Wanderlust Remedy

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Month: March, 2012

Hoy estoy goma

Yesterday I chose to come out of seclusion. The day prior was completely spent on buses traveling from the tourist beach town of San Juan del Sur to an island next to the fishing town of Poneloya. I went to look into a work exchange opportunity at a Canadian owned surf lodge. I had emailed the owner who posted an ad for help in exchange for food and accommodations. The situation didn’t workout so I turned around and headed back towards Leon. I never thought I’d say this, but I got somewhat tired of spending time alone on secluded beaches.  I’ve missed out on the whole community aspect of traveling.

Something that happened the day before reminded me I can be capable of liking people. While waiting for one of the morning chicken buses to Rivas I look over and see a scruffy haired man whom appears familiar. I stare for a couple minutes when I realize it’s none other than one half of the wheelhouse dynamic duo, Evan Minogue! After the all the what the fucks and the holy shits we realize that we are both going towards Leon. It really goes to show how infinitely tiny the world is. scary.  The next few hours are agonizingly spent on chicken buses and taxis. I was so grateful to have ran into Evan. Honestly my introverted side has been dominant. I was beginning to forget how to talk to people. We ate mystery street pastries, talked bikes, how awesome Santa Barbara is, how shitty Managua is, and what we’ve gleaned from our respective journeys. When we got to Leon we walked about 2 miles to the center of town with our giant backpacks. We were beat. Poor Evan had a particularly grueling journey. The Nicaraguan public transportation system is not constructed for 6+ foot frames. I made the choice to move forward since I really need to find work exchanges. When it didn’t work I decided to go back and look for Evan.

Apparently I had just missed Evan, but decided to be social. I end up hanging out with a fellow traveler who was one the coolest girls/people I’ve met on my trip and possessed an impressive knowledge of Leon’s streets. We go over to a hostel called Bigfoot and start drinking. Since my new friend is a pretty girl, a lot of dudes wanted to hang out with us. We go to some bar named La Olla Quemada and talk to a group of obviously wealthy older men. One grabs my hand and makes me rub his balding head.

Fucking gross!!!!!!! Anyways a bunch of Europeans usher my friend and I into the back of a truck. Some drunkard drives a mob of us to an afterhours club near the university. At first the bar was playing shitty top 40 hits. i was having a hard time getting into it so i kept ordering dollar flor de cana extra lite shots. Fucking gross!!!!!!! I guess I can’t be picky considering I am poor. My feet are dirty. The club then switched to a selection of salsa music. I just couldn’t handle it. We end the night hanging out at the apartment of a university student and a hostel worker. about 15 of us sat in a circle drinking rum plata and ice occasionally getting up and dancing. we were playing the music really loud. no cops ever told us to turn it down.

the alcohol unites us.

the food unites us.

i’ve actually enjoyed leon thus far and may stay a couple more days. sleeping inside does suck though.

the city’s architecture is impressive. It’s refreshing to be somewhere with such a strong sense of place. Leon is the city of the sandinista revolution. there are murals and graffiti everywhere. the parks are well used and are prime spots for public life to occur. good public life makes me as happy as a school girl.

i’ve written a bunch of farms, hostels, and businesses if they need help. i’ll work for faaaahhhrrreeee! just give me a place to hang my hammock and

side notes: even though i’ve been trying to cook more i still occasionally succumb to street food. i can’t lie, i think mexican food is way better than nicaraguan food. i’ve tried a lot of quesillos and tostones. it just doesn’t do it for me. i’m tired of pinto gallo. i don’t like eggs.

being of mixed ethnic heritage, i have always been confused about where i fit in. it is even more confusing while i travel. people are surprised when they see me traveling. some think i’m nicaragua. some think i’m mexican. there are virutually no travelers of color. one dude straight up told me “you are different from the rest.” they want to know how i know spanish so well. most americans don’t know spanish. it’s true. kudos to my gringo friends who have taken the effort to learn!








Aeropostale or Hollister plz

Sorry for not updating in a more timely manner. I have found myself in many internetless situations.

I am somewhat shocked at the way my journey is unfolding. Usually a party animal I expected my days of adventure to be punctuated by nights of drunken debauchery. Perhaps a mix of my hyper sensitive, overly analytical social consciousness and hypochondria I’ve cloistered myself. I haven’t had a crazy party night since the 17th.

