Nicaragua: That hostel.

I was running. Sort of. I was planning to travel anyway, but I booked that trip in the days that followed the break-up if I can even call it that. And in those same days that I had an intense desire to jump out of an airplane. To really feel something that wasn’t heartache. At first, I didn’t think I would find it. I couldn’t ever imagine what would actually happen on my travels that could change me. You never can. Three weeks later, as the rain pounded down onto the only paved roads I’d walked in all of Central America, I wrapped my arms a little bit tighter around him and I smiled because I knew that I’d found it. His face wasn’t particularly friendly, but I’d struck up the conversation anyway. He looked like someone who could tell me where to surf. As we rode together, just the two of us, in the bed of that white truck along the bumpy dirt and gravel road that would take us to Playa Maderas, we talked about kids. He wasn’t sure he wanted them, I was afraid mine would turn out all wrong. He admitted he was only twenty; a kid himself. But I already knew it wouldn’t matter to me. From him, I took what I needed. I felt more than he did, but that fact didn’t hurt the way it did all the times before. He put his arm around me as he walked me home from the party only two short nights later and he told me all of the best things about myself. He marvelled at the way that I let everyone in, the way that I found commonality and built friendships around it. The way that I smiled, all the time. Without knowing what he was doing, he continued to describe the heart that was inside of me. The thing I was trying so hard to protect. The best moments we spent together were sitting in the kitchen of that hostel. That hostel that would become the catalyst to my story, the kind of special that can’t be put into words, forever engrained in my memory. I watched him stick out his tongue and bite down on his lower lip as he chopped onions at 10 o’clock at night, and I fell completely in love with him. I smiled for the entire time we were in that…

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Nicaragua: Gringa’s definitely on the wrong bus.

That’s definitely what she was thinking. I sat there huddled into the back corner of the mini-bus. The only backpacker. The only non-Spanish speaker. When I’d flown out of Honduras, I was determined I’d be a better backpacker in Nicaragua. We’d lived in luxury in Honduras mostly because we were there for a wedding, but also because the choice was between money and desperation. In Guate, I took the easy route. I paid for taxis and a nice hotel. I told myself it was because I was short on time, but maybe I was a little scared too. In Nicaragua, I was going to rough it. I started by promising myself that, although I’d have to take a {$20} taxi to the bus station, I was getting on that public bus. Where he dropped me was not the place I’d researched online. They said there was a sign with a lion on it. Lion, León… get it? But every single person in that long line, snaking through the bus shelter, assured me that this was the bus for León. After about thirty minutes, I was halfway through the line when I realised I only had U.S. dollars. I carefully negotiated the conversation in my head before tapping the girl in front of me. Can I pay in U.S. dollars? Yes, I think so. How much? 33 Córdoba. Something like $2? I relaxed a bit. I quickly did the calculation on my money conversion app. $1.99. I had 2 one-dollar bills. Phew. It was another thirty minutes or so until I finally got to the front of the line; I handed my pack off to the driver and quickly, purposefully crawled to my hiding spot in the back corner of the bus. I had noted about forty-five minutes prior that there was a definite lack of gringos around the bus station. I’d been sure this would be the backpackers preferred mode of transport, but it seemed to be just me. I was all in. The driver came around the back to collect our money and as I shakily pushed my two one-dollar bills over the back of my seat he began grumbling loudly in Spanish, throwing his hands around dramatically. Is it enough? It was the old women next to me. Yes, exactly. Then it’s FINE. She waved her hand in an equally dramatic gesture. A series of Spanish conversation followed in…

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