Less than 2 years ago I went on my first solo road trip to Central America. I came back with a ton of amazing memories, but what would a road-trip be without a few misadventures along the way?
Solo Road Trip Memories
I’m not a crazy risk taker especially when travelling alone. I think this experience could have gone so much more wrong if I had been less cautious or organised. Compared to some fellow solo travellers, I have been actually lucky. I didn’t lose my passport, my backpack didn’t get stolen, I don’t have any bad couchsurfing experience to complain about… But I still had a few moments where I asked myself what I was doing there!
From slightly scary…
- “What am I doing?” I fully realised on the plane to Costa Rica that I was going to spend 8 weeks completely outside of my comfort zone, traveling where I didn’t know anything or anyone. Plus, a couchsurfer was picking me up at the airport. He turned out to be a very nice guy and an awesome guide, but I wouldn’t have got in a car with a complete stranger in my own country, so I thought I was taking a bit of a risk there.
- Hiking the Cerro Chato. Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t regret hiking this dormant volcano in Costa Rica but I get why they only recommend it to very active people and experienced hikers. It’s a steep ascent and an extremely rough and wet trail packed wit all sorts of animals. When your guide tells you to avoid grabbing sticks or branches in case they are actually snakes, you listen. It was a very challenging day, but taking a dip in the lagoon in the volcano’s crater was priceless and actually one of my best memories.
- The monkey attack in Manuel Antonio. This one isn’t actually more hilarious than anything else. Manuel Antonio is one of the prettiest national parks of Costa Rica and is famous for its monkeys and raccoons. They are absolutely not scared of humans. Raccoons are smart enough to look into your bags and steal personal belongings whilst monkeys just steal the banana or watermelon you’re eating. When a White-faced Capuchin is giving you the evil look and showing teeth, you just drop the fruit and let the monkey have it his way.
- The boat ride to Bocas del Toro. This small archipelago in Panama is like paradise on earth, but the boat ride to get there isn’t dreamy at all. We were packed in a tiny boat for a bumpy ride that lasted about 30min but felt like 3 hours. I did it on a windy day and with a crying baby on board, which didn’t help. But I can’t imagine how it is on rainy days.
- Coconut trees are more life-threatening than you think. Apparently falling coconuts kill about 150 people every year. I could have never made it back from Bocas del Toro if a coconut hadn’t missed my head by 1 inch. Life lesson: never lie down under a coconut tree.
…to quite scary
- Flying to Panama City wasn’t my best experience. Bocas Del Toro airport is very small and doesn’t seem very concerned about security. On the day I flew, they barely checked anything and my big bottle of water made it through hand luggage screening (was there even a working screen?). Plus, it was the smallest I ever flew on – we were maximum 30 passengers. Take off and landing are definitely less pleasant in tiny aircrafts. The whole experience just didn’t make me feel safe at all.
- Crossing a border alone before sunrise wasn’t the greatest plan. After visiting Nicaragua I decided to go back to Costa Rica and in order to catch an 8am shuttle on the other side of the border, I really had to cross as early as possible. I got there at 5am, being the only European-looking solo female traveler. If you’ve been to Central America, you know that borders are really confusing and not the safest places. Someone tried to steal my phone and then to open my backpack. And I couldn’t tell if I really had to pay for every document I was asked to complete or if I was being mugged off. I felt so relieved when the border station finally opened at 6am and I was able to go through all the steps without any major issue.
I panicked when I was in these situations but I could have got myself into bigger troubles during this solo road trip. And these experiences taught me to trust the process a little more because everything turned out more than fine in the end!