Things Have Changed: 5 Places I’ve Been to Affected by Climate Change

places climate changes

This is a hard post to write for me, because each of these places mean a little something different in their own way. I’ve made connections with quite a few of them, and to think that they probably won’t be the same if I have children has really changed how I choose to travel and what I choose to write about on this blog. I’ve seen some vast differences in some locations, and locals have told me much about the changes they’ve seen over the past few years, as well.

So as sad as this post is to write, I also think it’s incredibly important that we talk about this and we know the alterations we are making to our world.

The Amazon, Peru

 amazon jungle peru

I journeyed to the Amazon River basin with Contiki in Peru a few years ago. I was astounded by the immense, tropical jungles and the bounty of wildlife there. However, the guides were the first to mention that they had been seeing rapid changes over the past few years, including massive droughts that had wiped out a number of animal species within the area. It also makes it more likely that forest fires will eat up the valuable trees.

Sonoma, California, USA

sonoma california grapes

No one should be surprised that Sonoma is on this list after last summer. I went down there to visit my uncle a few years ago (and got tipsy on a delightful wine tasting at 18—shhh), and I remember looking out on the verdant fields of growing grapes. I was astounded by the area’s beauty and the feeling that you were so far away from the rest of the world. It broke my heart to hear that much of it burned up and that California has been suffering from so much heat.

Venice, Italy

 venice italy sinking

Even when I was studying abroad in Venice 7 years ago (I can’t believe it’s been that long), the locals were complaining about the rising water during rainy days. Venice is a city known for its flooded streets, but that water level tends to get higher and higher every year. Worse still, thousands of priceless artwork and architecture is irretrievable if the city were to go under—and the jewel of the Adriatic and home to one of the most historical towns in the world will be irrecoverable.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

 angkor wat sunrise

I recently visited this mind-blowing temple complex, and was shocked to hear how popular it had become over the past decade. Once almost unknown, the largest religious structure in the world is now inundated with tourists, who have caused damage and brought pollution to the area. However, worst of all is the effects greenhouse gases have had on the structure itself. Our pollution has been eating away at the fragile limestone—which goes to show that even man-made structures are feeling the effects of our planet’s warming.

Glacier National Park, Montana, USA

 glacier national park

This one hits so close to home because, well, it is my home. I grew up 30 minutes away from the park and much of my childhood became learning how to find Indian Paintbrush and how to survive a bear attack (feel free to ask). I still try to make it to Glacier once a year, and it seems to change every time I visit. The glaciers themselves are smaller and we had scorching fires this summer that burnt up a good chunk of the near 1 million-acre park. It’s hard to see my home look and feel different than I knew it—especially because I know it’s affecting the people I love and the animals who also call the park home.

One of the many reasons I’m enjoying the world now (and trying to make a positive impact while I do it) is because I know it won’t look the same when I am older or for the next generations. However, the doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep fighting for a better future and for restoring our planet.

What are some places that have changed from climate change that you’ve been to?

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander

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Do Your Research: Why Traveling is About More than Visiting a Place

learning while traveling

I have to admit, I don’t tend to do a lot of research before visiting a new country. I might look up the best things to do or which foods to try before I go, but much about travel for me is learning about a place from the very beginning of my time there. I like to find myself questioning stereotypes or finding out where they came from, and discovering a new form of art or religion that I didn’t know existed.

Maybe I should be doing a bit more reading beforehand, but the truth is that I still often learn a lot about where I am and my understanding of how things are the way they are. I also then tend to pick up a few books about where I am so I can gain a more objective view. We all learn in different ways, and that’s a good thing. What bothers me about many travelers that I’ve encountered is that none of this seems to be important to them. They are often all about their own personal experiences more than trying to understand a place.

