Tag Archives: happy

Central America aka The Gringo Trail

My experience on backpacking the Gringo Trail in Central America can’t really be described in a couple of words. I was a first time solo traveler and had no idea what I was doing. Which, in hind sight, was probably the best way to go into it.

Central America constitutes more than just the countries listed below – Belize, Honduras and Mexico are left out because I didn’t visit them.

Guatemala 

My first stop in Central America was Guatemala. I landed in Guatemala City, a city with a lot of crime and not many options for tourists.

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After the scariest bus ride of my life, I arrived in Lake Atitlan. Situated around the lake are several little villages, each with their own vibe. Boats run across the lake daily and you can grab one for few dollars to visit each of the towns, since there is no road connecting all of them.  I stayed here for a month working on a farm in San Marcos La Laguna, the hippy-est of them all, attracting a ton of new-agers.

Highlights of Lake Atilian were going to the Butterfly Sanctuary in Panajachel, the Women’s Weaving Cooperative in San Juan La Laguna and camping at Indians Nose overnight to see the sunrise in the morning.

Next stop was Antigua and OMG DID I LOVE ME SOME ANTIGUA. I don’t know if it was because I stayed in sleepy San Marcos for a month or what, but everything about this place just felt right. Here I stayed at a home stay with some other backpackers who were also learning spanish. Well, they were learning Spanish. I was trying to and failing.

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-7-23-03-pmHighlights of Antigua include a night out of care free dancing, a ten-hour round-trip overnight hike up Acatenango Volcano to see the sunrise and El Fuego booming and a local soccer game featuring a very animated hype squad / drum line.

El Salvador

Initially, I did not plan on going to El Salvador at all. It’s pretty dangerous and over run by gangs. The kind of gangs that have such control of the country that buses stop running after sun down. But, plans change, especially when traveling and, in this case, I’m so glad it did.

Highlights include Edward (the one-winged Pelican of La Tortuga Verde), the locals in Juyaya who told us that if we go to the store and buy a frog they’ll cook it for us, getting stuck in Rivas overnight because there were no more buses running.

I guess some of these memories don’t really sound pleasant from an outsider’s perspective, but El Salvador ended up being one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Nicaragua

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By this point in the trip I had been going for about two months and had met enough people to start a small village. I had already booked the Pullmantur Cruise and knew I was going to Europe after, so I was a little tired and not wanting to spend a ton of money. Hence, I mostly remember Nica as a place where I relaxed, swam, and read.

Still, I had a lot of fun. Highlights include the Tortuga Boolada Hostel in Leon. That place was so relaxed and everyone was really friendly over breakfast. Surfing at Playa Popopyo, where they held the World Surf Championships a few years back, was a lot of fun. I nearly died, but still, good times. I’ll also never forget exploring Ometepe and the clean waters of Ojo de Agua.

Costa Rica

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Since it’s the most expensive country in Central America, I barely spent any time in Costa Rica. The time that I did spend here, two weeks, was spent teaching Yoga at Tico Lingo, a Spanish School in Heredia. It was a chill two weeks spent doing a whole lot of nothing with the other volunteers and teaching small classes to the owner of the school and some of the students. I found this program through Workaway.info.

Panama

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Oh Panama, the last stop on my trip before taking a 14 day cruise to Portugal. I think I only spent a day or two here and it rained a lot, but it was a fun couple days as I stayed in this beautiful colonial mansion-turned-hostel called Luna’s Castle in Panama City. There I had the pleasure of meeting a fun group of people traveling together and we all went out and danced to Rihanna’s “Work” for what was probably the 1231st time that month.

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An ode to Yoga

My first yoga class ever was with my best friend and I when we were about fourteen. Our moms had enrolled us and we both didn’t really understand it at all. We went once a week for a couple months and only once did I ever really relax in Shavasana. Eventually, we stopped doing it as my interest towards anything that even resembled exercise was pretty low.

Some time later, at sixteen, I got diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). At that poIMG_0957int, I had been  hospitalized more times then I care to remember, lost my vision and my ability to walk and was on all kinds of medications with even worse side effects. All of which sounds pretty bad, but I was still a teenager and, like all teenagers, believed I was invincible. It’s actually kind of scary, thinking back, how not scared of my having multiple sclerosis I was. My mother was a nervous wreck, but I was like “No, it’s cool. I’ll walk again” and for whatever reason, be it medical science or a teenager’s stubbornness, I regained all my mobility and vision within a couple months. After that, I developed an interest in exercise as a means to always remind my body “Look, I’m using you. I care about you. Don’t try that M.S stuff again”. There’s an actual science behind exercise’s benefits for M.S, but at the core of it, staying active has been my way of expressing gratitude for another day with no symptoms.

Besides helping me cope with having M.S, Yoga really started to deeply impact my life about three years ago when I first started going consistently. I was just out of college and was experiencing a ton of anxiety. I also had a ton of time on my hands, with no job or prospects in sight. So, I started going to yoga as much as I could. Not only did it ease my fears of what’s next, but it gave me a familiar place to go to. At the time, I had started to move around a lot, making everything foreign to me. With every place I moved, I always found a home in yoga.

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My experience with yoga has been life altering. The scenery has changed constantly, from Ithaca, to Chicago, to NYC and even San Francisco when I went there on a trip, but the practice has always provided me with a familiar place to grow, meet new people and reflect. It allows me to grow stronger while also providing me with a place to relax, something I desperately need as a 20 something who has no idea what their doing with their life. I’ll probably move again after spending another year in NYC, but where ever I go after this, I’ll find a place to rest my mat and share the practice.

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