Border Crossing Peñas Blancas, Nicaragua to Costa Rica with Vehicle and Pets

This is the Rear of the immigration office at Peñas Blancas. The front is the same, except there is no OSI building as pictured here on the right.

We’ve been trying to get to this post for a REALLY long time, but a lot of things have been preventing us from actually crossing the border with our vehicle for a while. HOWEVER, we finally did it!!! And now we’re here to share our knowledge of how to cross the border with your vehicle and a pet!

List of Documents you’ll need:

  • 4 copies of the face page of your passport
  • 2 copies of your passport stamp
  • Copy of your vehicle title/Circulación
  • Vaccination records of your pet
  • Permiso de Salida from Nicaragua
  • 2 copies of the IPSA page of your pets health certificate

Always make sure to keep a copy of your License, vehicle registration/Title and Insurance. They don’t always ask for it, but at the borders, there isn’t always a place to get copies. We keep 2 of everything and we often run out and have to make more.

First things first, if you have a pet, you have to get the paperwork done in Nicaragua about a week prior to leaving. Make sure your pets vaccinations are up to date and NO, you pet DOES NOT have to be micro-chipped. It takes time for them to get all the paperwork back from the Ministry of Agriculture to sign off on the health of your pet. Make sure to allow for some time for this. You can go to the vet first to ask what paperwork you’ll need to bring. We did all of our paperwork with SOS veterinarian in San Juan Del Sur. They charge $90.00 USD for all the paperwork and hand you a file with all the necessary documentation that you simply hand over to the border agents (they’ll take what they need, stamp and sign it and return it to you).

The vet office needed me to bring a copy of the face page of my passport, they also asked for a copy a Covid-19 vaccine card, if I had one. The process doesn’t change if you don’t have one. (I think they were just used to asking for it because Costa Rica was being very restrictive on allowing passage to tourists who were unvaccinated until recently- April 2022, when they did away with the mandates).

After you have the paperwork, Nicaragua gives you a health certificate for your pet that is good for 90 days. However, the vet needs to know when you plan to cross the border so they can let the border agents know and help to make the process easier. It didn’t seem to make any difference, nothing was noted on the documents about the day we had planned to cross the border.

Make 2 copies of the health certificate. It comes with 2 “originals,” Nicaragua will need one copy for you to leave. Costa Rica keeps one original and you keep the other original for your records. Nicaragua will take the other original if you’re returning to Nicaragua with your pet. Costa Rica will take a copy upon leaving with your pet to return to Nicaragua. If you’re traveling on, you will need another health check done in Costa Rica before hitting the Panamanian border.

A lot of people try to do this process by themselves, but for a nominal tip, you can get one of the tramite personales to go to the inspeccion de agricultura to make the process faster while you’re dealing with all the other immigration processes.

Before you get anywhere at the border, you have to get out of Nicaragua. Go park in the parking lot right in front of the Pasajeros building (pictured above). The huge white building in front of you, you cannot miss it. You have to go in and get stamped out of Nicaragua. For non-residents it’s a $3.00 exit fee. This time they didn’t ask us to pay the $1.00 municipal fee. However, because we’re residents and don’t get an entry stamp and Nicaraguans have to have a visa to enter Costa Rica, we had to pay a fee for all three of us to exit, which cost $40.00 for all three of us, so roughly $13.33/person.

After you do this, you get back in your car and drive around to the rear of the building and park. You have to bring in all of your packed and removable items, luggage, cooler/fridge, camera gear…etc. There are men there that have carts that will help you unload all of your luggage and get you to the conveyer belt for scanning. Of course, they only ask for a tip, but it’s better than making multiple trips and potentially hurting your back (in our case due to our previous injuries, we always seem to use this option, saves time and energy). They will give you a “Declarations” form to fill out and bring it with you, literally everywhere. There may or may not be a DGA officer that will inspect your vehicle.

One of you can be getting the bags scanned, while the other, takes the passports and licenses of whoever plans on driving in Costa Rica (you can have multiple drivers) to the officer over at the inspection station. He/She will sign off on it, then you take it back into the “Entrada” side of the Nicaraguan Customs building. There you pass everyone trying to enter Nicaragua and pass the conveyor scanning machines, to the Tramite desk and request your permiso de salir (Permission to leave) and get your Nicaraguan TIP cancelled and hand over your declarations page that gets stamped and signed, again. Very important to keep the Permiso de Salida, because they will ask for this form in Costa Rica at Immigration, especially if you don’t have proof of onward travel.

After getting the Permiso de Salida, return to the person scanning your luggage. He/She will ask you a few questions. Answer the questions, confirm the details of your declaration page, take it and sign off on it. That’s three different people looking at and signing off on your declarations page.

You are now officially out of Costa Rica and officially in No-Man’s Land.

Drive over to the exit, on the right side of all of the truckers waiting to be scanned. Drive over to the fumigation area and have your vehicle exterior fumigated. Once out of the fumigation station, head back out to the main road on your left, and immediately turn right, about 100 meters down the road you’ll find the immigration office/ Aduana for Costa Rica. Park here, go in to immigration with your permiso de salida and all passports. They will ask you how long you’ll be in the country. They can grant up to 90 days and if you tell them less, they will give you only what you ask for.

They will stamp you in and now you’re officially in Costa Rica. Head out of the building and get all of your luggage that you had scanned in Nicaragua, and have it re-scanned in Costa Rica. DO NOT BRING VEGETABLES AND DAIRY PRODUCTS!!! Costa Rica will confiscate all of it, even if it’s unopened. They even took our block of cheese that we bought at PriceSmart, which is the Costco subsidiary of Latin America also located in Costa Rica who sells the same exact product. But they took it anyway. You’re better off not bringing in any fresh groceries and stocking up at a local grocery store.

After you scan your items, head out the doors, and to the olive-green shack that doubles as an Aduana. If you have a pet, let them know. You have to pay a pet deposit at the bank that’s connected to the immigration office. It’s 8080 Colones. The equivalent of $12.00 USD. Keep the receipt, the Ag inspection station will need it. Fill out the Aduana paperwork for your vehicle and all drivers, make sure you bring your passports and drivers licenses and/or Cédula (if you have one). They will log the form in the book and give you a slip of paper that you will hand over to the inspection station personnel. If you don’t have it, they don’t let you pass.

Once you’re past the initial inspection station, you have to go about 100 meters down the road and get the national insurance. This is required of all drivers no matter how long or short your stay is. You will stop at the “real” Aduana. You will need a copy of the face page of your passport, you can get copies at the Aduana here. Here you go to the seguros window first to get the mandatory insurance. Tell the officer that you’re here for the insurance and he’ll tell you which person in the lobby that you’ll be after. Bring copies and originals of your title, the picture and stamp page of your passport and your license.

