Honduras: there’s always one.

When James and Ashley left on our fourth day on the island, I threw my I love you over my shoulder as I braced myself to run through the streets in a tropical downpour. I seriously hate goodbyes. If there hadn’t been the need to brace against the rain, I probably would have had more time to think about how sad it was that I wasn’t sure when the next time I’d see them was. I’ve never been one of those people who gets stuck to home, who wonders what I’m doing every time I get back on the plane to Sydney; but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to look my loved ones in the eye and tell them how I really feel every time I walk away. I guess on some levels, I’m still an avoider when it comes to matters of the heart. I planned my second dive accordingly so that an extreme high would follow what I knew would be one of the lowest lows of the trip. So I ran away from the goodbye and changed into my shorty wetsuit. When I surfaced, feeling that same high as the day before, the lightness in my head was attributed to more than just excitement. I was feeling slightly nauseous. At first, I worried I’d had bad air, but the truth was that I knew too well that feeling in my head and the heat rushing through my body. I was hungover. And diving hungover is not recommended. I decided to head back to the hostel and have a nap, since I didn’t have anyone to meet for galavanting around the island, and it was pouring anyway. As I laid down on my bunk in the empty four-bed dorm, the door opened and in walked one of the girls who worked at the front desk of the hostel. You’re getting a roommate. It could have been perfect timing, my family had just left and I was alone again. It couldn’t be a bad thing, right? When he came in a few minutes later, he introduced himself and promptly took himself outside to smoke a cigarette. All travellers smoke, so I didn’t judge. We got to talking, about where we’d travelled to and what we were doing in Honduras. For a while, it was a fine enough conversation, he’d been travelling around SE Asia and lived in Singapore…

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Honduras: Just don’t leave the hotel alone.

How long are you staying for?  7 days.  The immigration agent froze and looked up from my passport. Wow, really? But that was all he said. He never elaborated on his reaction, which I can only assume as surprise. I guess most people don’t stay, at least not in Tegucigalpa. Landing in Tegus was not unlike my very memorable landing in Queenstown less than a year before. The biggest difference was that rather than a play-by-play of the pilot’s actions and decisions, there was just utter silence. I assumed it couldn’t possibly be an issue if the pilot and flight crew didn’t have anything to say about it. Only after I cleared customs and was standing outside arrivals that I remembered my brother telling me that Tegus was one of the most dangerous airports in the world to fly into. Selective memory. When I did see my brother and sister-in-law finally come out of arrivals after what felt like ages, it was a little bit like shock; seeing them for the first time in a year, and for the first time away from my niece and nephew since they’d been born. The first thing Ashley asked for was an iced coffee and it felt nice allowing myself to take comfort in her familiarity of this place that I wasn’t so sure about. We loaded into a minibus and were off to our fancy hotel in Tegus. I tried not to think about the expense, I tried not to fear too much for my travel budget after only one week. But Ashley let me in on a little piece of wisdom: in Tegus you either pay, or you sleep in fear of your life. So, I shut up. Oh, and don’t leave the hotel alone.  The next two days were packed with wedding activities. It was a reunion for James and Ashley as they were reunited for the first time with the other volunteers who’d worked at Montaña de Luz alongside them two years ago. It was fun, it was busy and I was so grateful to be a part of it, to be welcomed with open arms into a ceremony at which I knew only two people. But it was also about this time that my German friend went off the radar as he ventured into the depths of the Guatemalan jungle for a few days. He’d been my most constant point of contact since…

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Guatemala: lost experiences, gained friends.

I missed a lot. Okay, okay. Maybe it’s not the best way to set the scene as I begin to unfold the tales of my last month. But when it comes to Guatemala, I missed a lot. I thought I learned a lot about myself on my Sri Lankan travels. Things like: I’d rather take a taxi in my first moments in a brand new country, even knowing it was going to cost me. Like: I always wanted to book my first night or two so I could take comfort in knowing I had somewhere to go. Like: after three weeks in a third world country, I would want some of the comforts of home. I thought I learned these things about myself in Sri Lanka, but in Central America, I learned so much more. Because of what I thought I knew, I booked my first two nights in the small village of Santa Cruz la Laguna on Lago de Atitlán. It wasn’t a hostel, so I missed the chance to meet other travellers right from the beginning. Or so I thought. But I guess I’d sort of accepted that I wouldn’t meet many people in the first few days, so I didn’t think it would matter so much that I didn’t pick a hostel. It had taken me two whole days in Hikkaduwa to find Steve, and that being my only experience with solo travel, I assumed it as the standard. But I met someone my first day in Guatemala. In fact, I didn’t even have to make it to Atitlán first. From the airport, I took a shuttle to Antigua because there were no taxi drivers. As I’d walked out of the airport I’d braced myself for the onslaught of Guatemalan locals eager to snag a tourist fee for a short trip. But when I’d exited the sliding glass doors of La Aurora International Airport all I saw was a sea of unsmiling, indifferent Guatemalan faces. They were there for their families, fuck the gringa. When we got to Antigua, my driver palmed me off to another driver and I carefully crawled into the van, exhaustion setting in. Inside I found two Japanese faces turned expectantly toward me, and the side-profile of a German boy. The Japanese couple were eager to know me; What’s your name? Where are you from? Where are you going? The German didn’t care who I was, or…

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