. The weather has been great for outdoor schooling: blue skies and cool breezes!

Spanish Ya
Spanish school

Continue reading “Spanish Lessons in San Juan del Sur”

A Night Out in Managua: Puerto Salvador Allende

Another reason the layover in El Salvador was a positive surprise is one of my new friends gave me a tip on a safe place to go near my hotel in Managua. He recommended Puerto Salvador Allende so I went there for a few hours last night.

The Puerto is a new resort along Lake Managua. Lake Managua is a very polluted lake so for a long time nobody even used the lakeshore. Hence the newness of this spot. It is an extension of the malecón, the malecón, which is a walking path along the lake. Nearby are some of the landmarks of Managua, like the cathedral, the national palace, and the Teatro Ruben Dario. I had a good cab driver from the hotel, who came and picked me up at the end of my visit, and pointed out all these Managua highlights.

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I walked around the malecón for a little bit first, taking photos of the sculptures – they have a lot of these big colored metal trees; my cab driver told me they are called “arboles de la vida” – trees of life. They are relatively new and very colorful.  I am glad I got to see them up close at night because it was very pretty.

Arboles de la vida
Trees of Life in the Malecón, Managua

Continue reading “A Night Out in Managua: Puerto Salvador Allende”

Being Scared

So there’s that saying “do something that scares you” and I do agree with it. To me, it’s about challenging myself in an effort to improve. Before today, I thought this trip to Nicaragua didn’t scare me. Colombia scared me! I had never travelled alone before Colombia. But I did it! So, I figured, I’ve done it. Not scary.

Wrong. I am so scared of being away from Brian for 6 weeks. That’s too long! Too late now. I leave today. He’ll be fine. I’ll be fine. I will miss him to bits though, wow.

Last night, we went out for dinner and to a gallery show for my last night in town. The art exhibit was really great – it was a collective of design students showcasing their senior projects in process. And this one quote caught my eye and fits this moment for me right now. I don’t know: it is making me feel better about going on this journey alone. Plus, Brian supports this completely, and I know a bunch of you reading this do too!

Quote
Yes!

Preparing and Packing for Nicaragua

I leave tomorrow for Nicaragua and am almost done packing. I figure if I need something I’ll figure out a way to buy it, because I expect to be there for almost two months and I don’t want to bring a lot.

On the plus side, the weather is warm in San Juan del Sur so packing light is easier. I mainly need shorts, tanks and bathing suits for the Pacific coast, and maybe some athletic wear and a jacket and long pants for when I travel to the north of the country next month.

To make it harder on myself, I found a way to support the local community in San Juan del Sur. One of the resorts in San Juan del Sur is a drop-off point for Pack for a Purpose so I bought some supplies for the kids down there! It’s a really easy process – I went on the site, selected the country I am visiting, and looked through the list to find one near my destination. Then, I looked at the list of items they need, and bought some of those items.  Here’s my bag before I stuffed it shut:

Packing luggage
My bag is packed for Nicaragua – with some things for the kids there!

Here’s an overview of the first phase of the Nicaragua trip:

  • Fly to Managua with a very short layover in El Salvador
  • Two nights in Managua and then a ride to San Juan del Sur
  • Once there, I’ll get dropped off at my Spanish school. Since the head of the school has arranged my home stay, I assume they will look after me from there
    • For the first 3 weeks, I’ll be studying Spanish in the mornings.
    • I plan to enhance my SCUBA skills in the afternoons, but that is still to be arranged.

I’ll let you know how the travel goes and continue blogging from there!