I have never been to Iceland, but have always dreamed of going. Since my wanderlust began, I have often fantasized of the faraway land, and what it would be like to lounge in its turquoise blue hot springs after a long hike. In my spare time I found myself consumed by countless reminders, including ‘Buzzfeed’s 32 reasons why I should visit’. Unfortunately, the magnitude of Countries I’ve put on my travel radar have me struggling to decide which take priority. As a lover of backpacking I usually opt to tackle regions at a time, fitting in enough places to deem a longer trip necessary. However, following my move to London, in which I had to layover in Reykjavik, I decided to place Iceland high on my top places to visit in 2015, and have promised myself to explore the dream-like country sooner, rather than later.
If you are thinking of planning a move to London, there are some things you need to sort out before you arrive. Planning is essential. Too often people forget to plan ahead and get caught with their pants down once they arrive. I know this, because I am one of those people. I always show up to the costume party dressed in regular clothes because I didn’t thoroughly read the invite, and I almost always find myself frantically searching for my misplaced my passport before needing to fly. Had it not been for my better half my arrival would not have accumulated into a series of unfortunate events that would have ultimately lead to my departure or perhaps even my non/arrival.
Anyways, so that you don’t make the same mistakes I had. Let me guide you through the process and make your move as stress-free as possible.
As I sit back and reflect on the year past, and the journey that has just ended, I realize I can not close that chapter of my book without saying thank you to those who helped get me to Panama City to catch my flight.
You see, it wasn’t as smooth sailing as you may have imagined. Sure it was the last few days of my trip, and I was a veteran in the backpacking department. But, if you have gathered anything from reading my blog, you’ll know that I have just about the worst luck. And that most of my “adventures” are misadventures in their own way as well. Those last few days brought with them so many road blocks, that even I was left feeling pessimistic and scared. Had it not been for a few incredible strangers, I may not be sitting here now, telling you the story.
When I set out for Puerto Viejo against the advice of my new friend the Aracnaologist who claimed it to be a “dump”, and “just another San Juan”. I had this idea that I would tan in the day, and write at night. I’d lie on the beach and do nothing for couple days in Puerto Viejo, then relax in Bocas Del Toro for another few, making the last shuttle to Panama City with one more day to spare. My idea was that I would kick the drinking, eat right and be so relaxed that my transition back home would be a breeze. I’d be tanned, and wouldn’t feel overly tired during the Christmas Holidays.
“Tan”. That is a funny word to describe what I did in Puerto Viejo, because I lost all the colour I had been working on during my time there. I probably should have read ahead, called a friend, or asked the audience. However, I just assumed further south would just be equally as hot as Nicaragua had been on the Pacific side. And it had been HOT. Like, no-point-in-drying-off-from-your-shower-hot because you’d be soaked-through-your-clothes-sweaty in moments anyway. BUT as it turned out, I had unknowingly and excitedly made my way over to freakin’ Green Season in the Caribbean side. Also more simply referred to as, Rain Season.
So I didn’t sit out in the sun, soak in some vitamin D, and bronze my whole body like I don’t really give a !%$^. I probably avoided some new beauty marks and more importantly any strands of melanoma, because lets face it pale is the new tan! At least, that’s what I’ll be telling everyone when I’m home anyway…
However, I did not anticipated falling in love with a place that I had only planned on staying a few days, because it happened to be conveniently on my path home.
I was welcomed by Pagalu Hostel, a new and inviting brightly coloured hostel, with the nicest bunk beds I had ever had the ‘luxury’ of sleeping on, equipped with a communal kitchen with a well thought out labelling system. Take that you chocolate milk thieves. It’s hard to imagine thinking of a luxurious bunk bed, but I had had my fair share of torturous sleeping arrangements. At Pagalu I had my own night light, charging station, and fan. So yes, apart from the smell of sweaty boys and the sound of others snoring so loud I thought a truck was backing up – it was, truly, luxurious.
My introduction to the town was also very pleasant. There was a lot going on in Puerto Viejo, and on my first night I was invited to a late dinner/ all you can eat Asian feast with 5 Girls! We waited until 10:30 to go to eat half price, which is way to late to eat, especially since it was my second dinner, but by know you should know I’ll do anything to save a dollar. Yeah, I was stoked considering all I had talked was beers and ball for the past 7 weeks. So I gushed, talking boys and ambitions whilst stuffing my face with local sushi, and sippin’ on Pina Coladas for the entire evening. *Side note: Don’t drink Pina Colada’s with all you can eat anything. Drink Water, Eat all you can Eat. Taking up no precious space with thick liquids.*
Waking up to the sound of rain slamming on the windows is probably one of the most soothing sounds in the World, so each morning was greeted with a warm and relaxing embrace. I headed into the common room, where there was local coffee already brewed and waiting for me, had my usual, and cheapest meal of toast/peanut butter/ banana combo, and wrote for the entire morning. It was there that I brought to you 3 posts in a week. The words were flowing out of me like the rivers of Lanquin.
