Solo Travelers, Are We Safe?

Is it safe for the single female to travel through Central America? It depends on who you ask.

Deciding to get “off the grid” 6 months ago took me to the quaint little island off of Nicaragua, Little Corn Island, for a week. Located about 50 miles east of the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua and only about 1.5 sq miles in size, but an oasis of tranquility, and a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of the U.S. The only fear that registered was driving through Miami to the airport.

I arrived on Little Corn Island at sunset on a local Panga boat and all I could do was smile from ear to ear. This little island had more personality than anything I had come across in a long time.
He dropped me onto the sand beach and the most unique tropical island complete with local dogs running loose, the smell of lobster grilling and music coming from one of the few cafe/bars on the island. Lobster being the main export certainly was a plus right at arrival and dinnertime.

There were no cars on the island which means no roads which means no street lights so I was glad I had done my homework and had brought my flashlight for walking after dark down the sidewalk. I was welcomed by friendly, fast speaking locals, expats and those like myself, whom were on a new adventure in uncharted territory. What a hoot! Being a boat captain and long time scuba diver I felt right at home on this lush, remote paradise minus the comfort of a/c. The island’s generator had gone down that morning and still was not working by the time I left.

Being a female and traveling alone, I sometimes get funny looks or a shocked expression but I love to travel alone and there on Little Corn never did I feel uncomfortable or threatened. Of course I am always aware of my surroundings and make sure I don’t find myself in any seedy areas alone and always keep my belongings close.

My days were spent diving, snorkeling, exploring the island, reading in the waterfront hammocks and watching the kids play in the water with their friends and dogs. Afternoons were spent at one of the openair cafe’s waiting for the hotel’s backup generator to kick on to enjoy a cool shower and a short nap before the nightlife picked up.

The local fishermen could be seen daily sitting in the shade preparing bait for their lobster pots while the recently established police department’s patrol woman stopped by the establishments making small talk.
This was the life on Little Corn and I hope to make it back again in the near future but I have learned a few things if I should go back…. travel extra light, bring good walking shoes because you will be walking where ever you go, bring the bug spray (although the bugs were not bad at all while I was there) and make sure to bring your appetite for some wonderful seafood, rice, fruit and black beans.

In the months ahead I could not get Little Corn off of my mind after returning home to Florida. So I am now crossing the country of Guatemala. On the road for almost a month now, I say “yes” it is safe. However, I am always cautious with my belongings as in any country.

After arriving in Guatemala City, my first destination was Antigua, just 45 minutes away. Spending my first afternoon getting accustomed to new surroundings was a great experience. Cobblestone streets, horse drawn buggy’s and a mixture of travelers from all over the world coexisting in harmony.

The first night walking the streets after dark, sent me into an unusual paranoid state. The glow from the low watt street lamps gave me a feeling of foreboding as well as the local men gathered in doorways of bars and on street corners. I took an early dinner and returned to my hotel and comfort zone.

Over the next few days I began to relax and enjoy the smell of fresh baked bread, shoe polish from the shoeshine boys and even the horse hung.

The women I interviewed here also had no fear of being in Guatemala alone and most felt confident and safe. Surprisingly there are many women traveling solo throughout Guatemala. Some have settled in Guatemala for extended stays and the majority have visited several countries and have an extended itinerary or have found a community they felt comfortable in and put down roots.

How are they financially able to stay? The cost of living in Central America is very affordable, much more than the states. Many women have homes which they rent to long term tenants. This can easily be enough to travel comfortable for quite a while. One female backpacker had been traveling 4 years from the income of her rental home in Sydney, Australia. Her average cost per year, for her travels, was $25,000. Others have internet businesses or work locally as yoga instructors and, of course, teachers.

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