Crazy is a word I often hear. Head shakes are pretty common. A few tsk, tsk’s under the breath…I smile. I like this kind of thing. If I get this reaction, then I know it’s gonna be a good idea!
Turns out the idea really wasn’t that crazy. Pretty tame actually. Nicaragua turned out to be a beautiful tropical country with warm weather, cool breezes, scenic volcanoes and smiling friendly people. Exactly what I pictured it to be. Now traveling with a 3 and a 5 year old…now that was a little bit crazy at times. But that’s to be expected too. We made the decision to go a couple weeks before we left. Typical. We packed the night before we got on the plane and didn’t sleep a wink. Typical too. Flew 20 hrs with a quick snooze in New Orleans only to land in Liberia, Costa Rica with no bags. Being seasoned travelers we thought to split up our clothing between the 2 travel packs we brought so that in case one went missing we’d still have something to wear – but made a rookie mistake and forgot to pack anything in our carry on in our haste! Oh well, when you are traveling you learn to be flexible. Thank goodness I saw a sign for the only hotel in the area while the plane was landing. I’m sure the Hilton didn’t mind us swimming in their pool in our underwear.
Next morning, with found luggage, we took a cab to the Nicaraguan border. Our Spanish is terrible. A lot of hand waving and gestures ensued to help us figure out what to do. Pay this, fill out this form, get a stamp here, then go outside in the pouring rain and walk across the no man’s land to Nicaragua. Well the walking wasn’t happening. I paid the man. Mom and kids were smiling in the pedicab with the bags, zipping down the road with me running behind. Next stop – ebola check point. Nope, nobody has ebola thankfully so we continue on. A couple of touts had latched on to us at this point. The kids were doing awesome trudging through the dirt and puddles dodging between the semis but I figured I would let these two guys help out nonetheless. They did prove useful in carrying our bags, helping us navigate the Nicaraguan side of the border and plus, they knew “a taxi guy”. I still couldn’t help notice my wife silently mocking me as if to say “haha sucker, you’re gonna have to pay them!”
We met our taxi driver as people crowded around us. I’m negotiating price with him for the next 2 hr trip, our touts are asking me for money, we’re trying to get the kids in the car and a man dressed in rags with bandages falling off his arms keeps tapping me on the shoulder. I ignore him. There’s so much going on right now. He just keeps tapping me. Everyone gets in the car and finally we are on our way. Sweet little 3 yr old Sofia pipes up from the back seat. “Daddy, didn’t you see that man? That man with the bandages? He wanted to talk to you.”
Oh my. In the most innocent of ways, my little girl chastised me for being so aloof. She didn’t see a dirty, ratty, disheveled bandaged man. She just saw a man. Rattled and maybe a bit flustered after the whirlwind of the border, I leaned to the driver, just a young kid, to change the subject and ask his name and said, “Te amo”. Great! Now even my 5 yr old had ammo as he would ask many times throughout the trip “Daddy, do you remember the time when you told the taxi driver you loved him?”
Traveling with kids is so fun. You will have so many moments where you are the proudest parent ever. These little people, navigating through exciting new cultures, languages and places are just taking it all in. We travel with so little, they learn that we don’t need a lot to be happy. The children break the ice every where we go. When we travel solo, nobody seems to want to talk with us and now we can’t even walk down the street. Sam’s red hair and Sofia’s curls and bubbly “hola” are great attractions to everyone we meet.
Traveling with kids can also be so trying. Even the patience of Job could be tested. New food, new beds, over tired, car sickness, whiny, fighting, travel bugs – oh there are a ton of things you could go crazy over. But in reality, that’s why we are here in Nicaragua with our kids in the first place. To teach them that these are things they are just going to have to deal with. We played on the beaches of Marsella, Ometepe and Pochomil. We rented a beautiful house in Grenada, hiked through the jungle and peered into volcanoes. But we learned real lessons. Our children saw beggars and homeless people sleeping on our doorstep. They saw kids playing in putrid, filthy, stagnant water because their parents thought it was okay. They saw a very different way of life unfolding around them and they asked questions that I believe will only help them to become more worldly and accepting of all people. I hope the simplicity of what we travel with and seeing those less fortunate than us will teach my kids that what they have is a blessing and not an entitlement.