The expensive gringo new agey, yoga, surfer take over of Costa Rica made me feel ill. I crossed into Nicaragua. Immediately the comfortable safety net of Costa Rica was removed.

After nearly getting pickpocketed at the border I waited in a long, rowdy line to cross over. Once in Nicaragua I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. I hesitantly consulted my travel guide.

Two immediate options: 1) go to San Juan del Sur and be near the ocean in a growing party hearty tourist destination, or 2) go to the island of omotepe, an island in the middle of lake cocibolca to look at volcanoes and agrarian life. Perched at the duty free for half an hour I eventually chose the latter.

Confused as a motherfucker I wandered the market of Peñas Blancas with my backpack looking for the bus to Rivas. As a little boy was pushing my bag into the lower compartment of a nice tour bus, a fat man yelled “are you stupid?!” grabbed my pack and threw it on a chicken bus. On most of the busses I took in Costa Rica I was surrounded by other dorky looking tourists with huge backpacks. In Nicaragua this was not the case. I was initially scared when I saw I was the only dumb fuck on the bus.

I sat close to my shit.

My guidebook told me to.

Walking over to the boat to Omotepe from San Jorge, a couple stopped me and started speaking to me in Spanish. It’s a couple from Managua who were taking a small vacay on the isle. The woman starts to reveal little bits of information, “I’m 41 and he’s 28… He’s an artist and paints boats for the wealthy… We met in rehab.” I was mildly interested until we started talking to an older couple from Iowa (in english) who sell soda tab bracelets to raise money for a school and how they want to retire on the island. Bored I slip away to enjoy the rocky boat ride and talk to locals about their thoughts on tourismo (mostly positive), and don’t think much about the Managuan couple. Little did I know how they would be a large part of my time on Omotepe.

Omotepe consists of numerous small, rural villages and two larger towns, myogalpa and altagracia. The main economic drivers are tourism and agriculture. Tourism has proved so profitable many of the island’s main roads are getting paved and a controversial airport is in the works. Islanders make clear distinctions between the mundo tranquillo on the island and the chaos of life on the mainland. Hailey, a local elementary school teacher who studied at the U of Managua told me that people on the island are poor but are content because they know how to grow food so they are never starving like those in the city. She said she saw many brutal situations in Managua and has never fathomed going back despite the limited job opportunities on the Omotepe.

The island is littered with 20 something backpackers. I am disgusted with myself. Once again I hesitantly open my guidebook. I don’t know where I’m going. I wander around the main town, myogalpa for a few minutes. I get solicited by a million business proprietors. I say no a million times. I drink a bag of strawberry milk. Unimpressed by the main village, I get on a bus for Altagracia. Over an hour later I arrive. I go into the first hostel I see, Hotel Central. For a whopping $12 after tax, I get my own clean 1 bd cabina, complete with a rocking chair and bathroom. A cold shower later I hit the rockin streets of altagracia. Five minutes afterward I walk back to hotel central. I see a shaggy haired gringo in aviators on a rocking chair on the sidewalk in front of the hotel drinking a liter of Toña. It looked fun so I grabbed a beer and joined him.

Turns out his lady friend and him were from the east coast of Australia and had been traveling down through the Americas for the past 6 mths. They are the 1st of many long term travelers who I’ve met. A scooter stops in front of me. It’s the Managuan couple. They tell me they are staying at villa paraiso. That is the most expensive place on the island. They zip off.

Next I get introduced to Stanley, a landlord from Michigan in his 50s or 60s who had googley eyes and a treasure trove of travel stories. Stanley tells me that he used to do dope, well actually still does sometimes, doesn’t drink hard alcohol because it makes him an asshole, travels have taught him to fear nothing, and he loves the farmacia. Stanley and I go for a little walk to go get some diazepam. Unsuccessful in our quest, he offers to buy me a drink. I tell him I want to go back to join the others at the bar by the hotel.

Tito bar has dirt floors, marco Antonio solis videos on the TV, and a bitchin deal on rum. Six dollars for a bottle 1.5 liters of rum and a bottle of coke. Nicaragua has a lot of cheap rum. I was elated. The Aussies were down to rage, but I learned the aussies are insane and always down to cause mayhem.