In the afternoon I’d head out with the girls and grab a bike for the day, rentals were 3 dollars, and it was necessary to allow you the freedom of roaming around the town. From there decisions were made simple: Beach, Hike, Yoga, Vegetarian Lunch, Ginger Chocolate Smoothie, Markets? What ever we felt like doing for the rest of the day. Maybe, even all of the above.
The drive around town is incredibly picturesque. The more developed hub, with markets and second hand clothing stores, vegan eateries, and local artisans. You would have to stay for a month to unravel its true potential. Bread and Chocolate is a fan favourite for cool eats to start. But the shops are endless so there is no way you’d be able to see them all without a lot of time. Once you leave the main square, you head on towards the beaches, past the handmade stands, where fresh produce is sold for cheap, and you can pick up all your gifts for your friends. Moving past, you find yourself cruising along the road, through the jungle and endless Yoga shacks. Surrounding you is dense vegetation and jungle life expanding as far as you can see to your right, with the ocean looming through it in the distance to your left. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the first Beach, and from there there are two more from a further distance. To be honest, we never got that far. We only had two suitable beach days, and we didn’t want to waste any precious time in the Sun. I don’t think I have ever been so excited to swim in the open Ocean, I felt the epitome of true freedom.
That’s exactly the vibe that will enrapture you in Puerto Viejo. I sure as hell didn’t come back with any colour, but I did get the much needed relaxation I was so desperate for. I drove into the Carribean, tired, and ready to head home. I left wishing I had more time, and could stay forever. Life was as slow as it had been on Caye Caulker, but it was much larger, making each day vastly different than the next. And the food; I could feel the nutrients in my skin and I could see the difference in my hair. I ate Mango Salad for cheap, had eggplants and fresh produce in my stir-fry’s, coconuts for a midday snack, and indulged on copious amounts of Ginger. and I LOVE Ginger, I eat that shit raw.
If your not a foodie like myself, the wildlife will be sure to hook you during your time. Picture this, we’re riding bikes around, stopping at Ohm to sample some gourmet dark chocolate. Did I mention its free to try all the flavours? We literally stopped here every day, so eventually we had to buy some. Anyway, all of a sudden we find ourselves aiding in the relocation of a sloth that has made his way into the backroom, across the street back into the jungle. A wild sloth. I nearly cried in excitement, the 5 year old version of myself once again coming out to play. I have seen sloths before in South East Asia, but never wild. They are hilarious. So slow, so stunned, absolutely the cutest freaking animals in the World. And, they’re everywhere in Costa Rica.
Pura Vida is the motto in Puerto Viejo, which means Pure Life and it couldn’t be more accurate. Life was easy. Life was good. I planned on coming for a few days, just “because”, but ended up skipped Bocas Del Toro all together. I had found exactly what I was looking for in Costa Rica.
Like all good things though, they eventually have to come to an end. But luckily for me, the end just meant the beginning of something new. I was making a beeline to Panama City to fly home for the holidays, before embarking on my next adventure.
I was happily two weeks away from joining my boyfriend on his side of the World.
In London, England.
I’m sorry if I seemed a bit cynical in my last post. Though I didn’t find necessarily what I was looking for in San Juan Del Sur, I cannot say that my time there was a complete waste. I was surrounded by 6 great people with whom I had grown to love individually. We spent days, sometimes doing nothing but watching seasons of game of thrones. We always had great conversations, and shared our stories, really getting to know more about one another. I learned from each and every one of them, and was once again reminded just how beautiful it is to be unique. I mean, if we were all the same, I’d imagine we would never laugh, never learn, never truly be.
For the last 6 weeks Reese, Jac, Matt, Corey, Stu and Max had been my family. We looked out for one another. We teased and embarrassed each other like any good family does. We even got into arguments with one another from time to time because that’s just how comfortable we were together. We were honest. I found I could be myself, and could let all my guards down and completely let go. They treated me equally, never like “a girl”, I was their wing-man at the bar, and if anyone was bothering me, they were my boyfriends.
We were this rock band full of weirdo’s in our own way. Completely ourselves, and never treating each other with disrespect. We made meals together, sharing the chores. We cuddled on couches because there was never enough space, and slept on each other shoulders on the long drives. Though I was the first to go to bed the night before I left, everyone still got up early in the morning to say goodbye, Matt even walked me all the way just to be safe. They made me feel like I was home, and even though I’m not a massive fan of raves, I am a huge lover of friendship. I was actually quite sad when I decided it was time for me to leave the group.
