The sound of the plane’s engines seemed louder than usual, though not much more than the snoring of the couple seated behind me. We were 40,000 feet in the air and as I sat cramped in my window seat, head on the window and legs curled up into some yoga-like position, all I could hear was my voice asking “How did I get here?”
Alexander Graham Bell once said, “When one door closes another opens.” There is no better way to explain how I ended up aboard an Avianca flight headed towards Nicaragua, a country that up until a few months prior, I had never even acknowledged. I suppose you could say that I had a cliché outlook on travel. I dreamt of the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower and my hair blowing in the wind as I rode the Bateaux Mouche down the Seine. I mentally prepared images I would take from each angle of the Palace of Westminster; I envisioned myself on the trip I had originally planned to be on, a trip through Florence, Italy. This trip, however, had a prerequisite art class that ended up booked solid within a week and so I ended up in Liberation Theology, the only elective that wouldn’t disrupt my three-day week schedule. Unbeknownst to me, this class had a required service component and those who wished could provide those hours during a service-learning trip to Nicaragua.
The next thing I knew, we were driving to our first hostel through the streets of Managua past brightly colored, connecting, one-story homes. Within the next few hours, I experienced more than I had in my twenty-one years. I felt the wind through my hair as we rode a speedboat through Lake Nicaragua, a lake that seemed to stretch on for miles in all directions; fed a monkey on an island that many tourists dub “Monkey Island”. And that night after the sun had set behind distant mountain ranges and the only light was from a battery operated lantern on the dashboard of our boat, we jumped feet first into Lake Nicaragua without hesitation.
That week brought a succession of experiences. We hiked to the top of the Mombacho Volcano through green caverns and sloth-filled paths until we reached a bird’s eye view of Lake Nicaragua. We ran barefoot through a schoolyard in Sutiaba while getting destroyed in soccer by children half our size. And we ended our nights eating mango and playing cards on the stoop of our hostel with stars in our eyes. My trip to Nicaragua was my first international adventure, but that one visit made the world map on my wall at home seem that much more monumental.