It was a month ago yesterday that I set off on my travels. So it seems a good time to reflect on the trip so far.
Best moments: watching the sunset over the Volcan Conception on Ometepe and zipwiring in Monteverde.
Worst moments: go-pro gate and catching the bus from Vinales to Havana with a poorly stomach!!
If I’m being totally honest, I’ve found travelling harder that I thought I would. Not so much in terms of logistics, more mentally.
Everyone said to me “you’ll have the time of your life”. Don’t get me wrong I am SO glad I’ve come away, but so far I feel like I end up looking back on each place and set of experiences fondly in hindsight, rather than necessarily having ‘an amazing time’ all the time in the moment when I’m there.
I’ve actually found writing the blog really helpful in that respect, because in my head I think “oh I just spent a couple of days in that place”, but when I start writing about it I realise how much I actually did and saw and how many people I encountered.
I suppose before I left I was thinking of the trip as a sort of extended holiday, which in reality it hasn’t felt like.
In large part this may be because I’ve tried to pack a lot into a short space of time. As I said before in my Cuba blogs, the majority of the time when I first arrive in a new city, my feeling is ‘oh, I don’t really like this I should have stayed in the last place’.
I imagine this is a reasonably normal reaction, because you’re effectively constantly uprooting yourself just as you’re beginning to get comfortable somewhere, and putting yourself in new unfamiliar surroundings.
This will be in part due to travelling on a bit of a budget, because a luxury hotel in one city will be similar to a luxury hotel in another city, and especially if you have transfers arranged between them, you don’t really ‘change surroundings’ at all. I.e there’s lesser chance of being out of the comfort zone. Whereas when you’re dropped off a public bus, in the middle of a new, bustling city, with a dozen people bombarding you, whilst knowing you have to keep an eye on your bags AND work out where you’re going, it’s trickier.
Re directions: I hate not having my bearings, so when I get somewhere new I immediately try and figure out where I am in relation to the rest of the city. Like after getting to Leon two days ago I basically dropped my bag off and went straight out for a walk.
I also refuse to obviously get a map out in public, as this instantly flags you up as vulnerable, something I don’t want to appear as a female travelling alone. So I may make my life I bit harder but I tend to look at the map before I go, and try and memorise the number of blocks I need to go in which directions to get to say the central park, or the cafe I want to find. Then only once I’m settled somewhere will I dig out the map again to plan the next section. It’s like an exhausting treasure hunt, but at least it means I can walk with reasonable purpose between places.
So yes, I think attempting to cover Central America in a month was ambitious, and I always knew I wouldn’t be able to go everywhere I wanted and see everything. It has meant that I haven’t stayed anywhere longer than 3 nights, usually 2, so I have been constantly familiarising and uprooting and also continuously needing to plan the next place to go and what to do there.
Whilst it may seem like I’ve spent an awful lot of time on the beach, I don’t really feel like I have. The nice thing when you’re at the beach is that all you can do is: sunbathe, swim, read, eat, drink, think. And you don’t get the ‘missing out guilt’. Whereas when you’re in a city there’s always so much you could see and do, that I often find it difficult to have relaxation/reading/thinking time whilst there.
I also need to become better at doing what I want to do, rather than what I think I should be doing. For instance in Leon ‘volcano surfing’ is the activity to do. I’d heard about it from people before I left, read about it in all the guides, seen all the adverts in the city, and so had practically convinced myself that this is what I was in Leon to do.
Those who know me well will know that I can barely ride my bike down a hill without hitting the brakes, and that whilst I love skiing I am not going to be breaking any speed records anytime soon. So why would I want to lug a large tray up a sandy volcano in the midday sun for over an hour, just to whizz down at over 50kmph with no brakes? I wouldn’t!
I realised this and so made the decision to head to a beach lodge instead, even though it was just for one night, and I’m so glad I did.
Given I’m travelling alone I have the luxury of effectively being able to do whatever I want, whenever I want (Dermot was the ideal travel companion as he was very happy to let me sort the itinerary!)
So I need to make sure that I make the most of that opportunity and actually do what I want, even if that does turn out to be spending a week on the beach when there’s a cathedral nearby that I really ought to be seeing!!!
I really hope this doesn’t sound like I’m having a terrible time, because I’m not in the slightest. But I also think it’s important to be realistic, because whenever I’ve had friends who are travelling in the past, all I’ve seen is photos of them on Facebook in amazing places and making new best friends.
Or everyone really does have an incredible time every minute they’re away and I’m just doing something really wrong? 😂