Sleeping in Airports

15 Jan

Stepping off the plane I was embraced by the warm, sticky air of Lima. The beautiful sound of foreign language filled the international terminal and I made a conscious effort to switch my brain from English to Spanish. Still in a sleepy daze after my 9 hour flight I shuffled my way through immigrations and was happy to find my backpack waiting for me at baggage claim.

It was 11pm and my flight to  didn’t leave until 5am the next morning. Realizing that it would be more of a hassle (and potentially dangerous) to navigate the streets of Lima at night vs stay at the airport I had done some thorough Googling on the best places to sleep. This wouldn’t be my first time sleeping in an airport. Heck, I had practically used the Oslo airport as a hostel when traveling through Scandinavia with more than a few overnight stays. But that was the new, state of the art airport in oil rich Norway and this was, well, Peru! Admittedly, I was a little nervous.

According to the traveler reviews that I found online, the best option would be to spring $60 for entrance to one of the 3 first class lounges and cozy up on an oversized leather chair. Done. I have to confess, it’s kinda nice not having to worry about a tight budget anymore. Nowadays, roughing it is a choice rather than a requirement. I remember traveling Europe on $30/day and this wouldn’t have even been an option.lima airport

After I scooped up my oversized backpack (which I’m proud to say was under 35 pounds) I set off to find one of these lounges. Not exactly sure how to sure how to ask for a “lounge” in Spanish I fumbled through it with a series of hand gestures and fragmented sentences until I learned that all 3 lounges are located in the international terminal. Following the signs I headed in that direction until I was abruptly stopped by a security guard. “Ticket, please” she asked. I quickly rummaged through my purse and handed it to her with a smile to which she immediately replied “You cannot enter here. You must go to the domestic terminal.” Say wha?!? I attempted to explain in Spanish my layover situation and that I had just come from the international terminal. For those that know me well, I can usually talk my way into any situation. Not happening tonight. I’m going to go ahead and blame the language barrier because this woman would not budge.

Defeated, I trudged off toward the domestic terminal in hopes of finding somewhere to rest. Still bustling at midnight, I noticed a quieter area off to the side with 30 or so backpackers sprawled across the tile floor. Seriously? Tile? There has to be a better option. Is there not a cushioned  bench anywhere in this airport? I wandered around for a bit scoping out the area and eventually plopped down at Starbucks. Hey, if I’m going to be up all night I may as well take advantage of the free wifi.

Shuffling between Couchsurfing, Facebook, and Instagram, about 30 minutes passed before I felt a light tap on my shoulder and heard someone asking me in Spanish for the wifi password. “Cuál es la contraseña?” I turned and met the warm smile of another backpacker. Proud of myself for understanding the question I replied in Spanish and asked him where he was traveling. His beautiful Argentinian accent brought back memories from Buenos Aires and gave me confidence in my ability to speak Spanish. We ended up sitting there for hours lost in conversation…swapping travel stories and discussing everything from international politics to childhood memories. It wasn’t until my “wake up” alarm went off at 4am that I realized how much time had passed and that the entire conversation had been in Spanish. Wow! I can speak Spanish! Who knew?!?
I bid Nico farewell with a kiss on the cheek and a smile spread across my face as I walked toward my gate.  This is gonna be a good trip 🙂

Baby I was born to run!

18 Oct

Following an incredible camping trip, my trusty old car Eve and I headed north along highway 1 before stopping in Monterrey. Unbeknownst to me, I was about to stay with some of most amazing couchsurfing hosts to date!

Upon arrival I quickly jumped in the shower in attempt to scrub off 3 days worth of dirt and campfire smell…the second of which proved to be impossible.  The moment I turned off the water I heard the music. The raw, harsh cords of Bob Dylan’s House of the Rising sun drifted from the back of the house.  I tip toed outside still unsure of my surroundings and found the backyard empty. Where was the music coming from? Where were the guys? Then I noticed a door cracked open off to the right and as I approached the music grew louder.

Slowly I pushed the door open and inside I found Venanzio pounding furiously on the piano drawing emotion from every single note.   He was lost in the song as his fingers flew wildly across the keys. Dustin looked up from strumming the guitar with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and gave me a grin of acknowledgment before belting into the chorus.

I sat back in an old,  lumpy velvet chair and watched in awe. The yellow light of the late afternoon poked through the cracks in the wood and specs of dust danced in the air. As I sat there, taking it all in, I couldn’t think of a single place in the world I’d rather be than right there in that moment. I laid my head back, sucked in a deep breath of musty air, and just smiled.

Really Big Trees

20 Jul

So I’ve hit a writers block. Apparently I have the attention span of a 5 year old. I totally dive into a project until something new and shiny catches my eye and I take off chasing it. That new and shiny thing just happens to be my ipad.  Hehe. Time to take a shot at video blogging!

