Rather than travel by plane, train or automobile on your next adventure, why not take things at a slower pace?
I made some incredible memories travelling from Panama through Costa Rica and into Nicaragua on just my push bike. Although it was physically very hard work, it meant I could experience all the little things that you often miss at a faster pace. Here are seven reasons why I loved travelling slowly across Central America.
1. Stopping to watch sloths in the trees
At one point during my ride, I spotted a couple of sloths hanging from trees by the roadside. It was exciting to see an indigenous animal in the wild and something I would never have experienced if I had a jam packed itinerary and was rushing to the next destination (as is often the case when travelling). As I stood there taking everything in, I realised that sometimes you need to slow down to get more out of life.
2. Racing locals up a hill back to our hostel
After a more chilled-out day exploring Ometepe Island (one of my favourite places we visited), we had a short but intense cycle up a hill back to our hostel. Halfway back, two local boys caught up and started to overtake us, laughing. My friend and I looked at each other and started to pedal faster to keep up. We ended up racing all the way up the hill and shouting ‘adios’ to each other as we turned into our hostel and they continued. Despite the language barrier between us, we still managed to have a laugh with the locals. This made me feel welcome in their community and highlighted the similarities between people across the world.
3. Drinking out of fresh coconuts
In the middle of an intense day of cycling, we spotted a little wooden hut selling fresh fruit and couldn’t resist trying some coconut water. To our surprise, the owner walked out the back, climbed up a tree and started knocking coconuts down for us. This was so exciting, I’d never seen anything like it before. While this was just part of daily life here, it was something that would never happen at home. The fresh juice was delicious , nutritious and just what we needed during our hard day of cycling.
4. Crossing country borders on foot
Discovering something new is the essence of travel and this is my favourite thing about it. I love returning home with a wider view of the world and new experiences. One of the most unique things about this trip was crossing country boarders on foot. This is something I only experienced due to our slow method of transport. Before this, I had only ever crossed country boarders on an aeroplane.
On this trip, I cycled all the way up to the Panama border and crossed into Costa Rica. This involved having my passport checked and stamped upon leaving Panama then travelling a couple of metres and repeating the process on my arrival into Costa Rica. I then did the same thing when leaving Costa Rica and crossing into Nicaragua. However, this crossing was very different, a lot bigger and busier than the first one.
This time we were stamped out of Costa Rica and there was about half a mile of nothingness before we reached Nicaragua. There were tents set up doing health checks to make sure we weren’t carrying anything contagious and we had to sit and wait for around two hours before we were allowed into Nicaragua. Although it was a bit strange being stuck there, it was a nice break from the cycling and we just sat and enjoyed the sun while locals sold souvenirs, food and drinks. It was something I’m unlikely to ever experience again.
5. Jumping into lake Nicaragua from Ometepe Island
Ometepe Island is one of the most astonishing places I’ve ever visited. The whole island just made me feel so carefree and opened my eyes to new things. I loved jumping into lake Nicaragua from the pier. We stopped to have a little cycling break to enjoy the view and decided to have a cool off in the lake. It was so freeing to just get off the bikes and jump into the cool water with no worries. Afterwards, we simply hopped back on our bikes and let the sun dry us off as we carried on our journey.
6. Watching the sunset over the Pacific Ocean from San Juan del Sur beach
This was the most incredible sunset I’ve ever seen. To top it off, it appeared on our last day of cycling when we arrived at our final stop in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.
7. Banana and plantain farms
During my time in Central America, in particular Costa Rica, I saw so many banana and plantain farms that now every time I buy bananas, I check to see if they originate from Costa Rica and think about the people who farm them and the community they came from. This is something I never considered when buying imported food before. Looking at it this way, my time spent in Central America has definitely changed the way I think about the world.
Has this inspired you to travel slowly on your next adventure?