I don’t know how many times I’ve traveled with someone only to hear complaints about a certain location and how the local culture is “doing it the wrong way.” Most of the time, these gripes are from United States travelers, which tends to get my goat more than any other (probably because I hate the attitudes we’re representing). Much of the time, these people want to have the experience of being in a certain spot without having to deal with the parts that they don’t like—they would prefer to be ignorant to some of the cultural and political nuances affecting a country and its people.

Thailand has really been eye-opening for me in that way. If you didn’t want to know some of the history of the country or how the Thai people feel about their current political culture, then you would never have to. It’s blasphemous to talk badly about the former king, and although very few like his successor, his son, no one would ever say it. It would be easy to believe that Thailand is all smiles and you’re living in a paradise, but there is much more to this reality than you might realize.

For me, this is what makes you a better traveler—and person. You have to use some sleuthing skills sometimes in order to find out what people truly believe and to break down that barrier of tourism and truth. Research is required to really understand your location. It’s when people don’t want to know, when they want to revel in their bliss and the tourist ideal that it makes me angry.

Every individual’s travel experience is different, and one is not inherently better than another. However, ignoring the bad and only focusing on the ideal or the best part of a place is not only not realistic, but it can be detrimental to the understanding we really need in order to make the world a better place.

I always try to ask what it is that I am getting out of my travels. If it’s just a vacation and a break from my own reality, then that is not enough for me. While I think the line between being a traveler and being a tourist is unnecessary, there is a line between exploiting privilege and refusing to acknowledge why it is that you have it and recognizing the hardships of others around the world.

What do you think? What have you been getting out of your travels? How much research do you do before you travel or while you’re in a place?

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander

Animals and Travel: How to Pick Tours That Care

animals choosing tours

Sustainable travel has been one of my main focuses as a traveler over the past few years, and I’m always looking for new ways to make the world better on my journeys. Most of this means activities with other humans and learning to be respectful of other cultures, but it can also mean thinking about animals and how we are affecting other creatures through tourism. It fascinated me to learn that Thailand is home to 10 percent of the world’s animal species, and I’ve been considering how tours to see them can help and hurt.

But one of the hardest things I’ve found as a traveler is knowing exactly which types of tours are ethical. Any activity involving animals tends to be in captivity or on very guided expeditions that can sometimes be a bit iffy depending on the location in the world and the quality of the tour company. These tours can foster education and encourage donations to help endangered species, while unethical tour companies tend to use the money for other purposes.

The problem is, it’s not always easy to tell the difference. And often, by the time you are able to tell, you’ve already paid the tour company. Animals can appear fine only to be drugged so tourists can more easily see them, or they aren’t receiving the proper care they need. One of the latest tours that has been mentioned lately in the travel blog world is Tiger Kingdom. Some claim that the animals are abused there, while others do not notice and mention that the tigers seemed to be in good condition.

So how do you choose a tour that you know you can trust? Most likely you’re going to want to do a little bit of research beforehand. While it might kill your last-minute choice to go to a zoo, it can make you feel a lot better if you find out that you would be patronizing a place that you don’t feel comfortable with. TripAdvisor, blogs, and social media are great ways to get an idea if other travelers have had a positive experience overall and whether the animals seemed happy and healthy.

Also, contacting the organization and asking a few questions beforehand can help you to decide, as well. Where did the animals come from? What kind of facilities are they located? How much or little do you interact with them on the tour? These questions can help you to find out any information you can’t online.

An even harder call can be how you choose a way to volunteer with animals. You want to make sure that your funds are going back to the program, and not to extraneous people or through a shady pipeline. For volunteering, I would highly recommend looking into companies like G Adventures or Visit.Org, who are known for vetting their tours and keeping animal health and care as an important part of their success. Choosing companies that have a good reputation can help you make a decision on finding the right tour.

Regardless, there are certain no-brainers that we can all follow, such as don’t touch wild animals and treat them kindly. Take care of the area by not throwing trash in enclosures that they live in and don’t harass them. These seem like little things, but you would be surprised how many people sometimes forget these guidelines when they are traveling.

