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.
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.
It was an interesting bus – or I should say van ride, over to the small village of Languin. Two spots had thankfully freed up, making it rather comfortable comparable to the other bus we had of the same size, on the way to Tikal. There were 5 of us Total, 10 spots in all, and I somehow managed to snag a whole bench to myself. I’m telling myself it was not because no one wanted to sit with me. Regardless , it made for a super relaxed first 5 hours! It was early when we left, so I slept for most of the morning. I finished my entire litre of water as it was hot inside, and started getting really restless like everyone else, 20 minutes to the eat and stretch stop, and really needing pee at this point. Then suddenly we were held up in bumper to bumper traffic, behind a truck full of overcrowded cattle. Our driver said nothing, not that we would have understood him anyway if he did, and jumped out of the front seat and started up the road on foot. We were confused, hungry, and at this point dancing in our seats because we all had to pee. How long would we be stopped here? Five minutes, twenty? After fifteen minutes of stretching our legs, hanging outside the car, and discussing how confused we all were, the boys decided they would try and find out, while I set out in search for a bathroom. “El Bano?” was the first word in Spanish I had learned, and quite frankly the only word I had actually remembered anyway. There were 2 houses in site, and I thought maybe one would allow me into their home to use their bathroom. I got two “No’s” followed by a lovely offering of cola, and some roadside chicken. The families were actually prepared for the road block and had set up vendors, selling pop, beer, food, ice-cream, anything to make a quick buck. But they wouldn’t sell me the use of their washrooms, or maybe they would have, had I only known a word of Spanish.
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. Continue reading