Earlier this week I posted my favourite ever travel picture. This picture is not my favourite aesthetically, as, honestly, it’s not that great a picture. What makes it my favourite is the story behind it and the memories that come flooding back every time I look at it. It’s a story that, when I re-tell it to my friends and family, is often met with anxious looks and various exclamations of my idiocy and, of course, a never-ending spiral of ‘What if’s’, but I can honestly say it’s the best kinda-calculated risk I’ve ever taken on the road.
The tale begins a week or so into my internship with a newspaper in Honduras. Being an intern working in an office, it was difficult to meet many new people my age, and my temporary home of Tegucigalpa is certainly not a city you want to walk around solo as a 19 year old girl. So I was off to a slow start. I thought it was going to be all new people, new places, and an array of different experiences to almost pick and choose from, but, sadly I was kind of disappointed.
A little bored – if I’m being brutally honest – I almost started to wonder if this internship was really worth it. What was I doing here in this crazy city, only able to speak the bare minimum Spanish (and even then my ability was questionable)? Then my boss took me to a salsa bar. Friends of friends of friends were introduced who were, thankfully, awesome, welcoming, and – alas! – my age.
Tequila shots were flowing (we’re in Central America, right?), and one of my company told me that her family owned a farm in Olancho – a very non-touristic, rural area – and did I want to come along to their family weekend trip? Without a moments hesitation, I said, ‘YES!’ The aforementioned tequila was flowing, after all. She took my number and happily bid each other farewell until the weekend arrived. Tequila tequila! Road trip! Yaaay!
The next morning, the only evidence of tequila consumption was the pounding in my head. I laughed/grimaced at the seemingly rash and ridiculous plans I had made for the weekend and took my fragile body to work, never thinking I would hear from my Honduran amiga again. But I did.
Now completely sober and with the prospect of this random, spontaneous trip with people I barely knew looming, the doubts started to creep their way in. Was this a good idea, really? I mean, the people I met seemed awesome, but serial killers probably seem awesome at some point before they murder you, right? After some mild persuasion, I made up my mind to accompany this Honduran family to their tiny little ranch in the middle of nowhere. Cue dark, ominous music.
The weekend came, and, right on time, my ride arrived. I awkwardly piled myself into the car and immediately felt comfortable. These people were incredible. So warm, so welcoming, and SO MUCH FUN. We picked up the rest of the family, stuck on some Honduran country music, and rode into the distance. Yeehaw!
We arrived and the last of my lingering apprehensions melted away: this place was amazing. A gorgeous little ranch, complete with horses, puppies, pigs, acres of land and – most importantly – a swimming pool and a cupboard stocked with a big ol’ bottle of vodka. Exactly what I had been waiting for.
I spent the day riding a horse around the streams and the mountains. I’d never even been on a horse before, and here I was, trotting bareback around the Honduran countryside, in a place that would have been completely inaccessible to me if I hadn’t taken that risk and decide to go with my gut feeling. I eventually got off the horse, was shown some of the wild plants that make one of Honduras’ most delicious – and strange – drinks, Horchata, and then chilled out in hammocks until the sun set.
Sun officially set, the night proceeded into the pool, accompanied by aforementioned bottle of vodka. I looked out across the vast view in front of me and noticed little twinkling lights. COULD THIS MOMENT GET ANY MORE PERFECT?! Fireflies, man. The fireflies came out to play! Much to the amusement of my Honduran counterparts, I was amazed. I’d never seen fireflies before, and my only contact with them to this date was in an obscure children’s story book that I only vaguely remember for the pictures.
Though I’d never met these people before and there were some definite language barriers, I don’t think there was a moment on the whole of my two month Central America adventure that beat this exact one. Maybe it’s the reminiscing that makes the memory so rose tinted, but that overwhelming feeling of happiness to be alive and right here, right in this moment, is unforgettable.
Obviously I took a risk when I said yes to this trip. A young girl in a foreign country, driving two hours from civilisation to a ranch with people she’d only met once. In a bar. Drinking tequila. I guess this is the doubter’s (or my parents…) worst nightmare, but travel is also about taking a little bit of a risk every once in a while. I made sure people knew where I was, I had a working phone, there were connections between my work and the people I was going with… I calculated, and I went for it. And man, it was worth it.