Seeing animals can be a life-changing part of a trip, and it doesn’t always have to be harmful to them. Before you head to an attraction based around animals, take some time and do some research about whether the place is known for being ethical or not.

Have you ever experienced unethical animal care on your travels? Where?

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander

It’s Hard Making Friends: Why Being an Expat Can Be Lonely

lonely living abroad

Last night, Daniel and I went on the roof of our apartment building to watch the lanterns take off for the Krathong Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai. We had been thinking about what it means to be a long-term traveler lately and how we somewhat feel isolated from our friends and families—even when we return home. It wasn’t long until we heard a voice call us over,

“Hey, kids! You want a gin and tonic?”

Before we even realized what had happened, we were enveloped in a small expat gathering in Chiang Mai. These lovely people were in their sixties, and were some of the friendliest, kindest, and most aware people I have talked to on my travels.

They had seemed to form a community for themselves after living abroad, and it was fascinating to hear their stories of how they made the transition to living in a culture that was not even close to their own. I envied them—I had not always been so lucky while living abroad and finding people that I’ve connected with.

Living in Italy had been one of the most isolating experiences in my life. Not only because at first I was with a group that I didn’t connect with very well, but then living alone in a small city where hardly anyone spoke my language. Being an expat on both of those occasions made me feel like an outsider, and it was difficult to feel as though I could integrate into the culture. I took Italian lessons, and managed to make a few Italian friends. While this definitely helped with feeling lonely, it didn’t always make me feel accepted.

Daniel and I experienced something similar when we lived in Granada. We would meet up with a few expats randomly, and we managed to develop some beautiful relationships with a few people, but we were on the edges of society. We would always be foreigners, no matter how hard we tried to learn the language, learn to cook the food, and participate in siesta. It didn’t take us long to discover that even when you have your best friend with you, you can still feel marginalized.

I would like to say that every place I’ve lived for a period of time has meant that I’ve created friendships that last a lifetime, or the people I hung out with while I was in a certain location were people I would have chosen to in any other context. But the truth is that I still felt separated from my culture and the people who really know me best. It’s a challenge you face as a traveler, and I’m not the first to comment on this phenomenon. It can be downright lonely—your eschewing your own culture and trying to find a place in another, completely different one.

My perspective on what it means to be an expat changed after last night, however. It’s easy to get caught up in that feeling of isolation, especially when you are young and your life is dictated so much by who you hang out with and the support of your peers. The older I become, the more I realize the freedom there is in being an expat and taking the positives from both cultures—you’re adopted and your original one.

I’m not looking to live abroad as an expat for a while any time soon, but I’m now not afraid to try it again. Hopefully I will be older and wiser and willing to realize feeling isolated doesn’t always have to be a negative feeling—it can provide you with a freedom you never realized you had before.

Have you ever been lonely living as an expat?

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander

Start at the Beginning: How to Start a Travel Blog

starting travel blog

When I first began writing about my travels, I never had the thought that I would put together a travel blog and that it would end up taking up a good portion of my life. I’ve been able to see much of the world because of this blog, and it has constantly pushed me as both a writer and a traveler to think in new ways and consider a certain culture in a new light. Blogging has been a lot of work, but it has also helped me to experience the world in a variety of ways.

I’ve been asked by a number of people how to begin the process of writing a travel blog. To be honest, I don’t think many people realize how much work it can be and that there is a difference between documenting your travels for friends and family and creating a blog that could potentially lead to press trips and sponsorships.

Here are some things I’ve noticed starting my travel blog. Hopefully these tips help you!

Know your brand

With so many travel blogs out there, you need to find a way to make your site stick out. My first blog with Wanderlust and Lipstick was based on millennial travel, but it soon became clear that most of the bloggers out there were now millennials! I had to think about what I was passionate about and if I had something to say that was different. I care about helping travelers find ways to make their journeys worthwhile by creating a better world and adding meaning to their journeys—which is how I narrowed down my brand of sustainable travel.

