Solo travel top tips for Central America

Solo travel is rather like riding the best roller coaster of your life, there are extreme highs and lows. In addition, unexpected occurrences will crop up. This could be discovering a hidden gem such as an incredible tranquil beach or it could be getting stuck taking four consecutive buses packed full of people. Either way the experience will make you stronger, open your eyes to different ways of living and teach you a lot about yourself.

Here are some top tips that will make solo traveling around Central America a lot easier:

Ignore the scaremonger – there will be people who say something that pushes your buttons and freaks you out. For example, they could say a place is terribly dangerous to visit alone, a hike is practically impossible in one day or a road trip is an awful idea. The first thing to do is ask if they have been themselves. Normally the scaremonger has no first hand experience.  When an unreliable, stranger slates your plans, simply smile and ignore every word. I have lost count of how many times people have told me not to go somewhere because a friend of a friend said it’s dangerous, or one specific region of the country has appeared in the news for drug cartels or in a dated movie the country was portrayed as having many gangs roaming the streets. All these rumours are simply fictional fantasies. If anything they make you as a solo traveler appear more brave – so embrace them and carry on with your travels. Of course it is important to listen to factual warnings issued by locals, hostel staff or officials. Simple, make sure to distinguish between a scaremonger and an official warning. This is easily done with a bit of research, listening to at least three opinions not just one and using common sense. Personally, a scaremonger has never altered my plans but they have made me doubt myself numerous times. That brings me onto the next point – trust your instinct.

Follow your gut feeling – when solo traveling, you have to make decisions for your self and quickly. Go with your initial instinct –  it is normally right. There is no point or time in dithering, trust your first feeling and go with it. If someone looks slightly shady do not hesitate, you are probably right, so avoid them. When traveling, over thinking, analysing and being indecisive about what destination to visit next, what to do tomorrow or where to eat can be a problem. It is easier said than done but it helps a lot to just go with how you feel initially. At the end of the day what’s the worst that can happen? Maybe you eat a bad meal, get stuck in a place you don’t like for one night or have nothing to see one day. These things are not the end of the world just make that decision and go with the flow. Everything happens for a reason while on the road. So what ever you decide, fate will bring you to where you are meant to be.

‘It is what it is’ – I picked this up from a fellow travel buddy of mine. Once you come to terms with the fact that you do not always have the power over situations, they are easier to accept. Sometimes things just are the way they are and there is nothing you can do about it other than see the funny side, the positives or see it as a character building exercise. It is not uncommon for things not to go as expected. You may be stuck in hostels that are simply horrific, a bus might take the whole day to get you somewhere or food might make you ill. However, it is what it is and the day after you may be rewarded with meeting an incredible friend, seeing something stunning or learning new fascinating things.

Inspirational quotes might just save you – cringe, laugh or cry at them, inspirational quotes can help you see the light at the end if a tunnel. In times of stress, confusion or worry it’s important to remember that someone else will be going through the same as you. This goes for everything, not just as a solo traveler. While exploring new countries I have seen all kinds of different philosophies and ways of living, all of which aid you become stronger and survive traveling alone. Here are some of my favourites:

– ‘I smile because I have no idea what’s going on‘. Believe it or not, smiling actually gives you and everyone else the illusion that you are totally fine and everything is under control –  even if it is not. It gives you that confidence which is needed all the time.

– ‘You travel not to escape life, but so that life does not escape you.‘ Remember the purpose of your trip.

‘the little things, the little moments, they are not little‘ it’s okay to sing and dance about getting a hot shower, it is a big deal.

‘You don’t always need a plan sometimes you just need to breath, trust, let go and see what happens‘ it is hard going from a routine back home to traveling with no plans. However, its how you meet people, find unexpected places and get the most from your journey.

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Don’t rush – if you are in a desperate hurry to get from country to country to cross them off your list, you are going about traveling all wrong. Of course you can not see everything, it is inevitable you will miss regions but remember to take your time and only leave a country when you feel satisfied you have explored it as much as you wanted to. If your time is limited it’s best to focus on a particular country, region in depth rather than frantically taking long haul buses wasting days,  just so you can say you have been to multiple countries.

Live in the moment – take a deep breath, take in your surroundings and be thankful you have landed in this magical part of the world. While travelling you will talk to others who rave about places they have visited. You then become fixated on going where they have been and forget to enjoy the moment. Instead of planning to follow others, get excited about future plans, just look around you and enjoy what you are eating, looking at or doing at that particular moment in time. Who knows this hot pool that your friend is boasting about might not be all its lived up to be. Just as I said before about not trusting a scaremonger, also take travel suggestions with a pinch of salt. Lots of fellow gringos will say ‘I heard from someone that it’s not worth visiting that waterfall as it’s not very beautiful,’ remember everyone sees things differently. Experiences are highly subjective and dependent on many factors – weather, mood, company, previous visits and the list goes on. Conclusively, all you really know for sure is the present moment – so why not enjoy it?

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