I’m three months into the trip now and I’m starting to wonder whether I’ve bitten off more than I can chew and whether I’m travelling the “right” way. Since the previous months wrapup I’ve travelled from Guatemala to Utila in Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and now I am in Bocas Del Toro in Panama. That’s a lot in a month. I had previously mentioned that I was enjoying the slow traveling but to be honest, ever since I left Guatemala I haven’t felt the same way about those place as I did with Guatemala. That place really left an impression and everybody I have met since agrees with me.
Thinking back though I’ve realised that in Nicaragua and Costa Rica I had Zero contact with any of the locals and spent the majority of time in hostels that were on the party side. In San Juan del Sur, I stayed at a place called the Naked Tiger only because the place we wanted to stay at was booked out. The staff as fun as they were, spent half the time drunk and the place had an aggressive atmosphere where you felt peer pressured to be shit faced all the time. We knew it was a party hostel but this place was just bonkers. As stunning as the sunsets in Nicaragua were, I feel that I probably didn’t do it justice by just stopping through a couple of cities and towns whilst just passing through the country.
I didn’t particularly enjoy Costa Rica as it was well overpriced and overrun with Americans. I don’t have anything against this but what the country offered wasn’t part of my travel plans and paying US$17 to enter a forest was a bitter pill for this backpacker to swallow. That said, I have done some pretty cool things in the last month. I got my advance open water diving certification in Utila, boarded down the side of an active Volcano in Nicaragua, ate my first lobster of the trip in San Juan del Sur, zip lined through the forest in Costa Rica, celebrated my birthday with some new friends I have met along the way and also saw the Panama Canal.
At Casa de Olas hostel in San Juan del Sur, they have a giant map of the world. One night, I spent a good 30m minutes surveying the map and then it dawned upon me when as I cast my eyes on Central and South America. I’m three months or a third of the way into the trip and I have only covered 10 percent of the distance. Suddenly, I become quite overwhelmed with the journey ahead and the distances that will need to be travelled.
Then I started to think to myself. Is it right of me to have my journey mapped out already, knowing which countries that I need to ‘tick off’ and ‘do’? What if by some crazy means I actually stayed at a place for longer than I should have and just stay there because I like it? It sounds logical right? Prior to this trip, my philosophy on travelling was to always go to places and try not to go back to them more than once, maybe twice as the world is too big and needs to be explored. But is once or twice enough to truly understand a country? Would seeing Mexico in April be the same as seeing it in November? Or is ticking off the number of cities and countries more important? I suppose that there is no one blanket answer that would suit every traveller. Ten years ago I could have done Five or more countries in four weeks through Europe and that would include joining in on the hostel pub crawls every evening and then hauling myself onto a train or plane to the next city the following morning. Nowadays, my priorities are slightly different. My hunger for the adventure still burns strong but the pace and the people who I want to encounter has changed.
So what next? The reality is that I am super keen to get to South America. Tomorrow I set sail from the Caribbean side of Panama and after 5 days I will end the Central American leg of the trip and my the South American story will begin in Cartegena, Colombia. I’ve spent a good three months now experiencing the beaches and coastlines of Central America and now I am craving to see the jungles of the Amazon Basin, gazing at the stars at altitude in the Atacama Desert, getting up close to the animals in the Galapagos and trekking through Patagonia. This means I’m still going to have to travel long distances in order to achieve this and if I’m to slow down the travel pace then I will have to compromise on either countries or other cities. I’ll decide which ones when the time comes.
My Spanish hasn’t improved a considerable amount either as everywhere since Guatemala. English is spoken widely in the countries that I travelled to since, although yesterday I lost my shit because I gave instructions to the taxi driver to drop some other friends off after I got out and he understood. I’m hoping that by the time I get to South America, I’ll slow down the pace again and find a place I can settle for a while in and re-establish that sense of connection again with the place I am at and meet people who I can regularly converse with.
So my friends. Have you ever felt a strong connection with a place that you just have to go back and discover something new each time? I want to know!