Nicaragua: Where it all began
My first step into solo travel was back in 2013 as a twenty one year old who thought she knew it all. In retrospect, I cannot believe I convinced my parents to let me take the jump but it really makes me appreciate the freedom they gave me to grow. As a junior at Keene State College, I couldn't find a study abroad program that gave me exposure to nonprofit work, public health or international development. After months of contemplation over whether spending 3x the cost of a semester on course credit that would go to waste would be worth it to my parents and my student debt, I opted out to create my own program. The bullet points I made for myself to decide on a country to visit was:
- One that I had never visited before - A less economically developed region - Spanish language exposure - Challenging landscapes - Affordable for 3 months my small budget - Somewhere less visited by people I knew - Close enough to the states that I could 'hop & skip' home for my parents comfort NICARAGUA it was. I began scouring the internet looking for Americans to network with, anyone who might be able to connect me with a work exchange or free volunteer positions. For a country that wasn't yet considered a vacation destination (that would come about 2 years down the road), I was limited to boutique hotels, surf lodges and non-profits. With months of email exchanges, I was introduced to a compassionate volunteer at Global Brigades who developed study guides and lessons for me to practice while I prepared for my trip. I set up a language training at a small school in Granada, planned on working with two non-profits as well as a coconut oil company and segmented time for lounging at the beach. Below, you will find my brief photo story from my memorable time exploring my unknown. It taught me strength, growth, leadership, independence and empathy. As cliche as it sounds, I wouldn't trade what I learned from this experience for anything. This three month venture shaped who I am and where I hope to go.