Once you’ve paid $40.00 USD for a three month insurance policy, you sit back down in the same lobby and follow the same process at the to get the actual TIP/CIT (in CR, they call it the certificado importacion temporal de vehiculos- CIT). This will be your actual permit to drive in Costa Rica. You cannot apply for the TIP without first having the insurance, don’t even try. It will only take you longer. Show the official at the window your new insurance policy, and all the other documents listed above and they will issue you your CIT/TIP.

Once you have that done, if you have a pet, go to the agriculture sanitation area, which is literally out the door and immediately around the left side of the Aduana. Give them all the paperwork for the dog including the receipt. They will take one of the original health certificates and the receipt, stamp a document and hand you back all of your paperwork.

You are now free to drive in Costa Rica and your pet avoids quarantine!!!!

Corn Islands- Getting There

When trying to figure out whether the trip to Corn Islands is worth the money spent, you must ask yourself… Are you ready for an adventure? Or are you more looking to have a Hawaiian vacation with the same expectations and hospitality that you find there, without the price tag? If you’re hoping for the latter, you might be disappointed to find out that if you’re expecting the same, you’ll pay the same. You’ll have access to a “private” beach (but people access it anyway) and exclusive access to beautiful property and 1 exclusive restaurant. Other than that, get ready for the ride of your life.

To get to Corn Islands you must first either take a flight from Bluefields or Managua, which, if you’re lucky you get the larger plane that holds 60 passengers. If not, well, let me just tell you… If you’re like me and already hate flying, or get motion sickness easily, the trip there will be nothing short of misery.

BUT!!! It’s only an hour and a half of flying (from Managua or 30 mins from Bluefields) before you arrive at Big Corn Island, which has dreamy white sand beaches on the west side and coral reefs on the east side. If you’re venturing on to Little Corn Island, you have to make your way from the air strip in a cab for $1.00 to the dock, where you have to buy your ticket for the boat and put your name and passport number on the passenger manifesto. If there aren’t enough people to fill a boat (usually they will say full, but they really mean 10 people, which is NOT full), you will have to wait until the afternoon to take the boat across, when they bring all the workers back to Little Corn.

After purchasing your ticket, you just wait for enough people to be there and they’ll start loading you up with all of the luggage going in a compartment to keep from getting it too wet. If you are prone to motion sickness, I urge you to take something for it prior to getting on the plane. The boat ride will definitely put you over the top. It might look calm and inviting near the shoreline, but let me tell you…. Once you leave the security of land and are on the panga, crossing the OCEAN, the waves get bigger, they crash onto the boat, getting the passengers wet. It’s a rough and exhilarating ride, to be sure.

You will find that some of the waves are so big that the captain will cut the engine and wait for it to pass before continuing on. Some of them feel like they’re going to tip the panga, but they don’t, and if you’re afraid of that, everyone is equipped with a life vest and you’re not actually that far from either island. Too far to swim, but only half an hour between islands by boat. The ride there was so turbulent, I literally did double leg wall squats the entire time to save my neck and back. The swells can be so big that the front of the boat feels like it’s literally facing the sky.

The trip back to Big Corn is a little better, as you leave early in the morning, about 6:30-ish. You will experience much of the same, the later in the day it gets as the currents switch and swells grow. On the way back, the captain gave us a tarp that the people sitting on the east facing side of the boat were to hold up as water splashed onto the passengers. I got wetter on the trip back than on the way there. It’s a good thing the weather is hot and the water warm. Just put on some sunglasses and embrace the suck. It’s only temporary. If you’re lucky enough to make the trip, it is all worth it in the end.

This trip is not for the feint of heart. But it will give you one hell of a story to tell.

The Long Awaited Corn Islands

With its white sand beaches, warm Caribbean water and Creole inspired Caribbean food, it’s not hard to see why these tiny little Islands off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua draw a lot of attention from those who know about them, yet so many people still have never heard of this little slice of heaven on earth.

For my birthday this year I wanted to do something exciting. I wanted to go somewhere we hadn’t been in Nicaragua, but have been longing to see. Bronson decided to book a trip to the Corn Islands since we had been wanting to visit there since we arrived in Nicaragua over a year ago. We booked our plane tickets, a room at a dive center and with in a week we were on our way. We took a cab from our house in San Juan Del Sur to Managua where we hopped on a tiny 12 seater plane for an hour and a half trip to Big Corn Island. Don’t let the name fool you. Both islands together only comprise about 5 square miles, with Big Corn only being almost 4 sq. mi. We didn’t spend any time on Big Corn, really. Just a couple of hours while waiting to take the Panga (a small fishing boat) half an hour across the open ocean to Little Corn Island.

Between the two Islands, there is only 1 gas station and 1 ATM and it’s frequently out of money. On Little Corn Island there are no cars, no motorcycles. The only motorized vessels are boats. There is no boat launch, so when you want to pull your boat out of the water, you ask a bunch of people to help you literally hoist your boat out of the water. There are no paved roads. Just one concrete walking path that allows for the transport of delivered goods to be distributed to most of the businesses on the island, pushed on an old oxcart by 4 men. These men have to get a running start to get some of these deliveries up hill.

We took the opportunity to check out the entire island over the course of a week. We walked down every trail and most of them looked like they dead-ended at someones house, but when you look around the front of the yard, you see a faint walking path that continues on. There are no signs for directions because the island is so small that you can wander and eventually find where you’re going. It’s impossible to actually get lost. If you find a trail, you’ll end up somewhere that other people are. The people on the islands are incredible. They are so kind and helpful. Many of them speak 3 or 4 languages. The most common are English, Spanish, Creole and Miskito.

The first day we opted to go snorkeling on the East side of the Island. The water was a beautiful turquoise color, warm and inviting. It was everything you see in pictures of the Caribbean coast and quite like what you’d expect. The reefs were amazing, tons of fish and various aquatic life. Beautiful colors of bright yellow, purple, orange, green and blue. They were also very close to shore. The only problem with that is, the beaches on little corn are very small. Like only 8 feet to the water and it drops off within 3-5 feet of shore.

The beaches on Big Corn are significantly larger, on the west side anyway. They have amazing white sand beaches, some of the most picturesque I’ve ever seen in my life, even more-so than in Mexico, and hardly anyone on them. A few restaurants lend a hand at providing much needed shade by putting out cabanas and umbrellas. The breeze is cooling enough that it’s not stifling when you’re hanging out at the beach. At least it wasn’t in the middle of March, when we went.

