Each year, rather than focusing on a gift for each other for our wedding anniversary, my wife and I have decided to share an experience. More often than not that experience is centered around travel.
Just 6 weeks before arriving on Corn Island we’d never heard of the place. I was traveling without the family and was in Newport Beach on business. I had a long stretch of time between meetings and decided to hit the spa at the Fashion Island Marriott, where for just $20 you can sit all day in their sauna and steam room in between laps in the salt water pool or reading Cigar Aficionado in the “Relaxation Room.” But as I sat poolside I put down the Aficionado and picked up a travel magazine. There was an article on Nicaragua and the author had spent a few days on the Corn Islands. It sounded like paradise. This little island of 5,000 people, the most westerly in the Caribbean, is best explored by $1 to $3 taxi rides or renting your own golf cart. Driving around the whole island on your golf cart will take you about an hour. We were already going to be in Texas to visit family and the flight to Managua was just 3 hours from Houston–and pretty cheap too.
We left Houston on Monday morning and arrived in Managua around 11:30 a.m. local time. Got outside and the air resembled the air in that Marriott steam room: hot and humid. We walked about 100 yards down to the end of the terminal where there was an old building that served as our terminal for our flight to the Corn Islands. We got checked in and got our boarding passes–laminated cards with a map of Nicaragua with “Corn Islands” in bold text. While hanging out on the curb waiting to board our flight we hung out with a couple from Richmond, Virginia who were popping around Central America for a month. They had flown into San Jose, Costa Rica about a week earlier and were coming to the Corn Islands until they decided to leave. That was the full extent of their plan, and I loved it.
Flight from Managua to the Corn Islands was interesting but uneventful. No pressurized cabin and little air circulation. I don’t think we ever got about 10,000 feet. It was a beautiful ride. When we got to the Caribbean Coast there was a storm brewing and the pilots opted to fly below the storm. The last few miles as we flew over the ocean and approached the island we could not have been more than 1,000 feet above the water. As we approached the island I thought to myself, “this is just how I pictured it…. paradise.”
The landing strip was quite the scene. Little shacks and people’s houses right along the way with clothes out on the line. We got our bags and left to get a cab. And were there cabbies. If you’ve seen the Disney movie Finding Nemo–and because you’re interested in family travel I assume you have–the cabbies at the airport resembled the scene from Finding Nemo with the seagulls: “Mine, mine, mine….”
Quick ride and $2 fare and we arrive at our place, Casa Canada, and we’re thinking “wow.” Sitting on the porch of our little cabana we had an infinity pool right in front of us that looked out to the Caribbean. Even at low tide, the sea could not be more than 50 yards away from our front door. We were surrounded by palm trees, woke up to birds chirping, and the only sudden noises were falling coconuts.
Casa Canada has about 20 guest rooms and there were two very sweet ladies who were in charge of the place. Our little blond haired blue eyed toddler became a quick hit with the staff. Speaking of our little guy, it was now time for us to get creative on sleeping arrangements.
Travel almost anywhere in the United States and all it takes to have a crib is a call to the front desk. But this is no Holiday Inn Express and this is not the States. We found a spot–hardly perfect–but it worked. For naps and bedtime we’d slide a little couch to the foot of our bed. The space then between the one side of the bed and the wall became an enclosed area. We’d then take the couch cushions off the couch and lay them on the floor in the enclosed area. Put down a sheet. Viola! A baby bed!
When Jackson went to sleep we’d step outside onto our front porch. The arrangement was almost perfect, although there was the worry as we sat outside that he’d try to climb out of our makeshift bed and crash onto the tile floor. And then there was the night he figured out he could just crawl under the bed.
But taking a family trek requires that you be flexible. If we’d insisted on a perfect scenario before travel we would have missed out on an incredible family vacation on what must be one of the most beautiful islands in the world. I’d waited 30 years to swim in the Caribbean. Now I was swimming in the Caribbean with my son before his second birthday.
All that time in the water–both the ocean and the pool–allowed me to watch my son develop so much over a period of a few weeks. I watched him start kicking his arms and legs to swim–and even try to push me away to swim on his own, even though I knew he wasn’t ready for that. He’d occasionally swallow water–and occasionally let out a big burp. He made me so proud when I watched him slip on a step and go under–and when he came back up he wasn’t coughing, which meant he’d held his breath under water!
This is what family treks are all about. Margin time. Time to enjoy your kids with fewer distractions. Time to think less about making a living and more about living life. We were settling into life on the island and loving it.
Stay tuned… Part II coming next week!