Thank You to All The Good People in the World (And Those Who Helped Through Panama)

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.

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Pura Vida: Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

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.

Processed with VSCOcam with c3 presetIf 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.

Why I Didn’t Find What I Was Looking For in San Juan Del Sur

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

Volcano Boarding in Leon, Nicaragua.

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.

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Feeling Home in El Tunco, El Salvador

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.

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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.

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19 hours in Antigua.

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.

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17 Things to Expect at Semuc Champey.

I have been pondering on this latest post for a few days now trying to find the right words to describe the unforgettable experience I had at Semuc Champey, during our time in Lanquin, Guatemala. I can’t really tell you exactly how I felt because my emotions ranged from excited and overwhelmingly amazed, to nervous and down right terrified. It was truly the most memorable day I have had to date during my time in Central America. You know, one of those days you’ll never forget. As a person who is overly worrisome, and sometime anxious, I left our day tour of Semuc Champey feeling braver than I did after swimming with sharks, and as relaxed as I had been after going slow for two weeks on Caye Caulker.

If you are ever in Guatemala, give this place the number one spot on your list of places to see. Its a hidden gem, and a bit of a trek, but absolutely worth the ride.

And, since we all seem to respond better to Lists…

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Touring Flores, and Jungle Trekking in Tikal

It took around nine hours to get to Flores. Trips can be easily arranged through any travel agent on the island, and it costs around 34US all in for a quick water taxi, bus transfer, and shuttle to the island combined. Our bus was spacious and filled with good company. We each sat cozily, two seats to ourselves, and began our journey onwards from Belize City. The city was quieter this time around, as it happened to be a Sunday; most of the shops being sealed shut with metal sheathing. Buildings were plentiful, colourful and closely grouped. Some more important buildings were lined with barbed-wire fences, but none had actual windows not covered by metal rods. Though the border was heavily guarded with armed security, assault rifles in hand, it didn’t take long to get through. In fact, it was kind of dodgy just how easy it was compared to other Countries I have previously travelled. You are required to pay around 25 US for departure and arrival fees combined, and you simply walk through the border, handing your passports to both parties required. They even have hagglers happy to change your currency into Guatemalan Quetzals (or pretzels as Jac would have us call them). We were neither searched, nor scowled for any reasons, which made the process extremely relaxed. I Bought a bag of chips for 20 cents and headed back into the bus to further our journey westward to Flores. One thing I did note however, was the lack of English spoken in the area. Virtually no one could communicate outside Spanish, which was contrary to Belize, as most Belizean’s could speak, or at least understand English. Processed with VSCOcam with s4 preset Continue reading

Go Slow, on Caye Caulker.

I have been very disappointed in myself in terms of the frequency in which I have been writing.. But when you meet such a great group of people you seldom want to spend time alone.

I’d like to say I spent the two weeks trekking and participating in daily adventure seeking excursions, so busy, I barely had time to sleep. But the truth is, on Caye Caulker, I didn’t do much of anything except bond with the 5 most incredible people I could have hoped to meet (and my good buddy Matt of course)!

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100 Bottles of Belikin, and other drunken tales from San Pedro, Caye Ambergris.

When your travelling and constantly on the move, it’s hard to find time to sit down and write. Days are long and filled with so much newfound excitement, that its easy to forget to sit down and take a moment to reflect. This morning I was thankful for the rain.

As this trip approached I found that I wasn’t anxious nor apprehensive, as I was on my trip to Thailand. Instead, I welcomed all the possibilities that Central America would have to offer me. Parents were of course lecturing. Adults I find are often scared of the unknown, and spend to much time being caught up in the negativity the news provides them with surrounding foreign places. However I have learned the news is pretty biased. They rarely cover stories about all the joy foreign countries will bring you, but waste no time poisoning you with the horrors you may face, with some troubling luck. I wasn’t nervous. Instead, I welcomed all opinions, taking each suggestion with an open mind.

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