Start out simple—and consistent 

Starting a blog usually means that you need to start writing—and writing a lot. Consistency has been the biggest reason why I’ve developed some followers. Blog about what you’ve noticed in certain locations or tips and tricks for other travelers. Take some time to find your voice and your rhythm and don’t be too hard on yourself if things don’t blow up immediately. It took me a year to feel comfortable with what I was blogging and how that would come across. Give yourself some time and believe that eventually your project will pan out and it will.

Expand to social media

Unfortunately, nowadays running a travel blog is more than just writing and taking great photos. It also includes being active on social media and posting on a regular basis. Once you feel comfortable with your blog and you’re ready to share it, you’ll want to create separate Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts for your brand so you can find new readers. Social media is my least favorite aspect of running a blog, but companies like how I can connect with other travelers in a number of different ways.

Choose a good hosting site

I started out with WordPress as my site host, which has been great as a beginning blogger who just needed a basic design. I would recommend something easy when you are starting out—finding out whether you can use a site domain and building a site from scratch can be a nightmare for a newbie blogger. However, once you’ve gained some experience, it might not be a bad idea to switch the site that you are using to host. I’m planning on doing it this year (yay redesign), but there’s no way I could have started out feeling comfortable with putting together a site that required some coding experience. It goes to show that there is always something to learn as a blogger!

Creating this blog has been one of the major projects I feel proud of, and it has allowed me to work with a number of companies that I am happy to recommend to others. It’s not easy, but being a travel blogger has opened up a number of doors for me that wouldn’t have been possible to begin with.

Have you ever had some reservations about starting a travel blog?

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander

Angkor Where?: Exploring Angkor Wat and Siem Reap

cambodia angkor wat

After we rushed back from Kyoto to Tokyo, we were onto Cambodia. I wasn’t sure what to expect—it was my first foray into Southeast Asia and I had heard that Cambodia was a precarious way to start exploring the cultures there. I was a little bit nervous about getting around and the tight schedule we had to see some of the main sights. Of course, I was most excited to see Angkor Wat—one of the true wonders of the ancient world.

We took another quick flight from Phnom Penh Siem Reap, where we would be staying for a few days in order to experience the culture and to grab a tuk tuk to the main temple. We stopped by our hostel and dropped our backpacks off before heading out to see the small town of Siem Reap. You could tell that it was working hard to capitalize on its local landmarks—even the local beer was named after the famous religious site, and it every other business was a tour agency that offered sunset, sunrise, and day tours of the national park.

angkor wat sunrise

We chose to try out a sunrise tour before the afternoon sun got too hot. It was a far cry from Japan where it was clear that the fall weather was setting in. Cambodia was hot and humid, and we had to take care not to get bitten by the aggressive mosquitoes. We were also exhausted after running around the island of Japan, so we opted for a chance to rest in the afternoon before enjoying a night out.

Our tuk tuk driver picked us up at four in the morning. Rubbing the sleep out of our eyes, it was all I could do to stay awake as the tuk tuk bounced up and down the dirt roads. The sun was just starting to rise when we saw our first glimpse of the temple in the distance. While I had heard it was huge, I didn’t actually realize how massive the structure actually was until we arrived and had a chance to look it over. The sun was now peeking out from behind the elongated domes.

angkor wat cambodia

Our guide gave us a few hours to walk around the complex and climb to the top. What I found the most fascinating aspect of the art displayed there was how they had kept some of the original, Hindu friezes and somehow managed to incorporate Buddhist art into the structure. At first it seemed to contradict each other, but after some time, I began to like this amalgamation of art history.

gate angkor wat

art angkor wat

columns angkor wat

We completed a quick tour through Angkor Thom, as well. It was built during the same period, but instead of tiered domes, faces of the happy Buddha smiled down at you as you approached the temple. It was impossible not to feel some joy as we strolled through.

angkor thom gate

angkor thom face

There was much more to see, but most of it was a blur for me. It was time to go back and taste some of the delicious foods that Siem Reap had. We said goodbye to Angkor Wat before returning to our hostel for a nap. I was grateful for the much-needed rest and the opportunity to relax before we explored the night market and sat down for some barbeque. As always on our travels, it was an opportunity to try some strange foods, including snake, kangaroo, crocodile, and more. We even managed to find a tarantula on a stick for dessert.