Jonay, a local volcano guide also joined us. The Australian woman and a German friend had attempted to climb volcano concepcion earlier that day. The guide also invited his girlfriend, an engineering student from the u of Managua helping with the new airport. She tells me it’d be cool to find a job in the tourist industry. I notice she is the only one not drinking any alcohol. Almost all of us get shitfaced.

Suddenly Jonay starts hitting on me. At first I ignore it. He persists. I then tell him no. This is when he starts getting aggressive and mean. Mind you he’s doing this in front of his lady friend who is a million times smarter than he is. She eventually gets up and leaves. I start go off on a feminist rant, yelling at Jonay. The Aussie guy and I are near ready to start a drunken brawl. In my haze I wasn’t ready to deal with machismo regardless of where the fuck I was. Stanley tells the bartender. Jonay gets kicked out.

A group of locals come and apologize, telling us they love tourists and most islanders are not like that. I felt like I was in the twilight zone. I head back to the hotel. Jonay is sitting out front. I run back to my room and freak the fuck out.

Cloister no. 1: I wake up the next morning feeling that partying is not good. I catch a bus to the town of Balgue and hike up to the famed Finca Magdalena, a working coffee farm and hostel owned and operated by 27 families. There’s a lot of Sandinista graffiti all over the island. On the walk up to Magdalena I feel like I’m in a new world. There’s a dead bat on the road. Men are on horses. A goat and it’s kid chew on some grass. Cool. It’s the country. I made the right choice. I get up to the Finca set up my hammock and fall asleep. I paid $2.75 a night. I wake up a handful of hours later and catch a breathtaking sunset.

All the guests gather on the porch to order dinner from the kitchen. I get some tostones con queso aka fried plantains topped with a square of dry rubbery white cheese. I order a liter of Toña. The Managuan couple stumble in with a very handsome, yet short in stature blond haired blue-eyed man. Turns out they gave him a lift when they saw him walking down the road. The Managuan woman, Claudia, started whispering to us after her mate walked away to eat a bowl of fish soup. “he doesn’t love me. I’m an alcoholic.”. I’m just thinking oh god end this, I’ve attracted another crazy. I wanted to know more about their passenger, a Chilean near licensed as a psychologist, Jose Miguel. They leave and I come to find out he hates American tourists. Oh well. I spend the next few days hiking volcanoes, mountain biking, and bumping into the Managuan couple wearing matching hotel paraiso t-shirts. On my last day at Magdalena I wake up from a nap in my hammock to see Claudia next to me almost in tears.

“I’ve come looking for you. I don’t know what to do. The police and my cousin came to the room and took everything because I escaped. I broke my toe.” Turns out Claudia is from a well to do family of jewelry makers. She had been kept under lock and key at home by her mother because of her substance abuse issues. Although Claudia is 41 she looks, acts, and is treated like a child.

She starts telling me her lover has left her and all she wants is him. In coming to drop her off they crashed because they were drunk and she broke her toe. Ten minutes after telling me he’s never coming back, her lover pulls up on the scooter with Jose Manuel. It’s all too much for me. I listen to their upper class drama for the next 2 hours until Jose Manuel walks off when they make it known they are Pinochet fans. This is my out and I go sit with Jose Manuel and talk about the power of now.

I leave the next morning.

My brain was back in party mode. Side note take great caution eating the food sold on busses. Nicaraguan churros are no Mexican churros. I got sick. I get into San Juan del Sur an head to the most infamous party hostel in town, the Naked Tiger. Opened a year ago by two east bay expats, the hostel is basically a big beautiful house filled with beautiful people. I sign in reluctantly, my stomach in pain. One of the owners a sexy short porn star of the man, has me take a shot. I drink for the next five hours, unable to get my mind fully in party mode. The people at the tiger are rad. If you ever want a good time head there. I freaked out the next morning when I woke up.

Cloister #2: I go to the surf shop asking where I can find somewhere tranquillo on the beach. I am directed to playa maderas, specifically this spot called matilda’s. I have to hike 10 minutes down a beach at the end of a dirt road. There were a lot of Canadians escaping winter by spending time in Nicaragua living a Jimmy Buffet dream. The first night I was there some forty something Canuck was pouring red bulls into a can of Toña. He then skied some slopes if you know what I’m saying. His eyes were bugging out of his head by the end of the night. Despite the partying I kept to myself and went to sleep around 930 for three or four nights.

I enjoyed it.

