The following is a recap of my 3 weeks spent in San Juan Del Sur, which forever changed my life as a first-time solo female backpacker. I spent March 2nd to April 27th, 2016 backpacking around Central America and met PLENTY of awesome people along the way. On April 7th, 2016 I traveled by 4 different buses and one taxi from La Fortuna, Costa Rica to San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. This leap was a defining moment of my travels. Everything was relatively well planned out for me and my savings account was looking very strong during my Costa Rican adventures (total of 5 weeks in Costa Rica). But the day I decided to take my new friend Gloria’s advice and meet up with her friend Angela who owns a restaurant in San Juan Del Sur was the day I felt like a TRUE traveler. “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving”- Lao Tzu.
SOLD! April 7th I arrived in Nicaragua after the 3rd bus that day to the border. After waiting in lines and paying the $7 tax to enter the country I then had to find a 4th bus or some way to San Juan Del Sur. This is the part of my journey in which I could have planned better. After paying the country tax you then have to walk a couple of blocks to the next inspection point in which you show your passport once more. I showed my passport and continued to roam where everyone else was roaming- towards a HUGE outdoor market and bus area. As I was following others, I passed by an enormous group of “Nica” male soldiers who appeared to be ready for an invasion at any moment. This moment of time I’ll never forget- when that entire group of intimidating armed soldiers whistled shamelessly in my direction. “Heyyyyyyyyy mami!!!!!” WELCOME TO NICARAGUA, MARIA. Buckle up.
The moment I stepped foot into the center of San Juan Del Sur, I knew it was a place that was going to be hard to leave. This little beach town is sure charming! The town is right off of a Pacific Ocean cove and it’s easily known for the best sunsets in Central America. My friend in Costa Rica, Christiano, warned me before going- “watch out for those sunsets! Best sunsets you’ll ever see in your life!”
There are a LARGE number of Canadian expats living in San Juan Del Sur. Or (SJDS) as I’ll continue to call it. And one of those expats is Angela- the friend Gloria advised me to link up with while in town. Instantly Angela and I clicked and she walked me around the tiny beach town in a matter of 20 minutes. It was so breathtaking and overwhelming! Even more overwhelming when on the very first day I randomly convinced myself to sign up for Spanish lessons! Something that had been on my mind since traveling around Costa Rica and knowing very little Spanish. Angela had taken about 5 weeks with her instructor Irlanda and her Spanish definitely impressed me. So my reaction was “Sign me right up!” To stay and learn Spanish with Irlanda, 4 hours a day for two weeks, I was to stay with her dear neighbor Marta and family. 4 hours of Spanish lessons Monday through Friday including a bed to sleep in and 3 meals freshly prepared per day by ‘mi maravillosacocinera’ Marta!
I highly suggest Irlanda to anyone desiring to learn Spanish. She arrived on time each morning and always kept the lessons interesting! We often ended the last 30 mins of the lesson with Spanish Scrabble. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The manager at Pelican Eyes revealed to me that this time of year is their SLOW season. Likely why he called me in for an interview right away after I dropped off my resume! The 3 weeks I spent in SJDS were extremely unbelievably hot. I was sweating bullets on the daily and had to take a mid-afternoon nap each day to regain my energy. So it was honestly no surprise to me when the manager told me it was their “slow season” in April. He explained it will pick back up in the October-February months because northerners will want to escape their cold weather. So nope I didn’t get the job at Pelican Eyes, but I must admit curiosity had the best of me when I dropped off my resume. What IF I could stay and work in Nicaragua and room up with Angela? Make this my life for the next 6 months?
But I did snap back to reality and come to terms with the fact that there’s still SO much of the world to explore. And this is just me getting started. Me getting my feet wet in the very warm and tempting waters of the Pacific Ocean. As my first backpacking experience, I have learned SO much. And I desire to continue to be a nomad. A nomad with always a good book in hand. “Into The Wild,” “The Places That Scare You” and “The Alchemist” have inspired me to keep this nomadic dream a reality!
What did I love most about Nicaragua? The culture. The sunsets. The people. I still hear from my Spanish teacher on Facebook and she asks when I’ll return. I still see Ceviche’s inviting posts about hitting the coast in his catamaran and partying til sundown. I still miss the intense glowing sun across my body as I bend over into ‘forward fold’ in the upstairs balcony of Casa Oro. And I crave the undeniable freedom San Juan Del Sur had to offer a young backpacker like myself. “If you are brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello”- Paulo Coelho.