Making the Decision to Visit Nicaragua
Do I go? Do I stay home? Do I pick another country? Or do I stick with my first plan and travel to Nicaragua?
Last year felt like a really light travel year for me. No new countries. No new cities, even. I did get to Boston, Montreal, and three times to New York, but those were all cities I had been to before. For 2016, I want to travel somewhere new. Make sure my travel skills haven’t gotten too rusty.
For my Spring getaway I knew I wanted warm weather, good activities, good food, and hopefully make a few travel friends. But it had to be cheap. I’m sure most people would be thinking “Southeast Asia!” right now. Have you looked at a return plane ticket from St. John’s to Bangkok? Almost $2,000 right there. I live on a rock in the North Atlantic. Just getting off here makes almost anything expensive. So I looked a little closer to home. My thoughts turned to Central America.
Reclaiming My Travel Cred
Back in 2012 I made my international solo debut in Costa Rica and it was amazing. I went horseback riding, swam in waterfalls, learned to surf, tried ziplining, and more. I could happily go back but I wanted to try something new. And after spending a lot on my house in the last couple of years, I’m pinching my pennies a little tighter right now.
A few stories had recently come my way about Nicaragua. Just north of Costa Rica, a lot of people are calling it the next tourism darling of Latin America. It ticks all the boxes for me and I could use my United voucher to help with the cost so I decided that’s where I’d head in March and started dreaming about gallo pinto, fresh pineapples, and volcano boarding.
But Wait…Maybe Not
But then I heard about the street harassment. Women out on their own would be cat called, leered at, sometimes even followed. Now, I can deal with a few words thrown my way or even off-putting looks but the idea of men following me or being overly persistent really set me off. The thoughts rattled around in my head for days and I started to second guess my decision. Maybe I’d head for Playa del Carmen, Mexico instead.
But what started to bother me most was that I was in danger or writing off an entire country based on anxiety about the potential behavior of men. The negative side of machismo is a real problem in Latin America, no doubt. Men are raised to believe that making women uncomfortable in this manner is a legit way to achieve an unattainable goal of hypermasculinity. In order to be a real man, revered and respected in society, you must, in part, dominate women. As an independent woman, this way of thinking angers me.
You could say, “If you don’t agree with the culture, just don’t go.” But I feel like that wouldn’t be doing anybody any favours. I wouldn’t be setting an example as a woman who is capable and confident of doing things on her own. Also, I would be depriving myself of some potentially cool activities and experiences. What to do?
To Go or Not?
I want to be safe, of course, but I also want to be properly informed. So instead of overreacting to maybes and what ifs I decided to educate myself. I reached out to several female bloggers who I know have been in Nicaragua recently and asked them about their experiences.
Everyone who replied told me yes, you will get cat called and yes, some men might get a bit aggressive with it but none of them felt scared and would definitely visit again. I’ll take precautions like being conservative with what I wear, not making eye contact, and do my best to ignore it. Is it right that I have to even worry about that? Hell, no. But is Nicaragua, by myself, the best place for me to get vocal about it and take a stand? Probably not. If given the chance to talk about it in a safe place I’ll take it but otherwise I’ll cover my legs, keep to myself, and fight the good fight at home.
It’s always best to be as informed as possible before you land in a new destination. I’m also wary of having things stolen so I’m looking into scams, places to avoid, etc. so I know what to expect and how to conduct myself. A few Google searches and emails to bloggers who’ve been there go a long way to peace of mind.
I’m glad that I decided to dig a little deeper rather than let my fears get the best of me. I hope that I come back from my own trip with good stories and recommendations.
Have you been to Nicaragua? Have you experienced any street harassment? Would you go back?