Following a Great Longing to Nicaragua

On the beach at Ometepe Island

On the beach at Ometepe Island

Sybille Bedfort wrote in “A Visit to Don Octavio,” that she wanted to travel to Mexico because, “I had a great longing to move, to hear another language, eat new food; to be in a country with a long nasty history in the past and as little present history as possible. I longed in short to travel.” I longed to travel south for the same reasons, but further south than Mexico. I needed to hear another language, to smell a different earth so I would be shaken out of my American slumber to feel more alive. I wanted to taste new foods like vigorón. I do not travel to experience more of what I have at home. I travel to be challenged in my very American-ness and by experiencing a bit of a life elsewhere to reassess my life here. I travel to see the beauties of the world and its difficulties. This trip focused on its beauties.

With a friend in Nicaragua who owns Explore 505, an educational tour company, that seemed the perfect country to pick. Nasty history? Check. Remember the Sandinistas, the Iran-Contra Affair? Active volcanoes and the country occasional rattled by earthquakes added a slight piquancy to the adventure. Four friends signed on for the adventure and we descended upon the country.

We fled the capitol of Managua, just spending one night on each side for the convenience of international flights. We hopped from the colonial city of Granada with its Spanish architecture to the isletas studding Lake Nicaragua to the Pacific Ocean and beaches of San Juan del Sur, where the television show Survivor had set up to film its next season, to the beaches and volcanoes of Ometepe Island. It is a country ripe with beauty.

I waded out into the waves of Lake Nicaragua with the Madera Volcano to my right and wondered how far I would need to go to see the Concepcion Volcano. Turning over my left shoulder, I stopped stunned by the beauty of the cloud-wreathed Concepcion towering over the beach. All the time in the water, I could hardly decide where to look, to the active Concepcion hoping for a rumble and tumble of ash and stone or to the retired Madera with its peaceful green slopes. Both remained mute, cloaked in beauty. It was then I thought of another reason to travel. We travel to store up these mental photographs of light and beauty to sustain when the dark nights come, when the dreary desk days come. Then they remind us that there is something more, that there is life elsewhere. To there, the exploring yesterdays, our minds may drift when numbed by the todays.

Venture forth into the unknown and find some beauty to sustain you through the desk days ahead.