When I was seventeen I joined with a dozen other teenagers and traveled to Nicaragua with Witness for Peace. Our mission was to see, hear, and smell Nicaragua, to experience her in all her glory and complications.
I spent two weeks playing with orphans, sleeping on cots in one-room shacks with a family of 5 in the bed next to me, waking up at dawn to make tortillas with chickens scratching below, holding meetings with the young conservatives and the young liberals, visiting a Taiwanese sweatshop, and meeting with the CEO and the leader of the union.
Those days have stayed with me vividly for the last 14 years. I can easily recall the feeling of the wind in my face as I rode from the airport to the hostel in the back of a pickup truck when we arrived. Or the Manà song that was always playing. Or the salty taste of Gallo Pinto (red beans and rice). Or the coldness of a bottle of Victoria drank in a hammock (no drinking age in Nicaragua and yes, we were allowed to drink but not much). Or the sweet faces of the Nicas who welcomed us into their homes and their lives and shared their stories with us. Or the ever-present intensity of racism, poverty, social strata.
That trip was the second time I’d ever been out of the country and I returned with a love of everything Latin America; the people, the landscape, the grit, Spanish, the food. Over the next ten years I traveled to Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, Belize, Guatemala, Ecuador, Colombia, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, and lived in Peru. Yep, I’m a big fan of the part of the world.
Last Spring Tate started plotting a surfing vacation to Nicaragua. Christmas Day we flew into that same airport I landed at 14 years ago, this time with our friends Oliver and Natasha in tow.
We spent the first four days traveling around the country, including days and nights in Leon, Somoto, Matagalpa, and Granada.
There is wifi and cell service every where but horses are still a popular form of transportation!
Gasoline is one of the most pricey expenses in this country, which means buses are frequent, heavily used, and packed to the brim.
On New Years Eve three more friends joined us and we settled into four gorgeous days at a beach house.
I only have one word of advice.
Rent your place out on airbnb while you’re gone to help pay for the trip.