A One Way Ticket to Nicaragua (USA to Leon, Nicaragua; ATS Part 1)

A Travel Story is an ongoing series sharing my backpacking trip through stories, lessons, and photographs. Read the introduction here. In this post, I begin my backpacking trip from the USA to Leon, Nicaragua on a one way ticket.

January 10, 2014 begins my travel story. It starts here, in an airport in Houston, TX. I was exhausted, and if I’m begin honest with you, about to poop my pants.
Leon, Nicaragua

Leon, Nicaragua

You see, I’ve never done anything like this before. But here I am: I quit job, sold all my stuff, and I’m carrying basically everything I own on my back (save for a few boxes in Scott’s grandma’s basement). Scott and I used credit card miles we’d been saving up to buy a one-way ticket to Nicaragua. We planned the first 2 weeks of our trip, but had no plans after this.

I was nervous as hell, and so glad that I had Scott as my travel partner. I wouldn’t have had the guts to do this without him.Leon, Nicaragua

Leon, Nicaragua

We arrived in Managua, Nicaragua, which is the capital city, and based on my Wikipedia reading was not the safest place. We used our broken Spanish to haggle a taxi ride to the “bus station,” which I later learned is not a bus station, but a parking lot with a bunch of guys running around and shouting different town names. I also learned that “buses” are actually old retired school buses from the US, extravagantly decorated and called chicken buses. I didn’t understand why they were called this, but I found on later on.

Leon, Nicaragua
Chicken buses

We followed the guy yelling “Leon!” and took the bus ride north to the little city of Leon. Since this was our first stop, we were not yet adventurous backpackers and had prebooked a hostel called Latina Hostel. Looking back, it was absolutely the best place we could have stayed on our first stop of a two year backpacking trip.

Leon, Nicaragua

It was not so much the actual hostel, but the group of people I met. I actually still keep in touch with many of the people I met there, and I’ll always have fond memories of this place. I learned a lot on this first stop of my trip.

Leon, Nicaragua

I learned the relationships you make traveling develop quickly and deeply. Spending a few days together in travel terms is like the equivalent of a few “real world” months together. You talk about deep issues, you share stories, and you solve the world’s problems. You are in vulnerable and life altering situations together. You are growing and learning, together, and having the time of your life.


I learned that managing dorm rooms were my new norm. I learned that I’d need to lock important stuff up, and not lose the key. I learned that people will talk in their sleep, go to bed early, go to bed late, sleep naked, have sex, masturbate, and pretty much do whatever they please in these bunk beds, and I better get used to that or it’s gonna be a LONG trip!


I learned that managing a business from the road is going to be difficult. I thought it’d be easy because I’d have all the time in the world, but it is NOT easy to find some quiet, alone time with good internet connection.


I learned that what Scott and I were doing was not unique in the backpacker world. In fact, there were SO MANY people doing cooler, crazier, and more adventerous things than we were. This pack of Argentinians are traveling together by bike with no money. Each day they play music and sell their handicrafts for some cash to eat, and each night they camp out. Suddenly, my trip doesn’t seem so adventurous.

P1010117But most of all, I learned I had a lot to learn. I had a lot to learn about myself, about travel, about the world around me. And suddenly I wasn’t so scared anymore. I was excited.


The center square in Leon. There’s a center square in every city. Sit there long enough and you are guaranteed to see something entertaining!
Me enjoying the first day of living the backpacker life
Kelby entertains us with his fire twirling on our first night. He was practicing in hopes to make some extra money. He travels with nothing but a backpack and his fire stick.
We tour a church in Leon. Safety standards are a little more lax here in Latin America- we climb on and walk across the roof to get a good view of the city.
Me with a great view of the distant volcano.
Myself and a volunteer from the hostel who spent his afternoon taking us around on a tour of Leon.
Scott and I waiting for some gallo pinto.

If you’re enjoying my travel stories, please join my email list to follow along. If you’re planning a trip to Nicaragua and have questions or comments, leave a message below! I’d love to hear what you think- please leave a comment!

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