Nicaragua, 2010

Our first excursion to the taboo lands of sandinistas and epicenter of the Iran–Contra affair. With the Cold War long fizzled, we found welcoming people, untouristed cities and empty beaches. And all with an ease and sense of security not often felt in Central America.

Paul and I completed a week-long circuit from colonial Granada, to the volcanoes on Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua and finally to the chill Pacific coast town of San Juan del Sur, surfing capital of the world. Sad to leave the sultry tropics, we arrived home to a blizzard in wintry Maine — vowing to return again to explore more of Nicaragua.

Costa Rica, 1995

My first excursion to foreign lands as an independent traveler without the structure and support of a cultural or educational program. It was thrilling and I was free, camping on beaches, climbing peaks, eating exotic and filling foods. Every moment amazed me: everywhere monkeys, music, mountains, beaches and birds, friends and flowers.