Am I on my Trip yet?

48 hours before I left America I posted a facebook status asking what I was forgetting, then spent the next two days with my incredible family and friends. The ice cream was delicious.

About 46 hours later the packing was done, perfect or not. All the questions and preparations fell away as I said goodbye to my folks and pointed Ronda the Rental Car towards San Francisco International Airport.

Alone in the car on a dark highway, take your hands off the wheel for a moment as an offering to the gods of Chance, then take the wheel and start the trip.

Or not. When does a Trip actually start? When you leave home? When you leave the familiar? The ground? When you hear a foreign language? The furnace blast as the doors open at Augusto Sandino International Airport in Managua?

If it’s the lattermost, then the feeling of being behind the wheel didn’t last long.

My main bag is small enough to be a carry-on, so I didn’t have to check any baggage and so was the first one out of the terminal. Prepping myself for the inevitable attack of the taxi drivers I stepped outside into…nothing. Heat. Dry, exhaust. Finally they found me (did I surprise them?) and I excused and debated my way out of the clutches of the “official” taxi drivers inside the airport lot to try the unofficial ones across the street. One of the official ones followed me out and bartered himself down to a fair price, then came across the street to the unofficial ones anyway, jumped in a car and pulled out at top speed. (“Did he just steal this car?”)

A packed mini-bus to Leon that was actually pretty comfortable, sitting next to two old men who debated buying a quesilla long after the vendor was lost in the dust behind us, then another taxi into Leon (the bus didn’t drop me off in the walkable location the guidebook predicted of course) and I set out for the hostel I’d chosen.

I wish I could claim I was Mr. Traveler and it all goes easily, but no, I immediately got lost.

Leon is supposed to be one of the easier Nicaraguan cities to navigate (which doesn’t bode well for me) because it actually has street names, but they are 1st Northeast St, 2nd 3rd etc, which are different from 1st Northeast Road, 2nd 3rd etc, and they change from Northeast to Southeast etc with no warning. It’s enough of a grid to make you feel safe in doubling back, but turns out it’s not quite that easy. Where’d the park go?

I finally found the place, sweat soaked and thirsty, paid for my dorm bed, and went looking for food. I don’t feel like I’m really in a place until I’ve eaten and slept there. So maybe today is Nicaragua, real day 1. Let’s see how it goes…