I can’t believe it’s been a year, plus a day, that I departed on my viaje. It feels like just yesterday I arrived in Managua and shakily read directions in Spanish off a piece of paper to a taxi driver, hoping karma would do me a solid and dump me in the right place. Luckily, I returned in a solid piece. I’d like to say the same thing about my travel blog. But life got in the way and a little thing I like to call “scrambling to find a job so you don’t go broke cause you spent it all backpacking.”
Coming home was like experiencing reverse culture shock. Everything was somehow familiar and bizarre simultaneously. Sort of like deja vu with vertigo. Things I once accepted as commonplace all of a sudden felt odd, like abiding by the rules of the road, or eating something other than rice, beans and plantains at each meal, or not having to wait half an hour while the sales clerk ran to his cousin’s house to break a $20.
Did I mention I got bangs? My Nana seems to think this is the only big thing to happen this year. That and my best friend got married. I’d say equally huge developments.
Now I rarely carry cash and it’s been a while since I’ve read a book, cover to cover, in a matter of days. It’s scary how easy it is to slip into the same old routine again. “Scrambling to find a job,” did indeed lead to a job. That led to the familiar refrain of sleep, eat, work and getting frustrated with Microsoft Office Suite. That led to 8 months of blog hiatus, with the rest of my trip lingering in the webosphere abyss without words.
The other day I had to shell out over $500 for new tires after one had gotten too bald and burst in the parking lot of a Chipotle. In the waiting area of a Discount Tire the following day, sitting on a plastic red bench, I told myself, “A year ago, you were sliding down a volcano.” I like to remind myself of that every so often, when life gets a little too normal.
“Normal” can be beautiful too, though. After all, I relished in the normalcy of other people’s lives while on the road. What seemed exceptional to me– daily thunderstorms, pink sky, wild monkeys and entire towns built on volcanoes in the middle of a lake– was the daily grind to them. I’m sure the Super Walmart with an entire aisle for mayonnaise down the street from my apartment would blow their minds.
Traveling abroad, on my own, for three months was everything I hoped it’d be, plus some. It was the spark I needed to reroute myself, to discover new passions. And in the end, it made me miss home. No, really. I just needed to sled down a volcano every once in a while to realize it.
So, in honor of the one year anniversary of embarking on the scariest thing I’ve ever done, I’m including pictures from the rest of my trip– from San Jose, Costa Rica, all the way up to northern Belize.
One of many street murals in downtown San Jose, Costa Rica
Continuing my solo journey back in Nicaragua: somewhere near San Juan del Sur
A lazy, lonely afternoon spent swimming in the healing waters of Laguna de Apoyo crater lake
Meeting new friends in Somoto, Nicaragua
Canyoning with the Dutch in Somoto (a sentence I’ll probably never say again)
Finding remnants of the Sandanista revolution on every corner in Somoto.
Morning Hike along a nature reserve– Lake Yojoa, Honduras
Pulhapanzak Falls, Honduras. We went on what was supposed to be a leisurely walk “behind the falls” but it turned out to be more of a “cling to the rocks lest this crazy waterfall we’re walking directly into flings us to our deaths” situation
With Becky and Mike, my death-defying waterfall hike partners
Hot springs in Copan, Honduras
And we’re back in Guatemala!
To meet up with a boy
So we could journey across another crater lake to spend a rainy night in a tree house. In San Marcos, on Lake Atitlan
We soaked in the sweet life on Rio Dulce from our thatched roof hotel on the docks
My view in the canoe ride into Boqueron Canyon. We paid a very small man named Hector about $10 to row us upstream. He dropped us off on a bolder midstream and left us to fend for ourselves, Jurassic Park style.
On the Rio Dulce on our way up to Livingston
And finally, Belize.
A man named MC Hammer, I kid you not, took us on his own dingy to Tobacco Caye– an island only about 400 feet long in the middle of the ocean
We rode inland to San Ignacio Town, on the banks of the Mopan River.
Channeling my inner Lara Croft as we hiked into the massive Actun Tunichil Muknal cave and found still-intact skeletons left behind in Mayan sacrifice rituals
We ended the trip in Caye Caulker, which was a lot bigger than Tobacco Caye with a lot more gringos
We did get to swim with sharks though. They were super friendly, as long as you were feeding them
“Peace, No War.” Words I’ll live by as I embark on the next adventure. Stay tuned.