On Little Corn, the power goes out everyday from 6 am to 1 pm. The entire island. The restaurants are powered only by whatever solar or generator power they have from 6 am to 1 pm which is probably why a lot of restaurants are not open very early. It seemed to be that they posted opening times, but they weren’t always open at the times posted. Sometimes an hour later, or a couple of hours. It kind of just fluctuated. It’s part of the charm of the Little Island. If that’s not your cup of tea and you’re someone who really needs a schedule and can’t be flexible, knowing things will get around to opening when they see fit, you probably shouldn’t come to these islands. They run on their own time. No real opening or closing times. The bar down the street could have live music until 6 am if there are still patrons, or close a 7 pm if there aren’t any.

The entire island life there is really, go with the flow, so if that is something you just can’t be flexible with, you will not enjoy your time spent here.

Ziplining Mombacho

Adventure awaits, and it’s closer than you think! Just outside of Granada, Nicaragua is a magical place. Cooler climate, sloths, monkeys and all sorts of other colorful reptiles. All of these things can be found at Volcan Mombacho.

After taking a hiking tour of the Volcano on the Puma trail (guided hike, for good reason), we decided to head down the hill and check out the zip-lining course. We were a bit confused, there was a sign of where to go and there were about 6 men sitting around near all the gear, talking and then looking at us, but nobody ever came over to us to see if we wanted to go zip-lining. So I walked up, got a sample of coffee and talked to someone and asked what we needed to do to get a zipline tour.

The guy seemed surprised to see anyone come for a tour. He quickly set us up with all the gear and told us to only bring one camera. He told us that if we gave him our camera, he’d be the one to take all the pictures and explained how the whole process worked. He goes on the zipline first, then records or takes pictures of each of us as we zip through the jungle.

Ok, I thought. I had some reservations. Like, what if he just takes off with my phone? Or, what if he drops it from way up there and we have to try to go find it? I was pretty hesitant. But ultimately, I never had an adventure when I’ve said “no.” So, when we got up to the first line and he strapped himself in and then me, he started recording as soon as he jumped on the line and started sailing in the canopy of trees, taking video of the monkeys surrounding us as we zipped through the jungle.

They allowed us to “fly” like superman, hang upside down, go tandem… Whatever we wanted to do as long as it was safe. They allowed us to take the liberty to do what we felt would be fun. It was exhilarating and being up in the trees with the monkeys, who stare at you, wondering “what the hell are these other ugly monkeys doing up here?” as you zip by. However, we found that they DO NOT like the sound of the metal grinding as you fly through the canopy and they howl, making it known. They didn’t get aggressive with us, but it’s not unheard of for them to throw their poop at you if you piss them off.

There are 18 lines to zip across and a truck at the end that takes you back up the mountain. It was a good thing because after 4+ hours of hiking, mostly climbing ladder staircases, literally feeling like being on a stair stepper on the hardest level for the entire time, I really didn’t want to walk back up the mountain.

By the time we were finished, my legs were trembling with fatigue. I could barely stand. The guide handed me back my phone where I looked at the pictures and videos he took and I have to say, I’m pretty impressed because I don’t even know how to use some of the special settings on them. We paid up and gave them a generous tip. They were amazing. The canopy tour there is definitely worth the $28.50/ person.

If you like these types of adventures or just want to challenge yourself, it’s fairly inexpensive per person and the guides are awesome. The caveat, they don’t speak much English, if any; But laughter and smiles are a universal language.

Volcan Mombacho

After spending a quarter of the year separated during 2021, we decided that we needed to hit the road and explore some places we’ve been meaning to visit, but just haven’t had the chance to, for one reason or another. Our first stop on this trip was to Volcan de Mombacho. It is a cloud forest with a mostly inert volcano. Over the last 5 years, it has become a little more active under the soil, so there are now parts on the volcano that have charred the plant life as if a wild fire had swept through. Our first night, we camped at the nature preserve and were able to take short walk and spotted a sloth right up in the trees above us, not 200 meters from where we were camping.

We arrived a little later in the afternoon, because we got lost going down the wrong road, the Google isn’t always so reliable down here. We had to backtrack about 30 minutes and ask for directions multiple times, to which we got several different answers. When we finally found the park entrance, they were almost closing. We kindly asked if we could camp, and they said yes, but because we had a roof top tent, we had to stay in the parking lot at the entrance of the park. At first we were a little irritated, but we settled in and waited for morning to drive to the top of the cloud forest to take a crater hike. We set up camp, made some new dog friends and enjoyed the break from the heat of San Juan Del Sur. As night fell, you could hear the howler monkeys in the distance, the hoot of the owls and the chirping of bats. The winds began to pick up and holy moly, those ladies knew a thing or two. During the evening the winds picked up and got so intense at the higher elevations I could envision our tent snapping in half. I had to close the side windows to the tent because the winds were blowing with such force it felt like I was repeatedly getting slapped in the face.

The next morning, we woke up early, nobody was at the guard station, so we talked to the gate security and got permission to drive our vehicle up to the top. What tripped us out was that the guard came over to the vehicle and had to make sure we had 4WD more specifically, 4L. We looked at each other wide eyed, we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. He made us engage and disengage the 4WD to be sure that we actually could use it. Once he was satisfied, he radioed to the gatekeeper up top and told him we were coming. After a very steep and windy drive up, and when I say steep, it was steep enough that Kaden stood taller than the vehicle when the vehicle was on the incline. Pictures just can’t do it justice. I literally was leaning forward in the car thinking we might tip over backwards and that maybe my body weight would keep the front of the car on the ground.

Once we got to the top, it was rainy and cold. For the first time in over a year in Nicaragua, I had to put on a sweater. Not only a sweater, but a rain jacket and a beanie and pants too. We hiked the crater trail, the only trail you could hike without a guide. It was beautiful with the many colors of nature. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any wildlife that we were hoping for. I really wanted to see a sloth up close. The trail was only about a mile long, but because we were looky-loo’s and photo crazy, it took us almost 3 hours to walk the loop.

We finished our hike, drove down to the camping spot, paid for our trek up to the top and told the ladies at the guard post that we were needing to head in to Granada to get supplies. We returned a few hours later, set up camp again and settled in for the evening. The following morning, Kaden decided he wanted to go on a zipline tour. The canopy tour looked amazing and I had him talk to the ladies at the guard post and have them help him set it all up. We were advised to go to the actual canopy tour office half way up the mountain and talk to the staff up there. Ultimately we decided to hike the Puma trail first and then after the hike we would do the canopy tour. We hired a tour guide who took us out to the trail and we began our descent into the cloud forest jungle. It was surreal. The way the clouds kept everything shrouded in a blanket of mystery was utterly indescribable.