After a dance performance, we were overwhelmed with a fantastic day and were thinking about how we would soon be headed back to New York. It had been a whirlwind, but I had felt so fortunate to see a place that I never would have made it to on my own.

Where have you been that you never expected you would?

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander

Travel Book Review: Love with a Chance of Drowning

travel book review
Image courtesy of Pexels Creative Commons.

Nothing is more fun for me while on my travels than taking along a good book. In-between my time back home, I picked up a fun romance/travelogue (at the Dollar Tree of all places). I was in the mood for something light, but the book actually ended up surprising me in a number of different ways. Some of it was good, some bad, but I enjoyed the fact that it was trying to portray a relationship while traveling honestly—something that doesn’t always come across on travel blogs and in literature.

Torre DeRoche wrote this easy-to-digest memoir a few years after she had found her ultimate man, though she thought the few-month relationship was doomed when he admitted that he had plans to sail from San Francisco to the other side of the world. A self-proclaimed “Fearful Adventurer,” Torre documents her choice to follow him as a first mate—even with her fear of the open ocean.

It’s easy to hate on both of the main characters while reading this. You wonder a little bit why Torre insists on complaining about the journey even though she made the choice to go, and why significant other, Ivan, doesn’t make more of an effort to make her feel like she made the right decision. Then again, I’ve never made the leap to sailing around the world, so I’m guessing I would be a pain to deal with—and I love the ocean.

Even though this can sometimes get a little grating (and it could have used a little more editing to tighten up some scenes), I thought Torre was brave for being honest about her relationship and how it’s not always easy adventuring with your partner. I’ve had that experience of traveling with the person I love in difficult scenarios, but my life has never been on the line in the same way. No relationship is perfect, and while I recently read that the couple have split, in some ways I find this story even more important for nomads.

You might have a partner that wants to always travel with you, or it might be someone who manages to get you out of your comfort zone for a bit, but it’s usually better to experience it with someone else.

“Life’s most beautiful things are empty without someone to enjoy them with.”

As someone who has traveled alone and had an amazing time doing that, to someone who happily travels with her boyfriend, I can relate to this sentiment. Daniel has pushed me in ways as a person and as a traveler that I never could have managed on my own, and I’ve been thankful to have someone I can share these experiences with. My travels would have been very different without him, and I think Love with a Chance of Drowning touches on that moment you choose to jump in head-first with the person you love for an adventure.

I’d recommend it if you love romances and you want a light travelogue. You won’t find anything too historically detailed or learn any facts, but it can make you realize that traveling with your partner is still living life together—whether you choose to do it in your rented apartment back home or you buy a sailboat and choose to see the world.

Have you read any other good travel books about relationships?

You can buy Love with a Chance of Drowning here.

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander

3 White Lies that Travel Bloggers Tell: And What You Should Believe

white lies travel bloggers

When I started travel blogging nearly four years ago (this one for a year and a half), there were some things that I just didn’t know. I was starting from the ground up and trying out a new type of writing, but I managed to learn quickly that not all was peachy in the travel blogging world, and that some of the facts were definitely skewed a little bit in order to make a blogger look better or to attract more visitors to the site.

I’ve written about how having an authentic blog is really important to me, and here are 3 things I found bothered me about other travel sites when I started my own

1. They weren’t being honest about sponsorship

As a travel writer, I’ve been lucky to have been on several press trips and have had been sent some awesome products to review. This is one of the perks of having a successful blog and providing content for readers. However, I’ve finished travel articles where the author was very clearly compensated or provided lodging. It’s great if you enjoyed a specific hotel or attraction and wanted to share it with readers, but many times, this is not usually the case. A glowing review can be often mean that the travel blogger got something for free and didn’t mention it. Early on, this meant that I would make sure my readers knew when I was reviewing a product because I wanted to or because it was given to me.