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. Continue reading
We made the trip from El Tunco to Leon on a 3am shuttle. Past the half mark, time was slipping away, and I needed to get South faster than I was moving.
I never recommend booking a 2 way ticket because your sort of stuck to this time-line, always worried about where you need to be, rather than focusing on where you want to go. You end up rushing, and subsequently sacrificing a lot of things you would otherwise have the freedom to do. It only made more sense to have a trip back home because of my plans to go to London after Christmas. I group booked my flights on cheapoair.com and saved over 800 dollars. Vancouver-Toronto-Belize-Panama-Toronto and then over to London for less than two thousand dollars!
Matt and the boys had all the time in the World, no plans, no care. But unfortunately for me I was time crunched, needing to get to Panama City for December 15th.
The shuttle to Leon costs 40 dollars, and the route crosses through Honduras before entering Nicaragua. Stamp Stamp 😉 The journey is over 12 hours, but the driver will take you right to your hostel.
We didn’t initially plan on going to El Salvador. To be honest I forgot the Country even existed, its never really talked about. If your about to look at a map, it’s the tiny Country bordered by the Pacific Ocean, east to Guatemala, and south west to Honduras. Though it is its tiniest, it also happens to be the most densely populated Country in Central America. But don’t let its forgotten space and repetitive characteristics steer you away, its certainly worth a few days and I’ll explain why.
Since we took a slowed pace through Belize and Guatemala, we realized it would be best to choose between Scuba Diving or Surfing. El Salvador, or Honduras. By doing both we would also be limiting our experience of either. They are both time consuming and money-eating pastimes, and your better off diving headfirst into one, then skimming them both. Plus it leaves you excited for a follow up trip to try the latter.
Anyways, we happily agreed on surfing, since we had a little taste of the coral life during our snorkelling trip. (I know scuba divers are screaming at me that its not the same) But as a lover of wake-boarding, and a jealous friend of those I left behind in Whistler happily posting opening day photos of its beloved mountains, we decided to fill our longing to snowboard with surfing instead.
So we headed for El Tunco, a tiny beachside village next to El Sunzal in the department of La Libertad. It reminded me of Bali in a way, but instead of morning doorway offerings and beautiful hindu statues, it offered me rice and beans for breakfast and a couple of picturesque rock formations. It’s also a tenth of the size of the famous Indonesian surf spot. El Tunco’s single sand strip is bordered by surf shops, standard eateries and board rentals along the way.
Now I know I’m not talking the landscape up that much, but the spot is actually illustrious in the backpacker world. Besides, the pictures speak for themselves. And though your probably by this point sick of rice and beans, El Tunco’s unique appeal, and captivating black sand beaches will grapple your heart and keep you for longer than you expect.
Ill skim the details of the bus ride over to San Pedro, Lago Atitlan, because by now you know they’re all long, boring and generally overcrowded. We even picked up a hitchhiker and her daughter on the way, and the two of them shared the last seat in the back. Needless to say, it was rough. More so for Matt and his 6 foot 10 frame, who was sitting front seat with the driver and another man (not a small guy) in the middle of them. But then more so for me again when I realized I didn’t have my sunglasses and would likely never see them again- along with my beautiful onesie.
So ya, I was irritated. But without room to move my arms to look in my bag to double check, and thinking back on the surprisingly long relationship I’ve had with my Ray Bans, I decided the only rational thing to do was remain positive. Everyone’s already irritated at this point, the last thing they need is the antics of a forgetful girl causing a scene because she has once again lost her sunglasses, only to find that they’ve been on her head the whole time.
But they weren’t on my head this time, and they certainly weren’t in my bag when we pulled up. By this point I had been trying to retrace my footsteps, only to remember that I had my sunglasses in my hand along with my wallet and passport. So I was really, really, trying not to freak out. My things were gone – or left somewhere, the hostel, the bathroom. I didn’t know, because the bus driver who had been half an hour late had the nerve to yell at us to rush, without giving me a second to collect my thoughts, do a last minute check, or even pee.
As fun as Semuc Champey was, it was also exhausting. Matt and I decided it was worth it to our sanity to extend our time in Lanquin one extra day, and kick back and relax.
But do you ever wish that you can see into the future? You know, look into a crystal ball or something, and see what lies ahead.
The hassles you could avoid, if only.
In this particular case I am referring to spiders.
I mean, had we just stuck to the original plan and got on a bus at the crack of dawn the day after the excursion, I would never have ended up being bitten by a spider.
But I’m sort of getting ahead of myself.