I kid you not, the first text I got from my mother was a screenshot of a warning posted by the US Dept of State.
“Your Aunt wanted me to share that with you.”
I mean, was I going to refund my ticket? Was I going to back out of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve my Spanish by submerging myself in a Spanish-speaking Culture?
As if the Universe were disapproving, a Nor’Easter was forecast on the day my friend Liz and I were supposed to leave.
Praying to God that my flight would leave, Liz and I took a bus to the airport. At this point, I had been just a little worried. Sure, some of my friends in Costa Rica told me that Nicaragua was beautiful. That it was cheap. Even that I would love it.
I had, however, been forewarned about the fact that no one would speak English. Easy Peasy. I had Duo Lingo, and google translate. I would be fine.
At least, that’s what I told myself.
As it turned out, Nicaragua transformed from a ‘dangerous third world, non-English speaking country,’ to one of my favorite countries, ever. And, at 30 countries, I know a great place when I visit one. Here’s why:
An Actual In The Moment Video of me and my friends hitching a ride on a cement truck in Nicaragua
The People Are Wonderful
In Nicaragua, people were genuinely interested in where I came from. They asked me loads of questions about places I’ve been, corrected my (barely understandable) Spanish, and even taught me new words. Sure, I was super grateful that I became conversational during my month in Nicaragua, but I genuinely would have been fine, even if I only spoke English.
You can get A Day’s Worth of Veggies for Literally .50
I love vegetables. Spinach, Avocado, Kale, Cucumber, Tomato… The mere mention of these items makes my mouth water. At the local markets in Nicaragua, you can get all of these things for 3 Cordoba (the currency in Nicaragua). It takes about 7 cordoba to make 1 American dollar. You can get hostels for literally 40 cordoba a night if you look. Food in this country is delicious, and I had zero issues while cooking.
It’s Not Touristy
Apparently loads of people listen to the US Dept of State, because there were very few tourists there. I mean, yea, you got the typical Aussies, a couple of people from the UK, loads of Germans, but all in all, the tourism in Costa Rica far surpassed the level of tourism in Nicaragua. You could find places that catered to tourists, if you look, but so much of the local culture was intact that it was easy to find Nicaraguan Food and beverages.
Vibrant Sense of Community
In both Ometepe, El Transito and Granada, my friend Liz and I were both blown away by the amount of children and families outdoors. As soon as we arrived in Ometepe, we were shocked to see so many kids in school uniforms outside playing. It’s really difficult to worry about being kidnapped when you see the kids outside with no supervision, just running around…. being kids. Their parents were often close by, but clearly felt safe enough to let them be out and about by themselves. Additionally, everyone seemed to hitchhike; both kids and adults were often on the back of pick-up trucks, getting to another place. It seemed like a super-effective way to get around. At one point, Liz, my travel buddy, and I hitchhiked and the driver would not even accept pay. In the USA, my home country, I would be more than a little reluctant to hop on the back of a random person’s truck, but it’s just a way of life in Nicaragua, and I had no bad experiences with this.
Nicaragua has volcanoes, beaches, and forests….. left relatively untouched by the burgeoning tourist industry. In one week, Liz and I experienced a Metropolitian City, Hiked to the top of an active volcano, and explored the sands of Nicaraguan coastline.
Did I Mention it’s Cheap?
All right, so I may have hinted about it before when I talked about the price of veggies, but I actually found a brand-name swimsuit with bottoms at a random Boutique Store in Granada for like, $3.00. I’m a backpacker. I love shopping. Plus, I ditched my old bathing suit after it got a hole in it so I needed another one. At $3.00, this deal was irresistible.
You Will Be Challenged
Between the chicken buses, the developing infrastructure, and the lack of English Speakers, there are definitely some challenges involved with traveling Nicaragua. However, they are totally manageable, and you will even grow from the experience. Who knows, maybe your Spanish will even improve. 🙂
So there you have it. Seven reasons to hop on a plane and check out Nicaragua- now. Before the rest of the world discovers it. ❤