We walked for about 3 hours, there wasn’t as much nature to take photos of on this hike, but there was a lot of narrow passage ways, wet bridges to cross, obstacles to avoid and long staircases to climb. We walked through the area that is currently waking from its dormancy. Here we saw the charred remains of shrubbery and trees. Touching the ground, it wasn’t hot, but underneath it all, lies a vast crater of lava, getting ready to make its entrance into the world above. We hiked up and out and by the time we finished our trek, I was exhausted. For at least half of the time, it was like ascending and descending extension ladders and it left all of us pretty sore the next day.

If you venture out to this area, try not to miss this. There is a vast amount of knowledge shared by the local guides and honestly, just the drive (I don’t recommend walking) up to the visitors center is worth it.

In Real Life, Shit Happens.

For most of us, 2021 was just the extension of 2020 all over again. Lockdowns, more mandates, vaccines and the like. I (Vanessa) had to spend a total of three months back in the United States in 2021. Two separate trips each for a month and a half. There were some family tragedies, my uncle passed away from brain cancer. It was very sudden, within 10 days of diagnosis. He barely had time to get into hospice care. My sister moved from California to Arizona to be closer to our brother and have a better quality of life with her kids. The first trip was for Kaden and I to say goodbye to my uncle. Kaden was given the choice to come with me and he told me there were things he wanted to say to his great uncle in person. I had spoken to my uncle on a Wednesday and he seemed fine, I talked to my sister on Thursday and she told me to book my ticket home if I planned on seeing him before he died. By the time I arrived the next day (Friday), he was bed ridden and unable to speak. He passed away a few days later. We stayed and spent time with family, had my uncle’s memorial service and visited a couple of friends, but the trip was primarily to see family.

After we came back from our first trip, Bronson made plans to go back to the USA and take Kaden to visit friends and family properly. Not a spur of the moment, “Hi, I know we just showed up on your doorstep, but are you free to hang out with us?” like our whirlwind trip turned out to be. We spent a month together before Bronson and Kaden were on their way back to the USA for a 6 week trip. When they got back to Nicaragua, my sister told me she was moving from California to Arizona and needed help getting the kids settled and into school while she went straight to work. Bronson, Kaden and I spent another month together and I was back off to the USA. Kaden didn’t want to go back with me this time. He was tired of the trip and the airports and feeling rushed from place to place. I spent another 6 weeks in the US and returned to Nicaragua before Thanksgiving. In total, in 2021 we spent 4 and a half months of the year separated in different countries. Needless to say, we got a lot less exploring done than usual.

This is real life, and in real life, real shit happens. I’m glad we got the opportunity to say good bye to my uncle. I’m glad we were able to spend time with our friends and family. I’m glad I got to spend time with my brother, sister and sister in law and all my nieces and nephews. I’m glad that with all the international traveling sitting in airports and staying in hotels, taking public transport, and visiting with all the people we did get to see, that we didn’t end up with Covid. Or maybe we did and just didn’t know it? Who knows. The point is, our life isn’t that much different that anyone else’s. We still have stress, we still have to deal with banks, and finance and play mediator to family members who aren’t getting along. Just because we have visited some beautiful places, doesn’t mean we aren’t experiencing the loss, the tragedy, the sadness, anxiety and stress. We definitely do. Did these things take me away from my own family? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat. Does Kaden miss his friends? Yes and no. He’s glad he doesn’t have to deal with the bullshit of middle and high school drama and trying to “fit in.” Do I regret being away from my given family? No. I have no regrets. I chose my path.

La Isla de Ometepe

When we first arrived in Nicaragua, if you’ve been reading or keeping up with our blog, you’ll know that we ended up having to abandon the CA-4 to get our tourist visas’s renewed and that was quite the fiasco. We had to find a way to get to Costa Rica with closed land borders and no flights flying out of Nicaragua. The airlines said they were flying, but in reality, they would take your money, then issue you a voucher when they cancelled your flight. We found a catamaran that was recently approved to do the international sailing to Costa Rica for visa purposes and shuttling passengers. Land and air borders were still closed, but maritime borders were open.

When we finally got our visa’s renewed, we decided to go out to the Island of Ometepe. This island is comprised of two volcanoes in a fresh water lake. The lake seems salty because of all the sediments from the active volcano that leeches into the lake. There are bull sharks in the lake along with a myriad of fish. On this island that you can drive around in just a couple of hours, there is one active volcano and another inactive. On the inactive volcano side is the little resort of Ojo de Agua. This place is a must see especially for families. It is a natural pool, built up with a rope swing, slack line, and swings in the water. They have a restaurant and bar on site, along with a souvenir stand. It’s a great place to spend a day or even two if you feel like relaxing and dipping in the cool water. This water is much cooler than the ocean water in my opinion. Most people would think that this water was cool and refreshing, I thought it was down-right cold. I could have used a 4.8 wetsuit to keep warm.

This place is really beautiful and during the hot weekends, you can find a lot of local families playing in the water and enjoying the tranquility of this place. I would advise you to bring your bug spray, the mosquitoes are legit and there are thousands of them hanging out waiting to feast on you. If you stay in the water, it’s not bad. I also advise bringing water shoes. It’s not terrible, you can definitely go without them, but there are slick rock areas and if you slip, you can easily cut your feet.

Another excursion we took ourselves on was the hike up to Cascada San Ramon. We camped across the street from the entrance for free and were able to watch some kids playing in the water and throwing fishing nets. We had a wonderful evening of cooking, taking showers in open air, cooking and playing card games. When we woke up the next morning, we paid our entrance fee to the cascada and drove all the way up to the trail head. Most tour companies will drop you off where we camped and then you have to hike all the way up and it’s quite the trek. A lot of the time you’re going literally straight up the side of a mountain. Couple that with the heat and the weight of water and snacks on your back, it’s a challenge. The hike itself isn’t hard, but the heat is often something to contend with. Bringing a small bottle of water is not enough. I think I went through 2 liters of water just to get up there and we started from the parqueo. Again, bring bug spray. You’re hiking through the jungle, you’ll see some weird insects, some huge insects and if you’re squeamish, try not to look, but we find all these bugs very fascinating. You don’t need a guide to do the hike, but they’ll likely be able to tell you about the local flora and fauna. The waterfall is COLD. It feels great to jump in, cool off and jump out.