Trail of 100 Giants. Sequoia National Park. How many couchsurfers can fit into a tree? Watch and find out!

I Hitchhiked

7 Feb

By myself. From the boarder of Nicaragua. And yes, I was scared shitless. I wasn’t intending to hitchhike. Solo female traveler, foreign country, language barrier, aggressive men…this was a potential recipe for disaster.

The morning started off in Granada, Nicaragua. I was up at 6am and on the back of Edwardo’s bike headed for the Costa Rican boarder. The cold morning air smacked me back to reality as we sped toward Punta Cana. The past few days had been like a dream. An unbelievable motorbike tour through Nicaragua, amazing new friends, and memories that will last a lifetime. I didn’t want the adventure to end but unlike the others, I had a company to run and needed to get back.

But did I? Lesson #1: If you are trying to work from anywhere, travel with a laptop! Had I brought my laptop and figured out a phone line I could have stayed. STUPID MISTAKE that will not be repeated. Every trip, and I mean EVERY trip, I’m left wishing I could stay longer. I need to realize this going in and make it easier to extend my travel. Instead, I was left rushing back to Costa Rica to make a 3pm conference call.

Two hours later I arrived at the boarder. It. Was. A. Zoo. Complete chaos, no direction, people trying to hustle you everywhere…I was left utterly confused on where to go next. Lesson #2: Always carry a guide book. Duh, right? Well, in this digital age I thought I could get by with the internet on my Blackberry. Wrong. You need a cell tower to get internet and in 3rd world countries those are hard to come by. When entering the country, Eva’s copy of The Lonely Planet had given us explicit directions on where to go, what to expect, what we needed, etc. I so desperately longed for a guide book at that moment. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Exhausting my limited Spanish, I found my way to customs where I waited in line for over an hour only to discover that in order to leave the country I needed to pay a $2 exit fee. A what?!? Yup, you must actually pay money to leave Nicaragua. And here’s the kicker, it must be paid in US dollars…not 40 Cordoba, the equivalent in Nicaraguan currency. Seriously? Lesson #3: Always keep a $20 tucked away. You’ll never know when you may need it. I trudged outside and reluctantly let myself get ripped off by the swarm of money dealers preying on the ignorant tourists (AKA – me). Ugh. It was almost 11am and I was in the back of the line again.

Finally through the boarder, I ran after the dust tracks as the bus took off for Liberia. Is this seriously happening? Maybe I’m being punished for having too much fun??? Up until this point I had remained pretty calm but missing the bus was the last straw. I could feel the heat rising in my body and it took every ounce of effort to push back the tears and collect my thoughts. While slowly exhaling a deep breath I ran through my options. They all sucked. I had no way to reschedule my call, buses would take too long, and taxi’s were a fortune.

At that point I had reached a state of defeat. It was somewhat of a calm realization that brought me to Lesson #4: If shit’s going to happen, it will happen, and there is nothing I can do about it. Fuck it, I decided. I’m hitching. May as well roll the dice and see where it takes me! I bravely marched toward the road and held my thumb up high as I saw a car approaching.

Upon closer inspection I noticed the car was filled with guys and quickly retracted my arm. Ok, I’m a wimp. Guys, I hate to be sexist, but you can be intimidating…especially in groups! I look for the good in everyone but as a female I think we’ve been trained from a young age to not get in cars with strange men. According to my mom, possible consequences include being raped, chopped up into small pieces, fed to the sharks or all of the above. Not pleasant. This whole hitchhiking thing was going to be trickier than anticipated.

The new plan of action was to linger curbside and throw my thumb up at the last minute if I noticed a female passenger or an expensive car…only law abiding citizens drive expensive cars, right? Brilliant. The problem with this plan (and there are many) was that without my glasses it was impossible to identify gender until the car was too close to stop. Nonetheless, I attempted this move for a good 20 minutes before realizing how idiotic I must have seemed.

Finally a light bulb went off which brings me to Lesson #5: Just because a car stops doesn’t mean I have to get in. Yup. Just realized that. Did I mention I’m naturally a blonde? With a new found confidence I held my arm high until a car finally pulled over. My luck had turned. You can’t imagine the relief that ran through my body as two gringo women rolled down the window of their SUV and asked where I was headed. “Wherever you are going! Take me! Please!!!” …well that thought ran through my head a least. Turns out we were headed to virtually the same destination and they happily took me in as their passenger.

I’m continually amazed by the challenges life throws out and how all the pieces miraculously fit together. And while I realize many of these challenges were self imposed, they were challenges nonetheless. I made it back to my place in Flamingo Beach with 15 minutes to spare and that call resulted in a new client. Lesson #6: Things have a way of working themselves out. Keep a positive attitude and they tend to work out for the best.

