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The Vagabond Adventures: Lessons Learned

The Vagabond Adventures: Lessons Learned

“You get a strange feeling when you about to leave a place, I told him, like you’ll not only miss the people you love, but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” -Azar Nafisi

I read that quote while I was on Isla de Ometepe and it felt so true. It was a wonderful week of my life, without responsibilities. Nicaragua was a beautiful, cheap and friendly country that welcomed us around every corner. There was an interesting mix of the old and new. One of my friends spent a bus ride talking to a mom and her daughter in Spanish. When they got up the girl looked at her and said in perfect English “Happy 4th of July, its trending on Twitter today.”

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The people in Nicaragua were so nice. There was only one time I felt even a tiny bit unsafe and the restaurant owner escorted out the man. One of our drivers, Monolo, told us that because the government was/is so corrupt and stole so much from the people, that now as it is slowly improving, stealing is one of the most despicable crimes in the eyes of the people. I never even felt as if someone eyed my bag. Everyone we met was willing to talk, share about their lives and their homeland.

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I had a half hour conversation with a man on the bus about the education system in Nicaragua and other random things (talk about a stretch for my Spanish!). The children only go to school for half a day, because there is not space for all of them to attend at once. The younger children went in the morning and the older students in the afternoon. I know that this may sound like a better deal, because we have all wanted to not sit in classes as long, but think of how much more education we are able to get because we can attend school for a full day. It really is a privileged to attend school as we do and to have the classroom resources that are available.


I met a woman who lives in Germany, but is here working on building a hydroelectric plant here. She works 14 hour days, some others work longer. But she said “but it is so fun, everyone is always joking. The people here are so happy.” Wow, to have such a great outlook after working that long is unbelievable! I have seen a strong work ethic time and time again both in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Yes, chores may not be pleasant, but try using a machete to cut the grass in your front yard or having to break up the old cement in a drive way using basically a spear (I saw both these chores being done these ways).


Common courtesy is yet another ideal I saw in many people. When I needed a taxi and would approach a waiting line of cars from the end, the last car in line will tell you to go to the first car, who has been waiting the longest for a passenger. Obviously not everyone in Central America works hard, doesn’t steal, and is always polite, but I was blessed to meet some wonderful people on my trip.

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There were so many great memories I couldn’t capture with my camera. Two sisters doing laundry by hand in the river, a dad lifting his boy up onto the back of his motorcycle and kissing him, a group of children playing ball in their yard, and an old woman face full of wrinkles smiling a huge smile as we drove past. These memories will stay with me and I hope to return again.

The Vagabond Adventures: leg three

The Vagabond Adventures: leg three

“If you don’t have any plans, you can end up doing some interesting things” -Karl Pilkington

Lago de Nicarage, Lake Nicaragua, is the largest lake in Central America and the 19th largest in the world. It dominates the Southwest part of Nicaragua. During our previous trips, we traveled the sliver of land between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific Ocean. Our final destination was la Isla de Ometepe, an island inside Lago de Nicaragua composed of two volcanoes. Volcan Concepción, an active volcano, makes up the Northern half of the island, while the extinct Volcan Maderas is connected by a narrow strip of land. It was by far my favorite place during my whole study abroad.


We took a one hour ferry from San Jorge to Moyogalpa on Isla de Ometepe. We chatted with the ferry workers and they let me “drive” the ferry!


We stayed in a hostel called The Landing Place in Moyogalpa. Cheap, clean beds, our own bath, and a room full of hammocks on the top floor. We ate at Mar Dulce, an Argentinean restaurant up the road, multiple times during our stay. They had the most delicious smoothies.


Our first adventure was going to the Ojo de Agua, the Eye of the Water, springs of mineral waters that are supposed to have healing properties. It cost $3 to get in and was a little disappointing. It was basically a swimming pool they flowed the water through and the water was not warm. They did have a rope swing to jump into the water and we had fun floating around, talking to other tourists.

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The second day, we hiked the trail up to the San Ramon waterfall. 3 km, that felt more like 30, straight up the side of Volcan Maderas. The trail was not always well marked and included climbing up rocks and over trickling water. It was one of the harder things I have ever done. The 350 feet waterfall waiting at the top, however, is more than worth it. We waded in the cold water pooling at the bottom of the waterfall. This was what I had been searching for, a natural waterfall I waded into and could stand beneath the falling water. We had fun playing in the pools, finding some water creatures, and drying off in the sun. In all, it took the whole day between our ride from the other side of the island and the hikes up and down the volcano.

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One thing checked off my bucket list

For our third day, we decided to explore the island a little more freely and rented dirt bikes. There is one big road that loops around the island, so it’s hard to get lost. The road was nicely paved for about 2/3 of our trip. Our end destination was El Caballito’s Mar Kayak Tours. Between day two and three, I was getting a full body work-out. We paddled along the lake shore and up into a river, about a 3 hour round trip. In the river, we saw birds, alligators, lizards, monkeys, turtles, and sleeping bats.