Another cool spot we checked out was the Parque y Mariposario Charco Verde. It’s a small butterfly sanctuary with beautiful butterflies and local flora. It has small walking paths, a man-made waterfall and a pool of turtles. There is a very friendly dog that tries to go into the sanctuary with anyone who enters. They have a small gift shop and the entrance was $C100 equivalent to about $3USD. This grants you access to the walking paths out to the lake. On our way out, we took a “wrong turn” and found some monkeys in the trees, and there was a cuidador (caretaker) who offered us entry to that blocked off part of the property so we could see the monkeys up close. When we got closer to the monkeys (we weren’t actually that close, you could barely see them high in the treetops, but you could see their faces), they stopped howling and just stared at us. We continued on a different walking path, through the hotel area and back out to the parking lot to our car.

We wrapped up our three day trip to Isla De Ometepe and headed back to the mainland. The cost for the vehicle ferry each way was about $14 and $4 USD for passenger tickets. $18 USD each way for all three of us. Entrance for the hike was about $5 USD for all three of us, and $3 USD each for entry to Ojo de Agua. We camped the first night at a hostel for $5 usd. We brought all of our food, but did take an opportunity to eat at a local restaurant which was very cheap and delicious. We wanted to go hike Volcan Concepcion and Volcan Maderas, but I had broken my foot a couple of months before and wasn’t completely healed enough to make those hikes. We will definitely go back to do that.

Isla de Ometepe is a beautiful island worth the trip. If you’re looking for peace and tranquility, you will find it here.

Border crossing Nicaragua to Costa Rica at peñas blancas

Land Border crossing as foot passengers, Nicaragua to Costa Rica

People have been asking what the border crossings are like now during times of Covid. Well, let’s just say that Covid has definitely complicated border crossings. From health screenings and covid tests to timing of border crossings within the window of covid testing, and potential quarantine without the tests or straight up refusal of entry, many things have changed, but surprisingly a lot has remained the same.

Now that the Costa Rican land borders have opened to travelers that are Visa-free, it’s fairly easy to come and go between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The only hitch, is that if you are entering Nicaragua, you have to have a PCR covid test. This is non-negotiable. They will not allow you entry without it and Costa Rica has been very diligent in asking passengers for their covid test results prior to leaving Costa Rica. This way, they don’t stamp you out without having the ability to get in to Nicaragua, therefore stranding you in “no-man’s land” the area between the borders without facilities, unable to enter back to CR because you don’t have an exit stamp from another country, but you can’t get in to Nicaragua because you lack the proper covid test results.

That said, it’s pretty easy to cross the borders in both directions. At least on foot it is. Kaden and I had to go back to the USA for a family emergency back in April. Thankfully, the land border to CR had just opened two days prior to us having to cross to fly out. In Managua, the minimum cost for covid testing is $150.00 USD per person for any of the tests offered. The flights one-way to the US were $1048.00 USD per person and only one airline was flying and the total elapsed time would be 19-23 hours with a 9 hour layover. No thank you. I checked prices from Liberia, which is just over the border. Literally takes roughly the same amount of time to get there as it does to get to Managua from San Juan Del Sur. The cost break down is as follows:

One way ticket, 2 people from Libeira to Sacramento $430 USD ($215 ea)
Antigen covid testing for entry to USA $130 USD ($65 each)
Hotel one night $97 USD
Bus ride from Peñas Blancas border to Liberia bus station 1.5hr: $6 USD ($3 each)
Taxi from Bus station to hotel: $20 USD
Sagicor Costa Rica insurance Min 3 days $66.60 ($33.30 each)
Exit fee: $6 USD ($3 each)
Alcaldia Municipal tax $2 USD
($1 each)

Total: $757.60 USD

Note, there is a $3.00 fee to leave Nicaragua per person, and an additional $1 for the Alcaldia Municipal. There’s no reason for you to hire any tramite personal. The process is very easy and straight forward. Just walk up to the terminal de pasajeros on the Nicaragua side, there will be someone checking your passport prior to getting to the terminal. When you walk in, an immigration officer will call you up and start processing your exit. You will have to pay $3.00 per person in Dollars. They do not accept Cordoba. Another person will approach you and tell you that you have to pay $1.00, this is for the Alcaldia Municipal. This is a tax they use to maintain the few paved roads that Nicaragua has, you may pay this in Cordoba.

Note that as of August 1, 2021 if you are fully vaccinated and upload your vaccination card for verification when you fill out the pase de salud, you will not be required to have the mandatory insurance in Costa Rica. If parents are vaccinated and traveling with children, the children are not required to have insurance. Also note that as of January 8, 2022 Costa Rica will be implementing a “green pass” mandating that anyone wanting to go anywhere or do anything other than go to the grocery stores or pharmacies in Costa Rica must be vaccinated for everyone 12 years old and older. There is a petition from lawmakers to postpone this requirement through May 1, 2022. You can read more by copy and pasting the link below for more information.

Lawmakers petition to delay Costa Rica vaccine QR code

Leaving Nicaragua at Peñas Blancas for entry INTO Costa Rica:

From Nicaragua, you have to drive to Peñas Blancas, you can hire a taxi service, or a shuttle service or ask a friend for a ride. You can take Tica Bus or Nica Expreso that will pretty much do everything for you as well. I’ve never used them, but it sounds like they are pretty efficient from what I hear from other travelers who have used them. You do NOT have to be in Managua to get on the bus. They can pick you up from any of the stops along the way. If you are going by car on your own, make sure to pass the miles long trucker lane. You will be driving into oncoming traffic, but don’t worry. This is perfectly normal and expected. Just pull off to the side of the road and yield right of way when someone is coming at you. Easy peasy.

Have your ride drop you off at the pasajero building. It’s a huge white building with a blue guard post in front of it. It says Pasajero and Migracion salida de Nicaragua on it. You can’t miss it. There will be someone standing past the guard post on the sidewalk, checking your temperature, passports, pase de salud and validity of insurance for Costa Rica if needed. If you don’t have one of those things, you’ll have to do it prior to this person allowing you passage. Also note *there traditionally is no wifi or cell service at the border, it is often hot or miss, mostly miss. Try to make copies of all of your paperwork or screenshot it on your phone. The pase de salud can only be filled out 72 hours prior to your entry into Costa Rica and it will ask you for your insurance company (if needed), once it validates your information it will give you a QR code. I print everything so that the workers at Immigration and Customs don’t have to thumb through my phone. It’s easier for them and peace of mind for me.

Once you pass this person, go into the white Pasajero building and an immigration officer will call you up. You will pay $3.00 exit fee per person and another person will approach you asking for $1 additional per person for the Alcaldia Municipal which is a municipal tax. I pay the Alcaldia in Cordoba (local currency) and the exit fee in USD. In my experience, Nicaraguan Immigration has never accepted local currency for the exit or entrance fee, only USD.

