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We had more time than we originally anticipated for Nicaragua as a whole and decided to head to the Northern beaches first. The place we stayed was another great find via iOverlander. We loved Rancho Esperanza and ended up staying four days. The property is beach front, with little cabanas you can rent, a bunk house option, or a large grassy field to park and camp, where we set up Pedro. There were more employees or volunteers than guests during the slow time we were there and we latched onto their schedule of nap, read, eat, nap, surf, eat, beach, read, bed. Rancho Esperanza also offered meals every day. Usually vegetarian, huge portions and at around $3, they were hard to beat. The staff was across the board with age, background and travel timeline and we enjoyed hearing everyone’s story. They welcomed us into their daily life for the short time we were there and it was great.

From Playa Jiquilillo we drove south through Leon and met cousins of our good friends the Palmers. We got to see the work they are doing at an orphanage in the area and have lunch with them. They have three small kids of their own and they manage the facility which is more like a limbo for kids until the government decides what is best for them. The struggle they have of not only taking care of their own family, but having kids, all under the age of six, come to them for an unknown amount of time was a visible stressor, but you can tell they have put their hearts into it. From there we headed to Laguna de Apoyo, a beautiful lake near Granada. The road we took to get there looked more like a cobblestone walking path but the man at a house nearby basically told us to stop being babies and keep driving. Turns out we took the back way, of course, but the lake was clean and clear, perfect for two days of swimming, kayaking and enjoying a bit of salt free water!

Our next stop was the city of Granada. We had originally planned about a day or two here but arrived in the heat of the day and it was just so unbearably hot. We explored the city for a few hours and were pushed on by the desire for an ocean breeze.

That same evening we made it to our last stop in Nicaragua, San Juan Del Sur. This funky little beach town had good restaurants, friendly locals and cute surf shops. We enjoyed the beach here for a few days and set up the details for our first place in Costa Rica. It’s indeed a small world when you’re driving this route and we ran into our Canadian friends, Nicole and Gordo whom we had met in Mexico. We met for burritos and beers and would have stayed longer if the border wasn’t calling our name the next day. We hope to catch them again along the way!

On another note, here’s a little rambling from the Nelsons regarding 8 countries, 4 months of driving and 7 years together. This weekend, my sister-in-law asked us the type of question that makes us evaluate our current lifestyle and one that we have asked ourselves more than once on this journey.

“Are you bored yet?”

The response is sometimes, absolutely. But were we bored at home too? Same answer.

We have some days where we don’t do much at all and it is honestly hilarious (and sad) to look back and see the lack of productivity. But on the other hand some days seem so long and filled with people, places and newness that we can’t believe it was just a 12 hour period. Other times a place can be beautiful but if it’s the fifth colonial style city or tenth beach town, you get a bit worn out. Eric has taken on a few engineering jobs on the road and admits that he prefers to keep his brain occupied. We both have had to learn that when we get tired of camping or hostels or a certain town, it’s ok to be honest and move along. The experience of the physical place and people is important to us but enjoying ourselves during this time is more important that adding a place to some list. Lately, it’s been better for us to stay put for a few extra days or rent a little bungalow. We are so refreshed after cooking good meals, exercising and getting decent sleep. It makes a difference how fast the bad days and good days can even out.

The pull I felt to do a little recap, without calling it something like a halfway point or the end of our Central American journey, was that this month marks 7 years of a little thing called love between Eric and I. And I think you can absolutely ask that same question in a relationship. We have been challenged on this trip so far in all ways. We enjoy when other travelers are realistic about their experiences living out of a car, being on the go, and spending almost 24/7 with another person. We’ve been forced to adapt, communicate differently, and address brand new needs personally and as a couple. While all these things are necessary to do at home as well, the added element of also finding clean drinking water, mapping streets that don’t always exist and not finding your next meal on aisle 3 of city market adds a level of stress that can be positive and encouraging or very negative towards a relationship.

I say all this I guess to try and explain that this trip has been totally different than expected, which warrants a huge “duh”, I know. Some days we want to give up and some days we cannot believe where we are and that we get this time together to explore not only new places, but further our marriage in a way we never planned for.

Well, on June 19th we crossed the border into Costa Rica. We have about a month in this country because of a timeline roughly created by visitors. For the past week we have holed up near the town of Samara on the Nicoya Peninsula and enjoy some very relaxed us time. We have cooked great meals, read, Eric has worked a little and we spent time on the beach. We pick up Marie’s brother, Mark, this weekend and while he hasn’t planned much we are going to do a whirlwind Costa Rica tour complete with beach, volcano and jungle time. Mid-July we are meeting Eric’s family on the Caribbean coast for some beach time as well. We are looking forward to the refresher of seeing not only familiar faces but family!

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