Why I Always Say Yes to Taking Risks in Central America

Why I Always Say Yes to Taking Risks in Central America

pink pangea foreign correspondent Before leaving for my six-month backpacking trip through Central America, I visited a travel doctor. He prescribed a series of shots and antibiotics, and gave me an extensive list of health related items: water purifiers, mosquito nets, insecticide treatments, medications, etc.

After we spoke and I told him a little about my travel habits, he described me as a “risk tolerant” traveler, although I’ve never thought of myself as one who takes a lot of risks. In retrospect, I think some of the immunizations I got before leaving were probably riskier than taking a chance by not getting them, since I had an adverse reaction and was in bed with a 104° fever for several days.

Why I Always Say Yes to Taking Risks in Central America

Yet, while traveling in Central America, I was faced with decisions that related to my health and safety every day. After a while though, making those decisions became almost as automatic as it was at home. I tried to just simply live. More than anything, I followed my instincts and sometimes I did things that might raise the eyebrows of more cautious travelers.

Saying yes leads to strangers becoming friends, eating foods you’ve never heard of, trying things you’ve never tried, exploring the unknown, and having adventures you never knew you would have.

I ate food from street vendors and fresh fruits and vegetables that hadn’t been cooked or peeled. If I heard that the tap water was safe to drink, I drank it. I ate ceviche (a delicious Latin American dish with uncooked fish cured in lime juice and vegetables), which the doctor specifically forbid. I went out in the evenings without long sleeves and got bitten by mosquitos and sand flies. I didn’t touch the six-month supply of antimalarial medications I brought with me. I pet friendly stray dogs and cats.

Have things gone wrong sometimes? Of course. Shortly after arriving in Costa Rica, which felt extremely safe compared to other places I’d been, I let my guard down and my iPhone and iPod were stolen out of my backpack while I was getting off of a bus. I was a bit upset at first, but then reminded myself that these things are replaceable and I soon got over it.

Why I Always Say Yes to Taking Risks in Central America

Have I been sick from eating what I want? Yes, and I’m sure I will be again at some point. It isn’t fun. However, I find that for me, most of the sickness happens around a month after arriving, and that after the first bout, my immune system builds up a resistance. I also travel with probiotics and take them after any antibiotics or if I’m even feeling a little sick.

I’ve learned there is no point in worrying about things that are not within your power to change. All you can do is deal with problems as they come. Above all, I use my common sense. Traveling has also taught me that unless you have a very good reason, you should almost always say yes.

Saying yes leads to strangers becoming friends, eating foods you’ve never heard of, trying things you’ve never tried, exploring the unknown, and having adventures you never knew you would have.

I sat on the side of the mountain, high above everything, and watched as the first rays of the red sun lit up the mountains, lakes, and cities of Guatemala.

Saying yes led me to the intense hike up Acatenango, the tallest volcano in Guatemala, 13,045 feet (3976 meters) above sea level. It was one of the hardest hikes I’d ever done, which led to one of the coldest nights I’d ever spent: shivering with socks on my hands with the sleeping bag pulled over my head, all to awaken with ice flaking off the inside of the tent. But when else would I be able to sit and watch a volcano erupt in the dark and watch hot orange lava cascade down the sides of a mountain, and hear the sound it makes, like the breath of some giant, hidden monster? It would have been worth it for the sunrise alone. I sat on the side of the mountain, high above everything, and watched as the first rays of the red sun lit up the mountains, lakes, and cities of Guatemala.

Why I Always Say Yes to Taking Risks in Central America

Saying yes is how I found myself free falling off of a 150-foot platform in the Costa Rican jungle to swing at the end of a series of ropes being deftly handled by one solitary man. At home, I tended to avoid rope swings and refused to jump off of anything more than about ten feet high. This felt like falling in a dream, but instead of waking up with a jolt, I swung high in the air, back and forth through the trees, until I touched the ground, laughing and trembling, relieved and exhilarated.

Saying yes is the reason I went swimming in the dark to see the bioluminescence off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. I floated on my back in the calm, warm water, which glowed green around me with every movement of my arms and legs. I looked up at the sky full of stars, thinking about everything that had happened in the past three months.

I have learned that saying yes as much as possible is the way I want to travel through my life, wherever I am. Saying yes so often leads to the moments that I live for.

Why I Always Say Yes to Taking Risks in Central America, Taking risks 

About Celia Duncan

Celia DuncanCelia Duncan is a Western Washington University graduate from Montana living in Bellingham, WA. She is a lover of people, places, nature, food and the spontaneity of traveling.

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