They will then take your picture, give you an exit stamp in your passport and then you’ll walk past some TSA-like scanning machines and out the doors to “no-man’s land” You are now not really in Nicaragua, nor are you actually in Costa Rica.

There will be men on bicycles with passenger seats that will offer to give you a ride to the immigration office in Costa Rica. It’s not necessary, the walk is about a quarter mile. So if you aren’t in very good shape, have a ton of luggage, suffer from injury, or just don’t want to walk, it’s an option. We walked, it took about 15 minutes to get to the immigration office in CR. Along the way we saw military personnel and police around everywhere. I wasn’t sure if the building was going to be easy to find. It was obvious once we had arrived at the immigration office of CR. There was NO line. Not a single person. We walked up, handed our passports, insurance, and pase de salud QR code to the immigration officer. They entered our information asked a few questions and sent us on our way with entry stamps good for the amount of time on our insurance policy. We headed out to an area where they scanned our bags, I asked where and when the bus to Liberia would arrive and they told me the bus comes every hour and will arrive just outside. The whole immigration experience took less than an hour and we were officially in Costa Rica. We picked up our bags, went outside and within 20 minutes, the bus, sporting a sign “LIBERIA” in the front window appeared. We hopped on, paid in USD a total of $6 and received change in Colones. The bus ride took just over an hour and a half and we arrived at the Municipal Bus station in Liberia. From the bus station in Liberia we took a taxi to our hotel. The next morning, we arrived at the covid testing tent and got our antigen tests for $65 each and the results were back within 45 minutes.

If you’re looking to enter Costa Rica, this page has all the requirements needed:
https://www.visitcostarica.com/en/costa-rica/planning-your-trip/entry-requirements

There are a few companies out there offering “Costa Rican Insurance” but don’t specifically state that they do NOT meet all of Costa Rican insurance requirements. I’ve heard of some people getting lucky and getting through, and others that paid a ton of money, and were not allowed to enter until they provided a different policy that covered all insurance requirements.

These three companies are actually approved by the Costa Rican Government (I use Sagicor for short stays):

https://tiendasagicor.com/en/
https://www.bluecrossblueshieldcr.com/rod
https://micrositios.ins-cr.com/seguroviajero/

We have not taken our vehicle across the border to Costa Rica, however, if you plan to, you will be allowed 90 days in Costa Rica and then your vehicle will need to leave Costa Rica for 90 days to be granted additional time. You will need to purchase insurance from Costa Rica, cancel your import permit from Nicaragua and your visa to Nicaragua or the CA-4. Traditionally, there has been no cost for the import permit nor will it cost you anything to enter Costa Rica and get your 90 day tourist stamp. The immigration office is air conditioned and it doesn’t take too long unless someone in front of you didn’t fill out their pase de salud or didn’t purchase insurance due to not being vaccinated. (The last time I passed, it took me 15 minutes the first two times I was the only person in line and I was in and out in less than 5 minutes, including scanning my bag, however, I was a foot passenger not going by vehicle).

I hope this helps anyone trying to border-hop during these confusing and rapidly changing times!

Passport Renewal and we broke our tent…

Most of you know that we have been trying to get Kaden’s passport renewed since April, when the world shut down. Because we were planning on going back to the USA over the summer before the world closed, we didn’t have any of our birth certificates or important documents in order to get his passport renewed overseas. I ended up having to order all of our birth certificates and our marriage certificate (just to be on the safe side in case the embassy asked for all of it) and patiently (or rather, impatiently) waited until mid-December for the embassy to open.

Each of our birth certificates cost a different amount and they could only be sent to an address in the USA, they won’t ship internationally. I had all of those applications notarized so vital statistics department couldn’t refuse to send the documents. We had them sent to a family member who then was able to FedEx them to us in Guatemala. The cost to ship an envelope with 4 letter size envelopes that weighs less than 1 lb was $140.00. Plus the $50.00+ per birth certificate and $40 for our marriage certificate and the $115.00 for the passport (and 9.00 for passport photos), the passport renewal here cost us over $400.00. The lesson here is to make sure you bring your birth certificates and marriage certificate with you. That was the costliest part of the entire renewal.

Once I had the documents in hand, I e-mailed the US embassy and requested an appointment. I explained our travel situation and about 48 hours later, they sent me an appointment date and time, scheduled for two weeks from that day.

The day of our appointment, we decided to drive to Guatemala City really early because we needed to drop off our Dometic fridge for repairs because the temperature sensor was malfunctioning.

We drove around the city trying to find a place to park because you cannot park at the Embassy for security reasons. We found a parking lot a couple of blocks away. Knowing we couldn’t bring any of our electronic devices in, no purses, no bags. We showed up for our appointment about 30 minutes early, just to be safe and were told to wait in line and we would be called up when they were ready for us. The funny thing is you check in with the security guard out in front of the embassy. He takes your name and looks you up to confirm your appointment. Once verified, he tells you to stand in line. He speaks in Spanish, and very broken English. This could be very frustrating for US citizens that speak no Spanish, but not impossible. After verifying our appointment, he kindly asked us to stand in line and told us that there were two other families ahead of us.

While we were waiting in line, another man waiting to renew his passport struck up a conversation with us. He explained this was his third attempt at getting in for his renewal because each time he had one of the “prohibited” items. This time he literally brought only his ID and a manila envelope with his paperwork. He was called in pretty much right away and wished us luck. Apparently we need really good luck to get into the US Embassy as US citizens. The security is tight, but the guards are kind. All of them are Guatemalans and most don’t speak any English, but it’s easy enough to understand what they’re trying to convey if you don’t speak Spanish.

After an hour and fifteen minutes of waiting outside, we were finally called in for our appointment. Keep in mind if you do have to come here to get your passport or any other US citizen service, there are no places to sit except for ONE lone concrete bench that seats 4 adults. You will be standing in line the entire time or sitting on the ground. Once we were in the security screening section, we emptied our pockets and put all of our stuff on the conveyor belt for scanning, just like at any airport. We went through the metal detector and when Bronson put his keys in his bucket, the guard told him that the key fob couldn’t pass through because it is electronic and would need to be left outside of the US Embassy grounds. After trying to explain that it was our vehicle keys and without them we can’t get into our vehicle or lock our car, the guard remained unbudging. Good thing we brought the dog with us that day and parked in a private parking lot with guards. However, that doesn’t mean the guards wouldn’t try to take whatever we had in the vehicle. Bronson dropped the keys off in the car and locked it with the valet key. He returned to the Embassy and had no problem going through the security screening this time.

