I'm actually in Greece with 10 women this week on a TravelCircle trip. But before I left, I scheduled this post from the group of women that just returned a few weeks ago from Nicaragua. Pulled together by Michelle Scott, one of our TravelCircles ambassadors for GirlFriendCircles trips around the world (she's also leading the one to Chile & Argentina this November!) she asked her fellow travelers to also contribute to the story. This group of 4 women was significantly smaller than most of our trips (which typically average between 8-12 women), but they proved that all it takes to have a good time are amazing women, an amazing country, and an amazing itinerary! :) Welcome home, GirlFriends!
Hands and Heart – Manos y Corazón
Four ladies chose to travel through Nicaragua on a GirlfriendCircles’ eco-adventure. None could have predicted how they would bond, how much they'd enjoy traveling together, or how inspired they would by the beauty of the country and people.
Chance: I met Wren through Girlfriend Circles a couple of years ago, and she encouraged me to travel with her to Nicaragua. Though I have traveled extensively, no trip has changed and inspired me like this trip. As we flew into Nicaragua, the clouds parted to reveal a vast lake (Managua Lake) and its many volcanoes; it was breathtaking and a perfect welcome to this enchanting country.
Soon, we were lunching with a famous Nicaraguan feminist leader and learning about the women’s rights’ movement and its interplay with the revolution - over fresh tortillas and gallopinto (red beans and rice).
Some of my favorite experiences were visiting an active volcano, a powerful waterfall, and touring two farms. We cooked nacatamales and tortillas over a wood stove in Doña Elsa’s open kitchen, toured the coffee, bean and rice farm, and received a hands-on botanical medicine tour.
The people of Nicaragua were the highlight. Our local guide, Nohelia, told us that Nicaragua is built (and rebuilt) with “manos y corazón” – hands and heart – and I witnessed this.
People work toward betterment for their communities and country, with pride, humility, and a focus of purpose that is tender and passionate. Nohelia is one of the best examples of this. As a young woman driven to improve her community, she saw the illiteracy in her neighborhood, designed and launched a radio show to teach literacy – a program that continues to graduate a class every three months and has made her a sort of local celebrity.
So, how was I changed through this trip? I took an open heart to Nicaragua, and throughout our journey, it was filled with love, inspiration and care. I hope I left love and respect there, and a deep caring for the people and places I saw, along with some deep friendships – with both my fellow travelers and citizens of this amazing country.
Wren: I wear a black rubber bracelet, which states “No a la trata de personas” – No to trading people. I received the bracelet from Casa Alianza, an organization that provides food, shelter and essential services to homeless, trafficked and exploited youth. As a former teacher, children hold a special place in my heart. I wear this bracelet to remind me of where I’ve been and the people I’ve met. Nicaragua’s people and landscape hold such beauty, simplicity and friendliness that one cannot help but fall in love and promise to return.
Michelle: There are few places and people that sneak into your heart and forever change you. I went to Nicaragua to be re-charged and inspired and received that and so much more. Chance, Wren, Nohelia and Erin will be my lifetime friends. We are bonded through our experiences, our love for each other and the people of Nicaragua, and a fundraising project with Grupo MOES, an organization committed to respectful empowerment of women, affected by poverty, violence and exploitation.
Erin: Prior to this trip, I was asked, "Why go to Nicaragua?" My photos partially answer this question - trotting horses through a Nicaraguan jungle, while monkeys swung overhead, standing next to a smoking volcanic crater, and hiking behind a waterfall.
A few of the amazing moments included careening through a mountain town with my new girlfriends and a Bolivian man, who owns a waterfall and cemetery (neither of which I knew were things one could own), leaning over the edge of a boat and dipping my fingers into the world’s only freshwater lake with bull sharks, and hiking steep uphill climbs to meet an 85-year old artist, known as the hermit stone carver, who guided us through the jungle to his carvings, reciting poetry and picking mangos for us along the way.
But the true answer to “Why [I needed] Nicaragua?” has more to do the spirit of the people we encountered than the adventures and excursions. I went to Nicaragua to learn that inspiring and world-changing people see a problem and work towards a solution. They teach literacy over the radio. They build a home and school for young survivors of abuse. They begin a sewing cooperative with women constructing the building from the ground up, where each worker is a co-owner. They realize that handpicking coffee beans allows them to organically remove bugs and guarantee high quality.
I went to Nicaragua because I needed to be reminded that you don't have to live in a tropical paradise to live a beautiful, fulfilling life. All you have to do is work with your hands and heart towards resolving a problem that matters to you.
All women over the age of 21 are invited to join any of our TravelCircle groups where women travel together to connect with one another and to go experience together the life and voice of women in their destination country. Every trip has so many special elements in it including a local female guide, visits to NGO's to learn about the issues facing women in that country, cooking/dance/art classes, and a GFC ambassador to help foster connection among your group.
Trips by women, for women, about women. :)
More info: www.WomensTravelCircles.com