What It’s Like To Be A Single Woman in Nicaragua

Being a single woman in Latin America

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.

What It’s Like To Be A Single Woman in Nicaragua

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.

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 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.

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!”

What It’s Like To Be A Single Woman in Nicaragua

What It's Like To Be A Single Woman in Nicaragua
Leon / What It’s Like To Be A Single Woman in Nicaragua

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:

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

What It's Like To Be A Single Woman in Nicaragua
Masaya Volcano

What It’s Like To Be A Single Woman in Nicaragua

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About Chelsea Johnson

Chelsea JohnsonChelsea is a Colorado native who loves discovering new corners of the world. Her quest to conquer the Spanish language has taken her throughout Spain and Latin America and she currently resides in Nicaragua. When she is not exploring, you can find her reading, writing, creating art, listening to music, doing yoga, or eating chocolate. Follow her adventures on her blog.

One thought on “What It’s Like To Be A Single Woman in Nicaragua

  1. Aidan
    March 20, 2017
    Reply

    Chelsea, very nice article. I found it while reading about my potential retirement in Nicaragua. Though a man of almost 6′, 185lbs, some of your advice applies equally to the “harsher” sex.
    The hands down number one piece of advice for all of us has to be your #6, i.e. go with your gut feeling, being alert and aware at all times especially when in a new environment (never mind another country). Your “spider senses tingling” is a sure sign to decline the kind, and usually extremely convenient offer from that person and tough it out through some other route.
    I must take exception with your second suggestion though. A lady carrying either a knife or pepper spray is likely to anger an assailant than deter him. And besides, a pocket knife?! How much time do you take to retrieve your knife from your pocket/purse, then use two hands to open it and position it in your favoured hand? Bad, bad idea. Same goes for pepper spray (have you tasted Nici food? LOL!) Seriously though, weapons like these are about as helpful as self defense classes. Not helpful at all, and take this from a guy who’s been on the streets of a large city since 17. It affords you one thing, and one thing only. Overconfidence.
    You’re sharp, and no doubt the people who’ve visited your blog are, likewise. Eyes open, know where the exits are, have a game-plan and stick with it. Everything else will fall in to place.
    Can’t wait to visit Nicaragua this coming fall. I’ll spend a month speaking with the expat community there, then do just a little more research before taking the leap. Can’t wait!
    Thanks for the article Chelsea!

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