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If I ever return to the island, and I sincerely hope I do, I want to do the hike up Volcan Concepción, about an 8 hour trip, and hike up Volcan Maderas, about a 6 hour trip (not back to back!). There were also many beaches and a few small towns we didn’t get a chance to explore.

The Vagabond Adventures: leg two

The Vagabond Adventures: leg two

GO and SEE all you possibly can.

Our hostel arranged for us to ride to Granada in Monolo’s truck. We stopped along the way as he “wanted to show us his homeland.” We saw fields and our first glimpse of the volcanoes that make up Ometepe island. He drove us through Granada and pointed out the 4 huge beautiful Catholic churches. Monolo said “there are 4 churches here and if you have a lot of sins you go to all 4.” We said adios and gracias to Monolo, found our hostel and settled down.

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La iglesia número uno


La iglesia número dos

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La iglesia número tres – I loved the cheerful yellow against the bright blue sky


La iglesia número cuatro

While searching for a place to eat, we found a little used book shop ran by Troy who used to live in Seattle. I could have lived in his tiny shop (he did live in the adjoining space). Walls of books and beautiful original photography hung up. It seemed like everywhere we went we met Americans who had since settled in Costa Rica.


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In Granada we took a boat tour around the Isletes off the coast in Lake Nicaragua. Granada was a bold and bright city with wide cobblestone streets down the center.

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The next day was spent in Masaya. Masaya is considered the heart of Nicaraguan handicrafts. They have a huge market with everything from hammocks and jewelry to souvenirs and clothes. In hindsight, I would have skipped Granada and spent more time in Masaya. Unfortunately, I did not take any photographs in Masaya.

The vagabond adventures, leg 1

The vagabond adventures, leg 1

vagabond (n): a person who wanders from place to place without a home or job

Costa Rica has a one week break in the middle of their summer school sessions. During this week, we packed up and journeyed across the border into Nicaragua. It was my favorite week of the whole summer. I cannot tell you how much I loved Nicaragua. Although I loved studying abroad, I did a lot more studying, more school, and less adventuring than I thought I would. My classes were challenging. It helped me with my primary goal of learning Spanish, but not with my general desire to experience another country. In Nicaragua, we had no classes or obligations. We woke up each morning and decided what we wanted to do. I felt free.


To cross the border, I took a bus from San José to Rivas, Nicaragua. We went through customs and spent the night in Rivas.

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The next morning, our hostel arranged a car to take us San Juan del Sur. A constant throughout our week was the amazing people we met. The 6 hour ride was memorable for several reasons. First, 7 of us including the driver were piled into one car. Second, we jammed to the driver’s CD of Snoop Dog, Eminem and other 90’s rap classics the whole way. Third, at one point we all tumbled out of the car so it could make a particularly steep climb up a hill. We arrived safe in San Jual del Sur, found an $8 hostel with breakfast and ocean views, and settled in for the night. DSC_0211c2           DSC_0111c2             DSC_0254c2

San Juan del Sur is a beautiful calm beach town. The ocean harbor is gorgeous and the town is watched over by a giant statue of Jesus up on the mountain. It reads “Jesus en ti confio.” How beautiful! We hiked up to the statue and it was miles of almost vertical roads. Our thighs were burning, but the views were incredibly worth it. The rest of the night was spent at an awesome cheap beach restaurant resting in their hammocks.

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The second day we took an hour boat ride to snorkel, but let me warn you, this is not a spot known for snorkeling. It was still a relaxing day on the water.


Spontaneity Is Necessary In Life

Spontaneity Is Necessary In Life

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” – Lewis Carroll

This was a spontaneous trip, deciding 2 hours before the bus left that I was going. Two buses took us from San José to Manuel Antonio. It was pitch black when we got there and by complete chance we managed to find an amazing hostel, Backpackers Paradise Costa Linda. It was only $10 a night, clean, had wifi, and a cafe attached. There were giant breakfasts with 2 huge plates of food for only $4. The beach was a minute walk from the hostel and the National Park was a minute walk the other direction. Manuel Antonio is a small lazy area, with beautiful beaches on the Pacific coast.

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We spent our whole first day relaxing on the beach. We rented two surf boards and one of the guys in our group attempted to teach us how to surf. It was SO much fun, but I can confidently check surfer off my list of possible careers. We layed in the sun and explored the coves and rocks around the beach.

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The second day we hiked through the Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio. There is plenty of wildlife and fauna along with beautiful beaches. The wildlife takes a careful eye to spot and other groups benefited from having a guide, but I still managed to see a couple creatures: a lizard, some crabs, toucans, sloths, and some really weird spiders. We also found monkeys outside the park playing in the trees.

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Manuel Antonio was truly beautiful and reflected the image I had of Costa Rica in my head. Costa Rica has spots of complete beauty, but it is easy to remember that it is still a developing country. Some ways, such as recycling they are far beyond other countries, but there is also trash littering the country side. It is a wonderful marvelous country that is capturing my heart, but there are vastly different sceneries here.

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