Once we got into the Embassy building, we were directed to another room by a guard inside. As we approached the room, it literally resembled a DMV office of the USA. Take a number, grab an empty chair and wait for your number to be called by a worker behind a bullet proof glass window. This part was pretty quick. About 5-10 minute wait before the woman at the counter called us up and took all of our paperwork. She asked for Kaden’s birth certificate, verified that we were his parents, took our passports, marriage certificate and the application for his passport renewal and started filling in the rest of the paperwork. She had us sign the application, gave us a ticket and told us to go to window 4 to pay the passport fee and come back. We went to the window, paid for the passport and went back to the little room.

It would be about 40 minutes before another man came to the window, asked us to give a sworn statement and pledge that we were truth in fact, Kaden’s parents and all the information we gave was correct and true to our knowledge. We did so, he returned our vital statistics certificates and passports, gave us another receipt for the passport payment and told us to return in 8 days to pick up the new passport. I asked if he was sure it would be ready on that day, he said not to worry about it, the passport for sure would be ready. He gave us a “return on” slip which you show to the guard at the embassy to let him know you are returning to pick up the passport because they don’t schedule a date for pick up.

We left the embassy and had a bunch of other things to do, Bronson needed a new computer, so we decided to stop at the Oakland Mall and see if the iShop had any in stock or available soon. As we got to the parking garage, our vehicle stands at 2.05 meters, the height of the parking garage said 2.1m. We knew we were cutting it close, but behind us was a long line of cars waiting for us to go in and there was no way to back out or go around because we were surrounded by brick walls on both sides of us. So in we went. We were fine at first, until we made the decision to go in the far left lane to get out of the flow of traffic. Well, in this ONE lane, there were lower lying steel beams that sat at 1.8m and we ended up scraping on one of them and crunching the top of the iKamper roof top tent. Before pulling any further into the garage, we parked in an unauthorized parking spot, took out an indicator light that designates the spot as open or closed and the sign that told us that this parking spot was off limits.

As we contemplated how best to get back out of the parking lot, we had a few options. 1) Wait until one of the owners of any of the vehicles in the surrounding parking spots returned and left, 2) go back the way we came and risk more damage to the iKamper or 3) take the roof top tent off and drive to a part of the garage that is 2.1 m and put the roof top tent back on.

We ultimately decided that taking the RTT off was the best option. We enlisted the help of 4 parking garage attendants to help us remove the tent. We placed it on the ground while deciding where to park the car and put the RTT back on. We took pictures of the damage, the parking garage attendants took pictures and the attendants told us that we should carry the RTT to the loading dock where all the big trucks come and do deliveries. We could park there and put the tent back on.

So we all carried the tent through the parking garage, up a flight of stairs to the loading dock. Bronson went to get the car and drive it around to the loading dock where the attendants helped us put the tent back on before taking pictures of our tent and parking stub. They said just to pay the parking stub when we leave since there isn’t a charge for parking for the loading dock and we don’t qualify as a delivery truck. They were so polite and helpful. They didn’t ask for anything and they noticed right away that we were having a problem. They were quick to see what we needed help with and they were really fast in finding a few strong and capable people to help when we needed it most. I will forever be thankful for these gentlemen. Very professional and eager to help and asked for nothing in return. The true spirit of humanity.

Once we finished picking out Bronson’s new computer, we were told the computer would be delivered between Monday and Friday of the following week. We were going to have to come back to the city to get Kaden’s passport anyway, and we decided we’d make a trip of it. As we were leaving the city, we sent a message to our friend Axel and told him about the iKamper. He went out of his way to buy us the things we needed in order to repair the tent. He left all of those things on his work bench and told us that we were free to use his garage and that all of the materials were there and ready for our usage.

On the way back to Antigua from the city, Bronson called our friend Axel and told him of our woes of the day. Axel went out of his way, bought us a bunch of fiberglass repair materials and allowed us access to his garage to fix our tent when we had time. As we were on our way to his house, we got caught in HOURS long traffic. It felt like being back in Los Angeles at the 110/405 intersect during rush hour. It took us 3 hours to drive 2.5 miles. The entire 16 mile trip took us just over 4 hours, but we arrived back at our little rental and decided to call it a day, the tent repair would have to wait for another day, literally the very next day. I bet Bronson never knew how handy it would be to have developed the skill of repairing surf boards when we lived at the beach.

Fixed and ready for the next adventure. Stay tuned for the upcoming shenanigans as we put his handiwork to the test.

2020 A year of reflection

Pretty sure we all felt like this at one point or another

As 2020 approached and we said good-bye to 2019, we were hoping for the new year to bring new adventures in far away lands. What we got, was anything but that. A year with strict lockdowns, curfews and mask mandates, closed public spaces, schools, restaurants, land borders and grounded international flights was what the world had in store for us.

We’ve had a lot of people in the US who rightfully complain to us about the mask mandates and lockdowns. Let me be clear- we all deal with confinement in our own way. Some handle it better than others. Some people are okay with being stuck inside. Some people never really want to leave the confines of what is comfortable and safe. That is perfectly fine. There is nothing wrong with that, but we aren’t those kinds of people. We are movers. We like to be outside, playing in nature, discovering new things, exploring new places we’ve never seen. We like taking the road less traveled. That road has led us to many unexpected and beautiful places filled with some of the most amazing people and scenery you could possibly imagine.

As I reflect on everything that happened in 2020, or shall I say all the things that didn’t happen, there is a lot I’ve come to realize. One of the most important things that I often lose sight of, is that we are exactly where we are supposed to be at any given time. As hard as we fought to make it through border crossings and make our way south before 2021 began, we never made it out of Guatemala. There was a myriad of reasons that we ended up stuck in Guatemala for over a year during Covid-19. As I look back on some of those reasons, it’s clear to me that the world or God or whatever higher power you believe in, kept us there for very good reasons.

It’s really the butterfly effect. If you don’t know what that is, in chaos theory, basically when a butterfly flaps its wings, it sends ripples through the air that effect everything around it, which in turn effects all the things around those objects and so on and so forth. Essentially small causes (the butterfly flapping its wings) create large consequences, whether good or bad.

We had planned on only being in Guatemala to experience Semana Santa during April 2020. We made a quick run to the Mexico border in March to exit Guatemala and re-enter for an additional 90 day stay. When we left Guatemala and crossed in to Mexico, the Guatemalan border official told us to make sure we were back by Sunday because the land border would be officially closed come Monday morning. We cut our Mexico stay a few days short to make sure we made it back in time. We decided that we would rent a house in Antigua from Mid march through mid April, we’d get to see Semana Santa and then we’d head out and continue south to El Salvador and explore the rest of Central America before shipping our vehicle to Colombia. Little did we know, the severity of the outbreak of Covid-19 around the world would bring life to a grinding halt.