Up next… I return to San Juan del Sur.













Montezuma’s Revenge

Day two in Montezuma, Costa Rica: Waterfalls, phosphorescent oceans, monkeys, sex, drugs, booze, and expatriots. Lots of them.

People definitely are here to escape. I am almost jealous of how resourceful these individuals are in finding ways to make money and get by abroad. Most have plugged themselves into the booming tourist industry.

These refugees from conventional life are the most interesting people I’ve met thus far. Example: There’s the Atlantan who just took out a a second rental so he could have a place to house each of his Tico lovers. He casually tells me about the precarious situation while we sip on cans of Pilsen and smoke joints. I meet both his lovers. One of the boys was incredibly servile, running and grabbing cans of beer and tobacco from the store on command. Seems like he has a good operation going.

It’s a place foreigners feel like they can come and get away with the unthinkable. And it seems like they can. And it seems like the Ticos don’t really give a fuck. There’s such an influx of money there’s no use resisting. Shits so expensive here. Nicaragua is seeming more and more appealing.

Dont get me wrong, it’s really really cool to see how such diverse groups of people can come together and for the most part coexist. I like it. I am just not vibing on Montezuma. Time for me to catch the next bus.








Xanax and Cocktails: or how The bag lady learned to stop worrying and let go of her crap

So I retract the two prior posts I was going to write. I’m on the LAX flyaway bus on my way to the airport in what has been a hectic, to say the least, day. Sorry if the posts have typos or errors. I’m writing from my iPhone. In pure Joanna Kaufman fashion I have been wandering on public transit all day to get to…Xanax and cocktails.

I’m just here in the now.

I could die in a plane crash for all I know. In fact this is all I know, which is where the Xanax comes in handy. This is the time to surrender control and let whatever happens just flow.

I still have to find an envelope and a mailbox to send off a couple of important items before I go into the terminal. I’m just glad I have that extra chromosome making me able to stay sane in days of long travel. At one point today I transported a full xl messenger bag, a full tote bag, a full pillow case, and two skate decks from Riverside to my parents house by bus. I still have bits of my material belongings floating around different parts of Southern CA.

I left my room a mess.

I never told my parents about my trip or moving back in.

Fuck it.

Drunken Boo Boos

Party hard I did.  Too hard.


Fueled by a combination of mescal (who got the gusanito?), vodka of the gods screwdrivers, and skinny girl margarita, I managed to tarnish some friendships my final night in Santa Barbara.  Or so I think.  Once I managed to track down my backpack with my wallet and phone on Sunday morning it was clear I had made a big mistake.  My call log revealed an evening of making an avalanche of drunken goodbye calls.  Some people I called back multiple times.  I apparently told one of my friends something “inappropriate” but would not be made privy to what I exactly said.  So to those whom I harassed, I don’t know what I said, I’m sorry.  The devil inside made me do it.  I’m most certain whatever I said it’s not what I think.


Other than blacking out and making an ass of myself by calling a bunch of people drunk and stealing some stranger’s burrito (so I was told), I had an incredible weekend.  I got to spend precious time with some of my favorite people riding bikes, sailing, hiking, and doing some general joyous gallivanting.  I promise that I will be careful and not do what I did Saturday night wherever I end up!

Note the phone by my hand.

My final hour in Santa Barbara was whirlwind.  I made the spontaneous decision to head up to Monterey to visit my friend’s new house while I threw the final bits of crap into my other friend’s trunk to be taken down to Riverside.  The thought struck me:  I am an adult.  I can go where I want to!  No longer am I bound by responsibilities.  The only constraints are my finances and the fears I create in my head.  I could become homeless if that is what I want.  Anyways I slept for most of the way up to Monterey, woke up and commented on how posh KG’s new accommodations are, and passed out.  Since KG had to work for most of my day in town I took the opportunity to explore Monterey on my own.

The Birth of a Tourist: The introduction


There is something magical about Hollister Ranch.  Right now my eyes are getting fucked by ocean waters.  I’m on the train zipping through Hollister Ranch.

Although all connected in time and space, I felt that each of the next three posts had a different theme.  For this reason, I broke up an originally long post into three parts.  The first covers my last days in Santa Barbara.  The second covers my attempt at telling my father about my travel plans and the initial half of my day in Monterey.  The final post digs into my thoughts on tourism and my fears of being a tourist.