2. They embellished stories and weren’t honest about their experiences

I’m all for a good story and for having some adventures on your travels. What would the point be if you didn’t come back with a yarn or two to share? However, I’ve heard some stories that have been elaborated by travel bloggers in order to gain readers—and some end up being downright false. If the story is only about them, then it doesn’t tend to be a big deal. However, you’re also talking about a certain people and culture when you write a travel blog, and those people or that place can be put under fire if the story tends to be a negative one. We should be honest as a travel bloggers, but we also need to realize that we are talking about people and societies that are not our own and might suffer the repercussions from our anger. Stories are an important part of travel, but they should be real.

3. They only talk about the glamorous parts of travel

Luxury travel can be great, and there’s a whole group of travel bloggers that do a great job of talking about traveling with a large (or unlimited budget). However, those people tend to be real about some of the difficulties you face while traveling abroad too. Even flying first class and going to 5-star restaurants can come with some hiccups. For many travelers (and for me), that’s all part of the fun. I’ve never understood why some bloggers fail to acknowledge their cultural faux pas or they refuse to admit that traveling can be tough. This almost seems to be the opposite of wanting a good story—it’s wanting to say your trip went absolutely perfectly!

For me, not sharing some of my biggest f*ck ups with readers doesn’t really help them. In fact, it can make them believe that my life is much more organized (it’s really, really not) than it is. Things always look better from the outside, and part of having a travel blog for me is letting people know that anyone can travel—even if it’s not glamorous.

What do you admire about certain travel bloggers? What other lies have you experienced?

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander

A Central American Adventure: Exploring Nicaragua with IVY Part Four

ivy nicaragua part 4

We arrived at our hotel, a former convent, in time to take a shower and to think about what we were going to wear to a part especially thrown for us as IVY members. Everyone looked fantastic in their dancing clothes. We would be watching a traditional dance and enjoying a home-cooked meal before we tried some salsa ourselves. I was by far the least dressed up—but we were about to get pretty sweaty dancing.

convent hotel leon

Arriving at the dance school where we would be watching the performance, we were greeted by figures on stilts swaying to the music. Each of the dancers wore costumes representing different characters in Nicaraguan folklore. One was of a woman who couldn’t lose her virginity because she was so ugly and haunted the streets of Leon looking for men to suffocate with her giant breasts. We got a good laugh as she grabbed several of the guys from our group and subjected them to the ritual.

nicaragua dancers leon

I was amazed at the dexterity of the dancers as they managed to play drums, dance, and keep time to the music. I couldn’t imagine doing it without the stilts, let alone towering above us. The food was delicious, but it was the kindness of the organization that really made us feel welcome. It was heartening how they were so involved in making their community better and how they hoped to create a better future for the young dancers at their school.

After watching them show off their skills, it was time to try out our own. It had been a while since I had broken out any of my basic salsa skills, but thankfully the teachers (in Spanish, nonetheless) managed to make it for easy for us. We danced for several hours, each of finding out that we were much better at Latin dancing than we could have thought. Finishing with the Macarena, it was difficult not to be ready for a night out at the salsa clubs throughout the city. We were ready to meet some locals and have some fun.