We had only crossed in to Mexico three days prior and when we arrived back at the border to Guatemala, they had hand sanitizing stations set up, mask mandates in effect and temperature checks mandatory along with a health screening upon entry. Basically they just asked if we had any symptoms associated with Covid-19.

We arrived at our new condo and made friends with our neighbors whose children were in the local International, Green and Montessori schools. The schools had been closed since before we even got to Mexico. Everything began to close down. Restaurants, Bars, Gyms… Everything. We would turn on the national news channel where the president of Guatemala would give presidential addresses and updates of the Covid-19 situation in the country. We figured we’d be locked down for 2 weeks, and then everything would probably go back to normal. Then it seemed like everyone around the world that got really sick from Covid started becoming statistics. The president of Guatemala mandated masks threatening a $1000.00 USD fine for anyone found not wearing one while outside. He grounded all flights in and out of Guatemala, closed all land and sea borders, closed all public spaces including beaches and parks, closed any inside venue including dining. Literally the only thing you were allowed to do was to grocery shop, pick up to go food, and go the the hospital and pharmacy. The president implemented a curfew during the week and prohibited leaving your house except for emergencies on the weekends. All public busses stopped running and all you had was local tuk-tuks, Uber and Taxi’s. Some of the drivers made you even disinfect the bottom of your shoes before getting in the vehicle.

Ok. This started to suck, but we figured it was only for a couple of weeks, while they figured out how to control any outbreak of this new virus. Except, it didn’t last for a couple of weeks. It lasted for 7 months. They even went so far as to eventually restrict travel between departments which is the equivalent of restricting travel between states in the USA (though departments are literally the size of small counties in the US I equate it as traveling through different counties rather than states). Each neighborhood had their own sanitizing station to sanitize your vehicle before you entered and before you left. People would volunteer to chemically disinfect your vehicle to minimize the spread of the virus.

After a few months of lockdown in the Condo area we were living in, the administration came and told all residents that the kids were no longer allowed to play in the parking lot nor use the park equipment even though it’s not public. At that point we decided to leave. We couldn’t handle being under house arrest. We didn’t do anything wrong. Why were we being punished? Nobody in our complex had even really left except for one family. Other than that, everyone that lived in the complex literally almost never left. One of the ladies was elderly, so instead of having her go shopping, she’d give us her grocery list and we’d get her everything she needed.

The lockdown got to be so intense that everyone we made friends with decided to go back to their home countries. They couldn’t handle the oppression we were suffering. But to be honest, the thought to return to the USA never once crossed my mind. Not that I’m averse to returning to my home country, but I was hoping against hope that the world would reopen and things could go back to mostly normal. I figured 2 years is about how long it takes to develop a vaccine, and that in 2 years time things could go back to normal. Whether people choose to vaccinate or not is none of my business and it isn’t yours either. People do what they think is best for them, so let them be.

After 6 months of strict lockdown, restrictions started to ease. We were finally allowed to travel between departments in October. The land borders to El Salvador and Honduras finally opened but all other restrictions were still in place. No public spaces were open, all restaurants were still closed except for take out, schools were still closed, we were still under curfew, etc, so we had to make sure to be back before the streets were locked down or risk being arrested. The US embassy stayed closed until January 2021. We had been trying since April 2020 to get an appointment for Kaden’s passport renewal because it expired in January 2021. We waited 9 months for the Consulate to reopen. 9 full months. They only allowed us an appointment because I told them we were planning on leaving in 2 weeks to head south.

In October 2020, we decided we’d had enough of Antigua and needed to be more remote, where we wouldn’t be bothered if we went outside. We rented a house on the beach in El Paredon. We had a huge pool and were beach front on a private beach. It was quite an amazing month considering what the last 6 months had given us. By November 2020 our month long stay at the beach was up, we were finally allowed to walk around the streets, flights had been rescheduled to start again and Guatemala was trying to welcome tourists to help jumpstart their economy. We moved in with some friends in Chimaltenango where we weathered Hurricanes Eta and Iota. It destroyed parts of Northern Guatemala and the Caribbean sides of Honduras, and Nicaragua and Eastern El Salvador and Costa Rica. By the time the Hurricanes were overhead where we were staying, they had become tropical depressions and we stayed safe. The same could not be said had we been traveling and doing the things we originally wanted to do at that time.

In December 2020, the president was again talking about another potential longterm lockdown. Having just gone through that and spending almost a year in house arrest, we were frantic trying to get all of our stuff together to get out of Guatemala ASAP. We missed going to a few places and seeing all of the things we wanted to see because of Covid, but through it all, we were right where we were supposed to be.

When we finally left Guatemala, we had to take our covid tests and were given 72 hours to find our next location. We were kicked out of the CA-4 and told we had 5 days to leave and renew our visas. That fiasco is documented in a different blog. Long story short, we made the long drive down to Nicaragua in 3 days with literally 20 minutes to spare before our covid tests would have expired and we would have been denied entry into Nicaragua. The Costa Rican border was still closed and there were no flights leaving Nicaragua. We were stuck. But, when life hands you lemons…. The lemonade of the situation and part of the butterfly effect, Kaden made a new best friend in Nicaragua, we became friend with some great people and they quickly have become like family. Had we left earlier, we may have never met these amazing people and Kaden would likely not have made this best friend. We are not locked down, we are not mandated to wear masks unless in a public building. Everything is open and most everything you’ll want to do is outside anyway.

In waiting and suffering the profound effects that were put on the entire world, we have found good fortune. We have known a lot of friends who have had covid. A few that nearly died. We have friends of friends whom have nearly lost entire families to it, leaving orphaned children. We see the long term effects that covid has had on our friends that nearly died, but we ourselves have not had any direct friends or family that died from it.

So I hope this year of reflection gives each and every one of us something to be grateful for. We’ve all mourned the loss of normality as we have known it our whole lives. We may have mourned the loss of jobs, friends, family, wealth, homes, etc. But what do you have in your life that you can be grateful for? The neighbor that dropped soup off at your doorstep when you were sick? The friend who took your kids for a playdate when you needed a minute to decompress? The time you finally got to spend with your family who has been missing you so much but they don’t know how to express it? The ability to leave social media or clear out your friends list so you keep your inner circle closer? The ability to see through the bullshit and really realize what’s important? Take the small victories. Be proud that you’ve come this far. You’re still alive, you’re still breathing. You still have a chance to do something you never would have thought of doing until now. You still have the ability to create the life you’ve always wanted. But remember, there’s a reason you are where you are. You’re exactly where you are supposed to be.