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Millions of beaches, beaches for me!

30 Jan

Words can’t describe the adventure that awaited in Nicaragua. A day tour on motorbikes turned into a week long adventure across the country.The 4 of us girls, all traveling solo, decided to embark on a 500 kilometer journey on the backs of motorbikes. With our packs roped on tight we clung to the bodies of our Nicaraguan guides as we traveled through rivers, jungle, and ultimately arrived at the beach.

The sun was just setting as we walked onto the beach, covered in mud and dirt. This was paradise. Miles of empty beach with unbelievable waves. Australia sized waves. Visiting surf towns like Tamarindo, Playa Grande, and San Juan del Sur, I had been sorely disappointed by the size of the waves. This is where they had been hiding. Without hesitation we stripped down to our underwear and ran toward the ocean.

Rarely have I seen anything more beautiful than the sun setting over the Pacific. As we played in the waves the sun slowly dipped down to touch the water. The reds, yellows and oranges spread across the horizon and flickered in the water’s reflection. I drifted further away from the group attempting to body surf  the mammoth waves. This is an activity that will keep me occupied for hours, and has! I love that feeling. That weightless feeling when you give up control and are at the complete mercy of the wave. For a moment you are on top of the world before you come crashing back down to reality, tangled in the wave’s embrace.

Darkness began to set in and I realized my friends were yelling at me from the shoreline. Time to set up camp.

I F*cking LOVE Nicaragua!

31 Dec

I’m not one to drop the F bomb but this was the first thought that popped into my mind when thinking about Nicaragua. This country is amazing. The kind of off the beaten path destination that is the reason I love traveling.  Dirty, crazy, cheap, no rules and completely opposite anything you’d find the the states.

We made to La Isla de Ometepe and a taxi to our place was going to be $20. Turns out you can also rent a motorbike for $20. We convinced them to let us have it for 24 hrs and off we went. No credit card deposit, insurance, or even a need to show a drivers license. Just the exchange of a $20 bill for the keys to a bike. Heck, we could have kept the bike and there would have been no record of us whatsoever. I love it.

Eva took the reins with this one. Apparently she has her motorbike license in Amsterdam.  No shock there. Amsterdam is crazy packed with bicycles and motorbikes. If I trust anyone to drive me around on this thing it’s a chick from Amsterdam. We wobbled down a winding dirt road and pulled up to our hostel just around sunset. There was a beautiful view of the volcano (see pic) on one side and the sun setting over the ocean on the other. Amazing. $6 per night for a little bungalow on the beach. Did I mention I love this country???

The next day we planned on touring the island on the bike. I had just started reading Shantaram and became fixated on the idea of hiring a guide…something the main character does in the book. We asked around and for $20 ($10 each) we found an ‘official guide’ to show us the island. Done. Julia, from Germany and Esther from Alaska decided to join our adventure as well. These were the two other girls in our bungaow who were each traveling solo. The next morning at 630am Edwardo showed up with his friend Luis and off we went!

And I’m Crazy but You Like It!

20 Dec

“And I’m crazy but you like it! Loca, loca, loca!” was the song playing when I first met Eva.  We were at a juice bar in Tamarindo each sitting by ourselves and moving our body to Shakira’s song, lost in our own world. We looked up and met eyes at the same time bursting into laughter at how riduculous we both must have looked.

I had just arrived in Tamarindo looking for surf lessons and a hostel. I talked to Eva and discovered she’s Dutch, traveling solo, and had been staying at Azul Surf Hostel for the past week. This turned out to be a cute little place across from the beach with hammocks and rocking chairs scattered throughout the common area. Perfect.

She had made some friends and invited me out with them that evening. Nights out in CR are always an adventure. We crashed a pirate themed party that was part of a New Age Convention, were molested by coke head Tico boys on the dancefloor at Aqua Bar, and ended the night listening to guitar on the beach under the stars with an eclectic group of people who we had collected throughout the night. Pura vida.

The next day was filled with surf, sun, and beers on the beach. Our grouping of towels and blankets expanded as the day continued and we were joined by more people. The last thing I wanted to do was return to Flamingo. But, unlike the others, I had to work. It was Sunday and I had several calls scheduled for the next day…a mistake I will be sure not to repete as my work/travel lifestyle continues. I’ve since made it a point to only schedule calls one day per week, preferably Wednesdays.

As we were laying in the sun Eva started telling me about Nicaragua and La Isla de Ometepe. She described it as a fairytale island with two volcanoes in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. “Come with me” she said. “It will be an adventure!” I skimmed through her Lonely Planet and read about the tropical birds, monkeys, and waterfalls. This was a no brainer.

“I’m in!” I declared. “I’ll meet you back in Tamarindo Thursday but need to take care of some things first.”

We leave tomorrow 🙂