Sometimes I have to remind myself why I choose to travel. When you’re back-packing, living out of hostels, sleeping on a top bunk in a dorm room that sleeps 6, it’s easy to get caught up doing something that may not interest you, for the sake of spending time with new friends.
I mean, part of the reason I travel is to meet new people, to listen to their stories and interact with different types of personalities from all over the world to get a better understanding of my own. Listening to others unique life paths always gives me a better insight to the one I’m taking. Through travel I have learned that it’s not uncommon to misunderstand where in the social/economic ladder I fit. Instead of finding out exactly what I want to do, I have found others who are searching as well. I’ve learned that it’s okay to take the time to learn more about myself before I try and be someone.
Travelling allows me to experience my life in a different context. I’m constantly being tested, and pushed outside my boundaries, no matter how comfortable I may be. Life on the road has thrown me into situations that allow me to learn more about myself, each day, discovering new strengths and new weaknesses. Sometimes I even get to overcome some of these weaknesses.
The reason I travel is not to have more friends, but more importantly to learn more about different kinds of people, and to see the World from the eyes of those who live in different parts of it. I travel to learn. I learn wisdom from those who are older than me, and am reminded by those who are younger, with hearts which have not yet been burned, to be open and kind. In a world where not everyone speaks the same language, I am constantly reminded of how crucial body language can be. How important it is to smile, and how a simple gesture such as a hug or a handshake, can make all the difference. When I started to travel I thought I would be able to understand the World better than my peers, and help make a difference. I have found quite the opposite. What I have learned is that life is much more complicated than that, and that I will probably never “understand” the World. However, understanding in my own ignorance is a blessing, and will always allow me to keep an open mind in my search for more answers. While I may never be able to make a huge change in the lives of those around me, I do have the power to make a difference in my own.
Travelling offers me the kind of hope and inspiration I’ve always longed for. Not knowing where my next move is, and doing everything for the first time forces me into unfamiliar scenarios where I need to follow my instincts and put my trust in a World that can be somewhat untrusting. I lost my brand new go pro hero4 in Nicaragua. I was so busy roaming around that I didn’t even realize it was gone until I wanted to use it two hours later. I decided to trust the World. While I was backtracking other backpackers offered me luck in a sarcastic and pitiful manner. People in Western societies don’t trust anymore, and with good reason, as most people are to absorbed in themselves to help anyone else. As it turned out I left my go pro in a local convenience store, where the lady keeping it safe smiled and hugged me when I came to retrieve it. She refused to take my money. Travelling has not only restored my faith in humanity, but made me want to be a better version of myself as well. I have decided that I will always pay it forward.
Travelling reminds me to be brave, and adventurous. I was raised by a worrisome mother who always wanted to keep me safe. But I learned a lack of adventure can inhibit you from living life to the fullest. You can’t hold back in life for fear of getting hurt. You cannot score if you never take the shot. During these past few years I have faced my fear of heights, as well as my fear of closed spaces. I am no longer afraid of the open ocean, or of what could happen to me in the dark. I have yet to face my fear of spiders, but am not afraid to go to places home to the most poisonous kind. I have bungee jumped, snorkelled amongst sting rays, and swam with sharks. I have jumped off cliffs into the wide open ocean, and off 20m bridges just for fun. I went flying down a Volcano at 50mph on a wooden board three weeks ago, and walked alone in the dark El Salvador with only my cellphone’s flashlight leading the way. I have jumped into things fully and unconditionally, without any idea of what to expect. By not worrying everyday that by doing these things I may die, I am also no longer afraid to live.
When I left San Juan Del Sur I had to remind myself why I travel. I felt like all I had done there was party and drink, which is fine in moderation, because I’m young and have a grip on my life. However as I sat on the bus leaving, I still felt somewhat disappointed. In every place I had been thus far I had immersed myself in the culture and tried to learn a bit more about myself along the way. I didn’t leave SJDS feeling more educated, or enlightened. Instead I was left with a broken cellphone and feeling as though I wasted 5 nights accommodation on a lousy party.
But since everybody and their dog raves about Sunday Funday, I decided to leave my inhibitions behind, and see what all the hype was about. It took some serious convincing from my friends, who knew me as the “early-bedtime-bandit” when it came to travelling binge drinking. To participate in the fun costs 30US, and all that covers is your entrance fee and a really ugly singlet (all the stereo sonic steroid heads are probably thinking “sick”). It doesn’t however, cover any of the drinks you’ll need to consume from the 10am start until the 2am finish. Sure, as far as huge parties go, its well done. Pool hopping to three different venues all day long, sunglasses becoming not just an accessory but a necessity, if you get what I mean. To a lot of westerners, this party is the highlight of their time in Nicaragua, and they will go on to speak highly of it for years to come, disagreeing with everything I am about to say.
But I didn’t travel to do what is done at home. I spent $30 USD on a giant rave instead of sport fishing in the bay, or helping newborn turtles get safely to the ocean for their first time. To enjoy the day I had to let go and leave my cynicism at the door. I had to get really drunk to even hold a disillusioned conversation with anyone. Don’t get me wrong, I must have enjoyed my self when I was there because I stayed the entire time. But I woke up the next morning with a broken cellphone, ray-ban-less and asleep on a daybed in the bar of Naked Tiger because that was the only sleeping arrangements available to get our $15 discount on the event. I was coming down, with a major headache and a get-me-the-fuck-out-of-here feeling in the pit of my stomach (maybe it was the nausea of my hungover, I don’t know). Either way, I felt nothing but disappointment.
I decided not to let it hinder the rest of my time in San Juan Del Sur, but it did. The other events of the week were more fun, less expensive, and allowed me the option to leave when I wanted because I didn’t feel like I had to get my money’s worth. I am not bias against partying either. I attended a series of drinking games involving shotgunning beers, playing flip cup, and physically sprinting from bar to bar with a group of 4. The cost was five dollars and drinks were included. I had the time of my life and let loose once again with my friends. But guess what the prize for first place was… Tickets for Sunday Funday. Had I known I would have rigged my strategy in game to put us in third place instead. I would have been way happier with a free poutine.
I probably could have done different excursions, but I didn’t want to stay. Everything was focused around getting trashed. The streets were crawling with stumbling Westerners at all hours of the day, and at night it wasn’t safe to walk the beach for fear of being robbed at gunpoint. Some of the shadier locals had figured out how easy it was to take advantage of the drunk and helpless, making it unsafe for everyone.
If you enjoy this kind of environment, you will thrive and have a fantastic time. The city is lively and always has something to do. If your raving days are behind you like my own, skip Sunday Funday and put your money towards something thats a bit more fulfilling. In terms of finding a place to stay, I do still have a few hostel recommendations. Yajure is a chilled out surf spot on the beach, close to the action but still a bit off the main strip. They give you full use of their kitchen and smoking weed is encouraged. If you want something a bit more remote, head to Casa De Olas. It requires a shuttle to get to, but is conveniently located beside Naked Tiger if you want to switch over for a couple of nights of insanity and to get your Sunday Funday discount. It has the best views of Sunset overlooking its infinity pool, and is famous for its Monday roast dinner – just like mom makes it, guaranteed. There is no better place to spend a hangover.
Make sure that when you’re in San Juan Del Sur you don’t forget to do the hike to the Jesus statue. It gives you a stunning panoramic view of the town, as well as the Pacific coastline. And if you happen to feel a bit lost like I did, it will also once again remind you of the wonderful joys of travelling.