Waking up from a late night out (or an early morning), we hurried to meet our local tour guide for the day. He would take us around some of the neighborhoods where we would be visiting the gorgeous cathedral. Stopping to ogle some of the delicious goods and a few parrots on display, our guide mentioned that we would have to be respectful on our tour—we were taking a special trip up to the top in order to get some amazing views of the city. What we didn’t know was that the cathedral itself was worth the visit up. Looking like white clouds, the domes reminded me of some of the architecture I had seen in Spain with some Moorish influence.

market IVY nicaragua

cathedral leon pigeons

We could see most of Leon from up above and we learned the secret ingredient to the beautiful white coloring of the cathedral—egg white. Climbing down, we entered the cathedral itself. I had never seen a church that used light the way this one did. It hardly needed any help from electrical lights—almost all of it was powered from the bright sunshine outside.

facade leon cathedral

top cathedral leon

It was time to say goodbye. It had been a jam-packed four days, and we had all grown close after watching each other brave our fears zip lining, turf it while surfing, and admiring each other’s dance moves. The wonderful thing was that we knew we could all easily meet up again as IVY members. This was just the beginning of our adventures together, so the goodbyes didn’t feel so sad.

bell cathedral leon

interior leon cathedral

Have you ever been on a trip that created some amazing friendships?

Thanks for IVY for sponsoring my time in Nicaragua. Interested in traveling with them? They’re headed to Cuba next.

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander

 

 

A Central American Adventure: Exploring Nicaragua with IVY Part Three

IVY Nicaragua 3

We had an early start going into the next day, which would be one of the most packed of the trip. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes and saying goodbye to the sound of the ocean waves, we headed out to the van and piled in to head to the nearby airstrip. We would be taking a private plane to the city of Leon, where we would be exploring some of the major cultural sights and braving the Cerro Negro volcano.

First, we would be taking a prop plane to the other side of the country. After going through security, we waited for our private aircrafts to take us to a whole new part of Nicaragua that we hadn’t experienced before. Popping open some champagne, an air of celebration was in the air. It’s not every day that you have access to a private plane, and it was thrilling feeling the machine lift up in the air. More champagne was passed around, and we all posed for selfies to post later.

IVY nicaragua plane

IVY nicaragua celebrate

IVY friends nicaragua

No time was wasted as soon as we landed. It was onto the next activity of volcano boarding. We took about an hour car ride to the Cerro Negro volcano, which is still active on occasion but hadn’t exploded in several years. Hopping out of the car, we were equipped with a board and the gear we would need as we would head down the mountain. We strapped the boards on our backs and began the arduous journey up. IVY had supplied a medic in case of emergency, but no one could have predicted the storm that was rapidly blowing in.

“Hurry!” our guide cried. “We need to get going.”

Running the rest of the way, we worked to throw on our denim suits, goggles, bandanas, and gloves. The rain started falling and picking up, and the wind kept whipping us around. I was thankful when we made it to a more sheltered part of the volcano where we could sit out of the storm. In the distance, lightening flashed as the first boarders began their journeys down the mountain.

cerro negro nicaragua

summit cerro negro

I watched to make sure that I was doing it right. Over a bit of time, I noticed that leaning back got you going enough that you could fly down the hill just like you were on a sled. When it was my turn, I was so ready to head down the hill that I hardly waited for them to tell me when to go.

Sliding down the volcano, I couldn’t help but giggle and holler all the way down. It was hard not to enjoy the experience of feeling like a kid again—on an active volcano nonetheless. Letting myself barrel down through the volcanic soil was a blast. Any adrenaline I had climbing up was wiped away as I headed down toward my new friends.

alex ivy nicaragua

We laughed and posed for photos as we congratulated ourselves for still being alive. IVY supplied us a lunch which we ate with a fever before hopping back on the bus. We would be headed back to Leon—a traditional dance performance and salsa class was awaiting us. It was difficult to say goodbye to Cerro Negro without another ride down, but I was excited to test out my rusty salsa skills and to enjoy a night with some of the local Nicaraguan people.

We checked into our beautiful hotel in Leon (a converted convent) and began a quick beauty routine for a night of dancing and fun. I was ready to see what kind of traditional dances the locals had and meeting some of the people that IVY was helping.

Thanks for IVY for sponsoring my time in Nicaragua. Interested in traveling with them? They’re headed to Cuba next.

Have you done anything extreme like volcano boarding on your travels?

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander