How an Instagram Post Led to My First Solo Trip
It began with an Instagram post. I was working as a corporate lawyer in Washington, D.C. and because of some deals closing at the end of the year, I wouldn’t be able to take vacation during the holidays. So, I planned to take a trip in November to belatedly celebrate my birthday with the added benefit that I could sneak in a few extra days if I the trip was right before or after Thanksgiving.
I learned that the beauty of solo travel is how liberating it is. My days were entirely set by me.
I began to obsessively read reviews about the Tribal Hotel (which is amazing, by the way) and to research Nicaragua. I wanted to stay in Granada for a few days and visit at least one other city—preferably one with a beach. I considered San Juan del Sur but ultimately decided on Little Corn Island. There was something alluring about this tiny (really, it’s only about 1.5 square miles!) island in the Caribbean Sea with no cars and its picturesque beaches.
When I started planning my trip, I had no intention of going it alone. I tried to convince my then-boyfriend to use some vacation days and come with me on what would’ve been our first trip together. He couldn’t take time off and I was already set on visiting Nicaragua, so I decided to make this a trip of firsts in other ways—namely, traveling solo and visiting Central America.
I flew from D.C. to Managua, Nicaragua’s capital. From Managua, it’s about an hour by taxi to Granada. I read before my trip that taxis at the airport are overpriced and that you can walk up the highway next to the airport to catch a cheaper one. Since I was alone and in an unfamiliar country, I opted to pay a few extra dollars for the convenience and ease of catching an airport taxi (about $35 one way).
Granada is a charming colonial city. During the day, I could walk around easily with a map and general idea about where I was heading. All roads lead back to the Parque Central where the bright yellow and white Catedral de Granada is located.
So even when I didn’t know where I was going, I never felt lost. Although I got a few catcalls and overly friendly “holas” from some men, I never felt unsafe walking around during the day. At night when I went out to dinner, following the advice of Yvan (the Tribal Hotel’s owner), I took cabs for peace of mind. At only $2 round trip, it was worth it.
Highlights of my time in Granada include a tour of Las Isletas (the Islands) in Lake Nicaragua, day trips to the market in Masaya and to check out the famed ceramics in San Juan de Oriente and a visit to El Mirador (the lookout) in Catarina, which offers a breathtaking view of Lake Apoyo and Mombacho Volcano.
After a few days in Granada, I headed to Little Corn Island (LCI). Getting there from Granada required an hour cab ride back to the airport in Managua and an hour flight to Big Corn Island followed by a five minute cab ride to the dock,and the most harrowing panga (boat) ride I’ve ever been on. The water was very choppy because of earlier storms and our little panga went airborne numerous times. Upon arrival at the docks, it was another half hour walk through the dark, muddy jungle path to the northern tip of LCI where I was staying at Yemaya Island Hideaway & Spa.
I was able to practice my Spanish and engage with people in a way that I would not have if I’d been traveling with someone else.
Because I arrived on LCI at night, the view from my room when I woke up the next morning was a beautiful surprise. Most people on LCI speak English and/or Creole because despite being in Nicaragua, LCI is also a Caribbean island. The pace of life on LCI is slower than in Granada, and I spent my days reading in a hammock or wandering around the island. Besides partying, some favorite island pastimes include deep sea diving and baseball.
I learned that the beauty of solo travel is how liberating it is. My days were entirely set by me: I could wake up without an alarm, eat breakfast while reading and then set out exploring. Some days I had a destination or two in mind, and other days I started walking and taking pictures with nowhere to go.
Traveling alone also meant that I was forced outside of my comfort zone. Whether it was talking to Marta at the Tribal Hotel about what she’s studying in night school, to my tour guide Alvaro about his daily hour-long canoe ride to work across Lake Nicaragua, or to the bartenders on LCI about what it’s like to live on such a small island, I was able to practice my Spanish and engage with people in a way that I would not have if I’d been traveling with someone else.
It’s been a little over a year since I traveled to Nicaragua, and while I haven’t taken another solo trip (yet), I’ve already liked a few Instagram pictures that could very well lead me to my next destination!