On Being A Single Woman in Nicaragua
After I had been living in Nicaragua for several months, I was invited to the beach with a friend and her boyfriend. They wanted to hitchhike as they had done before and I agreed to join them. Honestly, as a single woman, I felt more comfortable with the idea considering we were with a man, and I expressed those feelings. We had a discussion about hitchhiking and I mentioned a mutual friend who had just traveled around the country, with only his guitar and his thumb out.
As he recounted his tales and how awesome it felt to be vulnerable and rely on the graciousness of a country and its people, I had felt a tinge of envy.
I would love to have that kind of experience, but I don’t feel it is realistic for me – simply because I am a woman traveling and living in a male chauvinistic society that has a history of violence and danger. Nicaragua may now be one of the safer countries in Central America, but women traveling solo are still frowned upon.
Each day, I brace myself as I walk by a group of men who seem to make a game out of competing for my attention, shouting “Bye!” like the seagulls in Finding Nemo shouting “Mine!”
I vocalized this grievance in our conversation. “That’s such a non-feminist thing for you to say,” my friend scolded. I argued that just because I believe that something should be a certain way doesn’t mean I will put myself in a potentially dangerous situation. Traveling alone from one place to the next is one thing; hitchhiking alone around the country is different.
I felt as though her naïveté stemmed from the fact that she was here with boyfriend and she didn’t have to worry about traveling alone. Nicaragua is generally very safe, but there are even places a Nicaraguan woman wouldn’t go alone – and it’s important for us to acknowledge that truth. Yes, I want to believe in feminism, that we are all treated as equals. But not everyone believes that, especially in a country that is inherently “machista” — and that’s a reality I have to deal with everyday.
On Being A Single Woman in Nicaragua
I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to – or be okay with – the catcalls and vulgar comments I receive on the street, especially from old men who look like they should be polite—men with their babies and children, and even 10-year-old boys sometimes. Each day, I brace myself as I walk by a group of men who seem to make a game out of competing for my attention, shouting “Bye!” like the seagulls in Finding Nemo shouting “Mine!
Despite these discomforts, nothing bad has ever happened to me. However, I have heard stories of foreigners getting robbed or hurt, which is why I take these precautions to keep myself safe:
What It’s Like To Be A Single Woman in Nicaragua
1. I never walk alone at night.
2. I carry self-defense articles such as a pocketknife and pepper spray.
3. I have never been inebriated since coming here – I will have a couple drinks, but I always stay in control.
4. I have a “dummy” wallet with expired credit cards to hand over in case I get robbed.
5. I don’t dress provocatively. At first I didn’t even pack one tank top, but I’ve since realized that I’m going to attract attention whether I’m wearing sleeves or not, so I might as well be comfortable.
6. I exercise caution all around, trusting my internal judgment.
Considering I am living in one place and getting to know the area and its people, maybe these precautions are unnecessary. But I am allowing myself to become comfortable while keeping my guard up at the same time. I also recognize that often I must take risks for the sake of adventures.
So that day, when a guy in a truck pulled up on the side of the road and, in English, said, “Are you going to Las Peñitas? Let’s go!” I felt his “buena onda” (good vibes), and climbed in the back.
Taking that ride may not have changed who I am, but it changed my perception of the “hitchhiking” taboo.
The men in the truck were were stopping along the road to sell bread to local pulperías (convenience stores in Nicaragua), and we ended up on an hour-long ride meandering in and out of small villages off the main road. It took longer than a bus would have, but we got see new parts of Nicaragua and try their donuts.
Taking that ride may not have changed who I am, but it changed my perception of the “hitchhiking” taboo. I could rely on my own judgements to find the balance between taking a risk and being smart—and ultimately have a wonderful adventure.
What It’s Like To Be A Single Woman in Nicaragua photo credit: Chelsea Johnson. Join Pink Pangea’s Travel Writing, Hiking and Yoga retreats!